First off I should give a warning. This review is going to contain spoilers. These are books that I’ve been reading for a long time and this was the Season where so many of our questions about where George R. R. Martin is going where finally answered. For non-spoiler thoughts, this was easily the best season of television this year. I’d rate above “Better Call Saul,” which for me was pretty untouchable this year. The reasons behind this is due to this being a story with consequences. There is death and Houses change as new powers rise and others fall. This season was drama at it’s best.
David Benioff and D. B. Weiss really created something spectacular and took us places we had never been before in the books.
The story is all about dealing with the consequences of last season. Jon Snow is dead, the High Sparrow nearly controls King’s Landing, Dany is missing in action as the Slavers plot against Meereen, Arya is training and Sansa escapes with Theon from Bolton held Winterfell.
The Pros: The World – The world is expansive this season and in it we get to see the consequences of all the relationships and build up among the survivors and the choices they’ll make to continue surviving or to build something greater. This season really explores what happens when major players in “The Game of Thrones” make decisions to change that world.
The Soundtrack – Ramin Djawadi is one of my favorite composers at this point. This season he gives us probably the greatest song to come out of this series.:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SpHMq8qbfM. Suffice to say his music is a major part of what makes this world so dark and rich.
The Battles – The action is the best this show has been show far with battles on par or surpassing the “Battle of the Wall” and “Battle of Blackwater.”
Siege of Riverrun – This is smaller battle but huge in that it showed that the Blackfish is as prideful as Ned and it nearly costs his family everything…and he can’t even hold Riverrun anymore after Jaime uses Edmure Tully to take control of the castle and have it surrender similar to how Ramsey used Theon to take Moat Cailin.
Battle of Slaver’s Bay – This is a pretty fast battle but it is amazing! Dany flies Drogon and destroys the fleet of the Masters before Grey Worm kills two of the Masters leaving one to spread the word that Dany is not someone to be messed with. The Son’s of the Harpy are also killed by the Khalasar that Dany now owns.
Battle of the Bastards – Battle of the Bastards is amazing! We have Jon and some of the smaller Northern Lords and Wildings arrayed against the Boltons and the major houses in the North. Rickon is killed to spark of the battle and Jon pulls and Ned and almost gets himself killed since he doesn’t listen to Sansa that Ramsey will try to play him. The battle is nearly lost by Jon until Sansa’s letter to Littlefinger leads to the Vale rescuing them and Jon’s final showdown with Ramsey at Winterfell where he is finally defeated and the Stark banner rises again. Wun-Wun dies in the fight.
The Characters – The characters are what drives Martin’s stories and a lot of them have some great moments this season. The list is extensive but I wanted to give credence to as many of the people who had moments.
Brienne – Brienne is Jaime’s consience and helps him find a way to capture Riverrun with limited bloodshed. She is sworn to Sansa now and is doing a great job as she saves her from Bolton troops when Theon and Sansa first escape and is their envoy in the North when they recruiting Houses against the Boltons.
Tormund – This guy is awesome! He is able to convince the free folk to stand with Jon as he believes Jon will be the one who will be there at the end fighting them against the dead. Their friendship is amazing and he a lot of great moments this season and some funny moments where he is crushing on Brienne but clearly doesn’t know how to talk to her.
Roose Bolton – Roose’s role is short in this but what we see is that the Boltons would probably still own the North of Ramsey hadn’t killed him after he and Lady Frey had a son. His death is the end of House Bolton…Roose could have taken control of the North, he is a Tywin type personality.
Ramsey Bolton – Ramsey is pretty unhinged per usual, but manages to show enough diplomacy to keep the big Houses under him in the leadup to the Battle of the Bastards. He has been untouchable for so many seasons and the Battle of the Bastards is his first loss besides Sansa and Theon’s escape. He pays the consequences finally too as Sansa feeds him to his hounds.
The High Sparrow – Jonathan Banks really did a great job creating a charming villain. The High Sparrow is someone who embraces poverty but also takes advantage of people to rule through fear and the power he sees the Seven granting the Church. He wins through most of this season until Cersei’s final plan leads to his end. Banks truly made this role memorable, in the books he never stood out to me.
Littlefinger – Littlefinger saves the day and we see he is still the same creeper who sold Sansa to Ramsey in the first place. He is going to be hardest thing for the Stark’s to deal with as he is the reason Ned is dead as well as Rob and Cat. He can’t be trusted and I hope Sansa uses her influence to blackmail him for control for as long as need be before he is ended.
The Hound – The Hound is back! In this a Sept nurses him to health and he stays with the peaceful folks until the bandits exploiting the Brotherhood without Banners attack and kill them all. The Hounds gets revenge and later joins the Brotherhood. So great seeing him again.
Grey Worm – Grey Worm is a great soldier but has to deal with dealing his injury and diplomacy as Tyrion’s approach is much different from his. Seeing his relationship with Messandie is really sweet too and I can’t wait to see him Westeros.
Messandei – Messandie like Grey Worm is unfamiliar with the Game of Thrones and uncomfortable with it. Much of their arc is acclimating to Tyrion and negotiating between the free people the compromises Tyrion makes.
Yara – Yara is awesome! In this we see her nearly win the Kingsmoot after Euron kill’s Balon, until Balon arrives forcing her and Theon to run. When they run we see she cares for Theon but also doesn’t trust him because of Moat Cailin and the past. We also see she isn’t bad at diplomacy too as she flirts with Dany but is willing to work with Dany’s terms for capturing the Iron Islands and making her Lord even if means giving up the worst aspects of Reaver culture.
Hodor – Hodor is the hero in this. In a flashback we learn he was once a boy named Wylis who loses it all when Bran wargs into his mind when he has traveled back in time as he orders Wylis to “Hold the door!” against the dead and White Walkers leading Wylis to say the command over and over again until he becomes Hodor. It is a powerful scene and one of the more tragic moments in the series.
Melissandra – Melissandra is at least hundreds of years old so we know she knows some of what is going on in the wider world. In this she faces consequences for burning Shireen as Jon exiles her from the North after she brings him back to life.
Davos – Davos is Jon’s Hand at this point and still can’t quite see the bigger picture. He does help recruit houses to Jon though which helps the Stark’s take back the North.
Margery Tyrell – Margery is smart but sadly stupid people keep her from living. In this we see her negotiate for Loras’s release (even if he has to become a Faith Militant in the process) and manages to get her Grandmother out of King’s Landing which ends up saving her mother’s life. Natalie Dormer is wonderful in this role and I’m sad she’s dead from Cersei’s brilliant and horrible plan.
Lady Mormont – Lady Mormont is amazing! She is a 12 year old who is Lady of her House and sends Jon 62 troops to the “Battle of the Bastards” but also comes herself. She also unites the Houses behind Jon as the new King of the North. She is all around amazing and is phased by nothing.
Olenna Tyrell / The Queen of Thorns – Olenna is one of my favorite characters along with Margery (I’m very much a Tyrell). In this we see her attempt to save her grandchildren but is outmaneuvered by the High Sparrow forcing her to leave on Margery’s prompting back to Highgarden so that the Tyrell name will live on. Now she is last of the House and is plotting revenge against Cersei’s for destroying her family.
Cersei Lannister – This season is really Cersei’s rise as everyone underestimated the ends she’d go to when she is backed into a corner and still wants everything. In the end she gets everything. She is the one who gains it all (the Throne) and loses everything in the process. She is isolated, alone and ruler of all. What a great villain and Lena Headey really does a great job humanizing her.
Jaime Lannister – Jaime is kind of screwed at this point. He wins Riverrun and we see that he cares for Brienne but he is also willing to do everything for Cersei, though that may not be the case anymore with her going Mad Queen. Jaime is someone who has a conscience and tries to make the best choices for his own ends but also ways that will make it less bad for his enemies. He has awareness that Cersei does not and I can see that coming into play next season as Cersei did the thing that he killed the Mad King over when the Mad King was threatening to do it.
Arya Stark – Arya is a face changer but also not “no one.” Her arc this season is reclaiming her identity and beginning her rampage on Westeros against all the people on her list. At the end the season she feed’s Walder Frey his son’s and kills him.
Sansa Stark – Sansa has risen as one of the major players in the Game of Thrones as she saves the Starks from Jon’s stupidity and even manages to shut down Littlefinger’s advances. Sophie Turner brings so much to this role and it is great seeing Sansa as the one calling the shots in her own life finally.
Jon Snow – Jon is back and still has Ned’s stupidy. He is still a great character but he played easily by Ramsey during the battle as he rushes to save his brother in what is clearly a trap. He also doesn’t want to fight for a long time too as he is done with fighting after the Night’s Watch killing him. After he get’s over himself though he becomes a decent commander who the North is willing to unite behind, eventually crowning him King of the North.
Vaerys – Vaerys is all about the big picture but has his own rightful hangups too as when Tyrion seeks out a Red Priestess he critiques her religion and the followers even as it is shown there is something going on given she was able to figure out his backstory. He also unites Dorn and Highgarden against King’s Landing and as possible allies of Dany in her conquest of Westeros.
Tyrion Lannister – Tyrion is the wisdom in it all as his biggest challenge is integrating into a society that he is alien too as we see when he tries to make friends with Grey Worm and Messandei and isn’t all that successful at it. He is Dany’s hand by the end and we see that he is there to make her aware of the choices and consequences in the game of thrones and to avoid the pitfalls of her father.
Daenerys – This season is where Daenery’s once again rises as she destroys the Khals, the Sons of the Harpy and the Masters as well. In this she gets her army and her ships from Yara when she backs Yara’s claim to the Iron Islands under the condition that they will no longer pillage and rape. Dany is set to be a great leader as from Tyrion she is learning the cost of ruling and the cost of different choices…as the season ends with her sailing to Westeros to begin the conquest.
Daenery’s Destroys the Khals – This scene is amazing as Dany shows she is fireproof and burns the Khal’s alive during their trial of her, leaving her in charge of their people and giving her a giant army in order to take Meereen and Westeros.
Sansa’s Revenge – Sansa feed’s Ramsey to his dog’s after shutting down his mind games. Her look at him is powerful too during it all as you see how hardened she is and that she has become the ruler.
Arya’s Revenge – Arya feeds Walder Frey his son’s before killing him and avenging Robb and Cat. It is such a great moment and one of the best this season.
The White Walkers – The White Walkers were made to be weapons against the First Men is what we learn from the Children of the Forest, Bran even see’s a flashback of the Night’s Kind getting made. It is pretty amazing. We also see the Night’s King’s Power too as by touching Bran in the vision allowed him to enter the lair of the Children of the Forest and wipe out the Children and the Three-Eyed Crow.
The Tower of Joy – R+L does in fact = J! Jon is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen! We get some great flashback sequences of Ned taking the Tower of Joy and his last moments with Lyanna who we saw in past flashbacks.
Hodor’s Sacrifice – This was one of the most powerful moments in the show. The death of Wylis and birth Hodor which was also the death of Hodor. I think he was a hero as he was protecting Bran throughout the series even before all it and was clearly one of the few good people on the show. R.I.P. Hodor.
Cersei’s Master Plan and the Mad Queen – The plan is beautiful. Qyburn and the little birds (homeless kids) kill Maester Pycell, Wildfire is ignited below the Great Sept leading to the death of the Tyrells, Kevin Lannister and all the Sparrows leaving Cersei victories. The cost though is Tommen who can’t handle being without his Queen and the depths of evil his mother would go to.
Overthrowing Patriarchal Power – Patriarchal power being overthrown is a major theme this season. From the Sand Snakes killing Doran and his heir, to Sansa’s killing of Ramsey, Cersei’s destroying of the Church and Dany’s killing of the Masters and the Khals. All of these stick with theme and show it done beautifully as the powerless become powerful.
Okay: Euron Greyjoy – Euron is just a Pirate King and he doesn’t look as interesting as he does in the books where they played that up. In this he is though and looks the role but is almost too generic. He also didn’t protect his boats so Yara and Theon were able to steal them. Hopefully he’s a better villain next season.
Theon Greyjoy – Theon is okay, he isn’t a dick anymore (in more ways than one) but he is nearly invisible. He has a great moment when he stands up for Yara at the Kingsmoot, but I’ve never really liked the character even if I don’t hate him now.
Dorne – The Sand Snakes took over and Doran Martell is dead now. This felt like a waste, I’m putting it as okay because the Queen of Thorns sets them right as they are in it for revenge against Cersei at the end and ready to ally with Daenerys when Vaerys proposes to them that she is their means of avenging their family.
The Cons: Fast Travel – This show does a lot of fast travel and isn’t very good at showing how much time has passed between traveling. This is something I think they could work on next season just so when characters meet and they are separated by great distance…that it means more.
This was one of the best season’s of storytelling I have ever watched. This is the season of drama and payoff and you can tell that they are ready to this show in 2 more seasons. This season really showed that they can. The characters that aren’t as strong still stand out. There are so many big character moments that I had to give them their own section just to really recognize how big those moments where. If you’ve been with these characters for this long and seen their drama in the books everything is even stronger. The choices have consequences and every choice has so much history behind it. This is the Game of Thrones and many will die before the end, but at least their deaths won’t be meaningless as we see heroism in characters like Hodor or the depths of evil that some characters will reach, like Cersei.
Final Score: 10 / 10 The good far outweighs what few flaws there are.