This is the season everyone became unsullied; this is the season no one could sit back and smugly say ‘I know what is going to happen’: but this was also the season that has drawn the most ire and vitriol from a fan base upset with a huge chunk of the direction the show’s plot is heading towards.
Game of Thrones Season 5 is mere hours away from completion, but not everyone is happy. This season has been a typical Thrones season, a slow start, a thrilling mid section, a game changing 9th episode, then the (upcoming) denouement in episode 10. And whilst this season has hit all those stops, there are tangible changes in plot and character that is making fans very concerned.
Thrones is no stranger to gratuitous violence, nudity, other hard to watch and difficult to process scenes.. The infamous ‘Red Wedding’, Ned’s beheading, Oberyn’s head squeezing, Joffrey’s death (not really), pushing a 9 year old out of a window tower to cover incest, and the numerous scenes of s*xual violence against women.
Yet somehow this season has managed to top all these shocking and sometimes controversial scenes, and not exactly in a good way. You remember when Jaime was bad, then he became good, then he went on to rape his sister over their son’s corpse and suddenly he was bad again; well they pulled that same bait and switch again this season.
Stannis Baratheon has been called by some as the one true queen of Westeros. He is the legitimate heir under the current regime (his brother’s kids are bastards born of incest and do not belong on the throne), he is the only king who listened when the wall called for help, and he is the king currently en route to fight the evil Boltons. He is also a people burning religious fanatic with a witch beside him who just burned his only daughter.
That scene, the hardest I ever watched on Thrones- and remember the atrocities I listed above, including a wedding that saw a king and his entire army and his wife and her unborn foetus butchered- is one of the biggest controversies of the season. Some feel the Red God arc has been played to death, or that Stannis betrayed everything a king is supposed to stand for. What can’t be denied is that he just sold his soul to the devil and lost any interest to most people as a morally ambiguous character.
Which leaves Dany as the only monarch with any moral claim to rule people, but she’s dithering around on a different continent, in a place which obviously does not want her and whose entire society she’s uprooted without any proper solutions to their problems. She’s had to compromise so much now she might as well as not made reforms in Meereen in the first place, and it was at one of the things she’s had to compromise on that led to her almost demise in the last episode.
The Sons of the Harpy attacked during the fighting pits segment, and she came within a hair’s breadth of death. It was her rogue dragon-Drogon who saves her; in a sequence that should make her realise she should be the mother of dragons, and not be dithering around but leave to rule the continent she’s actually from, who has need of her dragons.
Arya also makes a terrible mistake, when instead of carrying out her mission she’s scouting Meryn Trant, one of the people on her list. It would have been so easy to carry out the execution and then stalk Trant, instead of go back and lie and get Jaqen H’gar on her case, because he can obviously tell she’s lying.
Jon Snow is surreptitiously heading towards a mutiny on the wall, and the show has put so much unwarranted attention on the kid Olly this season that there’s no question he would have a part to play in that. The Night’s Watch are too set in their ways to see the benefits in Jon’s progressive policies.
Sansa and Ramsey were the other flash point of the season, also another very difficult to watch scene. We haven’t seen much of Winterfell since then, and if there’s not enough resolution in the finale the charge of gratuitous violence merely for shock value would hold more water against the show runners.
For a show and world I love so much ten hours a year is not enough, but I’m actually a little relieved this season is passing. Twice this season a visceral reaction has been drawn out of me that I do not necessarily care for; and a year off from the show might give me the long term perspective needed to digest these terrible actions.
Season 5 of Game of Thrones has been eventful, certainly one of the most shocking of its five year run. Hasn’t been exactly as good as Season 1 or 3, from a storytelling standpoint; but for shocking the audience you have to applaud anything that tops the Red Wedding- and Stannis burning his daughter at the stake certainly did that.