For the next few weeks I’m looking back over the fifth season of acclaimed fantasy drama Game of Thrones after re-watching it and give it an informal review/ share some spoilery thoughts now that we have the benefit of hindsight. In this part I’m looking specifically at the events that occurred across the Narrow Sea. Despite several big plotlines and characters coming together in season 5 the characters all deal with isolation in some way after being taken from the locations in Westeros and Essos they call home. There is nowhere this is more evident than the goings on taking place across The Narrow Sea with Tyrion struggling to face his new life on the run and losing several pivotal players from his life in King’s Landing and Daenerys facing a home-grown threat that topples her rule over Meereen. While season 5 garnered a mixed reaction from fans overall these events and characters are generally considered the highlight of the controversial season.
As soon as the season begins we are quickly introduced to The Sons of the Harpy as Daenerys’ new threat this season and for the most part this works. The Sons of the Harpy are genuinely creepy and the perfect amalgamation of Dany’s struggles as Queen: helping a people she doesn’t know but she thinks she knows what’s best for them and they rebel against her, her downfall this season is similar to Jon Snow’s in that regard. My only issue is that The Sons of the Harpy were introduced a little too suddenly, it would have been better if they were set up and mentioned in the latter half of season 4. Daenerys is at the crux of the point that instead of changing her story from what it was in the books they have instead rushed, simplified and left a lot out of the show leaving only the basics which still makes for great TV but leaves her plot paper thin.
Just like last season Dany’s scenes highlight both the epic nature and scale of the show mixed with character, the scene at the stadium in episode 9 being a perfect example of this. The action sequence at the stadium is jaw-dropping for a television show and seeing Daenerys ride a dragon gives us a pay-off five years in the making, now she just has to invade Westeros (and deal with the Dothraki). I’m very interested to see how the show manages to uncoil what George RR Martin calls the Mereenese Knot by getting all of the main characters over there back to Westeros for the final two seasons after season 6. We say goodbye to Barristan Selmy this season and his death is poorly executed; it makes him, Grey Worm and all the Unsullied look weak, they are supposed to be trained warriors but somehow they manage to get killed and injured by some random citizens in masks with knives. I wish the show had kept the more psychological aspects of the warfare with The Sons of the Harpy rather than actual warfare.
Tyrion and Varys’ friendship has always been a highlight of the show and it grows in the early episodes of season 5, their talks on the way to Volantis are some of the best scenes of the season in which they talk about futility and individuality, a theme that has shaped both characters throughout the show. However Varys’ plan is laid out in some meaty exposition which isn’t fully needed since we first saw him talking to Illiryo (who I wish we saw again this season) about their plans for Dany in the very first season. It’s a shame Varys disappears from the season early on but teaming Tyrion and Jorah together is fantastic usurping the Arya and The Hound relationship from seasons 3 and 4 as the best buddy cop relationship on the show. Tyrion is the perfect character to place with an introverted character like Jorah, eventually breaking down the cold exterior to reveal his emotional core.
What he finds is that they are both fairly alike; somehow watching the two most depressed characters on the show on a boat journey is very entertaining. Tyrion’s depressive state works well and is believable after the events of the season 4 finale, which haunts the entirety of house Lannister, because it never removes his laser sharp wit ; it adds another layer to him without taking one away, something Game of Thrones excels in. Jorah finding out about his father’s death is a great little emotional character moment for him and ties together the world, storylines and seasons in a natural way. The deviation from the books in the second half of season 5 works well and there is no doubt that is you kept Tyrion and Dany separate, like they are in the books, TV fans would be more than a little bit pissed. When Tyrion and Dany do eventually meet their rapport is perfect with both of them trying to gauge if the other can be trusted and when they eventually become allies it feels natural and well-earned and links Dany’s more standalone storyline to the other Westerosi ones.
Arya makes the journey to Braavos this season and is immediately back to killing pigeons like she was in season 1, although she’s much better at it this time around showing us how the character has developed. Arya in The House of Black and White felt very much like a storyline that the writers didn’t want to overtake the books and so around the mid-season mark it slows down with Arya doing little more than scrubbing floors in her limited screentime. Her scenes are however some of the most atmospheric of the season largely down to the fantastic sets and by taking the lighting down the ‘Hannibal’ route in which the scenes are so dark you can barely see what is going on. Jaquen and Waif are fairly dull companions but thankfully it’s not long before she is on the streets shouting “Clams, Oysters and Cockles” and planning murders. I know we are supposed to root for Arya but I can’t help but see her as nothing more than a psychopath after the way she dispatches Ser Meryn Trant and then the season ends on an unnecessary cliff-hanger in which she suddenly goes blind. Not the best Arya season but hopefully season 6 will progress her story further and get her back over to Westeros.
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 the third and final part of my season 5 revisited series.