WELCOME BACK, WE MISSED YOU!
Television’s crown jewel, Game of Thrones, returns tonight, and I can hardly wait. While popular series like House of Cards and Masters of None encourage binge-watching at the viewer’s pace and as television ratings across the board continue to nose dive, Game of Thrones is a rare TV entity: it’s EVENT TELEVISION.
Every spring, Game of Thrones returns to TV and infuses pop culture with a shot of pure, uncut dragon’s blood. After each episode airs, we can count on our social-media feeds erupting with “WTFs”, “OMGs”, and blazing-hot fire emojis. Game of Throne’s sixth season marks a huge turning point for the show, so unless you possess the cold, unbeating heart of a White Walker, there is a lot to get excited about.
WHY SEASON SIX MATTERS
HBO based their hit show, Game of Thrones, on George R. R. Martin’s, A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels. Although Martin released the series’ first entry, A Game of Thrones, back when both Tupac and Biggie were still alive, since then, Martin has only published four additional books in the seven-book series.
Until now, each Game of Thrones season has roughly kept pace with the events in each successive book. Heading into season five, events in the series began splintering off from the plot of the books. In season six, the show’s plot will finally jump out ahead of the novels. For the first time in the TV show’s history, when it comes to speculating on what happens next, book-readers and TV watchers are all in the same boat.
Before Game of Thrones’s first season went into production, Martin met with the series’ showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and he helped them plot out the arc of the entire series. Benioff and Weiss anticipated the possibility that the show could outpace the books, and at the likely bequest of blood-oaths, Martin explained how he plans to wrap the story up.
Writing a book is a far different process than writing a TV show. Even though the books and TV series overlapped for much of the last five seasons, the showrunners instituted a variety of changes to characters, locations, and plots whenever it made for better television. Even if the TV series stays true to the outcome Martin envisioned back in 2010, he may still make drastic changes between now and the seventh book’s elusive release date.
Martin’s books make for unquestionably engrossing reading but there is a caveat; at times, his style of storytelling is extremely unsettling. Martin often punishes his heroes, rewards his villains, and withholds comeuppance from the characters that most deserve it. From here on out, Game of Thrones’s showrunners are the vanguards of Martin’s rich universe. It will be worth keeping an eye on whether Benioff and Weiss choose to adhere to Martin’s soul-crushing nihilism or provide viewers with a traditionally gratifying TV watching experience.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead Wright) plotline was completely cut out last year (which means no season-five box-set royalties for Hodor [Kristian Nairn]). By the end of season four, Bran had reached the three-eyed raven, a mysterious being who also happens to be a man fused to the roots of a weirwood tree. While this meeting is one of the more bizarre things we’ve encountered in the series thus far, it’s a safe bet that Bran is set to enter into a Luke/Yoda relationship, where he will learn to harness his mystical powers.
The last time we saw Sansa (Sophie Turner), she took a leap of faith off one of Winterfell’s high walls. It should be noted that the brainwashed man-slave Reek/Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) aided her escape.
After Arya (Maisie Williams) took it upon herself to murder Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) — one of the poor fools on her kill list — Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) punished her, took away her vision, and left her looking like a character in a 90’s X-Men comic.
Dead in the snow. Next…
Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has come a long way from the smug sister-banger that pushed a child out a window back in episode one. It speaks to the quality of the show’s writers that so many viewers were left heartbroken as Jaime’s daughter Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) died in his arms. Somehow, someway, Jaime Lannister has shifted gears from villain to hero. Heading into season-six, Jaime has vengeance on his mind, a growing mistrust of his sister/lover Cersei (Lena Heady), and a Martell child as collateral.
In her short-sighted attempt to gain power, Cersei handed over control of the city to the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), who in turn locked her treacherous ass up. Season five ended with Cersei shamed, emotionally battered, and more vengeful than ever. We can be sure that Cersei does not intend to forgive anyone on her naughty list.
Brienne & Stannis
After the battle with Ramsey’s (Iwan Rheon) army left Stannis (Stephen Dillane) on death’s doorstep, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) arrived just in time to finish him off and avenge Renly’s death. As Brienne raised her sword to execute Stannis, the scene ended, leaving us to wonder if she finished the job.
Despite killing a Wight, Sam (John Bradley-West) is no fighter; he’s most useful when he’s locked away studying in an old, dusty library. Jon grants Sam permission to leave Castle Black with Gilly (Hannah Murray) and the baby so that he may become a Maester.
Tyrion and Varys
With Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) gone, Dario (Michiel Huisman) and Jorah (Ian Glen) off tracking her down, and Meereen on the brink of civil war, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is the only one left to govern the city. Fortunately, his partner in crime Varys (Conleth Hill) returns to his side just in time to help him devise a plan.
After enduring another season of civil unrest in Meereen and narrowly escaping an assassination attempt in the coliseum, Daenerys escapes the city on the back of her strongest dragon, Drogon. We last saw Dani lost in a foreign land, without the aid of her counsel or her dragons, and surrounded by a band of Dothraki.
Game of Thrones rips beloved characters away from us with the indifferent calculation of a magician yanking away tablecloths. On Game of Thrones, our favorite characters die, it’s a fact that we’ve come to accept, and yet, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) dying and staying dead is simply unfathomable. Let’s be real, Jon can’t be dead. For five seasons, Game of Thrones invested too much time into Jon just to leave his story arc dangling in the wind like a loose thread. From a technical perspective alone it’s inconceivable: why waste time dropping hints about who his mother is just to kill him off? It wouldn’t make sense to burn so much airtime on someone who gets written out when the series has a dozen other compelling characters that must also be serviced.
There are several variables in play that would allow Game of Thrones to bring back Jon Snow: The TV show and the books have resurrected other dead characters; we know members of Jon’s family can inhabit the body of humans and animals (here’s looking at you Ghost!); we know that Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is lurking around Castle Black. The series left too many doors open to just “X” Jon Snow out forever.
One more thing. This past winter, pictures began cropping up revealing Kit Harington roaming around Northern Ireland. So unless Jon is only going to show up in flashbacks or Kit Harington is a huge fan of black pudding, he was in Ireland shooting season six.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Game of Thrones began its run as an enthralling show that was also dense and difficult to follow, and since then, it has only broadened its scope. In addition to the Starks, Lannisters, Greyjoys, and Targaryens, the series introduced The Martells, The Tyrells, Mance Rayder and the wildlings, Braavos, Dorne, The Night’s King, the death of too many heroes and villains to list, and a trio of adolescent dragons. It’s a testament to the show that despite being hard to follow it still manages to strap our attention onto its hood and keep us locked in tighter than a War Boy’s blood bag. However, if Game of Thrones creative team doesn’t start tying everything together soon, they risk diminishing their legacy as one of television history’s most opulent, thematically rich, and flat out entertaining series.
Benioff and Weiss have stated there is a strong chance that they will trim the series’ final two seasons down into blocks of six and seven episodes. Take a minute to process that nugget of information. Knowing that there are only 23-episodes remaining of TV’s most epic series is bittersweet. Receiving less of anything that you love never feels like a good thing. On the positive side, no one enjoys watching a show that keeps on airing after it’s clearly past its expiration date. Less Game of Thrones means that Benioff and Weiss must apply laser-like focus to the series’ final run of episodes.
For five seasons, Game of Thrones has kept its audience questioning where the series is headed. Fifty-episodes in, viewers aren’t much closer to receiving answers. Fans want to know if anyone can truly win the game of thrones and if so, does winning mean rising to the Seven Kingdom’s political apex or crushing the political wheel entirely? As it stands, only one thing is certain: with just 23-episodes left, this sprawling tale must finally pivot and begin retracting.
Since Game of Throne’s inception, its endpoint has remained a vague concept, everyone is pretty sure that there is one, but no one can agree on what it is. If Game of Thrones has any hope of providing its devoted audience a satisfying conclusion, now, in season six, the series’ fluid endpoint must start solidifying into something concrete. Winter has been coming for far too long. It’s finally time for winter to arrive so that we can start looking towards spring.
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