Game of Thrones Season 6 is based on a book that has not yet been published. Oh, sure, there’s still some stuff going on in Game of Thrones Season 6 that reflects older book stuff. Arya has a lot of book story left to go, and all the Pike stuff with the Greyjoys is from the seldom-referenced Book 4. But for the most part, we are moving into new ground for both book readers and TV watchers (I proudly count myself among both).
I actually briefly considered waiting to watch Game of Thrones Season 6 until the book had been published. Books are always better and I keep asking myself what it would have been like to see the Harry Potter movies before reading the book. To answer my own rhetorical question, it would have been awful, just the worst, a wasted life. All those wonderful book moments ruined! However, there are two reasons not to put off watching Game of Thrones Season 6.
First of all, the show has veered so far from the books that they are, essentially, very different stories.
Oh, sure, the broad strokes are similar, but I doubt we ever see any of Jamie going to Dorne in the books. I won’t even go into who is dead on the show and who is alive in the books (Barristan Selmy we hardly knew ye!), but the stories are radically different. (In the books, zombie Catelyn Stark is ambling around, hanging people, thanks to the Lord of Light, for instance).
And number two, the cover of this week’s Entertainment Weekly has a picture of Jon Snow and it says, “He’s alive!” Game of Thrones is simply too big in the entertainment culture for broad strokes to become, after a short period, not a spoiler at all.
Similarly, after next season (I’m making some assumptions here), when Daenerys Targaryen takes the Iron Throne, I’m sure there’s going to be all kinds of TV appearances and magazine covers, not to mention endless internet headlines. Short of becoming a hermit, I might as well watch Game of Thrones before the book comes out. Hell, Book 7 may be coming out when my 2 year-old is a teenager. And Martin has expanded the series before. Game of Thrones started out as a trilogy! Who knows when the last book will be published? And so, just as it was part of the zeitgeist in the past to read Charles Dickens novels as they were serialized in a magazine, it’s part of our culture to see Game of Thrones on TV before the books– weird as that is.
One thing, I think you can tell, from Game of Thrones Season 6, is what scenes were actually conceived in the astounding imagination of George RR Martin, and which scenes the TV show runners came up with.
For me, Martin’s imagination has the unique view of the fantastical, combined with the practical. For instance, in the first episode of Game of Thrones Season 6, when Davos discovers Jon Snow’s lifeless body, and brings him into the keep, he gathers Jon’s friends, and secures the door. The rest of the Night’s Watch want in, but they are trying to make it easy on themselves by goading the holdouts inside to come out. Here’s the practical aspect: Where do Davos and Jon’s friends go within Castle Black for relative (if temporary) sanctuary? I think Martin came up with that scene, and wouldn’t be surprised if the show runners and writers had read it already in the beginning of “The Winds of Winter” manuscript.
Now let’s move on to the Dorne story line, almost entirely a show invention.
The Sand Snakes are in Dorne. They kill the leader of Dorne and also want to kill his kid. His kid is on the boat that goes to King’s Landing. He’s still on the boat and I’m assuming there is a guard. Somehow, two Sand Snakes get onto the boat, seemingly unconfined by the laws of time and space, to kill the son. Do I need to know every little detail that goes into them getting there? No, of course not. But it would have made the viewing a richer experience if I wasn’t like, “What the hell? Weren’t they in Dorne? Did anyone think to guard the Prince?” Martin has a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of history and how it takes time to boat from one place to another, the show runners are just trying to get the story to happen. Also, it might just be me, but the dialogue in most of the Dorne stuff is subpar.
I feel like the show is still chugging along with amazing quality.
I don’t think anyone has ever brought such an amazing cast together for any reason, with a special shout-out to Lena Headey for nailing every single moment when she is on screen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone act so much while saying so little. And Jesus, they got Max Von Sydow in Game of Thrones Season 6! Sure, he’s not exactly choosy with his roles (He’s in Strange Brew!), but he’s an amazing get and he made the Three-Eyed Raven into something truly special.
And the production values are, if anything, better. There were scenes with a giant and two dragons in one episodes, which would have broken the special effects bank of any other TV show. The direction and costuming is without par on TV. And the story, my God, the story! Have so many people ever been so interested in a show with dragons and at least four made-up languages?
My criticism of Game of Thrones Season 6 so far is that I haven’t really been super surprised.
(Ramsay killed his dad? I think we all knew that was coming.) And indeed, some of the moments seemed rushed through to get the pieces moved into place. For instance, the Dorne stuff wasn’t that interesting, went by quickly, and probably should have been saved for the third episode because no one really cares too much about any of those characters. I don’t hate the Sand Snakes, but I don’t like them either.
See also: My Tyrion Lannister Dragon Theory
Other than seeming rushed and having a “check in” to see where everyone was, I’m loving this season.
So let’s check in with everyone and see how their storyline is going.
Dani is in a tight spot, back with the Dothraki, on her way to become part of the dish Khaleen, the widows of Khals who serve as council to the loosely governed Dothraki hordes. For pure spectacle, this part of the show is difficult to match, rife with stunning visuals and that funny Dothraki outlook that almost becomes a bit Monty Python-esque in episode one. “What is better than seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time?” I don’t remember all the answers, but the irritated Khal finally had to admit that seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time was among the five best things in the world. The Monty Python bit I’m referring to is in Life of Brian, when someone asks what the Romans have ever done for them and, actually, it’s quite a long list of ways that the Romans have helped those they have conquered.
Anyway, the Dani stuff is going well, but it was brief. I’m guessing that she isn’t going to be a prisoner for very long.
By the way, remember all that stuff about Daenerys’s son being the Stallion Who Mounts the World? I’m starting to wonder if that might be Dani herself.
Still paying for last season’s mistakes, Arya’s storyline hasn’t really picked up. She’s blind, begging on the streets, and the waif comes to train her to fight without sight/beat the tar out of her on a daily basis. She’s no one, dammit! I’m not sure how long Arya’s training is going to be, but I’m looking forward to her storyline moving forward. It’s Arya, though; she’s awesome.
Although I enjoyed the King’s Landing stuff, it seems like Jaime bringing home Myrcella’s corpse brought him and Cersei closer together than they have been in ages. My impression was that they were not close, but Game of Thrones Season 6 seems to have brought them back together after so many tragedies. And not to be close-minded here, but I’m not really ‘shipping those two together. Oh, sure, incest is common in Westeros nobility, evidently, but everything else aside, I just don’t think that they are good for each other. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to Jaime getting King’s Landing back in order. And Jaime’s scene with the High Sparrow was awesome. Hey, where the hell is Bronn?
The whole Dorne storyline in Game of Thrones Season 6 has the feel of a quick reboot, killing off almost all of the characters introduced last season, except for the quick-rowing Sand Snakes. I’m not loving most of this, but I’m assuming it will pay off. It was funny when Trystane turned to face Whip Snake and got the spear through his face.
The Cold, Cold North
Okay, I’m done with Ramsay Bolton. Sometimes, it’s fun to have a homicidal sadist running around– like Joffrey, the king we all loved to hate– but Ramsey went way, way too far. I’m not one of those people who will stop watching the show, particularly since it was in character for him to have a newborn baby eaten by his wretched dogs, but I’m more than ready for him to just die already. The excesses of Caligula were actually cut short by his own guards who decided that enough was enough and I feel that everyone around him would feel the same about Ramsay. I know a lot of people in casual acquaintance who I bet would give their own lives for a newborn baby that they didn’t even know. And hell, I loved Walda! Did she have to die so miserably?
But how about that Brienne, Sansa, Podrick, and pitiful Theon? I loved all of that. Sure, sure, Brienne came out of nowhere. But if you think about it, there probably aren’t a ton of people between Winterfell and the Wall. So it’s not really that weird that they would run into each other. I choked up a little when Brienne swore her allegiance to Sansa. Sure, Theon’s leaving to go back to Pike. Good luck, Theon! I winced a little when you and Sansa hugged.
First off, it seems, so far, like I called it on Jon Snow! (To be fair, just about everyone else called it to, but I have it in writing!) He’s alive! Good for you, Jon! Now, let’s make your story into something interesting. There’s big goings-on at the wall! We only have two seasons to start fighting the Others. So far, not much has happened, although we did have the intriguing naked peek at Melisandre sans glamour when she was looking like a female version of whatever Golum is. I actually liked old lady Melisandre, and wished that when the always entertaining Davos went to talk to her, that she still looked like that. Like I said, it’s intriguing that Mellisandre is older than we know, but it didn’t really add up to anything for the story. Oh, I’m loving Davos. I think those guys on the wall are lucky to have his counsel.
Am I the only one who misses Sam?