Season 5 was Game of Thrones‘ (GoT) worst one yet, ranked just above the second season. Both the second and fifth seasons were boring, but the latter was made worse by the fact that so many momentous storylines were supposed to happen this season, but were excruciatingly slow to unravel. SPOILERS AHEAD.
TYRION + DAENERYS One such plotline was the meeting of minds: Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). Several articles had stated that this would be the season where practically everyone’s two favorite characters — and actors — on the show would meet. I, for one, was incredibly excited about this and with every episode, I waited with bated breath for it to happen only to be let down, not one time, but two, three, four, five — count it — six times.
They kept us waiting all the way until episode 7, The Gift, the third to the last episode of the season. And of course, it was just a brief meet-and-greet. We didn’t get a full scene with them until the next episode and even that scene was just okay. The characters are compelling and even moreso, are the award-winning actors who play them. Surely, this had all the makings of a gripping episode that the writers would be fools to screw up. Jesters are they.
Granted my expectations were high, but I couldn’t help but think that it would have been better if Bryan Cogman wrote the episode, instead of the show’s creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. With any television show, I usually don’t know which writers wrote which episode, but I was so impressed with the dialogue in season 4’s episode 6, The Laws of God and Men, that I made it a point to Google the writer and it was Cogman. (It was the episode with Tyrion’s much talked-about speech at his trial, among others.)
In fact, almost all of the best parts were crammed into the season finale. They could have and should have spread that out a bit more over the 10 episodes to make the entire season stronger.
JAIME IN DORNE I was also anticipating the storyline where Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) goes to Dorne and runs into Oberyn Martell’s (the great Pedro Pascal) daughters, who seek to avenge their father’s death. Unfortunately, this was disappointing as well. Jaime heads to Dorne with Bron (Jerome Flynn) and their interactions are golden, injecting the always-needed humor into the season. However, after Pascal’s winning portrayal of a Dornish character last season, much was expected from the new cast members, but they failed to deliver. They weren’t given much to do, nor did any of the actors stand out.
Now the whole reason Jaime embarks on this adventure is to rescue Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), known to others as his niece but in actuality, is his daughter. I could tell (and was dreading) what was going to happen in their last few minutes together — she dies mere moments after he confesses the truth and she lovingly accepts him.
I don’t think the scene packs the emotional punch that it was aiming to. It could have been more touching if Myrcella was given more to do over the course of the season, or if they had at least 1 more intimate scene together earlier to set up her death as a real tearjerker. Hopefully, we’ll get a more potent kill/moment in a later season if/when Jaime gets his revenge.
THE SEASON FINALE In season 5, the only episode with “wow” factor was episode 9, Dance of Dragons, (and perhaps episode 8, Hardhome) versus season 4, where almost all of the episodes knocked it out of the park. In fact, almost all of the best parts were crammed into the season finale. They could have and should have spread that out a bit more over the 10 episodes to make the entire season stronger. It’s hard to imagine that there weren’t even more written and filmed for the final episode, so why not use that and give each moment and each character their due?
I felt that Arya’s (Maisie Williams) scenes, in particular, left me wanting more. She’s not necessarily my favorite character, but we’ve been on this journey for so long with her and she finally gets to kill one of the men on her hit list, Meryn Trant, yet we are given an extremely brief scene that, in all likelihood, was cut for time. The scene didn’t leave me (or anyone, I imagine) feeling sorry for Trant, but the moment could have been more cathartic if it had been given more breathing room.
FEMALE CHARACTERS Many critics and viewers had issues with the treatment of the female characters this season. Regarding that matter, while I’m a feminist, the only time where I really felt exasperated with the show’s creators was in episode 8, Hardhome, when they introduced one of the most, if not the most powerful female GoT character, Karsi (Birgitte Hjort Sorense of surprisingly, Pitch Perfect 2) — only to rip her away in the same episode.
This Vanity Fair article makes a valid point though about the rape scene in episode 6, Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, “… as little as any of us wanted to see Sansa physically punished and exploited, was it really important to make that scene about Theon’s pain? If Game of Thrones was going to go there, shouldn’t they at least have had the courage to keep the camera on [Sophie] Turner’s face?”
The woman’s pain wasn’t even her own. The fact that it would have been better to portray the truth and focus on Turner’s face should have been good enough reason to do so. But, not to mention, this was a wasted opportunity for potential award nomination/s for Turner.
In the end, some might argue that the show’s creators were just following the books or the author’s notes (since the show has outpaced the novels), but they changed a lot of other scenes and characters, so why stop there? They could have and should have made more changes to make season 5 hard to top. The good news is the bar is low for future seasons.
Sidenote: One of the main characters, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), appeared to have died in the finale. Harington gave a post-mortem interview, all but confirming his Game of Thrones exit, talking about working on other projects. It’s possible that all of that is still an elaborate ruse, but I would think HBO has the brains to advise its people not to dupe their loyal viewers.