GAME OF THRONES Season Six Review
The night is dark and full of spoilers… but not this article. It’s spoiler-free.
It’s hard to believe at times that we’re already six seasons into GAME OF THRONES. In as much time, Walter White had conquered three separate drug empires and THE WIRE saw half of Baltimore die. Yet time means nothing in Westeros, as we’re still mired in many of the same asinine conflicts that we’ve been since Season One. Hell, even SEINFELD manages to be more eventful in six seasons than the HBO juggernaut. But this time it’s different. Right?
Unless you live under a rock and use Yahoo as your primary news source, you know what’s up with where Season Five left off. Jon Snow got “murdered,” Daenerys got kidnapped, and Arya got blinded. It certainly sounds like dire straits for our heroes, but in typical THRONES fashion, these issues are immediately resolved in Season 6. It’s not as if the show can still fool anyone at this point that those plotlines will ever be in real jeopardy (as if GoT can survive without Clarke or Harrington), but the casual use of deus ex machina makes it reaaally hard to maintain audience investment. And if you think that’s bad, wait until you get to the end of the season.
Avoiding spoilers like…
You see, GAME OF THRONES is a show that almost necessitates fan-based (rather than critical) discussion. Judged by common standards, THRONES is just too easy to skewer, but then again, the show has long stopped being art. It is pure spectacle at this point, but even pure escapism needs to follow certain rules. Though often described as brutal, THRONES is very forgiving of its characters. Too many mistakes go unpunished, and the deaths that do happen often feel more arbitrary than earned. Season Six is no exception. In fact, the bodies really hit the floor this time around, making this season feel more like a CS: GO frag reel than bona fide television. The house cleaning is so extensive that it actually deserves praise, seeing as it demonstrates a willingness from Benioff and Weiss to streamline their cluttered plot.
And that is perhaps Season Six’s greatest strength. Every season of GoT leaves the audience thinking “shit’s gonna get real” without ever delivering, but this season ends in a truly sincere manner in that regard. While every previous finale has always been overshadowed by the penultimate “battle episode” (with the obvious exception of Season One), Season Six’s feature length extravaganza completely knocked it out of the park. It was busy, it was ballsy, and it set events in motion that only the daftest of writers could manage to derail. Most importantly, the show is now completely divorced from the books, meaning that it can now pursue its narrative at its own pace.
With the speed of thousands of men weighed down by chainmail and armor plate
Unfortunately, “at its own pace” is still pretty sluggish. Season Six moves at a lackadaisical pace, taking its time to waste the audience’s with redundant side plots and detours that don’t pan out. Arya’s entire arc this season is just a repeat of everything she did in Season Five, Daenerys essentially accomplishes nothing until the very end of the season, and I challenge anyone reading this to claim that they were at all interested by any of the scenes involving Samwell Tarly. Characters that were better left forgotten are brought back only to be killed, and dangling plot threads are resolved in some incredibly lazy ways (Really? That’s what “Hodor” means?).
Worse yet, while THRONES Season Six does makes an effort at dropping dead weight, it clings to other chaff with a worrying amount of attachment. Tyrion, despite arguably being the MVP of Seasons Two-Four, has long ceased serving any purpose to the narrative or developing as a character, yet is still treated with the same significance that was lent to him earlier in the series. Daenerys continues to suffer zero consequences for her choices, ensuring that she remains the Mother of Dragons and Queen of Uncompelling Characters for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, she remains roast-proof
Visually, this latest round of THRONES does little to stir the pot. For a show banking so heavily on its production design, there are very few new locations visited or characters introduced, and the ones that are remain fairly inconsequential. This being said, this season also seems aware of what works and what doesn’t, and sticks to its strengths appropriately. Dorne still looks like a Hyatt Regency, but is mercifully featured for only the briefest of moments. The Dothraki, Greyjoys, and a few other groups, however, are granted welcome returns. This year’s big battle wasn’t quite as inventive as previous ones, but focused instead on being far more visceral and immersive than ever, trading grand set pieces for some really satisfying action. And finally, the CG elements of the show are good enough to be featured prominently without a hint of awkwardness.
Nothing I could possibly write will make or break a GAME OF THRONES fan at this point. After all, THRONES will be THRONES, and this season shares all of the same strengths, and weaknesses, as each one before it. “Safe” and “Dull” are words I would use to describe much of Season Six. But unlike Season Five, this season does redeem itself at the end by making some very bold decisions. The absolutely crazy finale does the necessary legwork to ensure that the next two seasons will be better than ever. With all of the lines in the sand more or less drawn, I can hope that many of the issues that plague this show will cease to exist in the future. For the first time in a long while, GAME OF THRONES has left me with a sensation other than disappointment.