With season six of Game of Thrones having come to a dramatic close, our writers who guided you through the past three months have had little to do but ponder on what was, what could have been, and what might yet be. So we thought, might as well get them to write it down. First up is Pete Bartholomew who kindly reviewed The Door, Blood of my Blood, The Battle of the Bastards, and brought us to a conclusion with The Winds of Winter. 

The sixth season of Game of Thrones has been an unqualified success. I doubt anyone would challenge that statement. Before it had even begun, there was an air of mystery surrounding how the season would pan out; for the first time, it was widely accepted that the television series would overtake George R. R. Martin’s deplorably lethargic writing pace. With The Winds of Winter nowhere in sight, the season began with neither book-readers nor series-viewers being any the wiser about which direction the season would head in. The season, while steadily good throughout, reached a crescendo with its final two episodes, which highlighted the capability of the show’s writers to produce both cinematically brilliant visuals and dialogue. It has been one of shifting control and loyalty, with the lack of overall control in the Seven Kingdoms allowing for a feeling of uncertainty over who might be the next character to be gruesomely removed from the game of thrones. With the exception of Jon Snow, and perhaps a few other characters, no one appears to have been safe from the prospect of being killed-off, creating speculation and excitement in equal measure. The transition of the characters of Daenerys and Arya in particular was evident between the season’s initial episode and its climax. Both originally had very stagnant storylines, stuck in Meereen and Braavos respectively, which by the end of the end of the season had transformed into dynamic exciting storylines that bode well for future seasons. The sixth season highlighted strong female characters – Cersei, Arya, Daenerys, Yara, among others – and challenged the assertion of Ian McShane (the actor who played the not-so-holy septon from The Broken Man) that the show is ‘only tits and dragons’. This season also successfully answered many of the questions that viewers have been asking since the very first season: ‘Why is Hodor called Hodor?’, ‘Who is Jon’s mother?’, and ‘What happened to Benjen?’, are all examples of such questions. The only one they’ve negated to answer is ‘Where the fuck is Gendry?’(see Clare Clarke’s review of The Red Woman) to which hopefully the answer is ‘still rowing’.

“The season, while steadily good throughout, reached a crescendo with its final two episodes”

My personal highlights from the series are Ramsay Bolton’s tenure as Warden of the North and the subsequent Battle of the Bastards; Hodor’s valiant attempt to ‘hold the door’; and the devastating explosion of the Sept of Baelor in the final episode. The latter in particular was perhaps the best executed scene of the entire season, skilfully using music to build tension and suspense. The sixth season, despite the appraisal I have given it above, was not flawless. The handling of the Dornish characters seemed sloppy and not well planned-out, as they appeared only fleetingly and seemed more intent on killing each other following Oberyn’s death at the end of season five, rather than uniting to avenge him. Following the rather unexpected murder of Prince Doran in The Red Woman, one might have expected the Dornish to play a more prominent role than the bit-part that they did in actuality, something which was frankly disappointing. While the inclusion of the Iron Islanders and Euron Greyjoy were both positives, they too would have benefitted from an increased level of screen time. Hopefully these elements will be rectified in the next season.

The seventh season of Game of Thrones has a lot to live up to, but it certainly has the potential to equal this series, if not exceed it. With a seemingly mentally unstable Cersei on the Iron Throne, and multiple aggressors all turning their gazes towards each other, there is certainly the potential for more fantastic battle scenes. Daenerys seems likely to take on Euron before she entertains any idea of seizing the Iron Throne, while tensions between Jon and Sansa are likely to cause rifts in the North, especially if Jon’s true parentage is revealed, which is a decent bet. The White Walkers will also likely play a more influential role in the coming series, no doubt wreaking all kinds of havoc. Arya’s character development will be interesting to follow, mainly to see if she is able to remove the remaining names from her list (Cersei and the Mountain) following her murder of Walder Frey. All in all, the sixth season of Game of Thrones was highly successful and will no doubt have fans eagerly awaiting the release of the next.

Pete Bartholomew

Next comes Scott Reynolds, who came to us out of the blue and we were incredibly glad to bring him on board. He saw us through most of the middle portion of the season, with reviews of Oathbreaker, Book of the Stranger, and The Broken Man.

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Season six of Game of Thrones has ended and now begins the long wait for season seven. A lot happened in this season, from some fan theories being confirmed or refuted, to the return of a lot of old characters. The major cliff-hanger of season five was also answered and that’s where I’ll begin my review of this season.

In the season five finale, Jon Snow was killed by the brothers of the Night’s Watch and, for many viewers, the focus of the sixth season would be whether he had really died, and if so, whether he would stay dead. After just two episodes, we finally saw Jon resurrected and we couldn’t have been happier. Although Jon’s return left a lot of us overjoyed, it didn’t have quite the impact on his character that we would like to have seen. In previous episodes, we’ve seen that being brought back from death can change people – i.e. the Mountain and Beric Dondarrion – and we were expecting to see some difference in our hero. Though we did see a more brutal side of Jon in Oathbreaker as he executed his killers, that’s about as far as it went. The resurrection meant that Jon could go on to win back Winterfell from the Boltons, but with it having no effect on his character or his psychology, it makes us question if there was even a point in killing him in the first place. While I’m sure the books will go into greater detail regarding the changes that come with death, it would have been nice to see a greater focus in the show as well.

Jon Snow wasn’t the only character whose fate was left in the balance at the end of season five, with Daenerys left surrounded by hostile Dothraki. Her fate, like Jon’s, was revealed quite early in the season when she killed the Dothraki Khals and took control. As incredible as that particular scene was, the lack of development with the Dosh Khaleen (the wise widows of past Khals) left me wanting to see more from them. We didn’t see a great deal from Dany in this season but when we did, it was definitely worth the wait. After six whole seasons, we finally got to see Dany and her three dragons work together and show off their power in the penultimate episode, as they battled the Masters for control over Meereen. The season also ended with Daenerys finally making her way to Westeros with her army. Although this is something we’ve been waiting literally years for, it came around quite suddenly and quite possibly too quickly.

“Although each episode was at the very least enjoyable on its own, the series as a whole has left me feeling like something is missing”

While some plots went by rather rapidly, others such as the King’s Landing plot crawled along at a much slower pace. It “ended” with Cersei sitting atop the Iron Throne, however, this development will probably come to a conclusion in season seven to make room for the main two stories to be interwoven; those stories being Dany and Jon’s, or the Song of Ice and Fire. Other plots surfaced and resolved themselves within the space of two or three episodes, with some characters being brought back simply to be killed off, or have their stories go nowhere. Some returning characters’ stories have been left open for the next season without actually developing much at all. The most relevant example would be the Hound’s story, which surfaced half way into the series and was left open in the next episode.

Each episode of season six offered something that set it apart from the rest, whether it was a scene that saved an otherwise mediocre episode, or a great episode as a whole. This season also offered some of the best episodes in the show’s history and ground-breaking special effects in The Door, Battle of the Bastards, and The Winds of Winter respectively. Although each episode was at the very least enjoyable on its own, the series as a whole has left me feeling like something is missing – that particular thing being the presence of the source material. Being the first season to fully overtake the books, season six (as far as we know) had no material from which to draw inspiration. This is unfortunately apparent in regards to the pacing of some of the stories, and in some cases, the dialogue. Of course there is always difficulty when it comes to including details and tone when translating literature to the screen, but creating a story from scratch that has to live up to the rest of the show is no easy task either.

After many of the previous seasons left a lot of stories open, this one really feels as if the end is close – of course the end is close, there are only 13 episodes left. As the main plotlines of the show all seem to be coming together and a lot of characters are being killed off, the conclusion of the sixth season really seems to mark the beginning of the end.

Scott Reynolds @AwkwardMilkmaid

Wrapping up our season six rundown is the very same who opened the series of reviews, Editor-in-Chief, Clare Clarke. Isn’t that neat little frame to it all? She gave us her opinion on The Red Woman, Home, and No One, and now here’s her opinion on the sixth season in full.

With the end of Game of Thrones season six comes the inevitable – but no less painful – wait for the next year. This season was the first that covered substantial material not based on the published books, meaning that book-lovers and TV watchers alike were in the dark. This may have led to some of the problems in the series: unfulfilled story-lines and some less than perfect dialogue. Regardless, it also contained a few of the best episodes of the entire show – so going from bad to good, here’s my analysis of the season.

Throughout, there were several parts of the storyline that felt superfluous, or perhaps just not fully developed. There were interesting developments from the start, with the revelation that Melisandre is actually some old woman. This seemed like considerable character development, revealing that her faith (or bewitched necklace, who knows) led to her disguised appearance. However, this was taken no further in the season even though it appeared in the first episode. Fairly disappointing. Further, the developments in Dorne, while perhaps necessary for Olenna Tyrell, felt a bit ‘meh’ to me. Other random storylines can be seen with the character of Lady Crane. Although an important part of Arya’s storyline, the show focused so much on one supporting character but was unable to create any kind of real attachment. I’m not sure they created enough ‘Faceless’ characters (two…) to justify some rather bland developments in Braavos.

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There were other developments in the story that I did not expect, but actually really enjoyed. The introduction of another badass female character in Lyanna Mormont provided me much joy and fist pumping. Having never been a fan of Samwell Tarly, the introduction of Horn Hill in Blood of My Blood, and the Citadel in The Winds of Winter both actually provided a really interesting insight into what is going on outside of the ‘action’. However, it felt odd to have two places within Westeros so completely separated (or even oblivious?) to the changes occurring elsewhere. Perhaps this is intentional, to provide spaces where they are unaffected by the politics – or wars – of the lands.

The return of the Hound, the Brotherhood, and Benjen Stark were a happy surprise, but not currently major developments. Bran’s storyline, which was absent from season five, has seriously improved and become one of the highlights of this season, with Bran becoming the Three Eyed Raven. The flashbacks have been especially important in creating a backstory to the show, one that has been fairly linear, which made it difficult to provide the context the books do so well. Hodor’s storyline met an abrupt and devastating end, and it was an impressive indication of a small mystery being revealed. The most important revelation we received this season is the half confirmation of R+L=J theory that has been doing the rounds for a few seasons now. Jon is revealed to be the son of Lyanna Stark, in the amazing The Winds of Winter. So yes, the return of Bran was pretty awesome.

“quite stunning, and although there have been problems, I think ultimately it was perhaps one of the best so far”

The accolade of most cinematically beautiful episode goes to Battle of the Bastards. The episode was truly a work of art, managing to successfully capture the feeling of warfare, as well as the claustrophobic parts of the episode. While it may have lacked complex dialogue or much of a storyline, it more than made up for it with the fantastic shots throughout. As I mentioned in previous reviews, the director Miguel Sapochnik knows how to create a battle. Having also directed the season five episode Hardhome, Battle of the Bastards is definitely this season’s equivalent, and equally as brilliant.

The final episode The Winds of Winter was full of surprises. While there were theories about the wildfire, the fact that it occurred near the beginning of the episode marked just how wild a ride we were in for. The demolition of most of the Tyrells, the High Sparrow, and other King’s Landing nobility was a complete shock, however. So was Tommen’s following suicide – the first of the show? – which I think was filmed really impressively in the episode (maybe a touch Denham Reynholm-esque though? Ed.). Cersei’s transformation is also telling, as she takes the Iron Throne and ultimately becomes the ‘Mad Queen’ – with some predicting history will repeat itself if Jaime feels he must kill her. So much happens in this episode, as Jon becomes the King of the North (and Sansa and Littlefinger share a side-eye that worries me for the following season). Arya killing the Freys was done in a sort of Grimm fairy style manner, and has her baking the sons into a pie for their father to eat before happily slitting his throat (the same way he had her mother killed). The episode reaches some sort of resolution with Daenerys setting off to Westeros, and Winter finally coming. The change of music in the episode also added to it immensely. This season has been quite stunning, and although there have been problems, I think ultimately it was perhaps one of the best so far (although they all feel like the best to me).

People I would like to see more of in the coming series: Edmure Tully, whose character may be currently underused – I am completely in awe of the acting ability of Tobias Menzies who has proven to be more than capable in The Night Manager and Outlander. Lyanna Mormont, also welcome. Yara Greyjoy is also great, especially with her last, slightly sexually charged, tête-à-tête with Daenerys.

So there you have it, three reviews from three great writers on what has undoubtedly been an interesting season of Game of Thrones. Here’s to them being around when season seven eventually rolls around, and fingers crossed they’ll say yes to guiding us through it all once more.

Images: HBO 2016

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