Monday, June 15, 2015

A Reflection on Game of Thrones Season 5

Another year, another season of Game of Thrones gone. And this season's finale dealt us a mix of justice, enjoyment and great, salty barrels of tears.

Though I'd hesitate to call the finale shocking (in fact most of the deaths were well foreshadowed throughout the season), it was emotional none the less.

Of course the internet responded in typical overreacting fashion, my favorite of which include the people vowing to quit Game of Thrones (no you're not. You said that after the Red Wedding too. You're a liar), or the people lamenting that there are 'no good characters left on game of thrones' (Yeah, except for Tyrion, Dany, Arya, Sansa, Brienne, Podrick, Bran, Jaime, Sam... Really guys there are still fifty characters on this show and you know it). But, oh well, typical internet.

*Spoilers past this Point*

However this season of Game of Thrones was probably the most controversial yet as the creators had to stray away from the books and invent some new material. For the most part, they did a decent job keeping the characters engaged and maintaining the huge plot (something that the kind of meandering fourth and fifth book failed to do). We got a lot of awesome moments like Dany and Tyrion finally meeting and the white walkers making a big attack with their armies. Stuff like this hasn't happened yet in the books and there it was on the screen.

Of course there were weak points too. The Dorne arc was a little uneven with some of the worst writing of the season. Not terrible, but certainly mediocre, which is a shame. The ending of that arc of course gave it some consequences but they needed to come sooner. A lot of the middle section of the show was a bit meandering and could have been tightened up a bit. But it was no more inconsistent than season 4 honestly.

The deaths were big and controversial as well. Shireen's burning alive ripped out all of our hearts, and we were all so happy to see Stannis go in only the next episode (and by my girl Brienne no less!). Myrcella died in her father's arms right after a sweet moment (And Game of Thrones doesn't allow sweet moments for long). Really, the last few episodes felt like making up for lost time with deaths. There was one more big death too... what was it?

Ah yes. Not going to say I didn't see it coming, but I think there is still hope for resurrection, despite what interviews say. (Seriously if he's still alive, do you really think they're going to tell you?) If he doesn't come back, I'll be more angry for pointless scenes suggesting that he will in the books and show. I guess the blow is softened because I was bored by his character arc until this season so... *shrug*. Rest in peace Jon. For now.

Its also fair to say after this season that while Cersei is still a terrible human being, Lena Heady is amazing and her performance during the walk of shame was so very powerful. Really. Give her an award. Give her all of the awards. 

However, without a doubt, the most controversial of the changes was the additions to Sansa's story. I.E, her marriage to Ramsay Bolton. This was the kind of thing that made many people rage quit the show for real because Sansa, a character dear to all of our hearts, was raped on her wedding night to one of the more terrifying characters on the show.

I'm not saying that this event wasn't awful, because it was. I guess the reaction did surprise me a little bit. For a couple of reasons.

1. The scene was not at all gratuitous

They could have indulged this scene for its nudity. They've done that in the past with sex AND rape scenes. The scene at Craster's house in season 4 had gratuitous, pointless rape that wasn't in the books just to show that the rebel night's watch people were bad. Nothing was shown in this scene. It cut away, and kept it short. Unlike the similar scene in the book. And speaking of which...

2. The scene did, technically happen in the book

In fact it happened worse. Just not to Sansa Stark. In the book the victim was another character called Jeyne Poole was, an old friend of Sansa's cut from the show. The scenes were gratuitous and horrifying and more numerous in the show. And it kind of pisses me off just a little bit that people were okay with this happening to Jeyne but not to their favorite Sansa. The act should be terrible no matter the victim. And some people justify it by saying 'Sansa has been through so much already' and if you researched a bit you'd know Jeyne went through a lot as well. We just don't see as much of it. The show makers didn't make this one up guys. Blame George.

3. There are many more scenes that seem more 'quit worthy'

Remember when I raged last year at Game of Thrones at a rape scene in the show that did not happen in the books? In fact the rape scene went completely against one of the character's arcs and was over all unnecessary? That right there was the scene I thought would make people quit. In fact it was more gratuitous, longer and far more out of character. It made no sense in the context of the story. It didn't need to be there.

There was also the scene in season 2 where Joffery tortures to whores. Or the scene in season 4 that I mentioned earlier at Crasters Keep. Both were longer and unnecessarily terrible.

Why didn't people quit then? Well maybe because Cersei isn't as loved as Sansa, or we didn't know the other victims. Which is kind of sick and twisted. Why should rape be worse or more offensive depending on which character it happens to?

Story wise, it made sense to me why they put Sansa back at Winterfell. They needed new story material for her and we needed a POV character we cared about at the center of the Boltons. If not Sansa, they would have introduced another nameless girl and it would been just as terrible, in my opinion. But it moved the story along.

I get people who don't watch the show because of rape or gratuitous sex and violence. I get people who don't want to keep watching because the show seems like one terrible event after another. Its not everyone's bag. Not everyone is going to enjoy Game of Thrones. Not everyone should. Those people aren't wrong for not watching.

But if you've made it to season 5 of this show without getting offended by all of those things, I kind of wonder what made you decide to care now?

I'm not going to be one of those people who argues, 'well its historically accurate so we have to show the rape' or, 'well we have to see the rape to show that Ramsay is a bad guy' (cause uh... we got the gist of that). I won't even defend the whole 'we have to see the rape to feel the character's struggle' argument, because I think we've seen from Mad Max, that stuff can be implied. I will however defend the show for taking a situation from the books and in many ways improving how it was handled.

That's just my two cents on the matter. At this point I'm kind of bound to keep watching the show, since there are probably only two more seasons. I have to see how it ends. There is a lot of work to be done in our media in how we handle rape on screen and Game of Thrones has faltered plenty of times. But those failing do not permanently mar what is, in most other respects, an excellent show.

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