Saturday, June 25, 2016

Game of Thrones Pre-Finale Season 6 Review

Let me begin by stating that I absolutely suck at figuring things out on television shows, movies, books – you name it! So, when nearly all of season six of Game of Thrones was pretty much written out before it began, including the most obvious return of Jon Snow, it put a little chink in the armor of a series that has kept even the best “plot twist sleuths” on their toes.

Now, I don't think it's necessary for a series to bank its entire existence on keeping us guessing; one could argue that that is what killed the charm of both The X Files and Lost, who seemed more interested in trying to out think itself than give us a great story. However, a whole season of anti-climax is not all together great either.

That said, season six of Game of Thrones did do some things this time around which managed to hold my attention and keep even this minor hiccup of a season in a league above most other television series out there present and past - especially considering how far into the show we are. Think of other classic shows and how they were faring six years in, if they even made it that far.

The first thing that I loved was the pacing. Perhaps the writers were aware that most fans had figured out the major plot points before the season began, so they didn't spend that much time overkilling a plot line. Arya's story was the only one that teetered on the edge of boredom, especially considering her past adventures on the series, but it managed to get to the point in just enough time and move ahead.

Season six pacing also saved us from one of the show’s most lifeless character, Bran. He is still boring, and spending an entire episode to explain Hodor's name maybe didn't fill me with as many sentimental feelings as everyone else, but again, most of his scenes were quick and he kept the threat of the White Walkers at the show's heart, so his visions weren’t without merit while mostly sucking the life out of the show. 

Game of Thrones needs to be careful to not fall into trap, though. I have not read any of the books, but from what I understand, the show has moved past some parts of George R.R. Martin’s work and is treading on its own. Pulling from the immense pool which is the source material (I am going on merely a sight judgement based on how thick the books are), the television series surely had enough plot to garner from to layer things about fifty times over and give the show time for its characters to develop. Now, we may shift more into writing strictly for television mode. As television writing, especially modern television, tends to shy away from the cinematic and literary model of longer exposition and character build up, we may have more of season six style pacing for next year. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if the core stories are not strong, it will soon become evident as the episodes shift from lackluster blurb to lackluster blurb.

Moving on to the obvious: The next to last episode exemplified what Game of Thrones does best - deliver on its promises. Amazingly, even while knowing that the “Battle of the Bastards” was going to be the setup for the retaking of Winterfell, that Jon would win, that there would be a last minute rescue, and that Wun Wun was probably not going to survive, it managed to be a gripping hour of television drama and technical prowess. It’s not an easy task for any writer to present you with what you already know you want, and still make it interesting. Game of Thrones has done this more often and more successfully than most anyone out there in the television business.

And speaking on delivering on its promises, the season finale seems to be building up for more of the same, with The Sparrows getting their much deserved comeuppance, which honestly they should have gotten much earlier (file that into story lines that were only more compelling due to the jump pacing). I hope I am wrong and there is a big shocker, but all signs point to Cersei very well burning the house down. And again, it will probably be so well filmed and executed that we will applaud the show for its sheer spectacle.

Season six was a mediocre season by Game of Thrones standards, but, as I mentioned above, it was a far cry from a bad season of television. It played setup with us, and gave us the promise of quite a few exciting shifts surrounding the possible effects these setups will have come next season. Still, I hope the writers don’t get lazy or tenuous when it comes to sculpting out their own Game of Thrones universe on the screen without help from the books, because we viewers aren’t quick to forget what makes Game of Thrones a truly addictive wonder – yes, it’s partly the glorious cinematography and those sinisterly windy plot twists, but more importantly, it’s the surprisingly smart and well-rounded characters and stories.

Post by P. Ray
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