Last night the season finale of arguably the most popular TV show in the world, Game of Thrones, aired. As a fan of both the show and the series of novels, I couldn’t help but feel completely underwhelmed.
I’m going to try my hardest not to come across as a whiny, bitching, know-it-all book reader. If you can bear with me, hopefully you can see my disappointment in light of what could have been.
Firstly, I don’t think it’s very outlandish to suggest that this season is easily the worst of the five so far. After a few conversations with friends, the general consensus seems to be that the first six episodes ranged from fairly mediocre to just plain bad. However, due to the last three episodes being balls-to-the-wall action-packed we appear to have forgotten about that. To me, it’s no coincidence that the worst season so far has also been the one to diverge the most from the source material.
At first I didn’t mind some of the changes, and I even thought some of them were great. Sansa was now in Winterfell and Tyrion was getting a lot closer to Daenerys. Both of these story arcs dragged on for a very long time in the books without much progress, and if you’re reading this telling me you enjoyed the Sansa/Alayne Stone chapters you’re a filthy fucking liar. These changes made sense, as not all of the chapters in the books would translate well to TV. I was excited to see Sansa’s character develop and become a player in the game of thrones as Littlefinger’s protégé, nestled amongst the particularly evil Bolton family…
…except none of that happened. All that really became of Sansa was that she again needed rescuing and was helpless in her situation until half of Theon Greyjoy turned up. Did we really just sit through a rape scene for pure shock value? Is that all Game of Thrones is now?
It wasn’t that bad, though. Sansa’s just one character, and one I wasn’t very invested in anyway.
Hey Stannis the Mannis? What the fuck, man?! What happened, bro? You look so different!
Well, I’m not that mad about this one; like your dad after he catches you shoplifting, I’m just disappointed. If you’ve only been watching the show I guess it didn’t come as much of a surprise to see Stan the Man — the man who burned his brother-in-law in Season 2, and then shadow-killed his actual brother, and then tried to burn his nephew — sacrifice his cute greyscale daughter Shireen, but Stannis is two completely different characters in the books and on the screen. At the same place in the books, he is caught in a blizzard outside Winterfell, waiting for it to pass so he can march on the Boltons, whom — I might add — are disgruntled and don’t look so invincible with unknown murders and food shortages occurring inside the walls. When Stannis is asked if he thinks he should make some sacrifices to the Lord of Light, he replies:
‘Half my army is made up of unbelievers. I will have no burnings. Pray harder.’
Maybe it was just a coincidence that half his men deserted him after he burned his daughter in the show…
Aside from all that, he was meant to be the greatest military mind in Westeros and yet managed to look like an utter fool, neglecting to send scouts ahead to Winterfell or ensure a basic marching formation. Way to go and ruin one of the more complex and tragic characters that never was.
However, like I said, there were some changes I did like. I like that Tyrion is finally with Daenerys, or was, as seeing him leading dragons would be awesome. I like that we got to see the battle of Hardhome led by the Night’s King — the leader of the White Walkers, a.k.a. ‘Ice Darth Maul’ — as he makes every other squabble in Westoros seem childish in comparison to the danger he represents simply by raising his arms. Fuck, that was cool. However, that being said, it all felt rushed; I feel that character development was replaced by action, or at least that too much time was focused on a story that probably didn’t need that much attention — looking at you Dorne — when in the grand scheme of things we knew what was really important.
I guess, like many others, that I might just be worn down. Maybe I’m just sick of the bad guys always winning. The series, both books and TV, initially grew popular because it went against popular writing tropes that the good guys always win and everything conveniently works out. This sense of realism — dragons aside — made it great. Now, the show has started to feel like a parody of itself. It’s formulating its own trope: that bad guys always win, whether it makes sense or not. At least in the books we were given hope that good things were still happening. Not only did we have Lady Stoneheart hanging Freys (bit of a spoiler; I don’t think she will be turning up in the show anyway), but the Manderlies — a powerful house in the north of Westoros — had infiltrated the Boltons, shown there was still great support in the North for the Starks and were biding their time to strike. Jon Snow’s stabbing was far more complicated as we could understand why they were doing it ‘for the watch’; instead, in the show, we get this little Wayne Rooney-looking piece of shit skewering Jon because the writers think we’ll empathise with the little turd… well, we didn’t.
Maybe if I thought of them as separate pieces of work I’d enjoy it more. As I mentioned, I can’t help but feel that this season was all a bit rushed, and it sadly seems to be losing the complexity and depth that made the world of Ice & Fire so rich. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not as invested anymore. However, when you’ve spent so long reading the books and you know there’s a pretty good chance they won’t be finished, you want the show to do them justice in depicting how the story ends up.
It’s unfortunate that you’ve had to listen to me complain about a show you probably love, but I’ve written this article because I love it too. I want it to be as good as it should be, because it’s probably the only way we are ever going to find out what happens…
…but now my watch has ended (heh).
Real life Bond villain Eddie Goldsmith has a passion for photography, movies, basketball and speaking in third person. Like most other sleep deprived 20-somethings Eddie's managed to find a balance between calm and collected to being one coffee cup away from never sleeping again. Writer, Editor, Generous Lover, Photographer and part time funny man I'm always looking to try my hand at something new.