I’m a huge fan or HBO’s Game of Thrones, created and (mostly) written by DB Weiss and David Benioff, and based on George RR Martin’s bestselling series A Song of Ice and Fire. When my guy and I originally attempted to watch the show in its premiere season, the fantasy element — along with all those characters — put us off. Though I eventually read all five books, I was still confused about all the characters, especially when the books kept introducing new, minor characters. In fact, I didn’t watch the show until it was announced that the magnificent Ian McShane would be in season 6 of the award-winning show.
Those of you who’ve read my Deadwood and Favorite Villains blogs know how much I adore and respect Ian McS, and I admit that it was only to watch his performance in Game of Thrones 6 — as whatever character he would play — that I looked up all the previous seasons of the show. I don’t regret it: I loved them. Despite not being a fan of the story’s fantasy elements — books or television series — I thought virtually everything else about the show was an improvement on the massive books, if only because the show provided actors’ faces to help me keep the vast number of characters straight.
I watched all 50 episodes of the first 5 seasons in about 10 days, just to be ready for the season 6 premiere. Though I knew Martin hadn’t’t finished the 6th book in the series — The Winds of Winter — I’d read that show-runners Benioff and Weiss had been given a detailed outline of the events from the author himself. Since the show writers had done such a good job culling the story from the first five books, I assumed they’d be successful with the outline of the sixth.
Unfortunately, the freedom provided by an outline-only, no matter how detailed, hurt the show in its 6th season. While much of the season was powerful, moving, and unexpected, some of season 6 was the worst the series has had to offer, including becoming predictable and dragging. Some of the episodes were just downright bad, and it seems to have been a case of the writers not having been able to translate the outline into good drama. There were good and bad things in season 6, and there were, as usual, plenty of dead. Let’s start with the good, because when Game of Thrones 6 was good, it was very, very good.
There was lots of The Good in season 6, from Kick-Ass women to Bran’s visions. These things were what kept the fans coming back for more because when Game of Thrones 6 was good, it was very, very good.
From Cersei (Lena Headey) to Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), from Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) to 10-year-old Lady Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) and Lady Olenna Tyrrell (Diana Rigg, above), the women of Game of Thrones are some of the most seriously bad-ass female characters ever created (and it’s understood that the actors playing the roles contribute significantly to the characters’ development and success).
Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) is one of my favorite women in the show, and not just because she’s succeeding in an arena primarily dominated by males. She doesn’t need a man to define her, though she initially needed a man to follow, serve, and revenge (King Renly), and then needed a man to escort and later defend (Jaime Lannister). Brienne came into her own indomitable self once she swore loyalty to Lady Catelyn Star and promised to find and protect the daughters of House Stark: Sansa and Arya. Though Brienne never found Arya, who is at the House of Black and White, learning to become one of the Faceless Men, Brienne did find Sansa. That’s when Brienne shone. Loyal, stalwart, and brave, she earned characters’ and viewers’ respect as she executed King Stannis for murdering his brother Renly; pledged to combat Jaime Lannister, despite caring about him, should they meet in battle; and rescued and defended Sansa once she had escaped Ramsay Bolton. As far as I’m concerned, Brienne is one of the best things about Game of Thrones, and I adore her.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) may be one of the characters that plenty of fans despise, but I think she’s wonderful, and in season 6, after her humiliating (nude) Walk of Atonement at the end of the fifth season, she re-examined her life and found some things wanting. Always fiercely devoted to her children, she set about protecting the only one remaining to her — King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) — whether she was keeping him safe from The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) or from his own wife Queen Margery (Natalie Dormer). Cersei told Septa Una, who’d taunted Cersei during her imprisonment, that Cersei’s face “would be the last thing” the Septa ever saw. Cersei has always been a woman of her word, and with help from her devoted returned-from-the-dead-warrior The Mountain, Cersei took revenge on the Septa.
In season 6, Cersei recalled some prophecies that a Witch had made when Cersei was a child, relayed them to the love of her life — her twin brother Jaime — and eventually took revenge against the High Sparrow and Margery by locking them in the Sept and blowing it up with Wildfire. Though her relationship with Jaime has developed this season into something far beyond the sexual-incestuous one which began in season 1, Cersei neglected to inform him of her plans to take the Iron Throne herself, and I don’t think it was just because he was off fighting a War against the Starks in the form of Blackfish. Cersei is a woman of her word, and she has always intended to be Queen, though she allowed her children to take the Throne for a while and attempted to rule as the Queen Mother (or Queen Dowager).
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) has been one of the biggest damsels in distress ever created in literature. From season one, where she wanted nothing more than to marry and become a Queen, despite the fact that the King was the sadistic and nasty Joffrey, eldest son of Cersei and Jaime, to later seasons when Sansa kept depending on males to save her, Sansa has been one annoying little girl. And not even a fierce little girl like Lyanna Mormont. No, Sansa’s been a weepy, whiny little girl.
Season 6 saw her rapidly mature, however, especially after Littlefinger arranged her marriage to the brutish torturer Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) who raped her on their wedding night. She not only escaped Winterfell, where she was being held captive, albeit she escaped with Theon’s help (Alfie Allen), but she made it to the Wall to join her brother Jon (Kit Harrington) and became a stout ally in the battle for their home, although no one realized it until late in the “Battle of the Bastards.” I’m guessing that women, and rape victims, around the world cheered collectively when Sansa took revenge on Ramsay, letting his own starving dogs eat his face (and everything else, I suppose), then walked away with a slight, satisfied smile on her face.
Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) was the 10-year-old Lady of Bear Island, and though she only had about 3 scenes in the entire season, that didn’t stop her from becoming a fan favorite and lighting up the Internet. From her initial encounter with Jon, Sansa, and Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham), who wanted her to supply men for their army to fight Ramsay Bolton — she offered a grand total of 62 (and Bella revealed that she cracked up laughing every time she offered them only 62 men, and had to work hard to stop giggling) — to her infamous fan-favorite Death Stare on the battlefield just before the epic Battle of the Bastards, 12-year-old Bella rocked the viewers’ world with her confidence and memorable performance.
Fans said she should be the one to sit on the Iron Throne, and after reading this confident young lady’s interviews about her role, I’d have to agree. She was magnificent. She was the show’s newest Bad Ass, for real, and I’m delighted that she’s a woman. Apparently, she stunned her fellow actors and the episodes’ directors as well, since they thought they’d have to “coax the young actor through her scenes.” Instead, she startled them with her professionalism, leading them to compliment her on everything from the Doc Martens she was wearing with her gown, to the Death Stare that she had to force on her face since she found Iwan, who played the villainous Ramsay, so delightful and fun to work with.
Lady Bella was outstanding as Lady Mormont, no doubt about it. She inspired delightful memes all over social media, like Bitches, please from @LordLyannaMormont.
She was one of the most Bad Ass women in Game of Thrones 6, and she was only a little girl.
The Battle Scenes
In every single season, the battle scenes in Game of Thrones have seriously rocked the Casbah — even the ones with the fantasy White Walkers and their cohorts, the Wights — and season 6 has to be the absolute best for battles, if only because of the realistic and frightening Battle of the Bastards, which pitted the smaller army of Jon Snow against the usurper of House Stark, Ramsay Bolton. After sadistically murdering Jon’s little brother Rickon (Art Parkinson), after telling him to run over to Jon (across the virtually endless No Man’s Land between the two armies), in order to get Jon to jump almost heedlessly into battle, Ramsay’s army and Jon’s engaged in one of the most realistic and terrifying fights ever.
When Jon became trapped under all the bodies of the wounded, dying, and dead men, I became claustrophobic, literally, and feared I wouldn’t be able to continue to watch the scene. It was one of the best battles I’ve ever seen filmed. It had all the confusion and despair of battles like those in big screen Platoon and The Revenant, but without being so frenzied that viewers couldn’t tell what was happening.
Though most of Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead Wright) visions are about back-story, especially concerning his father Eddard Stark and the parentage of Bran’s “brother” Jon Snow, thye were presented as if they were happening at the moment, albeit with Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) on the fringes of the scenes, watching the action. If these had been revealed in monologues by the Raven to Bran, they would have been deadly, so these, at least, were handled in the best dramatic fashion: by being shown to the viewers.
And yes, fans of the books were totally correct: Jon is not the illegitimate son of Ned Stark and some nameless woman after all. Instead, Jon is the true-born love-child of Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark and future king of the Iron Throne, Rhaegar Targaryen. He was already married, but apparently Rhaegar didn’t really kidnap Lyanna (who was the fiancée of Robert Baratheon, who rebelled after she disappeared, and usurped the throne), but whether Lyanna Stark was merely Rhaegar’s mistress or a second bride has not yet been revealed. That makes Jon Snow a legitimate heir to the Iron throne.
Bran’s visions also revealed some things about himself and Losing Hodor, as well as about the White Walkers, but the import of The White Walkers and their cohorts has yet to be explained completely.
Other good things about season 6, included these:
- the maturing love relationship between Jaime and Cersei
- Jaime’s acknowledging his parentage of Cersei’s children to his daughter Myrcella
- the loyalty of characters, like Brienne (to Lady Catelyn and to Sansa), Jaime (to Cersei and to their children), Jorah (to Daenerys), Bronn (to Tyrion and, later, to Jamie), Hodor and Mira (to Bran), Olenna (to her family), and Qyburn and The Mounatin (to Cersei), among others
- Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) sense of humor and his singing
- Tormund Giantsbane’s (Kristofer Hivju) attraction to the tall and powerful warrior-knight Brienne of Tarth
- Davos’ (Liam Cunningham) development into a major character
- the Giant, who is one of the few fantasy elements I liked, if only because he had such a feisty and courageous personality
Yes, there were plenty of good things in season 6, but there were also quite a few really bad things. Most of The Bad wasn’t in the story itself, but, instead, in its presentation. The poor dramatization of the story resulted in stuttering plot advancement (inconsistent pacing, according to CheatSheet), predictability (like knowing who’s going to die and who isn’t), and poor use of guest stars. When Game of Thrones 6 was good, it was very, very good, but when it was bad, oh, my, it was absolutely horrid.
Why White Walkers?
I’m afraid I just don’t get what’s so scary about the White Walkers. I mean, didn’t the Wildlings used to offer them babies to pacify them? Yeah, there are a lot of them, and they’re often accompanied by their Wight buddies, who seem to be crazed skeletons, but the White Walkers, despite being led by the Night King, just haven’t really made much of an emotional impact on me. I don’t know if it’s because of their fantasy element, or because they just aren’t the monsters everyone acts like they are.
Every time White Walkers come into the series, which isn’t too often considering that’s how the book series and show started in the first place, I just lose interest. Oh, I can appreciate all the money HBO has spent on extras and on make-up, but in terms of the story, the White Walkers don’t work for me. They don’t work for other reviewers either, if only because they’re not villains yet.
Oy, vey, talk about bad drama. How many scenes did we have to sit through in season 6 where the characters just walked around talking (Tyrion and Varys), while waiting for Queen Daenerys to return? Or rode horses around, talking (Ser Jroah and Daario), while ostensibly searching for Daenerys)? Or sat around, drinking, and talking (Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm)? Or just sitting around talking (Tyrion, Varys, and the Traders of Slavers’ Bay)? Or just stand around talking (all the Iron Island residents)?
It was scary-sad to see the show degenerate to these talking head moments. The poor actors had to be bored silly, especially the actors whose characters had previously been such important members of the show. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, above L) and Varys (Conleth Hill, R) spent so many scenes wandering around Mereen that it seemed about as big as all of the American West. Unfortunately, neither the scenery nor their discussions were interesting. And the that scene where Tyrion tried to get Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) to drink and tell jokes, ugh-ness to the max.
Margery’s Bible Study
We never got to learn if Queen Margery’s (Natalie Dormer) “conversion” to the Faith of the Seven was authentic or if she was merely attempting to escape imprisonment. The scene where she visited her brother Loras in prison and cautioned him not to say anything aloud that would jeopardize himself — or her — made it seem as if Margery was playing the High Sparrow. Later scenes with her grandmother Olenna (Diana Rigg), when Margery urged her to leave the Capitol, reinforced that view. Despite the fact that Margery also convinced her husband King Tommen to convert and become devout, Margery’s faith still seemed false. Because she died, trapped in the Sept with the High Sparrow and everyone else whom Cersei killed in the finale, we never got to learn if Margery’s Bible Studies were all show without substance. Because Tommen killed himself by jumping out of a window after Margery was killed, we’ll never know if the conversion routine was real or an act.
Death Means Nothing
I’m not talking about the deaths of characters like Ned and Catelyn Stark, because those characters appear to be dead, and they don’t seem to be coming back, no matter the Lady Stoneheart teasers before season 6.
I’m not talking about the resurrected Ser Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain, who doesn’t ever say anything or seem to do anything independently from Cersei’s command. I’m talking about Jon Snow, most specifically, who not only seems none the worse for death, but who acts like he’s never been dead or resurrected in the first place. And I’m not talking about the teasers with him in it either, where he looked like he might come back but be another Lady Stoneheart or even a White Walker.
I’m talking about Jon’s character, most specifically in the Battle of the Bastards, when the dead and dying and wounded were piling up on and around him, threatening to suffocate him or bury him alive. Though the scene itself was powerful, I did find myself wondering why no one seemed to remember that Jon was already dead. I mean, he did get killed by the Members of the Night’s Watch at the finale of season 5. The Red Woman resurrected him this season, but he still was dead. Doesn’t that mean he should be different? Is he still mortal if he already died?
Even if author George R R Martin hadn’t claimed that Jon would be different after having been dead, I still would have expected Jon Snow to be vastly if not completely different, if only because he now knows that the Brothers killed him.
On Jon’s death and possible resurrection, author Martin insisted that Jon would be different.
I do think that if you’re bringing a character back, that a character has gone through death, that’s a transformative experience. My characters who come back from death are worse for wear. In some ways, they’re not even the same characters anymore. The body may be moving, but some aspect of the spirit is changed or transformed, and they’ve lost something.
Martin may be talking about his book characters, but he’s certainly not talking about the Jon Snow in the series. I would never have known that Jon Snow died if I hadn’t seen it myself, and I forgot about it many times during the sixth season because, apparently, death doesn’t mean anything in this Game of Thrones universe if you’re a fan favorite, as Kit Harrington is. That takes away all the dramatic tension, and it’s disappointingly bad writing.
Arya Can’t Die
I realized when I first read the books that the character Arya Stark (Maisie Williams, above, foreground) was one of the author’s favorite characters. In the show, however, this favoritism has gone to extremes. Arya has not only completely replaced her mother, revived in the books as Lady Stoneheart, in seeking revenge for the deaths of her family members, including Walder Frey, but no matter what happens to Arya, she can’t die. I mean, Arya has had the most horrific things happen to her, including being blinded for failing to give up her personal plans of revenge, yet no matter how viciously the Waif attacks and wounds Arya, she escapes and survives.
Is it something in the Stark bloodline? I think it’s more the fan-fave-thing operating here. That makes me take Arya’s storyline less intensely. If she can’t die, I don’t need to worry about what happens to her.
The Play’s The Thing
And while we’re on the subject of bad dramatization… Those plays that Arya watched, where the characters in the play performed scenes from the Capitol, scenes with which Arya was already familiar, like the death of her father, and the marriage of her sister Sansa to King Joffrey, and the marriage of Sansa to Tyrion Lannister. If the viewers had not also seen all these things, in detail, in the earlier seasons of Game of Thrones, then having Arya watch them again in plays might have been interesting.
Emphasize might have been.
Since everyone in the show and watching it already knew these stories, however, the play’s were tedious in the extreme. It doesn’t matter that Arya was supposed to kill one of the actors, that she grew somewhat attached to her (for some unknown reason) and couldn’t kill her, or that Arya eventually returned to the actor and then unintentionally caused her death. It was the plays being performed that were bad writing because all the viewers, and the character of Arya herself, already knew all the stories behind them. I mean, talk about bad writing, HBO-guys. If a viewer can get up and go get a snack in the kitchen and not miss anything important that happens while he’s away, that’s really bad writing.
Emilia Clark (Daenerys )
Still Has To Do Nude Scenes
There was lots more of The Good than The Bad in season 6 of Game of Thrones, and I’m eternally grateful, but there was another aspect of good and bad in the show, and that involved the deaths of the characters. I’ve categorized them as follows:
- The Good, as in, viewers were most likely glad that the character died;
- The Bad, as in, viewers were pretty upset;
- The Meh, as in viewers didn’t know enough about the characters to really care about their deaths: and
- The Ugly, as in, viewers were totally and completely devastated by the character’s death, and the Internet lit up like a Christmas tree after the episode.
(viewers collectively cheered)
- Walder Frey
- Roose Bolton
- Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon, above)
- High Sparrow
- Jon Snow’s murderers (yes, even Ollie)
- The Dothroki (from this season, the ones who were constantly threatening to rape Dany)
(viewers didn’t expect it or were pretty upset)
- The Giant (the only fantasy element I liked)
- Roose’s Wife (Ramsay’s Stepmother) and her Newborn Infant Son
- Rickon (Art Parkinson, above)
- The Three-Eyed Raven
- Ian McShane’s Sept character, whose name I don’t even recall because he was only in about 10 minutes of the entire season.
(mostly because viewers didn’t get to know them
well enough to care about their deaths):
- Myrcella (above)
- Doran Martell
- The Wildling who put her children in the boat to be saved and then got killed by White Walkers
(because his death literally traumatized fans and viewers
and because there’s no possible way for George R R Martin
to do a better job in his books that HBO did with the show)
Hodor deserves an entire blog on his death, and I’ve already written one about Losing Hodor, as did most of the other critics and reviewers for “The Door.”
There you have it, my Lovelies, The Good, The Bad, and The Dead of HBO’s sixth season of Game of Thrones. And, please, if I left out any of the Dead, do let me know.
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