For the next 3 weeks, here on my First Time Writing blog, I’m looking back over the fifth season of acclaimed fantasy drama Game of Thrones after re-watching it and will give it an informal review/ share some spoilery thoughts now that we have the benefit of hindsight. This time I’m looking back over the events at The Wall and in Dorne. Season 5 was plagued with controversy with most of it stemming from events in The North, so much so that many fans didn’t like the season and claimed the show was trying too hard to shock rather than just tell a good story and were ruining much-loved characters by doing so. Personally I really enjoyed the season with it feeling like a rebirth for the show and multiple characters now that we have reached, and begun to pass, the half-way point in the overarching narrative. The season is about our ‘hero’ characters becoming isolated despite the fact that several storylines converge.
Jon Snow is, of course, the centre point of The Wall storyline but rarely has he been the focus. We experience events and characters through his eyes which is one reason we become so emotionally attached to him, well that and the fact he’s the only “good guy” on the show. Becoming Lord Commander of The Night’s Watch suits him and it still surprises me how natural it is to see him behind a desk debating politics with Stannis and yet still be so believable kicking Wight and White Walker ass on the battlefield. It’s nice to see something good happen to a character for a change especially after that brief conversation with Lord Commander Mormont in season 2 in which Jon announced his desire to one day lead the Night’s Watch. Just a shame it didn’t work out that well. On the re-watch I noticed just how much Jon’s storyline mirrors his half-brother Robb’s in season 3. Both have to behead someone in their company who publicly slants them to prove their leadership, in the manner Ned Stark laid down, only for them to be ultimately betrayed by their own people with a physical knife in the heart and a metaphorical knife in the back.
It’s not until episode 7 when most of The Watch turn against him, before that 90% of them are cheering for him and electing him as leader. I know it is Jon’s decision about the Wildlings that turns the Crows against him, although Allister Thorne and his cronies were against him from the start, but maybe they could have sown the seeds of betrayal beforehand so it doesn’t seem as sudden but still remains a shocking moment. Re-watching the season and more specifically the finale, the effect of his death does decrease, not because it wasn’t well executed (pun intended) but because we’re all pretty certain of his return in which we see Melisandre resurrect him as Azor Ahai reborn, flaming sword and all, and lead the people in Westeros against the growing army of the dead. How soon this happens in season 6 is unknown but I hope it’s not left until the season finale, please don’t do a Walking Dead and stretch it out endlessly.
Season 5 Episode 8 ‘Hardhome’ ranks among the best the show has ever produced; not only do we get to see Tyrion’s and Daenerys’s rapport (more on that in part 2 next week) but it concludes with an unexpected, unforgettable and action filled final 30 minutes. In the book we only hear about the massacre at Hardhome and when reading the book you wish that we could see exactly what happens and amazingly the show does just that. It’s the greatest action sequence in the show by far and better than most Hollywood films with the production value on an unprecedented scale and all with a TV budget. It’s perfectly directed and paced with all the talk about White Walkers it was the right time to finally see them, and their army of un-dead Wights in action. The music in Game of Thrones has always been good but it excels here by incorporating sound effects into the classic themes and the use of the ever faithful ticking clock motif to build suspense; I could watch the sequence ten times and still get goosebumps. It’s also in this episode the writers started bringing in the term ‘Long Night’ to describe the upcoming war with the White Walkers, it’s always cool to see A Song of Ice and Fire mythology and terms make an appearance in the show.
It was great to finally see Stannis away from Dragonstone and becoming integral in part of The Wall storyline, before leaving for Winterfell, such as discussing Dragonglass and White Walkers with Sam and The Wildlings with Jon. Early on in my viewing of Season 5 I came to the decision that Stannis was the guy I wanted to see on the throne, he may be cold and ruthless but he is the rightful heir and his touching moments with Shireen in the first few episodes added emotional depth. The Shireen moments transcended the usual death set ups because they are genuinely good scenes on their own but they were of course there to set up her death in episode 9 which changed my opinion of Stannis yet again. Game of Thrones is fantastic at manipulating the audience and their allegiances because in just two episodes I had gone from being a Stannis supporter, to then hating Stannis and then to being quite sad when Stannis dies. While I’m fine with him dying, the second half of his season was about the cost of war so he had to perish one way or the other, I think his death was badly executed (Yep, I made the same pun twice in one article). The cut away when Brienne swings her sword makes it seem like he may have survived which I don’t think they were going for.
Now from The Wall to the complete other end of Westeros: Dorne. The Dorne storyline is a bit of a misstep; they took a large and complex storyline from the books which deserved either lots of airtime and development or to be cut from the show entirely but instead what we got was half-baked and contrived. Despite saying that I hope that they don’t just leave the storyline as it ends this season and next season have Jaime go to the Riverlands like his A Feast for Crows plot. It deserves a proper ending whether it’s the reveal of the great and frequently theorised Dornish conspiracy or something else.
On the Jaime Lannister front his rekindling of his relationship with Cersei in the finale of last season is brushed away and retconned almost immediately in the premiere just to continue their conflict, although the death of Tywin is one of the few ways they can get away with doing that. Jaime’s development continues with him going full hero mode by doing the stereotypical thing of rescuing a Princess; it’s amazing to see how far he has come from pushing Bran from the tower, a fact we are constantly reminded of this season now that we see the tower so often from Sansa’s point of view. The scene where Myrcella accepts him as her father is genuinely touching but this show won’t let anyone be happy and it’s not even 20 seconds later that she’s dead in his arms. Classic Game of Thrones.
What’s your favourite Season 5 moment? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about Game of Thrones on Twitter @kylebrrtt. Like, Subscribe and why not have a look at all the awesome stuff on the site like the many podcasts and blogs. I’ll be back next week for part 2 of my Season 5 revisited blog so come back then for some more First Time Writing.