Game Of Thrones: Season Five - TV Review

You are advised not the read the below if you have not seen Game Of Thrones Season Five. Although it tries to keep most things vague there is inevitable mention of and potential SPOILERS for a variety of key plot points.

'Game Of Thrones was at its best when it was about a set of factions competing for a kingdom. Now it is about a set of individuals pursuing separate aims.'

Just like Jurassic World, currently in cinemas, Game Of Thrones is spectacle. You cannot ignore it. Even if you were sceptical going in to this season, you were going to watch it. Even if you have come out, like a spread of those on social media earlier in the week, declaring you will 'never watch it again', you will still be there at the start of Season Six, because this is still bigger, bolder, grander television than anything else available.

I'm just no longer sure that it's better television than anything else available.

Short of a blip in Season Three, Game Of Thrones' level of storytelling quality has never been in question. Now it is. I won't repeat some of the points made excellently elsewhere, but Alan Sepinwall sums them up expertly here. The presentation and muddy handling of 'satisfying' revenge is particularly troubling.

Why should we bother to spend time with these characters when they are discarded so frequently? Why should we invest in their redemption and revenge arcs when they are presented apparently purposefully to give us so little satisfaction? Why should we continue to think that Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) will ever begin to interact with anyone else meaningful when this season gave her that opportunity and then promptly took it away from her?

It is important to remember at this point and in all this that TV shows do not owe you anything in exchange for your devotion. Lost, amongst others, should have taught everyone that. There is no sacrosanct right that says a show has to do what you want it to. Heroes do not have to win. Favourite characters do not have to survive. Payoffs are not contractually obliged to be satisfying.

What you can demand is good storytelling and Game Of Thrones is starting to teeter on the brink of not offering that.

Consider some of the people whom we did not see for long spells this season, who previously we have been told are integral. Pod (Daniel Portman) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) have been waiting in a forest for what, six episodes? Natalie Dormer's Margaery, a character on the fast track to 'fan favourite', and the driver of much change in King's Landing, disappears at the halfway point. Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), another key driver, is AWOL from somewhere around Episode Six or Seven. And that's before you get to long forgotten characters who apparently may still have some import. Where has Gendry (Joe Dempsie) been? Watch for a late mention of him, amongst others. For God's sake, even Benjen Stark gets a mention towards the end. Hands up if you remember him. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are starting to lose control of their ensemble.

This collective are beginning to drag this show away from its focus. Game Of Thrones was at its best when it was about a set of factions competing for a kingdom. Now it is about a set of individuals pursuing separate aims. Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa's (Sophie Turner) agency on the Game has now more or less gone completely, or at least disappeared to reduced impact. The battle with the white walkers, apparently so important as late as Episode Eight here, now seems likely to reduce in screen time, if the events of Episode Ten stick (an admittedly big if). Daenerys has wasted yet another season on an internal battle, and now looks set up for another. The Lannisters are so devoid of worthy opposition and conflict that they have started to engineer their own downfall! By the finale, their apparent sole remaining legitimate opponent, Stannis (Stephen Dillane), has either been defeated for the second time or has exited in a more final manner. This is a character, by the way, who, in true Thrones style, gets a large slice of time dedicated to building up his humanity in the opening episodes, presumably only so that it mattered when he was then latterly 'dispatched'. How does this show get away from that sort of thing - because it needs to - and back to what made it so compelling in the first place?

There are of course successes. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) continues to offer the few fun moments (though surely someone involved with the show will spot this at some point and stamp it out immediately). Lines like 'my Valyrian's a bit nostril' and 'the dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant' will live long in the memory. Nothing close occurs when he is not around.

The first episode is also solid, as the Jon Snow (Kit Harington) Show continues with another anti-heroic act, before an hour is well spent, with only Brienne from the key characters under-served. How things change.

By Episode Eight and Nine, Game Of Thrones: Season Five has reverted to the show's formally infantile structure. We get forty-five minutes of horrible headline acts, where actually not many characters advance or move noticeably, before a hero pops up to do something significant: in these cases Snow in Hardhome (the battle within which is good, but no Blackwater) and then latterly Mormont (Iain Glen), Tyrion, Daario (Michiel Huisman) and a dragon in The Dance of Dragons. The sooner Game Of Thrones remembers that story means considered movement, fully told, rather than acts designed to shock and surprise, the better it will be. It might even start to provide some satisfaction again.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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