Game of Thrones Season 6 Review
Over the course of Season 6 I wrote episodic reviews for the show, but unfortunately, I couldn't take it to its' conclusion, by that I mean, reviews for all ten episodes. Regardless, even though the season ended a few months ago, I thought I would surmise my thoughts on the season and the individual stories as a whole, adding to what I had written in my previous reviews. My opinions on the show are my own of course and you're free to have your own, I had discussions with people who shared my opinion, and with people who didn't, so if you'd like to comment down below, feel free to do so, in fact, I would very much appreciate it.
I have read the books, and even though I can appreciate the show for what it is (and this year I had to, because there are no more books up to this point for a lot of plot lines), it's hard to move away from the type of stories I was getting from George. I'll value the show's adaptation where it deserves it, give it the credit where credit is due, but this season 6 left me very mixed on how I felt about it.
Generally, I think this season has been the most unbalanced of them all. I do think it ended up being better than Season 5, but I can't quite put my finger on why. There were things I liked and disliked in every episode, and I can clearly point out where I felt a bit disappointed. But it's harder to pin point where I wasn't. I think the most likely reason is just that there was a lot more going on this year. Things felt moving in many places. Sometimes for reasons I didn't like, sometimes in directions I didn't understand, but the plot moved forward.
But i'll immediatly point out something the show DID to move forward, and that for the most part, I didn't like. The show is wrapping up the series, and it shows, so much. And in a lot of places, it's sloppy and unfulffiling. Roose, Doran, Trystane, the Dothraki leaders, Rickon, Osha, Walder Frey were all deaths that had no weight to them what so ever, and were just there to close plots. I know characters can die like flies in this show, but all of these are big characters, and we'll be talking about none of their deaths because they were rushed, as were the plots they were associated with, and I never felt that way about any main or supporting character in this show. Even Maester Luwin or Rodrik Cassel had more heartfelt deaths than any of these and they were as supporting as they come.
I felt that the most at the end of episode 4 when Dany killed every Dothraki in the most contrived way, and then they all joined her. The Dothraki were clearly just a plot device meant to give Dany an army, no new characters of relevance, no growth for our existing characters, none of that came out of this plot. And given how many supporters Dany has by the end, I could've believed that she had a huge army even without the Dothraki. It felt like a waste of screen time.
The story of Jon this season actually was quite a good one I think. Despite being a little disappointed at how bland his resurrection felt, not to mention Melisandre's ritual not matching Thoros' ritual at all (she could've said Abracadabra, and it would've worked), I think Jon's rise into a leader he never wanted to be, but was forced into becoming by the needs of those around him was a good plot. I liked how he acted after coming back, his execution of the traitors (which were supporting deaths done well), his decision to leave the Night's Watch, and his reluctance to march on Winterfell, at first (obviously the motivator, Rickon, is completely forgotten by the end, but nevermind that), all of these character progressions were handled with care for the character of Jon. His story reaches its' climax in the Battle of the Bastards, which looked amazing, of course. The outcome was predictable, which I'm not sure is a good thing or a bad thing, and the logistics of the battle reveal some holes, but in this instance I let the show get away with it because of how stellar everything looked. Ramsay's downfall was fitting, however death by Ghost would've been better. And Jon being crowned King in the North is cool to see, I don't know how the North will keep its' independence with Dany coming, but they don't know about her so it's a question for later.
In King's Landing I found the show struggling with keeping the plot active, when the season was clearly leading to the trial. I wish the show runners had done what they did with Joffrey's death in Season 4, and have the explosion happen mid way through the season, with the remainder having to deal with the aftermath. This is because we spent a lot of time with Margaery and the High Sparrow, especially the High Sparrow and we thought both had plans and were scheming and trying to play each other as well as Cersei, but then, no, they weren't, or if they were, we don't know what they were doing because they died. I will say though, the opening scene of episode 10 was the best sequence in this season, yes, better than the Battle of the Bastards. In both cases, we pretty much know the outcome, at least I read the theory of the Wildfire and the previous episodes dropped plenty of hints, and in the Battle, we predict Jon's going to win, but I think the Wildfire sequence had better cinematography, better score, and it built tension so well. I thought it looked all around beautiful. Tommen's death was probably the most unnexpected death of the episode, for someone we never expected to make it, his death took many of us, myself included, by surprise. It was quite well done. Finally Cersei crowned Queen. It really makes everything super simple for the audience and season 7 overall. We went from who knows how many players to 4: Jon, Cersei, Dany and the White Walkers, with Littlefinger and Euron Greyjoy as outliers.
The show is going its' own way, which I like, and it's simplifying the plot, which I understand. I hope you believe me when I tell you the faults I find with the show are not with the fact that it's not as complex as the books. It could never be, and season 7 will hopefully be a better season, because of how simple things are now. I just wish some plots were handled in a way that they flowed with the characters, and didn't feel forced or illogical.
Which brings us to the Arya plot line, which for me was the low part of the season. I have to say, I started liking this plot line. The montage in episode 4 felt earned as a development of Arya's physical and mental skills. Then she gets the Mercy assignment, disobeys, and runs away. The Waif stabs her in the streets, she goes to Lady Crane, then she dies, there's a chase, Arya kills the Waif, goes to Jaqen to say bye, and then leaves. A lot of people got how nonsensical the sequence in episode 8 was, in terms of Arya having been sliced in the stomach and stabbed twice, but letting go of that logistical plot hole, what angered me the most was how Jaqen handled Arya at the end. Why would he let her go? He just let an apprentice go, and his other one died. What's the logic behind that? You could say he didn't care whose face was added to the hall, and since the Waif's face was added, the deal was done, but then why did he send the Waif after Arya and not after Lady Crane? Basically, at one point there were consequences to leaving the House of Black and White but at a later point, there weren't, and I don't understand why. Plus Jaqen declaring Arya a no one couldn't be any more far from the truth, I don't know why he says that.
And then the final drop. In episode 10, Arya, is in Westeros, deep in the Riverlands, in Walder Frey's service, wearing a mask, and she serves him a pie with his sons, and then kills him. When did all of this happen? Of all the teleports, this is the most jarring. It doesn't feel earned at all. It's all off screen. I guess Arya can kill anyone now. We don't see her arrive in Westeros, nor at the Twins, sneak into the castle, kill Walder's sons. I didn't need to see everything up to the point of seeing her bake the pie. But just a shot of her arriving, or a scene where she kills the sons. And where did she get that face? I guess she took a lot of faces with her on her way out of the house of Black and White (again, why would Jaqen let her do that?). Why couldn't she have been wearing Lady Crane's face? Overall, it's the most rushed thing I have ever seen in Game of Thrones.
Moving on to Bran, his plotline had the advantage of the Hodor reveal, which increased the emotional investment of the audience, giving us a break from all of the exposition. That’s all his arc was this season, to be fair. I still don’t understand what his role is supposed to be. Something more relevant than just telling Jon about his parentage, hopefully. And I also thought the Benjen reveal was somewhat wasted. Besides revealing what happened to him, he didn’t add very much at all to Bran or Meera’s characters, or the story as a whole because by the end of the season he abandons them again. Nevertheless the flashbacks were very good, and once again, the final sequence of episode 5 was spectacular.
Tyrion in Meereen also experienced something of a muddled journey. I went into season 6 hoping Tyrion would have more scenes where he plays with dialogue to get his way in politics, as he did in season 2. Here, we only got the scene where he reasons with the masters, which falls flat given that they betray him. It makes me wonder what Daenerys learned by rulling in Meereen, as she seems more ruthless, or as ruthless, by the end. In addition to the negotiations, we got no conclusion to the Kinvara story, awkward talks with Missandei and Grey Worm, and no satisfying resolution to the Sons of the Harpy plot. I say “satisfying resolution” because there was something of a resolution. They were being funded by the masters, now they’re dead, so that’s that, which is not really that fulfilling. Tyrion’s talk with the dragons was a good standalone scene, and like I said, I did like the negotiations, and the reactions of both Missandei and Grey Worm revealed real depth in their personalities, but these moments were too few and far between.
Jamie’s arc this season was probably the best out of all them. I really bought his willingness to cooperate with those around them for the greater good, which is part of the growth his character has gone through for the past seasons. I was enjoying him talking with Olenna, planning the High Sparrow’s downfall, and it really hurt when all of that fell apart for him, and he was dismissed from the Kingsguard, by his own son, no less. He’s sent to Riverrun, and while that storyline was good, I’m not sure the purpose it had on the overall narrative. The only two reasons I can think of is to, on one hand, leave Cersei alone in King’s Landing, so that she only has Qyburn to fall back on. Jaime’s presence would probably make her rethink the explosion. And on the other hand, to close all loose ends with the Blackfish and Edmure. But disregarding the somewhat forcing of Jaime into his book role, like I said, this was a good plotline. I very much liked his conversations with Bronn, the Freys, the Blackfish, Brienne and especially Edmure. They gave the idea of a Jaime that, not only thinks twice before making decisions, but also looks for a nonviolent approach. It’s sad that this growth came at the expense of the Blackfish’s illogical stubbornness and insulting death, not to mention Brienne’s journey back and forth with no clear purpose. Honestly, I think Edmure made the right choice. If he refused, Jaime would have attacked the castle, and probably would have won. Those men’s lives were forfeit, and some of them may have been taken prisoner and not executed. On top of that, Edmure saved his son. You might say that Walder Frey would never let Jaime hurt his grandson, but honestly, Walder would probably not care, the kid isn’t even the heir to the Frey line, and he is by blood and by name, a Tully. Since Edmure did not know whether Jaime’s threat was sincere, I say he made the logical decision. The Blackfish was just dumb.
Staying in the Riverlands we get to the Hound, whose return was spoiled by Ian Mcshane before the season started, but was still very cool to see. He really seemed to be on a path to redemption, disposing of his “joy of killing people”, as he told to Sansa. Mcshane gave a very good performance as Septon Ray, a character that took some beats out of some book counterparts but looked a different rendering of those personas, which I enjoyed. However the destruction of the village the Hound was living in felt like it could have lead to a much more satisfying conclusion than just rogue members of the Brotherhood Without Banners. More so than ever before, this season dropped so many hints that Lady Stoneheart could finally appear, but no, she’s never coming. It’s not something I demanded, I like when the show goes its own way and does new cool things. But the answer we got to why the settlement was attacked was so weak, and Stoneheart’s introduction could have given us a much more satisfying explanation. The Hound’s story is left completely open as he reunites with Beric and Thoros, and it’s not clear where they intend to go. I’m completely unable to predict that but I liked how to finally establish that Lady Stoneheart will never appear, the script has the Hound taking a piss in the river, literally pissing on her storyline. That really made me laugh. Overall what we got scene wise, was good, but it felt right going to where we started with the Hound. Putting him on somewhat of a Jaime development seemed logical, and hinted at a moral to the story of these two men, but while Jaime changed, the Hound didn’t, and went back to his hacking and slashing ways, which confused me.
The Greyjoys’ scenes were good, but I confess, I was disappointed, especially with Euron. I really thought we were going to get a sort of Oberyn 2.0. The wildcard, completely impossible to predict what he’ll do next type, and seemed like we were going to get just that, as the scene on the bridge really set up a menacing, calculating and ambicious man. But then, we wait three episodes until he returns, at the Kingsmoot, and there he just blabs about marrying Dany and giving her his big cock. This was not what I wanted out of that character or out of the Kingsmoot scene. And then he declares he will build 1000 ships (sounds like a massive undertaking) as Theon and Yara escape and never appears again, for the rest of the season. Just like Doran, it felt like a potentially awesome new character was not given enough time to show his purpose, or relevance, or even just his true character and nature. The rest of the scenes were great, especially the opening with Yara and Balon, Yara also reacted properly to her brother’s return, and his support of her at the Kingsmoot showed real growth from Theon, with once again fantastic acting from Alfie Allen. Their scene in Volantis felt somewhat superfluous, but at least we got to see them, instead of them just appearing in Meereen. Finally their scene with Dany and Tyrion ended up being one of the best dialogues of the season, another good talk of politics, character motivations, to show exactly why the characters act the way they act. This scene should also be credited for giving Yara the best line of the season: “I never demand, but I’m up for anything really”. I just felt like the Ironborn were to have a bigger impact on the story this year, and given how little Euron we saw, and how massive Dany’s army looked by the end, their importance felt minor, like Dorne’s.
Sansa’s story felt confusing at some points. Well, it was more aspects of her character and motivations than her story. She arrives at Castle Black finally arriving somewhere she feels safe, because there’s someone there that she feels safe with, Jon. Their reunion did not disappoint. Despite having almost no connection on screen up to this point, there was instant chemistry between Sophie Turner and Kit Harington as if we had seen them be brother and sister on screen for several episodes. However, upon the arrival of the Pink Letter, she is determined to retake Winterfell and the main motivator seems to be Rickon. After that she meets Littlefinger in Molestown, but keeps that from Jon. I imagine that telling him about it would mean telling all about Petyr’s envolvment in Joffrey’s death, and everything that happened in the Vale and Winterfell, which might not sit well with Jon. So it made sense. However this grew into exponential irresponsibility from her when, closing to the day of the battle, as it feels like their chances of winning are slim, and after she already called for the Knights of the Vale, she continues not to say anything to Jon. And worst of all, claims Rickon is a sunk cost, something that is forfeit no matter what. Essentially, she gives up on her brother’s life, and sends her half-brother on a probably doomed battle not knowing that there are coming reinforcements. So her primary motivation for retaking Winterfell, which seems to be family, is not family at all, but something else. Power, perhaps, with Jon and Rickon out of the way, she is the heir. Yet upon her conquering of Winterfell, she gives up the title freely to Jon. So, not power, and not family. It was just a desire for home and revenge that fueled her decisions. Not altogether illogical motivations, but strange given her time with Littlefinger, and the fact that she was set up to care about her family early on in the season. By the finale, I’m guessing Littlefinger gets to her and she becomes nervous as Jon is elected King. Hopefully Baelish will play some crazy cards next season so that he’s back on top, with Sansa at his side. He certainly has something on his mind by the end of the season.
Breefly talking about Dorne, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I think Doran and Trystane’s deaths were just there to close the Dorne plotline, and open up the possibility of them joining Dany against Cersei. I still don’t know who rules Dorne now. I suppose law of succession was thrown out the window, apparently all of Doran’s guards hated him as well as the population of Dorne at large, apparently the Sand Snakes can teleport, apparently Ellaria wants to avenge the Martells by erasing them from existence. Also, the girl-power aspect of that story felt a bit overplayed, almost like Jesus imagery in a Superman movie. One thing the show could do to give that a little more logic is having Varys mention in Season 7 that Doran’s death was planned by him, that the guards were bribed, and that it was his intention to put people in power that would side with Dany. It still would not explain why Ellaria would be put in charge, but that’s the only thing I can come up with.
Finally we come to Sam, basically three scenes which I feel could have been given the Season 5 Bran treatment. Sam this season felt so unimportant, and his scenes had no impact, that I feel he could have arrived at the Citadel in the first episode of season 7. Not that any of the scenes was bad, but even the scenes at his home felt like they had no relevance to the overall story. Sam steals his father’s sword and there are no consequences. There probably will be in the next season, but as the show is coming to its’ close, I don’t know how to make that subplot feel relevant.
Ultimately, I still think this season ended up being better than season Five, but I think it was just due to the fact that it was more exciting and entertaining. However, like season Five it has its’ fair share of flaws. Most in my opinion reside with the rushed plots, the lack of screen time given to important aspects, like Tyrion’s political game and Euron’s intentions and motivations and finally the illogical routes of some stories, notably, Arya’s.
There may be a silver lining to all of this, however. Hopefully with the plot more streamlined and simple, next season there will be less subplots to keep track of, and the characters will be given time to breathe and develop along with the story. These are my hopes for season Seven, what are yours? Leave your thoughts down below, and as always, thank you for reading.