I’m not sure whether it was lowered expectations or a genuine improvement, but for the most part I enjoyed this season of Game of Thrones a lot more than the previous couple. It felt like there was a higher proportion of time spent on the more interesting storylines, a greater focus on the more rounded characters and a more even distribution of action, comedy and intrigue.
It’s hard to make generalised statements about the show because each thread has different pace and quality, but I really can’t be bothered to write a 17 page essay looking at each one individually. Broadly though, it felt like many of the characters were actually maturing and developing, reaching milestones that were significant enough to move things along to a new phase. It’s not that there haven’t been major steps before, but often those just meant the complete ending of a thread (Ned Stark, Rob Stark, Khal Drogo). This season characters have made commitments in a more non-suicidal way, so we can look forward to seeing the fallout of that for them, and those around them .
Many of the characters, when faced with these challenges have been forced out of their whininess and into action and it very much suits them. Arya, Tyrion, Sansa, Jon, Daenerys, Jamie, Bran and even Circe have been forced to commit themselves and their spirit has made them considerably more interesting to watch. They all feel like they’re a bit more involved with the bigger picture and what is right for their families and those who follow them, not just selfishly pursuing power. This helped bring the dispirate threads together more, although the near misses between characters was still epically frustrating.
I’m less fond of the more ‘wibbly’ storylines and anything that involves mystical wifflings. I still have no understanding or interest in whatever Stannis and the red haired witchy woman are on about, and Bran and his visions of trees also sort of pass me by. Splitting the difference are the stories around Jon Snow, the dispute with the wildlings around the wall is interesting, but the stuff about the White Walkers just went straight past me and I couldn’t help but giggle every time zombies appeared. Those three storylines also felt very far removed from all the other stories, in both tone and location.
After a relatively successful season, I was rather frustrated by the final two episodes. The penultimate episode focussed exclusively on one story and sadly it was one of the ones I wasn’t fussed about and then even worse it was really just one extended battle scene. It was well directed etc, but I just didn’t care. The last episode also left me rather cold, I’m not sure whether it was just the particular stories it focussed on, but rather than feel excited for the next season, I actually felt like this could be a good point to stop watching. It felt like decisions had been made (which was satisfying) but I don’t feel any enthusiasm for seeing how it works out.
I still tend to have to either pause or store up questions to ask my housemates questions about the details (they’ve read the books and I haven’t) because the finer details are passing me by. Words that are said with clear significance by characters I have to follow up on, particularly frustrating when it’s some of the last scenes of the season and clearly I’ve missed something huge. I don’t *think* it’s me being stupid, and I’m sure there are more elegant ways of reminding people of significant previous events. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on Petyr (Littlefinger) Baelish’s extremely annoying and near spontaneous development of a thick Irish accent which completely threw me every scene he was in.
I always feel out of step on Game of Thrones. I just don’t agree that it’s the amazing piece of television that critics and the mass populace seem to think it is. There are some outstanding performances and the production values are certainly incredible, but in terms of story and structure it’s a meandering mess. There are better fantasy books and writers out there, better multi-thread series, and better grown up series using the violence and sex that’s allowed on cable to better effect. Game of Thrones is ok enough, and I’m glad there is a fantasy series with this much money being spent, but it could be so much better if it had used better source material.