Since the Season 5 ended I’ve been thinking about how to write about this season. When the show is over I will go back and do episodic review of the show, but when I started watching the show this Season, I was more interested to see where they would go given that Book 6, “The Winds of Winter” isn’t out yet and the show has already chosen to change some things that were not in the books. This season is truly where they break away, but also where they surprisingly true as well even going so far as to kill off an important young character because Martin says it will happen in the books. A warning ahead of time though, this review does contain spoilers. I can’t talk about the show without going into what happened in the show.
For me this Season gave me a greater appreciation for the Books, which Book 4 I liked while 5 felt like a waste…the show made me see where they were going and helped me appreciate what they did, especially with the Ironborn who haven’t appeared yet and some other minor or major characters who have been cut from the Series.
I’m going to tackle it by reviewing some of my favorite locations and from there the major events that drew me in and made this Season compelling. I’ll be reviewing individual episodes once the series is over and I do a lookback.
The Pros: King’s Landing – King’s Landing manages to stay interesting the entire time this season! From the High Sparrow slowly taking over, to Tommen and Margery and Cersei’s madness…each of these things make the character interactions strong and give purpose and stakes to what is going on.
The Queen of Thorns – The Queen of Thorns is awesome and has been one of my favorite characters since her introduction in the show. In the books we never got to know her because it is always from Cersei’s point of view. In this we see her get revenge on Cersei for the imprisonment of her grandson and grandaughter by the faith and uses Littlefinger to do so. I can’t wait to see where her arc goes. I want her to survive this series. Olenna Tyrell is fantastic as is her actress Diana Rigg.
Margaery Tyrell – Margery has Tommen’s ear and is pretty much ruling until Cersei uses the faith to imprison her. At that point she has no pretensions of pretending to owe Cersei anything and I really hope she gets out and has her chance at revenge. Her relationship with Tommen is great too. She isn’t given as much to do this season but Natalie Dormer makes her compelling and likable as in the books we only see her from Cersei’s perspective.
Cersei Lannister – Lena Headey really owns this role! From showing Cersei as the bully as she holds her weaponization of the faith over the Tyrells, to her being a victim of the High Sparrow and faith as well when she is forced to do the walk of shame. Throughout it all we see someone conniving and falling into the net that she is making for others as everyone has become her enemy except Qyburn. The show pretty much follows the book with her as it does with the Tyrells.
Littlefinger – Littlefinger is everywhere but the major events he does take place at Winterfell and King’s Landing. I don’t know what his game was giving Sansa to the Boltons and if he is really smart and plans to rescue her and own the North or if he is just a bastard wholly using the Vale as the center of control. At this point he is an unknown and it makes him fascinating. This is extremely different from the books as it is Jeyne Pool who is given to the Boltons as a fake Arya not the real Sansa. Though his agenda is still unknown in the books too.
The High Sparrow and the Faith – The events with the High Sparrow are accurate to the books as he pretty much takes control of King’s Landing and creates a theocracy where the faith judges all those they deem sinful and imprisons them. In this he is made a true idealist though as he see’s what he is doing as a revolution. Jonathan Pryce owns this role, this is a character in the books who I felt I never got to know who he humanized.
Braavos – In Braavos there are two main focuses that make this area compelling. The Iron Bank and the brief appearance Mace Tyrell makes where he is singing to the bank and showing he is classy and Arya and the Faceless Men arc. These two arcs are enough to bring in, there isn’t too much changed here either as the show has not caught up to the books fully here.
Arya Stark – Arya’s arc is her seeking to become “No one” while still holding on her quest for revenge as that is her own personal purpose for the training. In the end she lacks patience though as she assassinates Trant and the Faceless God takes away her sight in the process. It is a good arc and Maisie Williams does a great job.
The Faceless Men – The Faceless Men are fascinating especially Jaqen H’ghar who is truly “No one.” As we see him “Die” but still be alive when he trades a life for a life for Arya killing the wrong man and not the one she was assigned to kill. The art of being a Faceless Man is balance and that is something Arya still seeks.
The Wall – The events at the Wall are mostly true to the books except Mance actually dies in this one and Jon never goes to Winterfell or plans too, instead he is the one who goes to Hardhome and faces the Night’s King, which didn’t happen in the books but because it happens in the show gives us a good idea of what to expect when winter comes as the Wildings are slaughtered and only some manage to escape with Jon.
Davos Seaworth – Davos is wonderful in this, he has a sweet moment with Shireen before her murder by her father and Melisandre and we see him always trying to do that right thing while staying true to Stannis. He doesn’t really do that much this season though besides working with the Night’s Watch.
Shireen Baratheon – R.I.P. She teaches Gilly and Davos how to read, is knowledgeable about everything but is hated by her mother and in the end her father sacrifices her in a battle he is set to lose anyway. Her death is one of the strongest so far in the series…and hasn’t happened in the books yet though Martin says it is going to happen.
Jon Snow – Jon’s arc is similar to the books as we see him seek peace between the Wildings and Night’s Watch to defend against Winter. He succeeds though it costs him his life, just like the books. He is also the only one of the characters to face the Night’s King so far so I hope Melisandre brings him back to life as we last see her back at the Wall. This season had Kit Harrington’s best acting so far.
The Wildings – In this we see the diversity of the Wildings at Hardhome and in the end Tormund and Jon being able to convince the majority to take Jon’s offer of safety behind the Wall when the Night’s King attacks and most of their leaders are killed. It is a powerful scene and the conflict of them choosing to work with the Night’s Watch if the End comes is really well done. Tormund is one of the best characters on the show and I hope he is around for the last battle. Guy killed the Lord of Bones in episode 8 of this season.
The Night’s King – This guy is a force of nature. He massacres the forces at Hardhome and even stands to gloat at Jon and the escaping Wildings. Winter is coming and I hope he kills the Boltons if one of our heroes doesn’t get the chance too.
Sam and Gilly – This romance is wonderful and largely follows the book except Aemon dies at the Wall here rather than on the way to Oldtown as he does in the books. Sam and Gilly care for one another and Sam is more comfortable breaking his vows than he is in the books. Gilly is also strong too and we see her stand her own against bad members of the Night’s Watch and is a big reason Sam stands up for himself and leaves the Wall with her so he can get training to become a Maester in Old Town.
Meereen – This area follows the books and surpasses them as Daenerys still flies off and is captured by Dothraki but Tyrion is now one of the leaders of Meereen and Jorah is back in her good graces and working with Daario. I liked how this area was handled as there was loss and we get to see just how dangerous the Sons of the Harpy truly are.
Ser Barristan – Barristan dies early on this season to establish the threat of the Sons of the Harpy. It is a sad death and really well done as he is able to tell Dany about her brother the Prince Rhaeger and also warn her about her father and family legacy. His death is meaningful too as we have known this guy for 5 seasons. R.I.P.
Grey Worm – Grey Worm and the Unsullied are a bit out of their game this season as the Sons of the Harpy know Meereen. In the end they ambush them and in the process Grey Worm is mortally wounded and Barristan is killed. It doesn’t stop him from fighting again though or from growing with his lover Missandei. I really like this character and am looking forward to him leading the Unsullied in Westeros against the Night’s King.
Ser Jorah – Jorah is compelling but still a bastard. He gets greyscale at the Doom and hides it from everyone including Dany who he loves and is protecting. At this point he is wholly devoted to her though and enters the fighting pits to fight in her name. He later leaves with Daario to find her too, which is good, if he sticks around Meereen could end up greyscaled. He doesn’t have greyscale in the books and has not met Dany again nor has Tyrion.
Varys – Varys begins transporting Tyrion to Daenerys but after Tyrion is captured he doesn’t appear again until at the end in Meereen. He is good the whole time though as he truly does care about the realm and all he does is to train those who need training (Dany and Tyrion) and help them get the experience they need to bring peace to realm. He is one of my favorite characters and I can’t wait to see where the book and show take him.
Tyrion Lannister – Tyrion’s arc is learning how to feel again as he is drinking himself to death while he traveling with Varys and it is only after he is captured and goes through being a slave that he changes. He is wiser because of all he has lost and gives Dany good council and even advises her not returning to Westeros if she can rule as a just ruler in Meereen. He still is sympathetic to her breaking the Wheel of Noble Houses though.
Daenerys – Dany goes through a great arc in this as she realizes just how difficult it is to rule justly and keep peace between different groups. In the end her marrying a slave master cannot save her from the fanatical slave believing harpies as her free people continue to suffer from her attacks. She even loses Barristan from them when they ambush the Unsullied. She later leaves with Drogon her dragon when the Sons of the Harpy attack the Fighting Pits and her future is up in there as she is captured by Dothraki, who I hope she is able to turn to her side as she did in Season 1 and the first book. She is still the best hope for Westeros that doesn’t involve death from the Night’s King.
Assassination of Jon – Jon getting killed is just as it happens in the books and it is done well as we see that it is the same idealism that killed Ned that kills Jon. I hope he gets a second chance and loses that idealism as Tyrion has so he can get some perspective and no longer serve with the Night’s Watch…but we’ll see. If this is his death, it was still very well done and powerful as his good intentions lead to his end…a running theme on this show.
Death of Shireen and Aftermath – Shireen is killed by her father so that the Red God can bless him and bring him to victory and after her mother kills herself out of guilt and Stannis loses anyway when his men abandon him for what he did. He is also most likely killed by Brienne. Good riddance, no King kills his heirs if he expects his legacy to carry on, especially when they would be a better ruler than he.
Triumvirate of Meereen – Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei are the rulers who must bring peace to Meereen, Tyrion also has Varys too, which is a nice touch. I really like this group and am rooting for them as Grey Worm survived the slaughter that killed Barristen and all of them are now survivors and ex-slaves fighting for a true free city that is now in full civil war.
The Cons: Winterfell – Winterfell is depressing and no pressure is on the Boltons at anytime. Ramsey’s marriage to Sansa wasn’t in the books and I won’t mind this if it goes somewhere next season but her lack of agency was disturbing and a dislike and I hated how Stannis being at the gate meant nothing. In the books the Boltons were killing their horses to feed the starving lords trapped in the Wall. So far Winter has not truly come to the North, only to certain characters we are following.
Dorn – Dorn was wasted. I was left wondering what they were going to do with the Sand Snakes and the only thing that happened was what was most likely going to happen anyway with the death of Myrcella by the Sand Snakes. It was changed completely from the books as that hasn’t happened and Bronn and Jamie never went to Dorn in the books. It felt wasted really as even Doran Martell is not fully fleshed out…the Dorn story felt rushed both in writing and quality. Bronn is great the whole time here at least and Mycrella and Jaime and the last dinner in Dorn works but that is about it. So much missed potential in this area, just like in the books.
Sansa’s Agency – Sansa’s agency is the biggest issue I had with this season. She was set up as Darth Sansa last season being trained by Littlefinger to be a lead manipulator but instead she is thrown into the victim role again. First Joffrey, Second Littlefinger and now Ramsey….the worst of them all. It doesn’t go anywhere either except by helping Reek become Theon again and them making an escape like how Theon and Jeyne made the escape in the books.
This wasn’t the best season of “Game of Thrones.” I think the fact that it ended in a Cliffhanger like Book 4 and 5 took away from that as the first few seasons felt more complete as we saw arcs come to a close. This season still has ongoing arcs that need to be resolved even though it resolved some that are still open in the books, which is a point in favor of the show. It’s not for everyone but if some of the characters you are rooting for are still around, I’d say the coming adventure is still very much worth it. For episodes that are a must see I’d recommend 8, 9 and 10 as they have the biggest events that happen that change our characters and the situations they are under.
Final Score: 8.4 / 10