“Game of Thrones” returned last night and the interwebs have been sizzling with commentary. Although I’ve stayed away from episodic reviews for the last few years since I prefer to discuss each season as a whole, a couple of thoughts have prompted me to take to the blog.
At long last the playing field is leveled between those who have read the books and those like myself who have not (While I own all five, I’ve only been able to make it through the first so far while skimming the others, post-episode, as supplemental material). Although no one knows what’s going to happen, it seems both the strengths and weaknesses of “Game of Thrones” will continue, though the span of George R.R. Martin’s novels ended with the finale of Season 5.
A major pitfall that “Game of Thrones” may not be able to avoid is one shared by every television series that’s been on the air past two or three seasons: the loss of an ability to surprise. I don’t mean the ability to shock—GoT will always have that if only by upping the grue factor, as witness what happened to that idiot Martell heir last night (shish kabob head, anyone?), or by depicting the grossest barbarity (Shireen burned at the stake). Surprise comes when a character shows an unsuspected side, or when an uncontrolled event occurs. While “Game of Thrones” seems to prefer the latter (the Red Wedding, Daenerys surviving the fire only to reveal three baby dragons perched on her shoulders), the former is certainly more rewarding: Jaime’s relationship with Brienne, Tyrion’s murdering his father (I didn’t suspect that he’d have it in him). The sight of what appears to be a mature Bran Stark in the promo for the next episode was in fact a wonderful surprise, and hopefully an indication of good storytelling to come.
Speaking of which, I was not happy to see the repetition of themes I thought GoT had done to death in prior seasons. Daenerys is once again faced with the dilemma of avoiding Khal widow exile (Don’t the Dothraki appreciate this girl’s an empress on the move?), and Arya’s struggles to prove worthy, only this time with Little Orphan Annie eyes, tediously continue (I liked it so much more when she and the Hound were roaming the country, killing bad guys). Although I usually find the Night’s Watch tiresome by this point, I thought last night’s scenes were intriguing. For the record I think Jon Snow is only momentarily dead, and that he’ll be revived next week by Melisandre’s drained life force (Poor thing had to take to her bed to regenerate her mojo).
For me the best developments were Sansa and Theon’s escape, their rescue by Brienne and Podrick (When is this kid going to be knighted already? He’s as adept as Brienne with a sword) and finally the payoff of Sansa and Brienne’s mutual pledges. I initially disliked Sansa—being boy-crazy over Joffrey showed a horrendous lack of judgment, and Arya was always the more interesting Stark sister anyway—but at long last she’s become her mother’s daughter. Very cute that Podrick had to prompt her with the correct words for her ritual acceptance of Brienne’s vow, but given what Sansa’s been through it’s no wonder she couldn’t remember.
I’ll leave you with a thought to ponder: Who would win in a death match? Cersei Lannister or Claire Underwood?
See you next week.