Game of Thrones, season five

HBO, what have you done to us? Ten episodes. Ten weeks. Now another year to wait until the events of season five can be further explained. Will we see Jon again? Did Stannis really get his head lopped off? What of Sansa and Theon? And the biggest shocker of them all; will we continue to feel sorry for Cersai? Seriously, who saw that one coming? But, enough with the rhetorical – or, perhaps, not so rhetorical – questions. Time for reflection.

Series five has probably been the best of a bunch that have all been pretty stand out. Never a show to follow the pace of a snail, we move from one narrative to another, one set of characters to the next, as the battle for the Iron Throne continues. Foul language, gratuitous violence, unexplained events that make our skin crawl and our hairs stand up on end – this is, and probably always will be, what Game of Thrones is all about. It’s a bit much, really. But who would have it any other way?

While season four was Peter Dinklage’s AKA Tyrion Lannister‘s show, season five has successfully focGame-of-Thrones-Season-4-Logoused on an array of pivotal characters in each episode. Emilia Clarke as Daenerys, Sophie Turner as Sansa, and of course Kit Harington as Jon are just three in a cast of many who have engulfed us in original – and compelling –  storytelling that never treads the line of samey.

From the dark, cold and atmospheric locales of Winterfell and The Night’s Watch to the sun-drenched planes of Marine and King’s Landing, these ferocious tales of war, honour and deceit have never been told so damn well. Which is rather odd, really, when we remember that source novelist George R. R. Martin didn’t partake in this season’s teleplay writing. While we move on from what that might suggest, we should quickly – but dutifully, and meaningfully – thank Mr Martin for creating A Song of Fire and Ice. So thank you, and thank you Westeros for being fantastical and not real.

Upon reflection, there are several reasons why series five stands out as the greatest yet. These are simple elements but when combined produce a basis for greatness. And GoT is now firmly in the realms of such a status. One; bad has never prevailed over good so often before now. We, as fans, don’t want that to be the case – we all miss and remember you Rob Stark – but it indicates a kind of scary realism despite the mythical themes of Martin’s world. Two; the CGI has come on leaps and bounds and the brief, but impressive, scenes which feature the Dragons are really rather triumphant. Dany riding one was pretty awe-inspiring (if a little over-the-top). Three; The Night’s Watch give us epic scenes of battle that can rival the best of the big-screen. The Crow/Wildling/White Walker conflict certainly won’t be forgotten any time soon.

The enjoyment of GoT is definitely not limited to the above things, but it certainly lends a hand. Bold and unafraid to scare its audience away with moments that really stay with you, D. B. Weiss and David Benioff have created something truly special. It’s hard to imagine how series five could be outdone, but of course we know the creators behind this masterpiece will manage it.

 

Game of Thrones: Watchers on the Wall

Four seasons in and HBO’s (the kings of cinematic television) Game of Thrones is as good, if not better, then it was in the first. Blood, guts, humor and compassion were all on display in this weeks haunting episode which explored just how dark the inhabitants are north of the wall. Kit Harington was on top form as always as the loveable Jon Snow; fighting hard (literally) to defend Castle Black. But this week I found a new, perhaps respect, for a character I’ve never had time for. Said character is Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale), who before Sundays episode has only come across as a self-righteous know- it-all. In this weeks episode he showed his loyalty to the wall, and his obvious admiration for the men he leads and serves with. His pre-battle speech was short but very poignant, and is some of the best dialogue of the season. Teale gave Thorne a superb send off, and he certainly wont be forgotten (that is if Thorne passed on, this was left open for anyone’s guess!), it is moments like this, with characters that don’t necessarily register up until that brutal moment that exemplifies just how good Game of Thrones is.

This was a strong episode, considering it only focused on the Nights Watch, whose story lines can often tread the line of dull. The CGI was pretty awe-inspiring, as always, and the arrival of Mammoths and Giants was a great visual element to a show which is never short on shocks. The battle between the ‘free’ Wildlings and the men of the Watch has been a long time coming, and one of the biggest build-ups of this season. ‘Watchers on the wall’ serves spectacularly well as a penultimate episode (the second to last episodes have become notoriously known as the ones that hold shocks for those watching). The endearing Sam Tarly (John Bradley) provides light humor, which in an episode focused entirely on a bloody battle is certainly welcomed (but in moderation, something that the makers of Game of Thrones have perfectly on point).

I don’t wish to spoil the episode entirely for those who are yet to watch, so some things ill leave unsaid. What I will say is that season four, episode nine: ‘Watchers on the Wall’ stands out as a phenomenal episode in a series of epic proportions. Game of Thrones perfectly balances character development with war and relationships, and certainly ranks high among some of the best television ever created. Only one more episode left, and I’m already waiting for season five.