We’re now three episodes into the latest season of HBO’s epic Game of Thrones, but something’s up, after 4 seasons of continual tension, shock and surprise, this latest season, season 5, seems for some strange reason, really rather boring. So how could this of happened and why has it happened, are we at fault, are our expectations far too high for the show or is it just not hitting as hard as it has in the past?
We’re going to take a detailed look at the first three episodes of Season 5 and discuss many of the core plot points and occurrences from the first 4 seasons too. So, just in case it wasn’t evident so far, we’ll be hitting some very spoilerific territory so now’s likely a good time for you to turn away if you’re not a big fan of spoilers.
So let’s take a look at Season 5 so far, with the first three episodes ‘The Wars to Come’, ‘The House of Black and White’ and ‘High Sparrow’ we’ve been off to a very slow and rather dull start. Yes, we’ve had a few epic moments including the end of Mance Rayder, Dany’s upsetting task of upholding the law, Jon Snow’s offer to become Jon Stark and his inevitable becoming of Lord Commander of the Nights Watch. But, how does that really compare to the big surprises and tensions of the seasons before it?
Well, Season 4 really hit hard when it kicked off coming out at break neck pace with a double whammy of episodes that gave us some huge shocks with Arya Stark brutally killing the first man on her ‘to kill’ list and of course the season altering Purple Wedding, that finally but unsatisfyingly removed King Joffrey from the throne in fine, bloody form sending fan favourite Tyrion Lannister to the dungeons as the expected murderer. So yeah, that pretty much blows away anything we’ve seen from the first three episodes of season 5 then.
Season 3 opened with shocking twists and turns, including the capture of Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth resulting in the gruesome dismembering of Jaime’s sword hand. We had the bewildering and prolonged torture of Theon Greyjoy at the hands of an unknown assailant, the introduction of Ser Barristan Selmy and Daenerys’ excellent plot to free the unsullied army, which deceived us all into thinking that she would relinquish one of her precious dragons for their freedom before showing how much power she was truly beginning to wield.
Going further back, Season 2 however didn’t offer quite the same level of suspense and excitement in its first episodes as that of Season 3 and 4. Some of the key events included Tyrion’s rise to The Hand of The King, Robb Stark’s successful onslaught of the Lannister forces, the creation and appearance of Stannis Baratheon’s shadow self that leads to the assassination of his brother Renly and Theon’s assault on Winterfell. Of course, these are all important events and whilst looking back they don’t hold the same level of excitement as those early episodes of Seasons 3 and 4, we have to remember that we were very early into the series lifespan at this time and further understanding the intriguing web of motivations that drove the vast spread of characters forward kept us glued to our seats. Even more importantly after the shocking events of the first season that led to Ned Stark’s death we all really, really wanted to see Robb Stark triumph.
Where it all began, Season 1, delivered almost endless suspense as the differing plot strands were unveiled. Yet similar to Season 2, things started slower than we’ve become used to. The first episodes of the season really delivered a lot of the ground work for the epic events of it’s latter half with the biggest revelation being that young crown prince Joffrey was in fact an illegitimate bastard created through the incestuous love affair of Jaime and Cersei Lannister. Still, we were all on our toes throughout this start to the series, getting to learn all of the characters and of course believing (foolishly) that Sean Bean’s hugely honorable and likeable character Ned Stark would be our ongoing protagonist as the series continued, oops.
When we look back across the seasons so far in comparison to season 5, it seems that our own intrigue combined with the unexpected shocks and surprises that were new to us for a TV show fed us through the first two seasons. Then as if they were aware of this notion slowly setting in as the norm the shows 3rd and 4th seasons truly upped the spectacle, with epic set pieces, more shock, more death and plenty of revelations. Yet over the course of this the show has given us characters to get behind and keep us engaged – primarily the Stark children & Tyrion – yet where season 5 kicks off, the majority of those characters are now deceased or on what feel like plodding story lines.
Tyrion now in Essos is slowly being dragged towards meeting Daenerys, something that will inevitably be exciting, seeing these two great characters meet, yet it’s being far too dragged out. Similarly Arya Stark’s engaging vengeance story has become stagnant, as has that of Danerys who seems to have all but spent the latter half of last season and the first three episodes of this one laboriously dealing with political issues in Meereen.
Which leads us on finally to our shining light in Kit Harrington’s Jon Snow, the only character who – whilst still moving at a snails pace – seems to be providing us with a strong reason to watch the show. The last few episodes have seen him go against the wishes of a king, be offered his fathers name of Stark and lastly get voted in as the new Lord Commander of the nights watch. This has been peppered with Stannis’ attempts to bring Jon back into the fight of the men of Westeros, to retake Winterfell and give us all the vengeance we want to see delivered to the despicable Boltons. Yet, Snow has stuck to his vows avoiding becoming embroiled with Stannis’ plot, but, as we’ve been shown over the last few episodes this is something that lays heavily on Jon’s mind. Perhaps the justification lies in the words of Davos Seaworth, in which he suggests Jon can avenge his family and keep his vows.
Having Jon’s squire recite the vows of the Night’s Watch Davos has the boy stop on the line “The shield that guards the realms of men” before suggesting that perhaps this is not only about protecting the wall but also about protecting those within the realm. We’re holding our breath that over the next few episodes this may well act as the catalyst that gets Jon Snow back into the fight and more importantly drives this series forward with the emphasis we feel it really needs right now. Perhaps we’ll be shocked and surprised in the coming forth episode of the season, and feel in hindsight that we were completely wrong, here’s hoping!
Have you been enjoying Game of Thrones Season 5 so far? Do you feel that it’s somewhat stagnant or do you expect this is simply a lot of groundwork laying for an explosive and surprising latter half of the season? Why not let us know in the comments below!
Ben Corbett-Mills / @benleopards
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