Jul 20, 2016

[TV] Game of Thrones: Season 5

Okay, I feel like I'm forever playing catch-up with these reviews, but it remains a bit of a hobby that helps me unwind. As long as I have steady topics to write about in my queue, it keeps me focused, in a way. And a little focus is needed since it's easy to just fall into the trap of enjoying stuff without thinking about things. And being forced to look at things with a somewhat more critical eye is part of why I enjoy writing these reviews.

The television adaptation of the A Song of Fire and Ice series, Game of Thrones, has become this odd television juggernaut that has grown a huge fan base well beyond those who read the books when they first game out. Despite some problematic portrayals of sensitive issues for women, for the most part the show is still a modern television masterpiece

This season had some great moments and some rather uncomfortable moments and I think tested a lot of viewers to consider why watched the show. I certainly had my concerns as well but admittedly I decided to continue watching the show regardless. Only time will tell if this was truly best course of action.

Synopsis: Game of Thrones is an HBO fantasy drama based on the novels by George R. R. Martin. This fifth season taps on different stories from varied parts of the series to craft their version of events. This fifth season also marks the writers coming up to the end of the "canon" content produced by Martin and thus there's a lot more liberties being taken with some of the character arcs.

The last season ended with the death of Tywin Lannister, the escape of his murderer Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) thanks to the aid of Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), and the beginning of Arya Stark's (Maisie Williams) journey to Braavos. With Lord Tywin gone, Cersei (Lena Headey) does her best to assert control as the Queen Mother, but we also see the rising of a religious group known as the Sparrows, who campaign for a return to older ways when the Church had greater sway over public policy. Meanwhile Tyrion has crossed the Narrow Sea and journeys to meet the Mother of Dragons Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and extend his services to aid her in her quest to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. But before she can do that, her biggest problems involves a faction known as the Sons of the Harpy who have been making terrorist strikes against her regime in an effort to bring back the old slave masters. And in the North, we get to see the events unfold after the forces of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) had rescued the Night's Watch last season.

The Tyrion arc is definitely one of the high points of this season as it involved the meeting of fan favorite characters finally meeting. This was well beyond book territory and so everyone was on equal footing here in terms of finding out what would happen and I think the results weren't too unrealistic. We also had the story of Arya Stark in Braavos that may not have been 100% accurate with respect to the books but the depiction of things was certainly interesting. But a lot of this season felt like an effort to humble her after her series of personal successes in prior seasons.

The Lannister plot started out a little slow with the investigation into the murder of Tywin and the initial stories about the Sparrows and later the Faith Militant. But when you cast the role of the High Sparrow with someone with the sort of serious acting chops and dare I say gravitas as Jonathan Pryce, well, you know you'e going to end up with a seriously strong piece even just relying on his acting ability alone. And the thread as a whole came out rather well I think and it set the stage for very interesting developments in the next season.

The tricky thead involved th story of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who had such an awesome rise and almost rebirth in Season 4 only to be quashed and defeated once more for the bulk of this season. And this is where a lot of people found serious issues with the show as it seemed to go out of its way to make her not just miserable but perhaps even less than human given the engagement to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and her later rape. Sensitive subjects like rape are never easy to depict on TV and it's not always apparent whether or not a rape scene becomes truly essential to a story.  I don't think I can fully unpack that concept in this review, but let's just say that I think they could have handed things a little better than they did. Solid reasoning would have been better appreciated than rationalizations made after the fact.

Game of Thrones Season 5 is still a solid piece of television entertainment and quite the accomplishment in terms of visual storytelling. The season gave us a lot to be happy about but also challenged us with some difficult moments but for the most part things still made sense. Thus the season still gets 3.5 character sacrifices out of a possible 5.

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