The first time I watched season six of Game of Thrones, I enjoyed it, but my mind was also distracted by wondering when the array of spoilers I had heard over the years would come to fruition. Then, I promptly moved on to season seven, and my recollection of events started to blur when it came to writing my review.
However, I’ve now rewatched season six, and with events fresh in my mind, I’m ready to go! Like my season four review, this review will also drop one fairly major spoiler because once again, it happens at the start and you can’t really discuss the various heroes’ journey’s without acknowledging it.
RELEASED: April 24th 2016 – June 26th 2016
SHOWRUNNER: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
WRITTEN BY: David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Dave Hill & Bryan Cogman
DIRECTED BY: Jeremy Podeswa, Daniel Sackheim, Jack Bender, Mark Mylod & Miguel Sapochnik
MUSIC BY: Ramin Djawadi
STARRING: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Liam Cunningham, Carice van Houten, Natalie Dormer, Indira Varma, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Conleth Hill, Alfie Allen, Gwendoline Christie, Jonathan Pryce, Michiel Huisman, Michael McElhatton, Iwan Rheon, Iain Glen, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kristofer Hivju, Tom Wlaschiha, Dean-Charles Chapman, Isaac Hempstead Wright, John Bradley, Hannah Murray, Aidan Gillen, Rory McCann & Jerome Flynn
One of my coworkers has repeatedly told me she believes season six to be the best season of the show, due to the fact that while all the seasons have their highlights, season six maintains consistently high quality. Whether that is true or not we’ll explore now.
In season six, Game of Thrones finally reaches the point where it overtakes the story laid out in the books of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, crafting its own original story using Martin’s notes and some details from previous novels. Daenerys Targaryen‘s time in Essos comes to a violent end, as she finds herself facing off against both the Dothraki Hordes in full, as well the Masters of Yunkai and Astapor, in response to her volatile rule of Slavers Bay. In her absence from the city of Mereen, Tyrion Lannister and Varys struggle to rule in her stead, with enemies appearing on all sides. Elsewhere, Arya Stark returns to the House of Black and White, and is given a second chance to align with the ‘Faceless Men’.
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Cersei Lannister makes a power play to take out her enemies, and the Iron Islands are rocked as Balon Greyjoy‘s death leads to a struggle for the Salt Throne.
To the North, the remaining members of House Stark* reunite to face off against House Bolton for control of Winterfell, as a new ‘King in the North’ is crowned.
Up until now, my favourite season of Game of Thrones has been season three. In part, because it ended on a note that hadn’t been spoiled for me, and in part because, due to the nature of the source material, it was the end of a trilogy. Since then (and once before), I’ve often lamented the fact that a lot of the time, Game of Thrones seems more intent on setting up future stories than it does dealing with what’s already on the table. Thankfully, season six is much like season three, in that, although it’s not actually based on a book, it closes GoT‘s second trilogy in much the same way a book series would. And while there is obviously set up for season seven, season six takes its time to call back to earlier events in the show and give a lot of storylines a fitting resolution.
Daenerys’ time in Essos comes to a close, thus ending the stories about slavery and the Dothraki, and sees an interesting turn in Daenerys’ depiction to boot. The rivalry between the Starks and the Bolton’s comes to a head, and the character of Jon Snow (*yeah, Jon Snow returns. Everyone knew he would as soon as season six began, but yeah – that’s the spoiler I spoke of up top) is put through a fascinating gauntlet that completes his journey from the dour, naive man that he was to the noble hero that he was meant to be. Similarly, after suffering at the hands of the rather dull religious fanatics that plagued season five, Cersei and her rabble begin to fight back against their enemies, and the result enhances both sides of the conflict.
Because for all my dislike of the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant in season five, season six showcased a great performance from Jonathan Pryce (no surprises really, he’s a veteran actor) that manages to not only make him and his kin great villains, but also, remarkably, make you root for the otherwise vile Cersei.
This is all especially evident in the final two episodes of season six, ‘Battle of the Bastards’ and ‘The Winds of Winter’, which are without a doubt some of the strongest episodes of the show to date. This, I believe, is because they have character moments that, while they may not be as poignant as some earlier moments in the show, resonate on a different level. After five seasons of grief and misfortune, season six allows its various protagonists to finally win a few of their battles. Sure, there’s still a lot of violence, and a large portion of the cast gets culled, but all of that serves a greater purpose and provides a payoff to stories that have been building for years.
Not only that, but those episodes (and the rest of the show) really highlight how good the production behind this series is. Season six has some of the best cinematography seen so far, and it’s all amplified by Ramin Djawadi’s amazing score. I don’t really talk about the music in these reviews, which is frankly, criminal, because Djawadi’s work on the show has remained consistently strong and reaches a new level of greatness in season six.
All-in-all, I give it: