Another season of murder, mayhem, and … is there an “m” word for nudity and sex? I have to admit, this was the fastest of the series for me; it was over before I realized it. It also managed to surprise me yet again by who lives, who survives, and who is just messed up by the end of the season.
None of this should be surprising as we’re about half way through this epic and that, traditionally, is when you slam your protagonists as hard as you can so that the eventual heroes can rise to the occasion. At this point I’m not sure who those are (well, I suspect at least 3 that will make it to the end). But life is cheap in Westeros, and people are often sowing their own fates; and my, there was a lot of reaping this season. The whole sequence was more of a Greek tragedy than an heroic fantasy in feel because it was just that slice of the story. Unlike previous seasons, it was also the first where I can’t recall one true, major win for a character story-line.
One other aspect reared its head in this 10 episodes… it is the first season where we didn’t see all the players. I saw this coming in the previous season, but wasn’t sure it would come to pass. There are just so many characters, they can’t cover them all anymore, not just in an episode, but even in an entire season. So it will be at least a year before we find out what the heck is going on out in the old tree.
Outside of the various alliances/enmities in the story-line itself, there is also a schism growing in the audience thanks to this season. Those who have read the book are either intrigued by the changes to the story, getting to experience the series they love in an entirely different way, or they are furious at the changes. The fury grows from either wanting the show to cleave to the original material more or feeling the changes are poorer choices than what is in print. I’m out of this particular fight as I haven’t read the books (having been burned too often, I rarely read series that aren’t already completed), and take no sides. Adaptations, as I’ve often said, are hard. For a series like this, they are even harder as there is a rabid fan base that is sure they know better or have particular desires for the outcome. Since the book series is also not complete, who knows how this would play out if it were.
You may notice I have rated this season a bit lower than the previous. I enjoyed it, but this was a bridging season rather than a complete sequence and so wasn’t entirely satisfying and only whetted my appetite for resolutions. The argument could be made that there was a single arc (probably around Castle Black) but that doesn’t quite feel right as compared to earlier years as , for instance, watching the continued growth and rise of Daenerys has been the main focus of the previous seasons.
On the up side, winter is finally showing up, Walkers are walking, and dragons are flying (none of these are spoilers, c’mon) and, for the first time, we don’t have a new character to add to the list to worry about. I honestly can’t wait for the next series… it should be the beginning of the drive to the ultimate finale, though there is clearly a very long road ahead (and at least two seasons more to go)! I do wish we had a bit more positive satisfaction this year, however. It might have felt a bit more energizing and a lot less depressing.