** If you’ve never watched GoT or read ASOIAF and plan to then don’t read any of this – obviously. The first part if safe for anyone past season/book 3.**
I managed to hold out until last week on watching season 6 of Game of Thrones. I was a book reader first, so for me the added intricacy and intimacy of reading the books was worth the wait.
I’ve never been one of those people who can’t deal with changes made to the original material. Generally, I’ve thought that the vast majority of the alterations, so far, have been well implemented and necessary given the nature of the new medium. However the books were always that much richer. For example, I preferred the build up to the Red Wedding in the books. I liked the way that GRRM sowed seeds of unrest in the reader. There was a sense of foreboding, starting from the moment Robb refused to heed Grey Wind’s aggression towards the Freys at the gate.
“Grey Wind edged forward, tail stiff, watching through slitted eyes of dark gold. When the Freys were a half-dozen yards away Catelyn heard him growl, a deep rumble that seemed almost one with the rush of the river. Robb looked startled. “Grey Wind, to me. To me!”
Instead the direwolf leapt forward, snarling”
On the other hand, the show, by necessity, had to go for optimum impact and omit these moments. Then there’s factors like the breadcrumb trail surrounding Jon Snow that started in the very first book and has been drip fed to us in the most minute and cryptic doses (I’ll get back to this later). My point is, I didn’t want to spoil the enjoyment of reading GRRM’s telling of this epic tale.
That being said – I am weak willed, I am impatient and I have low impulse control. Last week when everyone I know started proclaiming that episode 9 was the ‘best episode EVER,’ I broke.
It wasn’t worth it!
Don’t get me wrong the season was entertaining, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as everyone else seems to have. Here’s my breakdown of why and also what I did like, because there’s no need to be negative all the time.
**SPOILER ALERT – I will try to omit as much detail as possible from the rest of this post but if you haven’t watched the season and don’t want spoilers then please stop here **
The Teleportation Effect
My main issue with the season boils down to what I’m calling the teleportation effect. Basically, everything and everyone moves too fast. One minute Brienne is at The Wall, the next minute she’s in the Riverlands. One minute Theon is on the Iron Islands, the next thing you know he’s brooding amongst a sea of titillation somewhere in Essos.
At first I thought this was a side effect of binge watching episodes over the space of one week rather than having to wait a week between them. Then I remembered that this was how I watched season five (as I waited until a friend told me it was relatively safe – spoiler wise) and I don’t recall this rushed effect.
In a way, it’s good TV, a lot of people don’t enjoy the long arduous build ups that the early episodes in the season are usually full of. However, without these, the payloads that come later feel shallow and unearned. Every single episode seemed to be a series of wins, one after the other. With the exception of Arya and Hordor, the hardships felt small somehow.
Small World Syndrome:
I guess this was a repercussion of the above, but did anyone else feel like the world had shrunk? No new characters were introduced, because the screen time was filled up with the rapidly progressing plot lines of our existing favourites.
Old, almost forgotten, subplots like the Brotherhood Without Banners were revived, but I think I would have enjoyed the unknowns that a brand new player might have introduced.
I think this has more to do with my own expectations than short comings in the writing. I naturally thought that unread material meant, for the first time, that I wouldn’t know what was coming. I thought the show would be full of surprises and revelations. This was not the case. Everything I’d long suspected happened: Jon Snow 2.0 courtesy of the Red Woman, The potential identity of Cold Hands, where Daenerys’ plot line with the Dothraki ends up.
There were small revelations along the way, such as the genesis of the Others but overall it felt that from one episode to the next – I knew where that character would end up.
Maybe this problem will manifest in the books too. Perhaps it’s just what happens when the story arcs that you’ve been building for so long finally near fruition. Maybe the confirmation that R+L does indeed equal J, will feel just as flat in the reading. Not due to poor execution, but because a good story wouldn’t randomly insert a huge twist like that out of nowhere. Although I feel like someone who only watches the show might have had that feeling.
Hopefully the more scenic route that the books can take will help throw in some red herrings and make things a bit more satisfying.
Is it just me, or do girls rule the world now? This whole season focussed almost entirely on female plot lines. Anyone that’s been paying attention will know that the show has had a lot of backlash surrounding it’s treatment of women. Especially regarding the introduction of acts of violence that aren’t in the original material, and the disparity in the frequency of male vs female exposed body parts. This season, seemed to attempt to rectify and vindicate us. Not least with the many members that were flashed in front of us. It’s a matter of personal opinion whether they succeeded, but I for one enjoyed the girl power.
Yes, there was the battle of the bastards plot line but Sansa got a refreshingly big voice there. A character previously maligned with “feminine” traits like frivolity and meekness came into her own, liberated from the damsel in distress role. I don’t know if this will be maintained in the book, or if Sansa will keep her trusting nature and innocence, but it was a nice development.
King’s Landing was dominated by Margery and Cersie and their ongoing power struggle with the High Septon. Both of these characters used to wield power from their sexuality – possibly a true reflection of all that was available to women in the (mock) medieval era. I’m not criticising this, I think it’s very interesting, particularly once you start reading the POV chapters for Cersie in the books. I do enjoy that they are exploring how women move beyond this to fill the power vacuum which successive male deaths have created.
When it comes to Daenerys, they practically spell it out. She’s long been a power house, the antithesis of a damsel. This season she takes it one step further, deconstructing the long standing patriarchy of the Dothraki culture, saying goodbye to a lover that needed her more than she needed him. Even Tyrion gets consumed by the shadow of her greatness, becoming subservient to her. Then there’s that all telling conversation between her and Yara, I paraphrase here:
“Have the iron born ever been ruled by a queen?”
“No more than the Seven Kingdoms”
It feels like everywhere you looked from the Wall to Slavers Bay – women are ubiquitous. Elleria and the Sand Snakes rule Dorne, Meera aids Bran every step of the way, there is no Sam without Gilly these days, Jamie lives for Cersie once more, then there’s my personal favourite, Arya. I’ve long been told by friends that I am like Arya (minus the murdering). So watching her continue to kick ass is very satisfying. It seems only the Hound is left alone in the woods without a lady in sight.
I’ll end on this. Lets face it, this is still one of the most entertaining shows out there and episode 9 was definitely the pinnacle of this wow factor (even if you did see the battle of Helms Deep style rescue coming a mile off).