Monday, 20 July 2015

Verdict: Game of Thrones Season 5


This post contains spoilers for Season 5 of Game of Thrones. You have been warned.

It's only taken me several years, but I finally committed to sitting down and watching Game of Thrones. Yep, that's all five seasons (to date) across what I can only assume has been several weeks (it's been hard to keep track to be honest). 

Given that the most recent season wrapped up a few weeks back, I decided to put some of my musings into words on this here blog. Check out my verdict on Season 5, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) at Castle Black
Across 10 cinematic episodes, Season 5 of Game of Thrones thrilled, sparked controversy and shocked the world; after debuting back in April, the show was a weekly trending topic and certainly amazed and divided fans in equal measure. Has the show lost its boil, or is it gently weeding out the casuals?

On the whole, I feel like this was a solid season of the show. It might not have been as consistently shocking or entertaining as the two previous years, but HBO's flagship show has by no means lost its mojo. By dialling up the action and forging its own path*, Game of Thrones was able to take the narrative in new and exciting directions.

I particularly liked Arya's new direction. Arriving in Braavos in Episode 2 ('The House of Black and White'), Arya (Maisie Williams) seeks out the help of Jaqen (Tom Wlaschicha), the Faceless Assassin she met in Season 2 so that he may teach her how to become like him.

After wandering the countryside with the Hound for the past two years, it was a welcome change of scenery for Arya, and we started to see how even she could be corrupted by power. In the end, the bloodlust she feels for those who hurt her family cost her dearly; that scene where she loses her own eyesight for wearing a face that wasn't her own was sad, and really well acted by Williams. It does make you think though; will anyone get a happy ending on this show?

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in Episode 10
Which segways nicely into the other highlight of this season; the Wall. After several seasons of spinning its wheels, Jon Snow's storyline at the Wall with the Night's Watch was dialed up to 11 in Season 5. After the masterpiece that was 'The Watchers on the Wall', it was always going to be hard for Game of Thrones to raise the bar in scope and sheer cinematic scale, but that's exactly what they did.

Episode 8, 'Hardhome', took the show to new heights of brilliance. Not just because it served up lots of action, but also because said action was shot, edited and composed in ways that put some films to shame. Seriously, this episode (along with many others from Season 5) are worth forking out a movie ticket for just so you can see them on the big screen.

Miguel Sapochnik (who directed 'Hardhome') pieced together an extended action sequence that gave us something we craved since the very first scene of Season 1; White Walkers, and the arrival of winter. From Jon Snow's (Kit Harington) confrontation with that beastly Walker to that final shot of the Night's King raising the dead to join his army ('Come at me, Crow'), everything about the final 20 minutes of this episode was pure cinematic brilliance - but on television.

Side note: I'm fairly certain that Jon Snow won't stay dead for long. I mean, c'mon. He's Jon Snow. They just gave him an awesome hero moment and his storyline was finally getting somewhere. He'll be back. As for Stannis? Screw that guy, he's a dick. Brienne 1 - Stannis 0.

The biggest weakness with Season 5 is easily the Sand Snakes storyline, which sees Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) travel to Dorne to rescue Jaime's daughter Myrcella (Aimee Richardson) from her arranged marriage to Trystane Martell (Toby Sebastian).

Daario, Tyrion, Daenarys, Missandei and Jorah
are trapped by the Sons of the Harpy in Episode 9
What first started out as a cool addition to the world of Westeros soon turned into a directionless addition to the overall narrative; not only because Myrcella dies in the end anyway, but because it took an entire season to get to that point. Pacing has never been this show's biggest strength, but c'mon - this storyline took forever and went nowhere. The much hyped Martell's were nowhere near as memorable as Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) was last season; I'll be damned if I can even remember their names, let alone how they're all related.

Daenarys (Emilia Clarke) spent another season treading water in Meereen, along this time, she faced conflict within her ranks as the Sons of the Harpy threatened to tear her new slaveless society in two. Whilst it was great giving Dany something to work with, it does still feel like we're just waiting on those damn dragons to grow up so that she can sail across to Westeros and wreck shit up. For all that talk of breaking the wheel, Dany has done an awful lot of sitting around talking to farmers, screwing Daario and rejecting Jorah.

I also found that the show dropped several key characters in the final few episodes so that it could focus solely on others; for example, Margarey (Natalie Dormer), Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Loras (Finn Jones) are all but forgotten about after Cersei (Lena Headey) has been imprisoned by the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). I know that Cersei is a 'key' cast member, but the King's Landing storyline up to this point had revolved around the power struggle between her and Margarey; to drop the latter entirely was a little disappointing, as it left her arc unresolved. It'll carry over to Season 6, but there wasn't even a mention of them. Also, what on Earth happened to Baelish (Aiden Gillen)? He just fades into nowhere somewhere around the middle of the season.

Reek (Alfie Allen) marrying Sansa (Sophie Turner)
to Ramsey (Iwan Rheon) in Episode 6
Episode 6, 'Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken', will most likely stick in the minds of many from this season, and mainly for all the wrong reasons. Firstly, it marks the nadir of the aforementioned Sand Snakes storyline (seriously, couldn't Jaime and Bronn come up with a better plan than daylight kidnapping?), but secondly because of THAT scene. You know the one I mean.

I am of course referring to Sansa Stark's (Sophie Turner) wedding to Ramsey Bolton (Iwan Rheon), and her subsequent sexual assault that night. Now, I'm not saying I liked the scene - who would? - but I can, unlike some others, see its significance. Firstly, it reinforces our hatred of Ramsey, our sympathy for Sansa and our anger with Reek (Alfie Allen) for letting it happen. But secondly, it makes the latter's redemption later in the season more meaningful, like he's been shaken out of a really deep coma. I understand that people are upset because Sansa wasn't the focal point; Reek was. And I agree; the scene should have been more about Sansa, and her decision to play the long game against the Boltons. But did the scene warrant the uproar, or negative reviews? Not at all, as I don't think it was that far removed from things we've seen on Thrones in the past.

This post has gone on substantially longer than I planned, but can we just take a moment to appreciate the amazing work that Ramin Djawadi does on the original score for the show? Every season so far has been stellar, but I found myself jumping onto iTunes to listen to the soundtrack after almost every episode; from the haunting House of Black and White theme to the tribal Sons of the Harpy score, Djawadi really upped his game this year.

Phew, I think that just about sums it up. What are some of your thoughts on Season 5 of Game of Thrones? Apologies for the lengthy post, but I'd love to hear your comments down below!

Best episodes: 'Sons of the Harpy', 'Hardhome', 'The Dance of Dragons'.

*I'm not a book reader, and don't plan on becoming one. These are thoughts on the show, and not a book to show comparison. Please don't confuse the two. 

2 comments:

  1. The whole social justice warriors response to Sansa's rape scene really annoyed me. Yeah, Game of Thrones is too liberal with sexual assault sometimes, but I felt like they were only mad BECAUSE it was Sansa. I would've perferred Sansa not being in Winterfell either, but for different reasons.

    This is probably my least favorite scenes of GoT, just because they butchered Stannis from the books, and really let Dorne down. You're right about the Sand Snakes being the weak point.

    Great write up! I hope S6 at least has something good in store for us to make up for that crap.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Brittani! :) I'm not a book reader, so I only know bits and pieces. Plus, it means I'm not burdened by constant comparisons. I didn't dislike Stannis' ending, even if it was a little rushed. The Sand Snakes were a real letdown though.

      I don't know if this was the 'weakest' season, because I still really enjoyed it. But there were some elements I could've done without :)

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