The Good– What has made Game of Thrones so appealing is the thing that is least marketed publicly. As someone who went through more than 90% of the show’s existence without watching a single minute of the show, not counting South Park’s GOT parody, all I knew was dragons, a pretty blonde princess, winter is coming, and something about a red wedding. I also knew there was a lot of NSFW, but so what? A lot of shows have that, particularly on HBO.
What I DIDN’T know was the story of rival families, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, with very relatable characters- even if some of them are often (or even always) unsavory and despicable. The brutality yet frailty of power, the prejudices, even the good intentions that can lead to the most horrific consequences are, in my opinion, the backbone of the show. The backfiring of Cersei’s plan to turn the religious fanatics against her son’s wife was quite unexpected, and the scenes that unfolded were captivating. Jon Snow understanding the need to make alliances with old enemies, which were misunderstood by his fellow Night’s Watchmen, led to his apparent undoing. As one of the most stoic and stone-faced personalities of the show, Stannis Baratheon has given little to cheer for. But being a man of his word led to one of the most horrific sequences in the series, which is REALLY saying something.
As for the most famous Game of Thrones icon, I have not been a fan of that, nor have I changed my mind. (More on that in the next section.) But by having Tyrion Lanister defect to Danaerys camp, the series finally- FINALLY!- gave me a reason to care about that storyline. It also gave National Geographic Guy something useful to do. It was also interesting to see Jamie Lannister turn on Tyrion, without Tyrion realizing this happened. Tyrion typically realizes EVERYTHING, so hopefully the writers have something planned down the road.
Ramsey Bolton might be the most depraved character in the GOT universe, and it’d be interesting to see a case be made for Joffrey versus Ramsey. As pathetic as Theon Greyjoy has been, both pre and post torture, the terror that he feels is palpable for the viewers. Moreover, it helps us feel for Sansa Stark, as she manages to be a prisoner AGAIN for a psychopath!
And then, we have the increasingly curious good/evil power duo of Varesh and Littlefinger, two characters that hover close to the center, but have far more pull than most of the characters realize. It’s always interesting to see Littlefinger maneuver, thinking maybe- just MAYBE- he has a hint of conscience, only to realize he doesn’t. Varesh, who started out seeming far more creepy, seems to genuinely care about making the world a better place.
The Bad- Watching 50 hours of a TV show in less than 4 weeks can cause annoying things to be that much more obnoxious. Certain characters just make me groan as soon as they come onto the screen. Daenerys’ assistant does nothing except walk nervously with a deer in the headlights expression. Her boyfriend, always looking to “avenge the queen” or something like that, always has this expression that’s supposed to look tough or angry, but kind of looks like he’s constipated. He does this apology/confession thing that is really a thinly-veiled brag. (“I was scared to die. Not because I’m afraid of death. I am not afraid of death. I was afraid I wouldn’t see your face again.“)
Then there’s Sam Tarly. I’m sure in real life, a guy like that would be great to have around. In the Game of Thrones universe, he’s like drinking a cup of maple syrup. He’s always so, “Gosh, golly, gee, wow, I’ve got these wonderful books to read!” And yet, in spite of having none of the survival skills that this particular universe requires to make it, he not only skates by, but THRIVES in doing so!
Last but not least, of course, is the face of the franchise, Daenerys Stormborn. Or is it Daenerys Targarean? Or is it Khaleesi? I dunno, but I’ve given her a few other titles, as well- White Savior, Mary Sue, Social Justice Warrior. I’d like to add one more- Beauty Pageant contestant. You see, she wants to rule over everyone, but only because she wants to end hunger. And slavery. And all the mean things that happen in the world. I don’t know who loves Daenerys more- Daenerys herself, or the writers. We keep hearing what a special “person” she is, but what makes her special is things she’s magically inherited- namely, dragons and the ability to not be burned by fire. In terms of her personality, she is the LEAST captivating major character in the show, as well as the most cartoonishly idealistic.
I wasn’t crazy about the Dorne plot, either. The tragic end was promising, but it didn’t need to take so much of the season to get there. To me, Dorne felt like another checkbox for the writers, almost as if they’re trying to say, “Ya know, we’re not JUST about Medieval England!” We already have “the primitives” that have helped carry (for lack of a better word) the Daenerys storyline. Now, we have “the Latin lovers” in the GOT universe as well. Sorry, but this particular show’s heart and soul lies in cold, medieval England. The more they get away from that, the more scattered it feels- and it’s hard enough to keep track of everything as is!
Also worth mentioning is the show’s consistent plot devices. Whenever a character has a tender moment with a far more minor character, the minor character is a goner. This season, it was Stannis’s daughter, followed by Marcella Lannister. (I admit the suddenness of Marcella’s demise was quite shocking, though.) The other thing is whenever a character begs for mercy and is then granted it, the punishment is always far worse. Did anyone really believe Cersei would just be able to go on her merry way back to the castle? If so, then HA! These aren’t necessarily bad things, but it does dampen the show’s intended impact. It’s probably easier to spot, when watching over the course of weeks instead of years, but it’s unmistakable. In a way, though, it’s actually more entertaining, as it makes the viewer (ie. me) feel clever for staying ahead of the writers. heh heh
Unsure- From the very first scene in the series, the implication was that the whole GOT universe of noblemen and royalty would eventually get swallowed up by ghouls and goblins. But the universe of noblemen and royalty is highly entertaining! Now that it’s starting to happen, how will this transition effect the intrigue of the show? Not adversely, judging by the ratings and Twitter traffic, seeing how I’m writing this in 2019 instead of 2016. But I’m still skeptical.
I also may have mentioned, once or twice, I am underwhelmed by the Khaleesi dragon world. Now that we’re seeing THAT integrate with the main story, as well, which universe will swallow which, from an entertainment perspective? Will her story be lifted up, or will Westeros have to deal with dragons AND shark jumping?
And as for Arya…what a girl wants, what a girl needs. Where are the men and women (but mostly men) writing for a show taking a story? Will the men and women (but mostly men) carrying the viewers to a place shrouded in mystery reward the viewers of a show? Or are the men and women (but mostly men) wasting the viewers’ precious time? And why do the men and women (but mostly men) feel it necessary to speak in third person, without using any pronouns in a story?
And what’s Bran been up to? Seriously, in real life, is it weird for the young man playing him to know he’s going to be on the bench for a while, to be brought back at some unknown time at a later date? That has to be kind of strange, especially at a young age.
Finally, this isn’t specific to season 5, but it’s worth mentioning at this point- I don’t know how to feel about captivating villains being killed off suddenly at the height of their reign of terror. We’ve seen it now with Joffrey, Tywin, and the renegade Knights of the Watch, among others. It’s true that GOT is very good at giving us new stories from the ashes of these deaths, but sooner or later, there has to be something that resolves in a satisfying way, other than, “And then they died.” (I have a feeling that The Hound is still out there. It could be wishful thinking, as I’d like to see him get some redemption.)
No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep these recaps short. There’s just too damn much going on with this show…….