Review by Lauryn Angel
Readers of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire know that with season five, Game of Thrones entered into some dicey territory, as it navigated the storylines of the fourth and fifth books simultaneously. A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons share a timeline, so covering two books in one season isn’t the problem – the problem is that the two books, albeit long, are not the best of the series. The showrunners handle this by doing what every fan of both mediums knew they would have to do – they depart from the source material.
Many of the pivotal moments from the books are in place – including the apparent demise of Jon Snow. Some of the events are there, but in an altered form, such as Ramsay Bolton’s treatment of his wife – the actual Sansa Stark instead of decoy Jeyne Poole. And then there is the fate of Shireen Baratheon, and the ensuing fallout, which plays out completely differently. Perhaps the best change, though, is the addition of several battles that are epic in scale – I’m thinking particularly of “Hardhome” here, a battle which is only depicted through raven messages in the book.
For the most part, these changes improved the story by streamlining the number of characters involved and giving fan-favorite characters more to do. That’s not to say that the season is without controversy. I know several people who have stopped watching the show because of events that transpired. At its core, the show holds true to the idea that bad things happen to the best of people, and after five years of watching characters we love meet brutal fates, it’s surprising the show is still able to break our hearts and enrage us. This is due to the deft characterization that makes us care about the characters, even though we know better than to form attachments. As this season proved – all men must die.
Although the season has it’s high points, it’s by no means perfect. Many of the episodes felt sluggishly paced, and while the big moments really delivered, the path to those moments was a bit rocky. As often as we are told that “the night is dark and full of terrors,” sometimes the night just felt really, really long.
The season five blu-ray set includes several behind-the-scenes featurettes — mostly focused on the season’s new location, Dorne — as well as a season four recap and an introduction to “New Characters and Locations.” For the more blood-thirsty fans, there are featurettes about “The Weapons of Dorne” and “Poisons of Westeros” – perhaps for those budding Cersei Lannisters and Ellaria Sands in the fandom.
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