‘Game of Thrones’ Season Six Satisfies
“Game of Thrones” season six provided much-anticipated answers and sweet revenge. This is the first season not culled directly from the books because George R.R. Martin didn't complete “The Winds of Winter” in time. Because the writers did not have a novel to adapt, they were forced to find their own way through season six, using Martin’s notes and a broad story outline. The writers brewed up a tale that served up vengeance and justice in equal measure, and they did it in a way that Martin typically does not.
It was satisfying for the fandom to experience revenge against extremely villainous characters, but George R.R. Martin’s storytelling is successful precisely because he doesn’t adhere to the usual Hollywood tropes. In his own stories, the “good guy” doesn’t always win. In fact, the “good guy” is difficult to discern. Did season six sacrifice George R.R. Martin’s complex and often maddening approach to storytelling instead give us a simpler but emotionally rewarding Hollywood experience? And do we care if it did?
SPOILER ALERT: OK, if you haven’t taken a gander at season six, or any of “Game of Thrones,” now is the time to click away, my friend. You are fair warned.
This season paid off for the fans in multiple ways. First of all, winter is finally freakin’ here already (only took six seasons!). The writers wrapped up several storylines including the High Sparrow’s religious reign of terror and the fate of Queen Margaery Tyrell and King Tommen. The Queen Mother (Dowager?) Cersei Lannister lit up the Sept leading to the tragic fulfillment of the prophesied death of her final child. King Tommen commits suicidal defenestration in the Red Keep after watching his wife, the queen, consumed by wildfire and his mother’s revenge. The mother has no mercy.
A lost Arya Stark finally accepts her name and her destiny after defeating her nemesis waif, waving “so long” to Jaqen H’ghar and Braavos and hightailing it back to her homeland to practice some needlepoint on the neck of Walder Frey in revenge for killing her brother and her mother, among others. The girl has no mercy.
Jon Snow is resurrected (those Internet rumors were true!) by the Lord of Light’s crazy red magic through the vessel of Melisandre, who is revealed to be a bit more geriatric than she’s led us to believe. Jon and Sansa Stark go to battle against Ramsay Bolton on the grounds of their home Winterfell in what might be one of the greatest battle scenes on television or film. As dying and dead bodies crush Jon and his fellow foot soldier Wildlings, Lord Baelish (Littlefinger) rides in with the cavalry thanks to Sansa Stark’s preplanning. Bolton is defeated, captured and sentenced to death by dog as Sansa Stark looks on. Sansa definitely has no mercy.
Daenerys Targaryen defeats the slavers of Slaver’s Bay (now Dragon’s Bay) with three dragons and an army of raging Dothraki. She allies with the Greyjoys and they embark on their journey west. Finally, she’s got her ships, her army and is headed west with the Iron Throne in sight.
A great deal went down this season. By the end of season six, several storylines that had been hanging on for some time were wrapped up, which seemed very un-Game-of-Thrones-esque. However, the revenge upon characters that had committed acts ranging from torture (Ramsay Bolton) to annoyance (the waif whom Arya defeats and, perhaps, the Sparrow) felt really good. Cersei Lannister’s face as she watched the Sept burn was pure schadenfreude. And when she lifts that goblet of wine to take a sip and toast to the demise of her enemies … well, let’s just say many of us would like to do the same. And, of course, the most satisfying revenge tale involved Sansa Stark feeding Ramsay Bolton’s face to his own dogs –– a gruesome scene but poetic considering Bolton forced his hounds on his own baby brother and young step-mother, and, not to mention, the cruelty he heaped on Sansa and Theon Greyjoy, among others. It was good to see him go. Good riddance to a cruel, and really a one-dimensional, character.
In addition to the revenge plot lines, the story of Hodor and Jon Snow presented some satisfying surprises. In episode five, “The Door,” it is revealed that Hodor’s name, the word he mouths as his mantra, comes from one of the greatest acts of heroism a character commits on this show: Meera Reed yells to Hodor to “Hold the door!” against the onslaught of the White Walkers as she and Bran are escaping their clutches. At the same time, Bran is caught in a vision of split-consciousness and wargs into the young Hodor. Young Hodor has a seizure and is able to experience what Bran is experiencing in the present. He hears the phrase “Hold the door!” It becomes his life mission. It becomes who he is. It’s beautiful storytelling.
In the final episode, “The Winds of Winter” (also the name of book six), Bran’s vision of Eddard Stark’s quest to save his sister Lyanna from the Tower of Joy, finally comes to fruition when Bran is able to enter the Tower with Eddard who finds his sister has just given birth, is dying, and whispers her last request to her brother. We finally get confirmation that Lyanna’s baby is Jon Snow, who is both a Stark and a Targaryan. This revelation sets up an interesting dynamic regarding who has the right to the Iron Throne in season seven.
Although many storylines were wrapped up a little too satisfyingly in season six, several plotlines are set up well for some promising conflicts in season seven. Here are some lingering questions for the next season, which airs on HBO in 2017.
When and how will Jon Snow learn of his real lineage? How will this affect his quest for the Iron Throne and his relationship to Daenerys Targaryen? When will Daenerys and her ragtag fleet of ships, former slaves, Dothraki, Iron Island folk and dragons reach Westeros? Will Ser Jorah Mormont find a cure for greyscale and return to save the day? Is Tyrion a Targaryon, too? Will Tyrion Lannister end up leading them all?
When Jon Snow is hailed as the king at the end of the season, everyone is standing except for Lord Baelish (Littlefinger) and Sansa Stark. Has Stansa got a taste of the Iron Throne? We know Lord Baelish does. Kings Landing is a bit of a mess right now, and there are several contenders for the throne. And, after all, chaos is a ladder …
Will Davos Seaworth ever get revenge on Melisandre for the death of Shireen, Stannis Bartheon’s daughter, who was burned at the stake as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light? Will Melisandre play Rasputin to another ruler –– perhaps Euron Greyjoy?
What will Jaimie Lannister, the Kingslayer who slayed Aerys Targaryen (the “Mad King”) because he was going to torch King’s Landing with wildfire, do now that his own sister (and true love) has essentially committed the very act he was trying to prevent? Will he join his sister or become the Queenslayer? Jaimie has already proven the lengths he will go for Cersei, including the defenestration of Bran Stark. The things one does for love …
Who is going to be the evil villain in season seven? All roads lead to Cersei Lannister, but perhaps Euron Greyjoy of the Iron Islands is a contender. He murdered his brother, after all. “What is dead may never die but rises again harder and stronger.” Melisandre is heading south –– perhaps the Lord of Light has found a new pretender to prey upon?
Will the White Walkers discover a way beyond the wall, penetrating the magical protection that Benjen Stark describes?
Season six was satisfyingly vengeful because so many villains met their end, but it seemed like the writers were following fandom’s wish list in writing all of the beats of revenge and including a slew of deus ex machina rescues including Brienne of Tarth’s timely rescue of Sansa and Theon as they escape the clutches of Ramsay Bolton; Benjen Stark’s rescue of Bran and Meera as they flee from White Walkers; and Lord Baelish (Littefinger) riding in at the exact moment when all hope is lost for Jon and his soldiers as Ramsay Bolton is crushing them on the grounds of Winterfell. And, in a show that is known for killing off its beloved characters, this season resurrected two –– Jon Snow and The Hound.
While it was pleasurable to experience the deaths of so many who had it coming, the storytelling didn’t follow George R.R. Martin’s usual form of not giving us what is expected. Sometimes in life there is no justice. But, damn, in GOT justice feels really good at this point. And season six set up some spectacular scenarios for season seven, providing more questions to the answers it served up so easily. But, is it really George R.R. Martin’s story anymore? The TV writers have now taken the wheel, and fans will need to wait for the upcoming book “Winds of Winter” to see how Martin’s personal tale turns out.
But, ultimately, the question we all want to know the answer to is –– will Samwell Tarly read ALL the books in the Citadel library?
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