Game of Thrones: Season 6 Review

Only. Four. More. Days. Until the final season of Game of Thrones premieres.  With just seven episodes left in my great rewatch—67 episodes in 67 days—I am definitely going to make it!  My review of season seven should go up on Friday, I’m planning one more Game of Thrones post on Saturday and Sunday, and then I will recap the premiere on Monday.

Season six benefits from a tremendous amount of much-delayed catharsis, but tons of time is burned moving pieces around the board, the writers are still furiously junking Martin’s plotlines, and the show writers’ weaknesses are starting to show.  One big WHAM! moment (or maybe two, depending on how you count) is much less effective because the writers drop the ball in season 7.

Seasons five and six are very much about transitioning the show from the books to the show writers’ vision for the endgame.  To do that they have to move a lot of pieces around the board, so to speak.  It is necessary probably, but it doesn’t necessarily make for riveting television.  The biggest offenders are the Iron Born, Arya and her exit from Braavos, bringing the Hound back into the game, and that entire sequence at Riverrun.  Well done or not, they feel ancillary.

Bran’s storyline consists almost entirely of infodumping.  Not bad and I’m not one to complain about worldbuilding, but not riveting television.  I will say that I give the writers shit for their additions, but their explanation of why Hodor only says “Hodor” is pretty great.

There are also several purely wheelspinning scenes featuring Tyrion, young Barack Obama, and Missandei that succeed entirely on the basis of the actors’ charisma.  Dany gets two WHAM! moments that are both entirely predictable and redundant but great nonetheless.  Who cares if Dany lifting the siege of Mereen is repetitive because the dragons look GREAT.  (If only we could get that kind of CGI success with dire wolves.)  And who wouldn’t cheer for so abrupt and definitive a cutting of the Mereenese knot?

Even with the book cliffhanger, it is no surprise what happens to Jon Snow at the beginning of the season.  But it still makes for great television.

The transition from book-adapted-to-show to pure show is marked.  The showrunners really are talented.  At making television.  They are good at television.  At the visuals.  At foreshadowing future events.  But they don’t have the attention and care for details of a book writer like George R.R. Martin.  The handling of norms is a big part of that.  Nobody really cares that Jon left the Night’s Watch.  Just as no one will care what Cersei does in the final episode of the season, drastically reducing it in retrospect.  The books depict the tearing down of norms, to be sure, but it is more effective (and tragic) because it acknowledges they exist.

The Battle of the Bastards gives us some of that good old fashioned brutal medieval violence.  So, so many things about it don’t make sense, but I don’t care.  Game of Thrones features some great CGI and so much spectacle in its battles.  This one is grittier.  I’m still partial to Hardhome, but the Battle of the Bastards is one of my very favorite medieval battle scenes committed to film (speaking of brutal medieval violence, check out my reviews of Braveheart and Outlaw/King).  We also finally get the death of inexplicable main character Ramsay Bolton—hooray!  Our long, national nightmare is over.

And the catharsis of that one scene!  The North remembers.  Some people hate it, because some people hate entertainment that entertains or sparks joy of any sort.  Don’t be those people.

About H.P.

Blogs on books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday (speculative fiction) and Hillbilly Highways (country noir and nonfiction).
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3 Responses to Game of Thrones: Season 6 Review

  1. “…some people hate entertainment that entertains or sparks joy of any sort. Don’t be those people.”
    Hear! Hear!
    My feelings about GoT and about the source material are profoundly mixed. Some of it I love and some of it I truly can’t stand. The whole Unsullied thing is so risible that it tossed me completely out of the story. And GRRM has really fucked the audience that made him a multi-millionaire and a titan of the genre. I used to be of the “leave him alone” camp. After he took years to turn out turgid placeholders with no end in sight, I think he’s a phony who never knew where his story was going and has vaporlocked because he completely lost control of his creation. harsh, I know, but it’s what I think.

    On the other hand, I watch The Hound’s “I eat more chicken any man ever seen” scene repeatedly because I love it so.

    I hope the final season is fulfilling. I’ll be busy watching “Warrior” and re-watching “Banshee…”

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      Rewatching the entire series has really highlighted the strengths of the books and the show (often not the same) and the weaknesses of the books and the shows (often not the same).

      As a general matter, I am just happy for a high quality fantasy show on TV. It’s good, which is pretty great considering how poorly served the genre has generally been on the screen. But it doesn’t compare to a The Wire or The Shield or Friday Night Lights or Justified.

      My bigger concern is what the strengths and weaknesses of the show portend for the upcoming Wheel of Time adaptation.

      If Martin were getting up every day and working on the series, it would be done. Full stop.


  2. Pingback: Happy Game of Thrones Final Season Premiere Day! | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

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