This is the final post in a series of articles, discussing the nature of the fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Should you have come to this page without reading the previous posts, I was discussing how most of the major characters in season 5 had season 2 journeys that were similar, or at least useful for compare/contrast exercises. In my opinion, season 5 was a mirror on season 2.
Let’s assume that previously I made my point about the character storylines, and now lets talk about if it means anything.
Is it meaningful that season 5 had a dark mirror aspect going on with respect to season 2?
Season 2 had to do the heavy lifting in kicking off major action after the groundwork that was laid in season 1, which kind of eased viewers into the story and setting of the show. Since season 1 had to do the world building for us, to introduce characters (and then kill them off,) the tone of season 2 was to build from that and focus the story, give us a sense of what the series was going to be about.
It appeared to be all about the Iron Throne.
Seasons 3 and 4 brought changes, but didn’t really change the core element driving the show; the dynastic struggle for King’s Landing still seemed paramount.
But season 5 put a fresh spin on things. With the appearance of the army of the dead, the dramatic stakes were elevated beyond the concerns of who might be king or queen. With Stannis’ death, the War of the Five Kings had nearly ended, albeit with Balon Greyjoy somehow ending up the last king standing (of the original five.)
Season 5’s job was to set things up for the endgame, a task similar to season 2’s job but at the other end of the narrative spectrum. So it seems to resonate appropriately that characters were moving through familiar territory storywise, but were either making different decisions (like Sansa not willing to remain a captive as she had been before) or being on the other side of a situation (like Jon and Arya) or having their experiences mirror the past in reverse (like Tyrion and Dany.)
Or in Stannis’ case, doomed to make the same R’hllor-damned mistakes that they’d made the first time that they’d done this dance.
If we think of a story like a forest, you start out at the edge, you make your way inside, then deep inside, and eventually you’re walking away from the center and towards the opposite edge. (Unless the bears eat you.)
A forest usually is very different in the center than at the exterior; it’s a different eco-system, the trees are older, etc. In our current stage in the forest that is Game of Thrones, we’d previously hiked through the center and had just walked through an area that was unfamiliar but still similar to the woodlands that we’d traveled through seasons earlier.
Season 2 was our stroll before hitting the deep woods. Season 5 was the trees we were encountering on the way out. We’re just not close enough to the boundary to see the grasslands.
If season 5 has reset the goal, we can hope that season 6 will classically marshal the obstacles for our heroes, and season 7 will provide the satisfying resolution as they win the day through hard work and honorable efforts.
Of course, this is Game of Thrones. Can we count on heroes anymore?
Speaking of counting, sharp-eyed readers (or just readers, really) might have noticed that I mentioned season 7 providing a satisfying resolution. I wrote this piece some time ago, when the show-runners were still insisting that they’d be done in seven seasons.
Recently, HBO announced that there would be at least 8 seasons, which makes sense. We can assume books 6 and 7 will be huge, and even if book 7 isn’t written yet – unless GRRM has been sitting on it for some time, laughing at our desperate pleas for him to write like the wind – the show-runners should have an idea of the amount of material to get through for the concluding season.
So we might have some more of this intermediate forest of the story to travel through before we get into the end game. Maybe season 6 will continue to mirror past seasons.
If season 6 mirrors the brutal third season and its Red Wedding, just what will that mirror image be?
Hopefully, something long-awaited by patient book readers. (No spoilers, people. No spoilers!)
Then again, with another season, they might change the stakes of the game again, and plunge us back into the depths of the forest. It’s anyone’s guess.
Anyone who read this huge article, spread out over multiple posts, has my thanks. Now that Game of Thrones has many seasons under its sword-belt, I like to look at thosee seasons, and talk about what might have been the major aspect of that annual bloc of episodes. I’ve heard people complain that season 5 was the weakest of the seasons so far, and I understand what they’re saying, but I think when examined alongside season 2, its strength as a narrative lever can be argued.
I’m very excited about where season 6 is going to head to, based on what’s been set up in season 5.
But I admit, I say that every season.
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)
Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.)
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text.
If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2015 Some Rights Reserved