Editorial Featured Game of Thrones Season 5

What do fans think of Game of Thrones Season 5 one year on?

Sansa in Winterfell--Official HBO (cropped)

Game of Thrones Season 6 is almost upon us (just 10 days left), so we thought it was a good time to look back and consider Season 5 in retrospect. Had opinions changed in the year since Jon Snow was stabbed in the Castle Black courtyard? Here’s how you guys voted:

Has your opinion of Game of Thrones Season 5 changed one year on?

  • No. I still love it. (37%, 360 Votes)
  • No. I still think it's okay. (26%, 252 Votes)
  • Yes. I think better of it than I used to. (18%, 173 Votes)
  • No. I still don't like it. (12%, 119 Votes)
  • Yes. I think worse of it than I used to. (7%, 71 Votes)

Total Voters: 975

Loading ... Loading ...

By and large, no. Most people seem to be sticking with their original impressions, and for most of them, those impressions are favorable. Season 5 took a bit of a beating in the fan community, but it’s hard to argue that people in general didn’t enjoy it overall—the continually rising ratings are proof enough of that. Among the commenters, there seemed to be a general acknowledgement that Season 5 was lesser than other years of the show, but that it was still excellent TV. Commenters like TMC take this middle path…

I feel that after watching it again, season 5 is still not as good as other seasons, but entertaining nonetheless. One of the main reasons is that the season was left in a bit of a jumble after season 4 (such as Tyrion going to Essos… Arya to Braavos… Stannis ending up at the wall) so they had to build it up from there.

…as did George:

Frankly, I found the quality of the writing to be very much up to par compared to prior seasons, with the exception of Dorne. All of Dorne pretty much sucked, and was pretty much like a bad Xena the Warrior Princess episode, down to the terrible fight choreography. Aside from Dorne, I thought everything else was pretty great really…

2 24 Sand snakes3

Like the season on not, pretty much no one enjoyed the goings-on down in Dorne.

As for what storylines improved on rewatch, several commenters noted that they enjoyed Sansa’s story more once it was put into context. Here’s how Aws put it:

[T]he funny thing is that if Sansa HAD been a great game player right away after lying once and wearing a black dress, then it would have been criticized for being unrealistic that she became an great game player so suddenly. Of course she was going to be in over her head the first time out.

A57se put it bluntly: “You don’t go from Lala land to political savant overnight.”

This opinion is by no means universally held, but looking back, I think that some of the problems with Sansa’s plotline had to do with managing expectations after she walked down that staircase looking like a badass at the end of Season 4. Like a lot of fans, I thought Sansa was going to start making moves to improve her station in life, but now I think that both Sansa and I were fooling ourselves. As Ani wrote during last week’s Small Council session, “just because the piece now knows it is on the board does not mean it will be able to perform a blitzkrieg maneuver on the first outing.” That’s one plot I’m eager to see continue in Season 6—I have a feeling more context will only help it.

Dark Sansa on the stairs

Oh, you sweet summer child.

Some commenters chalked up Season 5’s weaknesses to being adapted from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, which many fans consider the weakest books in George R.R. Martin’s series. “The weakest books get adapted into the weakest season,” wrote Patch. “What a surprise!” But then again, other commenters thought that it was unfair to blame the source material when the show went its own way so much of the time. Or as Golladan said, responding to Patch, “But they weren’t adapted at all…”

I think there’s something to the idea that Feast and Dance were harder to adapt than past books in the series, but I also agree that many of the seasons problems cropped up when the showrunners strayed from the book-beaten path. Dorne is a perfect example. I didn’t find the Dornish chapters in A Feast for Crows very exciting, but I preferred them to the new story we got in Game of Thrones Season 5, which exchanged tedium for nonsense. Unlike with Sansa’s story, I can’t imagine how further development will vindicate the events in Dorne. (Interesting side note: notice how none of the Dornish characters have shown up in HBO’s promotional materials. It seems the network is trying to ease off those elements.)

Jane Johnson is not happy about this scene

Before wrapping up, I want to address a complaint that often gets leveled at Season 5: that the producers compromised Barristan Selmy’s character by having him die at the hands of the Sons of the Harpy in “Sons of the Harpy.” Aws put it this way:

Aside from some nitpicks about how it was filmed, I don’t buy the criticism about how he didn’t fight well enough, because it makes sense that he’s not in his prime anymore.

On a structural level, I can understand arguments that it might not have been Barristan’s time to go, but I don’t understand the notion that a swordsman as great as him couldn’t have been defeated by insurgents. Barristan Selmy was an excellent knight, not a superhero. A great warrior or not, no one can realistically fight several combatants at once, and I appreciate that the producers avoided the temptation to make him, or any character, superhuman.

The same goes for the criticism that Stannis Baratheon couldn’t have been defeated by the Boltons on account of his ability on the battlefield. I have problems with the way his storyline ended, but being a great commander doesn’t mean he can’t make mistakes, and the mistakes he made were by and large rooted in character flaws we’d come to recognize.

Stannis dies--Official HBO

There were a lot of great comments on this week’s post, but I’ll give the last word to Lynn Smith:

I still really like the finished product. This season was a lot like Season 2, which had some strong plotlines and some really weak ones. I wouldn’t call it a failure, but I would call it frustrating at times. Still there were some strong emotional arcs and beautiful sequences. TV is a visual medium and I thought season 5 had some of the series best visuals.

The highs in Season 5 (“Hardhome,” Cersei’s walk of shame) were high, while the lows (Dorne, Ramsay’s 20-good-men attack) were low. It was a strange, split kind of season, and we’ll get to see how Benioff and Weiss follow up in 10 short days.

38 Comments

  • Delete all the Dorne scenes and the season improves. And no I don’t need a “bad pussy”.

  • Dorne was awesome until the Sand Snakes began talking. Their accents were all over the place, and the actress that played as Obara really disappointed. Her dominant frowny face made me cringe every time. They are INSANELY awesome book characters, and I was hoping Obara would be Oberyn 2.0. Now, in their defense, the script for Dorne was poor. You give Areo Hotah that awesome axe/halberd/Guan Yu weapon and he doesn’t use it?! Shame. Also, I thought they should’ve kept Oberyn and Obara’s spear special for them. However, every guard had the same spear. Dialogue-wise, which was worse: “You want the bad pussy” or “I am Obara Sand, daughter of Oberyn Martell”..one? Oh well, the rest of the season kicked ass, and team Sansa will be revving at full throttle season 6.

  • Really looking forward to season 5, what’s going to happen to westeros without Tywin!? Only 10 days to find out, I can’t wait.

  • Season Five had high highs and low lows, but it’s the negative stuff that you remember; Sansa’s rape, the disappointing Dornish plotline, Ser Barristan’s death, the ruin of Stannis and the depressing climax of Jon Snow’s stabbing.

    Although Hardhome was undoubtedly the best episode of the season.

    I still haven’t re-watched this season again and I don’t think I could so alone. So I’m not in a hurry to buy the DVDs.

    I was most upset about the assassination of Stannis’s character, as I related to him a lot because I think he was a high functioning autistic like myself; he never smiled (even as a child), he struggled socially, he corrected grammar mistakes (which some autistics do) and a rigid sense of what is right. That was partially why he was one of my favourite characters.

  • Garbage season, they should be ashamed, misses the point of the characters and story entirely! Barristan, Dorne, Stannis, it misfired on each of those. 3 strikes and you are out ladies and germs! Hardhome can’t make up for lazy story decisions!

    • There are too many characters! Barristan’s death was better than him spending another season standing around.

      People are confusing their perception of Stannis with actual Stannis. He murdered his own brother, shrugged off losing thousands of men at the Blackwater, was willing to kill his own nephew, etc. Burning his own daughter and losing his campaign were both totally I character!

      • He didn’t murder his brother.

        Men die in war.

        He wasn’t willing to kill his own nephew. That’s why he kept postponing it and got Davos to try and talk him out of it.

        Burning his daughter is not in character unless there is some extreme situation that would cause him to see no other choice.

        I don’t see how you can say that winning (or losing) a campaing can be a part of someone’s character.

        • Um, pretty sure he killed renly or at least knew why melisandre needed davos to smuggle her close to renlys camp.

          • That was for Penrose. Not Renly.

            Stannis murdered Renly no more than Robb murdered Rickard Karstark.

          • Stannis had Renly assassinated.

            Robb executed Rickard Karstark.

            Tyrion murdered Tywin.

            Renly was a pretentious asshole on an ego trip that took the crown knowing full well that his brother had the better claim. He refused Stannis’s very generous offer to name him his heir. And was planning on killing Stannis.

            Rickard Karstark was a man that couldn’t handle his sons being killed in battle. So he had his men desert his king and murdered some innocent kids because his revenge on the guy that killed his sons in battle was “denied”.

            Tywin was a horrible father that constantly abused his son and said something his son didn’t want to hear.

        • I guess you’ve been watching a different show and reading different books.

          It was in character to lose because he blindly followed Mel’s visions. They were wrong. Oops. Snows her falling, northern lords and Wildlings were not rallying to his cause, yet he marched on Winterfell anyway. His faith in Mel led to his death.

          • I guess we have.

            Melissandre’s visions aren’t wrong. They never have been wrong. It’s her interpretations of them that are, sometimes.

            As for northern lords and wildlings not rallying, please… I seem to recall him having a large number of wildlings with him, plus the mountain clans, plus a portion of the Umbers, plus a portion of the Karstarks (which were there to betray him, but he caught them). Not to mention the deal he got with the Iron Bank.

        • Um, yes, he did murder his brother.

          1) Men do die in war.
          2) Renly’s death did occur during this war, and
          3) Renly’s death was the direct result of an assassination plot carried out with Stannis’ full consent.

          Not arguing any of your other points, just this one that seems fairly clear to me. : )

          • Murder is the wrong word. If Stannis murdered Renly then Robb murdered Rickard.

            As for Stannis’s consent, that is actually ambiguous.

      • Don’t compare killing your brother that stood agaisnt you in War, losing men in battle, kill a bastard he had never seen to burning his own loved daughter. It’s totally agaisnt his character

  • For me season 5 suffered because for the first time, I had read the books. Re-watching this year it got better in part because I was more distanced from the source material and taking the story as told in the show at face value. Sansa’s definitely got better, as people said, it makes sense now that she wasn’t ready for Ramsay. What stuck out more than anything in Dorne to me was poor casting for Obara. Good actress but not working for this part. At the very least I expected someone bigger, more naturally imposing and warrior-like. I felt like Ellaria also became more like a caricature, she was much better in season 4.
    Barristan was Queensguard and at the sign of an uprising, should have rushed to her side. I still feel he should have died defending his queen or leading a battle charge on her behalf, not in an alley fight. Just shouldn’t have been there. Stannis’s downfall still felt a bit rushed, and the lack of northern houses and Stark loyalists was weird, hopefully that will make more sense as we see season 6.

  • Having not got that far in the books yet I can say I found Season 5 ok, it was clearly setting everyone up to begin coming together whilst for others like the Dorne plot it was giving them screen time.

    I have found that the show is like the light version of the story and the books fill in the deeper details of what is happening, with only 10 hours each year to tell this story the TV version is always going to have to cut corners to make the story work but it has been great so far and I can’t wait for 10 days to pass here in the UK.

  • They should have casted actresses with actual accents for the sandsnakes rather than people trying to use an accent

  • I’ve never read that brutally honest comment from GRRM before. Awesome.lol I still think Season 5 is by the weakest, but the irony for me is that is also has some of my favorite scenes and developments on the show thus far. I enjoyed pretty much everything at the Wall. Seeing Jon and Stannis interact was a treat, as was with Mance. I loved their conversation in the cell. Jon taking Janos Slynts head? Oh yeah! And of course, Hardhome. Some absolutely gripping and terrifying images like the four lead White Walkers on their dead horses. It was also great to see Wun-Wun throw, stomp and rip apart the White Walkers. I think this is my favorite season for Kit Harrington so it’s a bummer that it will be forever linked to a so-so season.
    Despite the rise the Sparrow wasn’t fleshed out enough and felt too fast compared to the book, Jonathon Pryce is brilliant as the High Sparrow and I could watch him for hours. Overall I enjoyed the intrigue going on in Kingslanding – mainly due to the talent involved- but not as much as other seasons. Cersei’s Walk of Shame was another highlight of the season. I’ve only heard recently, on this very site at that, that some people think it went on too long. I don’t think so. I think it was sufficiently long and humiliating. It was brutal and the always wonderful Lena Headey brought it.
    Stannis’ downfall was abrupt and the reasons for it were absurd. Burning your only heir because of bad weather. Listen, if Stannis was going to burn his daughter I would think it would be for a very much better reason than for THIS.lol It’s not like burning daughter = winning the Iron Throne or something. It would have only allowed him to engage in a battle with the Boltons. A battle that is’t a foregone conclusion. Besides,wtf was that bullshit of having Stannis pour his heart out to Shireen recalling that touching story of how he would not listen to others about her greyscale, and wouldn’t give up on here only to BURN her later in the season. Emotional blackmail and gratuity.
    And of course Dorne…… nah, no reason to go down this well tread path.lol

  • but it’s hard to argue that people in general didn’t enjoy it overall—the continually rising ratings are proof enough of that.
    –People watch shows for different reasons. Not everything has to do with it being good or quality. There are shows I watch (ie. The Blacklist) just because I find it amusing and want to see what the character(s) will do next. It’s like stopping to watch a car crash. As for season 5, it was entertaining, but I did not like it as much as season 2 &4. The Dornish bit was a travesty. It’s as if they either did not want to spend the money or were afraid of adding more characters. If this was the case, all they should have done was introduce Prince Doran and leave the SS out of it.
    The part of Sansa was a let down. Not in so much because it happened, but because it was the 3rd time they added a gratuitous rape scene in the show. When it wasn’t necessary. As was the scene in the jail. It’s no wonder that the show gets tagged with the ‘tits and dragons’ line.

    • of course Im not gonna stop watching it, i want to see how it ends, see if it’s better next season. so obviously the ratings are always high