The ten weeks that “Game of Thrones” is on feels like the fastest ten weeks out of the year. My entire week is about getting to the next episode and watching it with a large group of friends. Every year every episode leaves me with the feeling that I need to see the next one. Now on the sixth season you would start to think the show would have begun to run its course. Especially now that the series has moved ahead of the acclaimed bestselling book series (that still has two more books to go before it ends). But this season proves the series can still support itself with another strong season to add to the list of great seasons before it. While still not quite reaching the heights of the third and fourth season, this remains the best show on TV with some of the best moments in the “Game of Thrones” history packed into this faster paced 10 episode package.
It’s the sixth season so at this point I don’t feel like holding back on spoilers. So if you’re not caught up you’ve been warned. The short review is I love it now go and watch the series right this minute!
This season picks up right where the previous one left off with Jon Snow’s body laying dead on the snowy ground at Castle Black. All the storylines we’ve left off from the previous season continue. Daenerys is captured by the Dothraki, Sansa and Theon escape Winterfell from the clutches of Ramsey Bolton, Cersi is dealing with consequences of letting the High Sparrow come into power and Arya continues her training as the faceless man.
As with every season there is a lot going on and far too much for me to cover in all one readable review (this will be a long one). I think in terms of speed this season the pace is picked up and covers the most ground story wise to any other season. I think with the impending series finale just on the horizon (with only two seasons left) it was smart for show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to pick up the speed. It’s still not a fast paced series in the slightest but less time is taken in its build-up because we’ve established all the storylines and it makes sense to start getting into the payoff and meat of the main player’s storylines.
Most of this storylines are handled exceptionally. Jon Snow makes a comeback in the series (but who didn’t see that coming?) and returns from the dead thanks to a resurrection from Melisandre. He leaves the Night’s Watch, and joins with Sansa and the wildings to take back Winterfell from the Boltons. The only problem is, the Boltons have a much bigger army and capture Rickon Stark. This of course leads to the now already iconic episode 9 “Battle of the Basterds”. We’ve seen incredible battle sequences on this show before but this is easily the best one yet. The fight isn’t quite as long as others but its packs a much more visceral punch. Rickon is killed and Jon falls right into Ramsey’s trap. The battle is gritty, intense, gory, dirty, and chaotic. The entire sequence had me stressed out and enthralled at the same time. This sequence easily stands above most movie battles as well. It’s an achievement for television plain and simple. Words can’t quite capture the feeling of how it was watching it for the first time.
Most of the other arcs are great too. The intrigue in Kings Landing is great as always, the adventures in Meereen with Tyrion and Varys is entertaining and even the Greyjoys are handled well (I would have liked to have seen more from newcomer Euron Greyjoy). This season even improves the Dorne storyline but giving it appearances in just two episodes (at least they knew it wasn’t quite working). Bran finally returns to the series and his storyline proves to be one of the best in the season. His ability to see into the past gives us looks at some major events that have only been talked about including the Tower of Joy where we are treated to a great sword fight and confirmation of the fan theory R+L= J; Jon Snow is not Ned Stark’s son. Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Bran’s storyline also treats us to one of the saddest deaths in all of “Game of Thrones” history with the “hold the door” moment otherwise known as Hodor’s heroic final stand. I never thought the revelation of Hodor’s origins would be that integral to entire narrative of the series. But once again “Game of Thrones” is still able to shock you.
This season also marks the return of characters that’s fates was uncertain like Benjen Stark (who disappeared in the first season) and The Hound (who was only assumed dead in the fourth season). Benjen isn’t given too much to do but hopefully he does make a bigger return in the next two seasons. The Hound was a welcomed surprise, one I’m sure we’ll see more of. Perhaps he’ll meet Arya on the road again.
Arya’s storyline though is the most mishandled in this season. Her story gets repetitive and drawn out. There are some interesting moments sprinkled in throughout (for instance I really liked the theater segments). But the resolution of her story was also mishandled with some honest lazy writing (something this series doesn’t normally have). Granted the payoff to her story in episode 10 when she kills Walder Frey was oh so satisfying. The point of her arc was so she could become a trained fighter but I don’t think we needed almost 2 full seasons of that to get there.
Speaking of episode 10, this season does include the best finale of any of the season yet. This was the longest episode at 69 minutes long (which I feel like they learned from the last season finale when they packed so many storylines into one episode without much breathing room). After the intense “Battle of the Basterds” I thought to myself how could anything live up to that? The finale in it’s opening salvo is arguably better than the previous episode with Cersi taking everyone “Godfather” style in a massive strike with Wild Fire killing Margery, The High Sparrow, Kevan Lannister, Loras Tyrell (and a whomever else was at the trail) in grand fashion; blowing the building and several neighboring blocks. Outside of this Lancel Lannister is killed and Grand Maester Pycell is also assassinated. After this opening I thought nothing in the rest of the episode could live up to that moment but several moments later I gave up doubting the episode. Some I already mentioned before, Arya killing the Freys, and R+L=J. But we also get Jon Snow being crowned King of the North by the Northern Men (even though he is still a basterd) like his brother Robb before him. Plus we finally see Dany begin to cross the narrow sea to invade Westeros (which is something we’ve being waiting for 6 seasons!).
The only other weakness about this season was episode 8. I remember walking away from that episode feeling a bit disappointed. There were many moments that were built up to in that episode that came away feeling rather lackluster. The Arya moments, along with the death of the Blackfish and the entire siege of Riverrun was just sort of bland. I was still excited for the next episode (after all we got two battles in episode 9, the Basterds and the Meereen where we finally got to see 3 dragons in flight taking part in a battle) but I’ve come to expect more from “Game of Thrones” and that episode didn’t really cut it (but that could also be me feeling spoiled).
So to end this review (/recap) I think this season is probably the weakest only because of episode 8 and some of the Arya moments. But outside of that we have another truly amazing piece of television that stands alongside the other seasons. If in an entire season worth (and over 10 hours of running time) and my only complaint was one weaker episode and one arc that was a little mishandled (but satisfying in the end) then you know it’s still an incredible season. This has some of the best moments in the series and with only two seasons left you know the show will only get more laser focused as it continues.