Series Breakdown Rating:
Overall Plot: 7
Spoilers: Fuck yes
Audience Assumptions: Some familiarity
Season Six – ***
Part One: Déjà Vu and Dragon Jesus
I think if the seasons of Game of Thrones had titles, and those titles diverged from the books, this one’s would be something like “Commitment: Our Lack Thereof.” Despite the disappointment of the last season, the story left off with some major changes to the status quo of the characters. Arya was rejected by the House of Black and White and left blind, Danaerys was reunited with both her dragon and the Dothraki, Sansa had escaped from the Boltons with the help of Theon, Myrcella had been poisoned, and of course, Jon had been killed by his own men.
Anyone who saw the trailers could probably figure out Jon’s plotline wasn’t finished yet. From the first shot of the season, the show clarifies that it by no means intends to keep Jon dead, but it takes a full two episodes to get around to reviving him. Several of the other subplot developments from Season Five get cauterized in a similar way.
Arya’s blindness is only temporary – which is especially frustrating because the show up until this point has been good about ensuring that characters who gain disabilities don’t magically recover from them – and given a second chance to become an assassin. A chance which she fucks up for no real reason, prompting her to return to Westeros in what feels like a massive letdown on the assassin training subplot. But don’t worry, she still has the skills of an assassin, so it all worked out in her favor in the end.
The Dothraki imprison Danaerys, her dragon apparently as reliable as a pile of acorns, leading her to repeat the burning of her enemies while she survives the fire and emerges naked to the awe of the masses that we saw in the first season. The much simpler solution would have been for her dragon to have eaten the khals, and the masses to have followed her because she rides a fucking dragon instead of a horse, but I suppose rehashing the end of the first season in a less impressive and somehow more excessive way works as well. This takes up most of the season, by the way.
Part Two: Can You Not, I Dunno, Zig-Zag? Like, Even a Little?
Maybe I’m being a bit harsher on this season than I probably should. While the first seven or eight episodes are pretty lackluster, most of them aren’t outright bad (certainly not to the caliber of the fifth season), and some of them make a concerted effort to reveal new information or drag the plot along. Bran returns after his absence in the last season, learning from the old tree man how to see past events, which ultimately shows the audience how Hodor became like he is, and finally who Jon Snow’s mother is. (On a side note, I read somewhere that Martin gave the rights to adapt his books to this production team after they successfully answered the question of who Jon’s mother was. To me, this seems on par with J. K. Rowling asking Chris Columbus what Harry Potter’s owl is named; while the show makes an effort to keep the secret discrete and doesn’t show the tower scene until this season, the books practically spell it out about four chapters in.)
The faults of this season seem to lie partly in the poor planning of the last one. Some mysteries are solved or characters returned, including Benjen and Rickon Stark, but by the time they come up, the season only has a few episodes left and the writers don’t seem eager to use these characters, so they disappear again, or in Rickon’s case, just get killed off because they have no more reason to be in the show. It does beg the question of why they weren’t killed off sooner and why the show hinted that they had some role to fill. Rickon’s dire wolf is particularly menacing and wild, and the wolves are meant to reflect their human companions, but the wolf is killed offscreen and Rickon dies in perhaps the most underwhelming attempt to run away from a guy shooting arrows I’ve ever seen. Other than to motivate Jon, what is the point of even having this character in the story at all?
Part Three: FUCKING FINALLY!
The season is pretty lackluster overall, and I might give it a two-star rating, if not for the last two episodes, “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter.” The Battle of the Bastards is harrowing and filthy, and probably the second best proper battle in the show as of the sixth season. The cinematography was so nuanced for a fantasy television series, that the seventh season took several notes from it and even copied the layout of certain scenes.
Do you remember that I said the fighting pits battle from the last season was my favorite at the time? Well, the first few minutes of the “Battle of the Bastards” episode gives us my favorite overall. The dragons are fully grown and unchained, and Danaerys has complete control over them. When a naval fleet comes to attack the city, all it takes are three dragons sinking a warship (with fire) to force a surrender. It’s one of the most spectacular dragon fights I’ve ever seen, even if it only lasts a few minutes.
“The Winds of Winter” also throws new elements at the audience, with Cersei burning the Sept of Baelor to the ground with wildfire in a scene that ramps up cinematographic expectations for the show. With Jon now (unfortunately for him) King in the North, Cersei ruler on the Iron Throne, and Danaerys finally – finally – crossing the sea with her armada, her Dothraki, and her dragons, hopes for the next season are high.