With Sunday’s big reveal at the end of episode 2 of season 6, Game of Thrones is now able to move on with the important narrative of the season. Which is great because I believe that if the Jon Snow reveal was prolonged any longer, the rest of the narrative would have been put on hold as everybody just waits around to see what happened to our naive, favorite character. And while the episode ended on a great note, the episode also displayed some it’s weakest elements to date. I’d like to state that I am not tying to assign blame to anyone but the fact is that most of the times that the show has gone “off book”, it’s displayed signs of weakness. Now, personally, I believe that this entire situation could have been avoided if the show runners had adapted the books more faithfully (for example including the Lady Stoneheart storyline or the Aegon storyline) or if GRRM could stick to a schedule but none of those things happened and we just have to accept that. However, I do not feel that it is fair to the viewers that the show now doesn’t live up to the standards it had set for the past five seasons. In terms of direction and cinematography and acting, the show has seen no dip in standards. In fact I would go so far as to state that they have improved greatly from the first season. But where this season is starting to fall short, for me at least, is in its writing, execution and the way the story is being told. Now to explain what I mean, I’m going to use three examples from the last two episodes that sort of display where, I believe, the show is slacking off.
The first being the handling of the Dorne plot line. This particular problem began plaguing the show in season 5 where, for the first time, the show runners decided to go completely “off book” and change the way the Dorne plot is told. And it showed. The plot line was not all that interesting. Doran was conveyed as a boring character who did nothing but sit in his chair, which I have no problem with as that is how he is first portrayed in the book but then at least we later on found out that he is actually a very intelligent and cunning character who has a grand plan to get his daughter to rule all of Westeros. And then the show goes and kills Doran, ruining this incredibly intriguing plot line and character. Then we have Areo Hotah. One of the most badass characters in the entire series. A master with his axe and incredibly calm and incredibly likeable. A character with so much potential but again the show not only kills him off but does so in the most demeaning way possible for a character of his physical prowess. And finally Ellaria Sand, whose character in the show has one the most ridiculous plans in the history of television. Let’s break it down. She wants to go to war with the Lannisters for the killing of Elia Martell by killing every remaining Martell character (which in the show is Doran and Trystane). Great plan Ellaria. Not only is the plan a totally ridiculous one but it’s totally out of character. Ellaria and the Sand Snakes have basically become caricatures of their initial characters where all their flawed aspects are brought to the front.
This is the just one example of how the show has suffered by the writers deviation from the books. And it pains me to say it because I believe a lot of the changes that have occurred were not only necessary, but they actually made sense and added more to the story. But this time it was different. An entire plot was changed and created entirely by the writers and unfortunately for them, it did not turn out remotely intriguing as the original.
The second display of the shows’ recent slacking off can be described in the simple term coined “Hollywood lines”. These are basically lines of dialogue that are completely devoid of meaning, full of cliches and generally, just badly written. The show has, for the past five seasons, expertly avoided this trope. Nearly every line of dialogue from the past five seasons was beautifully crafted (with a few exceptions, I agree). This season, however, has seen some of the most cringeworthy lines of dialogue this show has seen. The writing for the Sand Snakes has been lacking since last season but the scene in which two of the Sand Snakes kill Trystane was horrible. I don’t know if it is maybe the delivery of the lines that make them seem that bad but it just did not work. Another example is Tyrion’s line in episode two where he says to Varys: “If I ever have an idea like that again, punch me in the face.” Now Peter Dinklages’ brilliant performance was somewhat able to veil how cliched and cringeworthy that line of dialogue was but its just another example of how the writing has moved from being expertly written and quite nuanced to being filled with cliches written in just to get a reaction out of the audience.
Lastly, I feel this show has, for some arbitrary reason, felt the need to reduce itself into a bad parody of itself. What once was the shows greatest asset, that being shocking character deaths and unpredictable character moments, has become its weakest point. The killing of Doran was neither shocking nor unpredictable. The moment that scene began, an intuitive viewer could see that at least one of the main characters in that scene were going to be killed off. It was just a badly written and a badly executed scene. Then in episode two, Roose Bolton was killed and again, everyone saw that Ramsey was going to kill his father there and then. But what makes this particular scene unforgivable is the fact that Roose Bolton himself did not see it coming. He is one of the most cunning characters in the show and he would have seen such an attack from a mile off. It is the fact that the show has changed the characteristics of the character, just so that they could kill him off, that is unforgivable. It is like the show runners now believe that the only way to make a good tv show is to kill all the characters on said show. Sadly, that is not true.
And this is core problem I see the show experiencing at the moment. The show runners are shooting “shocking” sequences just for the sake of it and because they can. Again, looking at Ramsey, we already know he is the most malevolent character around. It really was not necessary to show him killing his infant brother and mother. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not some prude who is averse to violence or gore or sex. But I believe that if it is going to be done, it should not only be done correctly but it must also be done with a reason. Redundancy is never good in show as fast paced and energetic as this one is. For example, I completely understood why Sansa’s rape scene was included in season 5 last year and I believe it was necessary to show just how malevolent his character really was (and still is). But now, the fact that you have proven that he really is that malevolent, the scene with his infant brother and step mother becomes unnecessary and superfluous. And it just looks like a desperate cry for attention.
To end off, I’d just like to state that I understand to many of you, this post will amount to blasphemy but I guarantee you, there is no greater fan of this series (both book and tv show) than I am. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time exploring the lore of this series and I’ve gotten as attached to imaginary characters as one can get. With that being said, I just find it disappointing that the show is now, after 5 wonderfully crafted seasons, losing some of its quality and charm. That’s not to say it’s a bad show at all (far from it) in fact, I’d rate it second only, maybe, to Breaking Bad. It really is an amazing show but these minor shortcoming are starting to show in the most unflattering of ways. And that, to me, is the most frustrating part. This could have all been avoided had the show runners at least tried to incorporate many of the other plot points from the books. There was at least another seasons’ worth of material left to adapt form A Feast For Crows and A Dance with Dragons. And look, I completely understand the need to change the story for television but then they should have simplified it and not cut out total plot lines and characters. But I digress, I still totally adore this series and the direction and cinematography is on a level that is unprecedented for any tv show that has come before, or after it and I look forward to another amazing season of television.