More than pretty much anything in the history of life itself, I can’t imagine this show needs an introduction. It’s based off of a series of novels by George R R Martin (the first of which was called “A Game of Thrones“) Basically, if you aren’t watching this show by now then there is no real point in starting. There is almost too much to recap, so I’ll boil it down to bare minimums: several noble Houses (the Starks, the Lannisters, the Baratheons, the Tyrells, the Martells, the Boltons and the Targaryens) are all, in one way or another, battling each other to gain the Iron Throne, and therefore rule over all of the lands of Westeros. To do this, there is lots of political backstabbing, literal backstabbing, sex, murder, kidnappings, murder, assassinations and murder. There is lots of murder.
To super duper briefly recap the first four season: the Lannisters hate the Starks, because the Starks were friends with the Baratheons. The Martells hate the Lannisters for some historical murders, and the Tyrells want to get into power by marrying into the Baratheons, and the sole surviving Targaryen is off on the other side of the world, using her dragons to try and reclaim the throne her family had stolen by the Baratheons (via murder). The Boltons are fresh off of marrying into the Starks, and want to use the Stark family friendship with the Baratheons to rule the North. It’s all very complicated.
But as I said, if you aren’t watching by now, season 5, you have missed some incredibly good television (and some admittedly pretty average television), and you absolutely MUST watch the previous seasons before starting this one.
+ Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), on the run after being framed for one murder but actually committing another few, was captured by Danaerys’ cast-out right-hand-man Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). Dinklage was once again one of the stand outs of the season, and his sarcastic wit came across sharper than ever, perhaps solely because of the relative lack of presence of his on-screen partners. His banter throughout the season with the spy master Varys (Conleth Hill) was particularly enjoyable
+ Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane). Oh sweet, poor, stupid, amazing Stannis. As one potential ruler with (arguably) the largest, actual claim, Stannis sure made things difficult for himself in ways that both book-readers and show-watchers alike would agree did him no favours and earned him no fans. Under the sultry advice of Melisandre (Carice van Houten), a powerful witch stirring up all sorts of black-magic troubles, Stannis was the most complicated, and I’d argue most compelling character, but that is not enough to save him from a poor resolution that may or may not have happened off-screen anyway
+ Far away from most of the others, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) and the wildlings led by Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) didn’t really do much until the last few episodes, but still managed to have the largest impact on the over-world of the series. Introductions of a new enemy (perhaps THE new enemy) meant our friends in the freezing North had the most battle action, which provided the spectacle saved for the final episodes of the season. A very unclear fate for some characters, as it is in the books, will prove to be the hot-topic among all fans until next season
+ Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady), her son, King Tommen Baratheon (Dean-Charles Chapman) were the target for the fans ire, it seemed. Even the joining of the Lannisters and the Tyrells as Tommen married Margery (Natalie Dormer) was not enough to get Cersei into many fan’s ‘good books’. Though the introduction of High Sparrow (a superb Jonathan Price) as an (arguably) less than perfect Religious leader was refreshing, the horrid things that Cersei endured for the latter half of the season were not quite enough to earn her sympathy. She’s a bitch, the Queen bitch, and she loves it. The return, of sorts, of a previous character in her final scene was enough to get my hype train rolling again.
– Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), with Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen), had a horrible run of luck ending with her taking often unnecessary abuse at the hands of the abusive Bolton son, Ramsay (Iwan Rheon). Although her finally reuniting with ‘brother’ Theon Greyjoy, now “Reek” (Alfie Allen) was welcome, neither Sansa nor Littlefinger gained any real development. Aside from the much publicized, and widely maligned rape-scene, the alterations of Sansa’s story in general was simply just poor
– Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) had her assassin training with Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), and it was very hit and miss, and was resolved very quickly with little real build up or payoff. This was something that deviated rather heavily from the plot of the books, but still managed to work its way back to the place the final book leaves off. Overall it simply took far too long for anything to happen, and the things that did happen were underwhelming, if not plain stupid
– Danaerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is a completely incompetent leader, and spent nearly the whole season cleaning up the messes she herself set into motion via her crappy leadership. I found her scenes to be frustrating rather than inspiring because she simply chose the most foolish option of any she was given, and refused to heed the advice of those far wiser to the workings of either battle, or running a city. She deserves everything she got, in my opinion
– Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his adventures with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) in the land of Dorne were most often out of place as the comedy duo, and their entire plot was a mess of bad acting (from their opponents), horrid battle choreography and a, frankly, bullshit scarce location to work with. Even a fantastic, but severely underutilised Alexander Siddig as Dornish prince Doran Martell was not enough to save a useless story arc, which was cut down to the bare minimum from the book’s plot
> This season was the first to differ from the novels in dramatic ways, and I think it showed. The plots that were changed were quite substantially less developed, and in some cases required severe alterations to established character personalities or traits. Whether the more controversial changes were given the blessing by George R R Martin remains to be seen.
> Putting this review through the spell checker was hell. But it did occur to me that Melisandre’s actress has the same last name as The Simpsons’ Milhouse.
Should you watch this show: It is with some irony I most recently wrote about Supernatural, saying that Season 5 was the best for that series, as I can honestly say that Season 5 was the least enjoyable, and least cohesive season of Game of Thrones so far. If you’ve been watching this far, then of course you should continue, but don’t hold your standards too high, for the twists and turns of the previous seasons will not be repeated, and the outcomes may not be quite as enjoyable.