The season six finale of Game of Thrones was one of the strongest hours in television history, a relentless episode that burnt up loose ends and set the stage for the show’s future. It capped off an excellent season and spent as little time as possible in Dorne. I’m glad I watched it.
SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES, ETC.
Before this season started, longtime fans of George RR Martin’s book series were stuck with an unpleasant choice: should they keep watching the show, which was about to outpace the books and tell parts of the Westeros story that Martin had yet to reveal, or should they plug their ears and spend the year trying to avoid spoilers, a near-impossible proposition if you use Twitter? Season five had kinda sucked thanks to a number of meandering plots in Dorne, Meereen, and Arya’s assassin summer camp, so for book readers who wanted to experience Martin’s story in the best way possible, it was a shitty dilemma.
Fortunately, season six of Game of Thrones turned out to be the show’s best to date. Unshackled by source material, HBO showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss killed some of Game of Thrones’ most convoluted threads and consolidated others, putting together ten episodes of killer TV. Swiftly and surely, they chopped off Dorne’s head, brought Jon back to life, and set gears moving for scenes fans had wanted to see for many years. They mutilated Ramsay Bolton, baked some Freys, and set the Sparrows on fire. They even got Dany to Westeros—and they didn’t need five years to untangle a Meereenese knot first.
In other words, it felt like television. There were resolutions. Proper narrative arcs. Rather than barrage us with gut-punches and dissonance the way Martin’s books so often do, Game of Thrones aimed for fan satisfaction, and it worked. Only R’hllor knows how many of these plot points will look the same in The Winds of Winter—and how much Martin is changing because of the show—but this season was so captivating, it’s hard to complain. Despite some predictability, or maybe even because of some predictability, season six of Game of Thrones made for killer TV.
There were just so many memorable moments. Jon gasping back to life. Arya grinning as she murders Walder Frey. Hodor’s time-warped last stand. The Great Sept of Baelor exploding in a pillar of green flame. Tyrion finally finding purpose. Jaime being snarky. Bran getting ripped to pieces by the Night King as karma for fucking up Hodor’s entire life. (I may have made that last one up.)
Granted, it would have been nice to read the the revelation of Jon’s real parents before watching it on TV. The show robbing George RR Martin from getting to reveal one of his own biggest mysteries was the type of devious twist we might see on... well, you know. Longtime book readers have come to realize something, though. Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire now occupy entirely different spaces. The former is satisfying television. The latter is—and hopefully will continue to be—rich, complicated, nuanced story-telling that will subvert our expectations in interesting ways no matter how it’s done on TV.
Now, for those of us who have been reading the books for two decades, there’s nothing left to do but wait for George RR Martin to update his LiveJournal.