Article by: Anthony Florez
Oh, Game of Thrones. You hurt so good. Three episodes into the sixth season and almost entirely off the reservation at this point, with the George R.R. Martin novels no longer usable as source material — how are we doing? I’d say fair-to-good. While the first two episodes barreled through their respective goals of catching us up and shocking our faces off, the third lost some of that steam and settled into a decent, if unmemorable filler episode.
It may be too soon to tell, but there seems to be an overall lack of menace or tension in a show that has already horrified to such a degree that I watched a main character set a pack of dogs on a mother and her newborn son this season and all I could think was, yeah, saw that coming… Where does a show like that go from here? How do we hate Ramsay Bolton any more? How do we stay invested when the last season ended tragically with the death of a beloved character only for him to come back two episodes in and shrug it off like it ain’t no thing? I do not know, perhaps we need another episode or two to get an accurate gauge but even though the showrunners D.B Weiss and David Benioff are brimming with confidence, I have to say I need a little bit more before I have faith that they can navigate this story on their own.
The Red Woman picks up right where we left off last season, Jon Snow corpsified, Daenerys runned off, and Tyrion….chilling. To me, the weakest plotline going at the moment is in King’s Landing, with “King” Tommen and his rule at the mercy of a bunch nutjobs calling themselves the Sparrows. His sister has been murdered in Dorne, his mother has been disgraced and marched naked through the city, and his wife Lady Smirksalot is held captive by a bunch of religious zealots. And what has Tommen done at this point? Absolutely nothing. I never thought I’d say this but damn if I don’t miss Joffrey. Psychotic, sure, but at least he was proactive and took some sadistic pleasure in being a monarch, he had some fun with it while Tommen only appears to be playing dress-up while waiting for an adult to tell him what to do. It makes a kind of sense that the common people have no apparent issue with the Lannister rule essentially being strong-armed and humiliated since the family is not well loved as it is but from a storytelling standpoint this plotline has been stagnating for quite some time now. Even Jaime has been mollified and can only brood alongside Cersei while they both
hatch plans to take over and exact revenge on those who wronged them make nebulous platitudes about hating everyone like pissed off teenagers pouting in their basement.
Ramsay Bolton. I’ll let Kanye say what everyone is thinking. That’s all I have on that count.
Some stuff happened on the Iron Islands. Lord of Light, I don’t care. Drowned God, I mean? Is that their thing? Lookit, the comings and goings of the Ironborn are so tangential to the rest of the story it’s hard to remember the names of those characters without googling them. So supplemental are they that their occupation and loss of undefended North lands are easily explained away in an single offhand expositional sentence or two but they have no significant influence on the major events of the Seven Kingdoms. If the struggle for control of Westeros were a bunch of children playing Hide and Seek, the Ironborn are the kid that snuck into the garage who everyone forgot about that keeps slipping back and forth between hiding spots, not knowing that the game has been over for an hour.
Another plotline that seems to be marching in place is everyone’s favorite Mother of Dragons, Daenerys. This whole arc seems like a kind of cop out to me, where it was too soon for her to rally her forces and set sail for Westeros, they instead decided to hit the reset button on the whole thing. Burn the fleet. Disappear the dragons. Drop Daenerys in the middle of nowhere only to be abducted by the Dothraki who were interesting and cool for a little while. Five seasons ago. Now it feels like one of our favorite characters has been relegated to almost exactly where she started wandering around the desert with these admittedly tough looking folks who seem hellbent on maintaining a Bronze Age level of technology and accomplishment, while the rest of the world moved on to commerce and architecture or whatever.
And Arya. It may seem like I am complaining a lot at this point but how many times does this girl need to be broken down and re-trained? She’s like The Karate Kid who somehow forgets he knows karate at the end of every movie and needs to learn it all over again. What’s your problem, Daniel?! Leave the old guy alone, he gave you a car and taught you how to crane kick, why do you need to be trained again. Anyway, just when we thought she was going to be blind and begging on the streets we find her being doggedly harassed by The Waif and it says a lot about Braavos as a city that a small blind girl can get the shit repeatedly beat out of her in public and no one really bats an eye. Finally, by the third episode of this season, her eyesight is restored and she has yet another bad ass skillset: blind bo-staff fighing. But my real question is, why? Don’t get me wrong, I love Arya, but she is also so far removed from any real goings on it’s going to be difficult reintroducing her to the rest of the plot. Alliances have shifted, characters have been killed, and the a-holes on her list of people she wants to give the hard goodbye, I barely remembered some of those characters existed at this point. Time will tell how she will be brought back into the main story, if she manages to survive the training.
Ah, Jon Snow returns. Here’s the thing; for those of us who read the books, in some cases years and years ago, Jon has been dead for a very long time. I went through all five stages of grief the first time reading the books, finally plucked up the willpower to watch the show, and then went through all five again at the end of season five. I’ll admit I didn’t always love A Song of Fire and Ice but the series is well-written enough for A Storm of Swords to be the first novel I have ever thrown across the room in frustration (the Red Wedding), I was that invested. So for Jon to be resuscitated so easily in Home, so soon into the sixth season was disorienting at first. His apparent disenchantment with the Watch, handing off the cloak of the Lord Commander to Edd, felt like a pretty bad ass moment to end the episode but I’m going to be watching very closely. What made Jon Snow so admirable and likeable as a character has been his unerring focus on doing the right thing, on being honorable to a fault. He is, in a way, the yin to Ramsay Bolton’s yang. Both bastards longing for their father’s approval, both outsiders trying to find an identity in the family they aren’t quite a part of and where the latter has gone, one might say, to the Dark Side in order to find relevance, Jon took the black and join the Night’s Watch knowing that his presence was a constant reminder to Catelyn of her husband’s infidelity during the War of the Five Kings and that he would never truly have a place at the table alongside Robb, Rickon, and Bran. “My watch is over.” It’s clear with this one line that the selflessness and sense of duty that has ruled over Jon his whole life may not have survived his resurrection.
One more thing: The Tower of Joy. Anyone who hasn’t read the books or studied the lore is not going to know what’s going on but this is a big deal. There have been a few theories about what really happened here at the end of the big civil war that placed Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne. One of them has to do with Jon Snow’s real parentage and I’m not going to go into detail here except to say that this was, on one hand, an awesome scene in terms of choreography and also, on the other, a terrible tease at the same time. It’s an interesting choice using Bran and his new Tree-Dwelling old guy pal to look into the past as a narrative device, it gives him some value as a character but I have yet to understand how this exploring is relevant to the plot itself, unless there is some big revelation to be found at the top of the tower or elsewhere.
Here’s hoping the rest of the season is less composed of things that we expected to happen and more of a sure-footed continued journey into what can happen with this incredible cast of characters. A few requests: I would like Tyrion to do something. Anything. I love him being smug and drinking wine but it’s time for him to stop riding the pine and get in the game (of Thrones, see what I did there). White Walkers, what are you waiting for? Winter has been coming for like, five seasons already and without the unstoppable snow-zombie hordes attacking, all the characters we know in Westeros are going to kill each other off by the time it finally arrives. Daenerys, stop taking shit from people. And Jon, same for you, particularly when it comes to saving everyone from the zombies. The only thing that was missing from the finest hour of television in the last few years, Hardhome, and the finale with the Night King was the response that I felt would have been most appropriate from the Lord Commander himself. Anyway, my article is over (Jon Snow mic drop).