Game of Thrones: Season 6 created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO, Television 360, Grok!)
Starring Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Iain Glen, John Bradley, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Alfie Allen, Aidan Gillen, Conleth Hill, Jerome Flynn, Gwendoline Christie, Ian McElhinney, Stephen Dillane, Natalie Dormer, Carice van Houten, and Iwan Rheon.
*SPOILER ALERT FOR PREVIOUS SEASONS*
Lapping the Source Material
We live in spectacular times. For the first time in the history of storytelling, an adapted story laps its source.
When Game of Thrones began its reign at HBO, George R.R. Martin provided his showrunners with years of material. His Song of Ice and Fire began in the mid-nineties and the successive books, tomes within their own rights, provide ample opportunity for world building and character development.
Even as the show gained more popularity, the television series focused so closely on its stories and characters that the showrunners easily split books into multiple seasons.
And yet, with over 5 years for Martin to release the final two installments of his epic, devoted fans faced an uncertain future last year when the final chapter of Martin’s latest book, A Dance with Dragons closes the end of Season 5.
Avast! There’s no more material!
But surely, Martin would release Book 6, The Winds of Winter before the series resumes in Spring 2016?
Alas, careful readers of my review so far will notice that such a scenario did not occur. A January 1 deadline for submitting the final draft came and went. So now, Season 6 proceeds off script. And honestly, the results are gratifying and horrifying in equal measure.
This Looks Like Television
At a high level, Season 6 feels more like television. After a handful of season grinding to a snail’s pace (much like he books), the showrunners now feel the freedom to move the chess pieces around for the end game. This narrative strategy provides deeply satisfying moments and reunions fans have been waiting years to see.
Some may find this narrative sprint unnerving, especially since Game of Thrones created its reputation on subverting the typical narrative themes.
Such a complaint has merit, Game of Thrones feels far more fan-fiction-ish this year. Anyone orbiting around popular fan theories about Martin’s end game encountered narrative threads directed toward them. To a certain extent, this process is unavoidable; pointing a story toward resolution represents a critical pivot in this process.
In fact, I would suggest at this point the subversion of expectations early on has set the story up for a satisfying conclusion, even if thousands of theorists have predicted every possible ending. To me, that’s ok.
You Get an End Game and You Get an End Game and You Get an End Game
So in Season 6, we find Dany consolidating her power ready to set off to Westeros. We see Jon (Surprise!!! Surely you didn’t think he was dead dead, right?) organizing the north preparing not only to retake the Stark home, but also looking toward the threat beyond the wall. The typical machinations of King’s Landing continue but it’s typicality bolsters the eventual turn when north and south meet when we face the end game.
Ultimately, Game of Thrones succeeds without its roadmap. Going off course has allowed the showrunners to focus the show and provide the needed elements of television storytelling to land this epic narrative. I hope and expect that Martin will take a different path and I believe his journey will be just as fulfilling.