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

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

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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…

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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