*Spoilers for season 5*
Hi all! I know I originally planned to have these posts go out on Thursday… buuut that’s not been happening for a couple of weeks and I’m having to reshuffle some posts anyway- so *surprise*! This is my last wrap up for a while (until Season 8 comes *sob*), since I already reviewed seasons 6 and 7 (you can catch that here and here). Anyhoo, let’s launch into what some people have called the worst series of Game of Thrones and see if it’s that bad…
The season opens with Cersei’s flashback though, unfortunately, it’s not as well incorporated as flashbacks that come into play in later seasons. It does, however, give an insight into her character and casts dire predictions over her reign. Plus, it gives viewers an idea why she acts like such an idiot this season.
Her chance at ruling has come at last… and she completely botches the opportunity. From her small blunders of getting rid of the small council to picking an unnecessary fight with the Tyrells to giving power to the faith militant, it’s a wonder that worse things don’t happen by the end of the season. Most of my Cersei notes are “whyyy?” Not because I especially like Marjery (I made it pretty clear I didn’t- she’s playing a dangerous game she can’t win either) yet with the whole High Sparrow business she’s creating a rod for her own back- LITERALLY. Sure, she’s got few allies this season and King Tommen’s useless- BUT she didn’t have to go and make everything worse with her manipulative idiocies.
So when the High Sparrow (“like lord duckling”) does get control, it’s a sure sign of a character creating their own downfall. Apparently, she can’t see how religious zealots whose leader frequently says things like “You are the few, we are the many”, might quickly turn on the aristocratic elites- funny that. Cersei’s simply too vengeful to see how this might play out. And again, thanks to how brilliant the actress is, I felt immense sympathy for Cersei at the psychotic treatment she receives at the hands of the Septa Unella, culminating in that now infamous “SHAME” scene (aka the walk of atonement). All credit to Cersei, she’s a determined woman and doesn’t let it break her. Furthermore, there’s hints of what’s to come with creepy Qybern experiments playing out in the background all season…
So why isn’t Jaime there to stop all these insane things happening to Cersei? Well, that’s because Cersei treats him like shit at the beginning of the season, taunting him that it’s his fault that Tyrion killed their father. Jaime is understandably distressed and vengeful (don’t worry, that doesn’t go anywhere, in the spirit of the later GOT series, he’s miraculously over it by the time he reunites with his brother). And with a quick sleight of hand and a vague threat to Myrcella, Jaime gets shunted off into the worst storyline Game of Thrones has ever seen.
And oh gosh I don’t even want to cover the Dorne story- it’s so shit. Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve read the books, so I’m not going on the most reliable memories- but frankly I remember enjoying the Dorne story in the books. Unless my memory’s deceiving me, it wasn’t this campy and silly. Bronn’s presence doesn’t make it better either- I do like his character, but I saw a critic a while back saying he should be killed off for the sake of the show, and I’m afraid I have to agree. I mean, when a character has to get poisoned just so that they can be cured, elaborately showing the audience how poisons and antidotes work, then you know a character’s outstayed their welcome. And that’s without even mentioning the “You need a bad pussy” line- ugh. With storylines like this, it feels like the writers reached a dead end. The gist of the storyline is “Myrcella has to die” and since GRRM hasn’t written that bit yet, the showrunners went with this abomination.
And I’m going to have to say I didn’t like Tyrion’s story arc this season either. Part of this is thanks to the fact that he’s gone from a markedly clever man to someone who uses Lannister chat up lines when he’s trying to hide from everyone, doesn’t realise Cersei would happily murder every dwarf in the world to get to him and whose dialogue has taken a tailspin from witty to childish. No, my problem is that he was pulled into the centre of the story too soon. Again, referring back to my fading memories of the books, GRRM isn’t afraid to have Tyrion do very little in book 5 and that would have been okay with me.
Obviously the showrunners didn’t want to neglect a fan favourite like Tyrion (which would have been fine with me, since it would have been more believable) so they had to thrust him into Dany’s court asap. And how do they do that? Well by having him team up with Jorah, so that they can discuss all the things that have already passed. Granted it is sad to see Jorah find out about his father’s death and I did like seeing Tyrion’s reaction to the dragon flying over Valyria, yet the fact that Jorah is the one to deliver Tyrion and not Varys doesn’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things (unless you count Jorah catching greyscale- which, for spoilery reasons, I don’t).
Frankly, I wasn’t keen on the initial Dany/Tyrion scenes. They felt fanficy and not remotely like GOT (foreshadowing some of the series later issues, just sayin’). Realism was left behind as Dany quickly accepts his presence and his counsel– mostly because she’s down an advisor (oh we’ll get to that). Plus there’s some irritatingly TV writing like:
“Meereen is an ancient and glorious city- try not to ruin her”- yeah, yeah, we know he’ll screw it up now, thanks.
I didn’t enjoy the Meereen story either to be honest. The whole Sons of the Harpy vs the Unsullied bored me. It all felt remote and uninteresting. And I wasn’t crazy about some of Dany’s poor politicking- no matter how much she says “I am not a politician, I am a queen”, it’s not wise to execute one of your begging supporters in front of crowds of thousands. Obviously I was also shirty about the dragons being locked up all season as well.
On the other hand, there were elements of Dany learning from Selmy, which I really liked, HOWEVER the showrunners completely butchered this storyline. Despite Selmy being very much alive in the books, for some reason, the writers had him murdered in a street brawl (?!?) I’ve mentioned in later series how I feel Tyrion was given Selmy’s role as advisor (hence acts un-Tyrion-like) and personally I think this is one of the biggest flaws of the season. It’s here that they get the excuse to insert Tyrion where he does not belong- even if this did lead to one hellava line:
“I’m going to break the wheel”
Fortunately for us all, when the Harpy’s launch their final attack, Drogon flies in and lifts Dany out of the mess that her storyline had turned into.
“A girl is not ready to become no one, but she’s ready to become someone else.”
I know, I know, I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, yet I wasn’t crazy about the Arya scenes in season 5. I’m sorry, but watching someone sweep floors is kinda boring. Couldn’t they have spared us with a montage or something? Personally, I liked the House of Back and White in the book more and felt the scenes were given too much space here.
Still, I did like how we saw that Arya couldn’t quite let go and I appreciated seeing her become an expert liar. Seeing her caught between Jacquen Hagar, the Waif and her desire for vengeance was good TV as well. And even if she is blinded for her oversight, I did enjoy her catching Trant out. Even if it was a bad move, it was a strong revenge plot.
Brienne of Tarth
Ah Brienne and Pod plodding through the Riverlands… and then miraculously turning up in the north (teleporting is a thing in later series apparently). I did like the character development for Brienne when she talks about how Renly saved her and it builds on the reasons she already has for vengeance. This is not only good for a bit of bonding- it’s also kinda relevant considering Stannis’ and Brienne’s meeting at the end of the series. However, Brienne turning up in weird places this series was ultimately too much for me– I mean did she have to chance on Sansa and Littlefinger in a tavern? My guess is there’s a chance of them teaming up in the books- nevertheless, this is much too early for them to be meeting and has no real bearing on the plot. The worst thing that was done with Brienne’s plotline though was to leave out Lady Stoneheart from the books- which I was really looking forward to as well!!
Littlefinger acts *so* out of character this season. I mean, sure he has some nice sparring matches with Lancel and Olenna, and he gets to drip more of his creepy advice in Sansa’s ear (“There’s no justice in the world, not unless we make it”), yet WHY did the great mastermind give Sansa to the Boltons?!? What is his game plan?! I don’t have much to say about it only that the showrunners don’t give a decent enough explanation and just WHY?!?!
Speaking of Sansa’s storyline, I have so many mixed feelings about it and anything I say about it will probably be deemed controversial. In spite of this whole review, I don’t actually mind changes from the books as long as they’re done well- the trouble here is that a lot of the changes made plotholes you could fit several direwolves riding a dragon through. Not least, because it temporarily throws the Dark Sansa arc off balance, it destroys Littlefinger’s credibility and makes Theon becomes superfluous to proving it’s the “real” Sansa, because, well, it’s the real Sansa and loads of people recognise her.
I get why the writers had her marry Ramsay Bolton. I presume the Vale will have some involvement in bringing down the Boltons and Sansa could end up being the Lady of Winterfell, so the showrunners wanted to make that mean something more by making it personal. Trouble is, it was already pretty personal (most of us haven’t forgotten that the Boltons murdered her brother- the North remembers). A lot of the scenes with Ramsay goading her definitely got under my skin and I will give the showrunner credit that season 6 is more satisfying for it. Plus seeing Sansa interact with Theon and put Miranda in her place wasn’t bad either.
I know the rape is a difficult area to touch on without people getting heated, so first I’ll say that I understand why people hated it. I get that it was different from the book, since it was originally a side character, though for me they were equally disturbing. However, it does mean that Sansa’s plot changed and it went in for more melodrama by making Ramsay her enemy- which doesn’t fit as well with the realism of GOT– a place where heroes and villains usually die without too much poetic justice. I can also understand that people might have reached their personal limit with the scene and that’s fair enough (I’ve talked a little about having my own personal limits in the past). I will admit it made me uncomfortable- but I was reconciled to it being the reaction I was supposed to have. In terms of how it was done, I personally found it powerful and more harrowing not to see (again, I know this was a point of contention). I did like that Sansa had agency in getting Theon to help her and in her line: “If I’m going to die, let it happen while there’s still some of me left.”
Stannis is an odd character- I mean, his idea for getting the Wildlings on side is to set fire to their leader…
Sorry, you can’t win hearts and minds by burning people alive. At the same time, it’s clear from a lot of his scenes with Jon that he thinks he’s the good guy. And in fairness to him, when I originally watched it there were a few scenes in this series when I thought I could end up changing my mind about Stannis. Partly because he’d just saved the Night’s Watch, partly since he stands at the back of a hall correcting people’s grammar (LOL), though mostly because the scenes with his daughter were very touching… annnd then he let the Red Woman kill her. There’s really not much I can say about it other than it was horrible. In the end, it’s the mother who tries to stop it. Unsurprisingly to everyone *but* Stannis child sacrifice doesn’t endear him to anyone– his army mutinies, his wife kills herself, Melisandre leaves and I’m still left wondering to this day whether Brienne hacked him to bits or not…
But not to worry! Jon Snow is the real hero! Because he’s the one putting people out their misery when Stannis gets all *fire happy*. And thanks to that he actually wins the hearts of the free folk by the end of the season. (Incidentally I wonder if the reason he bent the knee to Dany was because he saw what happens to obstinate people).
And unlike Stannis, he resists the Red Woman’s creepy advances. Plus, because tis the season for weird lines, the way she comes onto him is a combination of “are you a virgin?” and “in our joining there is power” and using his dead lover’s words “you know nothing Jon Snow”. I don’t know which one was more dodgy to be honest.
I did really like Jon and Stannis’ scenes though, even if he makes him an offer he can’t refuse (Winterfell and the Stark name)… which he inevitably refuses because he pledged his life to the Night’s Watch (he says that a lot this season). Aside from them bonding over Ned’s memory, I loved the dialogue in their scenes:
“I heard it was best to keep your enemies close.”
“Whoever said that didn’t have many enemies.”
Anyway, instead of going with Stannis, Jon becomes commander of the Night’s Watch… which is not what he wants. In the book he does make the sensible choice to send Sam away for his own good (here it’s put down more to Sam looking out for Gilly and I can’t really credit Jon). I do personally believe that, morally speaking, he made a lot of the right decisions– I mean who can argue with: “We can learn to live with the wildlings or we can add them to the army of the dead.” It’s entirely logical- especially after all the Hardhome craziness! In the chaos of a really well shot battle- which basically saved the entire season for me- we see how utterly chilling the situation is getting.
Still old rivalries have been boiling away since Season 1 and it’s only a matter of time before Allister gets a lot of people to betray him. Most memorable among them is Olly- Olly who we see him training in his first scene of the season. Rather purposefully, the only hint we have of his impending betrayal is him talking at odds with Sam- Olly is questioning Jon’s decision, while Sam thinks he is looking out for Jon. It is Olly who lures him into the trap and this is what makes it so horrible when they stab Jon to death. Ultimately it’s the execution of this that makes the Night’s Watch storyline the best of season 5.
Ooh err, I’d have to I’d have to say barring a couple of storylines, this was pretty poor showing for me. But I’d like to hear from you! What were your thoughts on it? Did you like it more than I did? Let me know in the comments!