Aidan Gillen, Alexander Siddig, Alfie Allen, Alliser Thorne, Arya Stark, Braavos, Bran Stark, Carice van Houten, Cersei Lannister, Charles Dance, Ciaran Hinds, Daario Naharis, Daenerys Targaryen, Dean-Charles Chapman, Dominic Carter, Dorne, Dothraki, Dragons, Drogon, Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones, Gwendoline Christie, Hardhome, Hizdahr, Iain Glen, Ian Beattie, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Iwan Rheon, Jaime Lannister, Janos Slynt, Jaqen H'ghar, Joel Fry, Jon Snow, Jonathan Pryce, Jorah Mormont, Kerry Ingram, King's Landing, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Maisie Williams, Mance Rayder, Margaery Tyrell, Meereen, Melisandre, Meryn Trant, Mother's Mercy, Myrcella Baratheon, Natalie Dormer, Nell Tiger Free, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Owen Teale, Peter Dinklage, Ramsay Bolton, Rhaegal, Rickon Stark, Rory McCann, Sons of the Harpy, Stannis Baratheon, Stephen Dillane, Television, The High Sparrow, The Hound, The Night's Watch, The Red Wedding, The Sand Snakes, The Wall, The Wars to Come, Theon Greyjoy, Tom Wlaschiha, Tommen Baratheon, TV, Tyrion Lannister, Tywin Lannister, Viserion, White Walkers
For years now “Game of Thrones” has been my favourite show on television, but this year’s season has been a mixed bag. I didn’t hate what I saw, and there have certainly been some exceptional episodes, but it wasn’t up to the standard that we’ve come to expect. The series spent far too much time building storylines and developing characters like Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Hizdahr (Joel Fry), only to conclude their arcs in dissatisfying and lazy ways. The standout episode of the series, “Hardhome”, promised an epic conclusion given that it was episode eight, and we often see the best that “Game of Thrones” has to offer in episodes nine and ten, but the series failed to build on the spectacle that occurred as the White Walkers made their grand entrance.
Of all the storylines this season only one managed to have a compelling beginning, middle, and end. Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) arc over the course of this season was pretty great, even if it ended in a disappointing fashion for me. Jon began as a merciful killer, ending Mance Rayder’s (Ciaran Hinds) life so as to save him from the pain of Melisandre’s (Carice van Houten) fire. He then became commander at The Wall due to his popularity with his brothers, and cemented that position by taking the head of Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter). He learnt from Stannis and staved off Melisandre’s sexual advances, as well as surviving the White Walker onslaught at Hardhome, saving hundreds of lives in the process. Throughout the season he tried to do what was best for everyone, and almost all of his scenes were satisfying… except the last one.
(SPOILER ALERT) At the end of the season, Jon’s kindness and sympathy for the Wildlings got him killed, as Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) led a band of his brothers in a mutiny that they claimed was ‘for The Watch’. This should’ve been shocking, but instead felt slightly lacklustre, because the writers have worked so hard to give him a way back. It wasn’t a grand betrayal like The Red Wedding, or even a particularly bloody one, and it was far too obvious. I have to ask everyone who reads this – do you really believe that Jon is gone? Personally, I don’t think they set up Melisandre’s interest in him or the R + L = J theory to have him killed off. How he’ll survive is unclear, perhaps ‘survive’ is the wrong word, but Melisandre’s magic could save him with minimal fuss.
Other storylines had their promise, particularly Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) as she had to navigate the treacherous political landscape in Meereen. A lot of good moments came out of Meereen this season, like Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) conversations with our favourite Dragon Queen in episode eight, and when Daenerys fed one of the Masters to Rhaegal and Viserion in episode five. However, the content surrounding these moments was far too inconsistent, and in the end the season finale took everything that was great about Daenerys’ arc and spat on it. I hate the fact that Daenerys is now right back where she started. There’s no way that the showrunners can make me believe that she could survive that horde – they’d rape her and kill her, as we saw in season one with every expendable extra that the Dothraki’s came across.
The season also crushed my dreams for Daenerys’ dragons, particularly Drogon, because he struggled to fend off the Sons of the Harpy and was then too tired to help Daenerys, begging the question of how he will ever be able to carry her to King’s Landing. He just seemed so weak, so average, so small. I thought that the dragons were Daenerys’ trump card, her ace in the hole, because she doesn’t offer much in terms of political understanding or physical strength, but right now they seem like a decent asset and nothing more.
Whilst Daenerys’ arc this season was mediocre, Jaime’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Arya’s (Maisie Williams) were plain awful. Arya’s storyline in Braavos did have its moments, as we saw her change her face and kill Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) in the finale, but none of her scenes lived up to what we’ve seen from her before, and she felt far too disconnected from the rest of the story. She didn’t have The Hound (Rory McCann) or Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) to play off, and with Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) being a pretty boring character, her scenes lacked the depth that we’ve become accustomed to.
Jaime’s scenes this season were all terrible, in fact, everything that came out of Dorne was woeful. Nothing interesting happened until our interest had died out completely – yes, Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) was killed off, but does anyone really care? I know that I don’t. The whole story felt like Jaime’s final redemption, as he proved his worth as a father by saving his daughter from the perils of a foreign land, but that didn’t feel relevant on a show filled with people who rarely do nice things. We didn’t need to see Jaime become a pseudo-hero, we know that he’s a backstabbing Kingslayer who sleeps with his sister, and we’re fine with that. Of course, I’m being a bit silly because we all like character development, but Jaime’s had his evolution already, so I don’t see why this story was needed. My hope is that he’ll lose it a bit and start a war with Dorne, because he has Trystane (Toby Sebastian) at his mercy, but we shall see.
The Sand Snakes weren’t developed at all, I couldn’t even tell you which one was which, and Ellaria (Indira Varma) is completely one-dimensional. The only character that captured my interest in Dorne was Prince Doran (Alexander Siddig), because he does feel as though he has a plan, but we spent barely any time at all getting to know him.
I touched on Tyrion when I said my piece on Daenerys, and I don’t have much more to add. His arc this season was very much tied to Daenerys, and it did give us their fantastic first interactions, but he spent a little bit too much time getting to Meereen and his journey was full of frustrating conveniences. The writers took away his faith in the world last season, so his story this year was very much focused on rebuilding hope. He believes in the world again now, having seen Daenerys ride Drogon to what he assumes is safety, so the story fit its purpose despite its underwhelming nature.
My favourite arc of the season was Stannis’ until his disappointing failure in the finale. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) looks to have killed him, although I have my reservations on that front, and after a season of building up to an epic battle between the Boltons and his army I found his story very anticlimactic. He made his ugly and difficult decision in episode nine, and I wanted to see the pain of that decision etched on his face as he lost his final battle, but instead he was apathetic, accepting his fate as Brienne drew back her blade. I don’t fully understand what the writers were going for here, and I feel like my time was wasted in previous episodes getting to know the character, given that his only role seems to have been to give Melisandre a reason to save Jon Snow.
Sansa’s new found agency was deployed, but it didn’t get her very far, and although I thought her scenes were well-executed throughout the season I can’t really say that I enjoyed them. I don’t agree with those who say that she reverted back to her old ways, being the pawn in an evil ruler’s game, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to praise her scenes either. She did have agency – she chose to go to Winterfell, she chose to marry Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) being fully aware of the repercussions, and even in the finale she chose to escape – but nothing she did was very exciting. I don’t feel like she gained anything by going back to Winterfell, because her marriage was a complete waste of time. The only thing to come out of her story this year was Theon’s (Alfie Allen) act of heroism and the knowledge that Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) are alive.
Finally, I did like a lot of the scenes in King’s Landing, despite the slightly dull ending. I thought that Jonathan Pryce was great as The High Sparrow and it was interesting to see Cersei (Lena Headey) outplayed at deception. However, her punishment bored me and I couldn’t connect to her plight. I would’ve liked her suffering to have come slightly sooner, because it didn’t feel worthy of the finale, and I think it would’ve been a lot more fun to see her plan her revenge before the start of next season. Furthermore, the fact that Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) were omitted in the last few episodes felt a bit strange, and I missed having all the major characters on screen, as we were given no indication as to how they were getting on or reacting to Cersei’s torment.
This season of “Game of Thrones” was the worst of the lot, it pains me to say it, but it’s true. It wasn’t terrible, but many of the heavily set-up character arcs fizzled out in episode ten, and even the more shocking scenes felt insignificant because of plot devices and loopholes that are in place for the start of season six. Characters have been forever changed, but the transitions they’ve gone through haven’t been consistently entertaining, with too much time being spent building storylines that were in actual fact pointless. The series felt disjointed and we never had the opportunity to truly connect to any one storyline. “Game of Thrones” season five promised to be so much more at various junctures, but in the end it failed to live up to my high expectations and took momentum from the sails of the series going forward.