June 26, 2015
Has Season 5 Game of Thrones Fulfilled High Expectations?
When Game of Thrones’ fifth season began, it had a lot of work to. Most of that work came from the simple fact that season four had ended with the show looking at each character and saying “What’s this person’s guiding motivation? What’s the goal they’re working towards that informs every single one of their actions? Cool. Let’s rip that away from them.” This meant most of the characters (Tyrion, Arya, Brienne, for starters) wandering around various bits of Westeros and wondering “What am I going to do now?”
It’s a good cliffhanger, but a difficult place to start a new season from. But season five had another problem to overcome as well. After four years, the HBO series was starting to catch up with the books it was based on. The last of the books got adapted this season, and for the first time we started to see plot developments that hadn’t yet appeared in any of George R.R. Martin’s books.
That leaves the series with a lot of work to do, and huge expectations after four years of knock-out series. How does it measure up?
Finding its direction
In terms of the first problem, Game of Thrones has had no trouble whatsoever. Within the space a couple of episodes even the most aimless characters were given a brand new sense of purpose and direction. Tyrion goes from simply fleeing King’s Landing to actively trying to seek Daenerys out. Arya turns to the Facelesss Men, Brienne finds the one remaining survivor of the Stark family who hasn’t told her to go away and… well camps outside her window for several months.
Meanwhile, new storylines begin to emerge. Cersei unwittingly opens a brand new can of political worms by introducing King’s Landing to the exciting new world of religious fundamentalism.
Going off the books has brought some of the best moments
As we’re venturing out of the domain covered in the books, we’re starting to see the Game of Thrones creators come into their own. One of the best examples of this was in the episode, Hardhome, already said by some to be the best of the season.
In the books the events at Hardhome are never really seen on the page. They take place far away from our viewpoint characters and we only hear about it in second hand reports. In the TV series however, Hardhome becomes our first real look at an enemy that has only been hinted at until now in both the books and the series. We finally see what the White Walkers are – not just zombies (although Hard Home is a match for any zombie movie you care to name), but zombies with intent, and yet at the same time, not necessarily an intent that any human would understand.
Winter is arriving
The end of the books and the new sense of direction are both combining to point us in one direction. As we’ve heard since season one, Winter. Is. Coming. The next season is going to be the probably the darkest yet, and the season after that we might actually start to get some resolution, but this season we saw all the pieces moving towards their final places.
The White Walkers have shown themselves. The dragons have actually started to do stuff. Arya is on her path to becoming some kind of badass death cult assassin.
The only real sticking point to the gigantic bust up we’ve all been expecting is that King’s Landing seems pretty happy to stick with Joffrey’s less-evil younger brother as a King in exchange for less constant warring, making them unlikely to welcome Daenerys with open arms. But now there’s a draconian religious police force on the streets it’s all up for grabs.
For all the spectacle and intrigue this season has offered, the main litmus test for its success is that we’re still desperate to see season six.