Tuesday, June 28, 2016

TV Review - GAME OF THRONES - Season 6

I don't think Game of Thrones needs any introduction as it's in its sixth season and if you're reading this and feel like it does need one, then stop right now, this review will be SPOILER HEAVY and I suggest for you to watch this universally loved and acclaimed show.

In the past years I have been somewhat of a critic of the show, at least more than what I see on average. I found the series to have sporadic world building problems and frustrating logistic decisions on how to handle characters, move them around and ultimately the time dedicated to them. But most of all, I found myself deeply in anger with the nihilistic nature and philosophy of Game of Thrones at times, and to be perfectly clear, not for its implications and commentary, I'm fascinated by that, how could a fan of the show not be? I just found that at times the show's nature would get the best of the story and put forward plot points and resolutions that were deeply irritating and unpleasant to me, pushing just for the sake of it and not for storytelling purpose.

Now that's pretty much a very brief sum of the criticism I've had with the show in the past, but don't get me wrong, I love this show and found Season 4 to be a void of these problems, culminating in Episode 8 "The Mountain and the Viper", which to this day remains for me both the best episode of the series, but most importantly is indicative of the storytelling heft and emotional investment this world can bring to life. So as much as I have moved criticisms forward along the way, I remain a loyal follower of the show and an emotionally invested watcher. Season 5 had some more of the problems I have always said, it also didn't deliver on what we were promised in that breathtaking finale in season 4 (another one of my favourite episodes), yet it culminated in a breathtaking run in the last few episodes.

So we come to Season 6. Now whilst it still bears the problems I have indicated above and will discuss with examples below and it also isn't close to what season 4 achieved, this is a great season of television storytelling, a slow burn, a carefully paced puzzle that culminates in a last episode that almost touched me as much as my above mentioned favourite.

I will admit up front that the first two episodes had me boiling with anger in the fact that they were indicative of how terribly organized some periods of this story can be, as I said before, the logistical decisions on how to move the characters and how much time to spend on specific story beats was coming up once again, I was predicting a terrible season. then came episode 3, then 4, then 5, 6, 7 and 8. With the exception of how the Arya story-line was unnecessarily stretched for two or three episodes too long, I found myself, week after week appreciating the drama being built around this characters. It became evident by episode 6 or 7, that they were all just building up stakes to deliver the finale we got, but surprisingly enough it never felt just build up, the characters were there to support the story and did rarely ever end up in moments that were boring or felt unnecessary. We weren't handed the best drama we have seen this characters live, but we were handed great development on all fronts and convincing stakes for, and i'm quoting, "the wars to come".

Bran's story was made really relevant, it upped the stakes and gave us the beautiful and poignant moment of "Hold the Door" which could have been a disaster, yet it was handled majestically. Jorah Mormont's farewell to Daenearys was probably one of the most touching moments we were handed in the series and the whole crescendo up to meeting with her again was thrilling. The drama in king's landing was as absorbing as always, and Johathan Pryce as the High Sparrow did inspired character work, bringing to life all the political intrigue and contradictions between power and religion with some really great commentary. Tyrion and Varys' archs were great moments that kept the show fresh with a type of relation we hadn't yet explored.

I think that this season also managed to overcome a lot of the problems I had with its philosophy in the fact that it manages to strike the almost perfect balance between the violent and unpredictable world of Game of Thrones with the storytelling required by the characters and I think episode 10 is a big part of that. The "King in the North" scene is almost as good as this show can get and the complexity of emotions that got us there and live through that scene is overwhelmingly beautiful, from the mischievous look of Little-Finger, to the heartfelt speech of Lady Mormont.

Episode 9 "The Battle of the Bastards" is more indicative of the problem even if I loved with all my heart the grit and energy the battle and the thrill of the resolution between the Starks and the Boltons. I reflected that we basically watched 30 minutes of desperation, just to be saved at the last minute by an anonymous army. The emotional response wasn't as powerful as it could have been, the setup was kind of weak. And whilst I perfectly know it was Little Finger's intention from the get go to enter when both armies were almost decimated, the moment just didn't have the breath of liberation it could have had and ultimately made what is one of the most breathtaking sequences in the show, just a little spoiled for me.

I already know the shitstorm I'm getting for even daring to say something about that episode so my criticisms end here. Game of Thrones Season 6 furthers the story probably more than any season before it has ever done, it gives us two of the best episodes of the series and a finale that is tense, touching, shocking, exhilarating and thrilling thanks to a great set up in a very good season, that once again makes us realize we have another 10 months to wait before we get to experience this show again.

James's Score: 8.5/10

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