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Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Has Surprises That Will Take Your Breath Away

Game of Thrones Season 5 Review
HBO

Game of Thrones episodes are notoriously difficult to review on an individual basis, in that your average hour sticks with a certain set of characters, advancing only a few paces at a time. Season 4 certainly shook things up with multiple climactic episodes spread throughout the season. “Watchers on the Wall” fulfilled the year’s quota of expensive battle requirements, but lacked the serious stakes of past classics like “Blackwater.” Through the first four hours of Season 5, it’s safe to say that Game of Thrones has returned to a more methodical pace this time around, and that’s far from bad news.

As fans have heard about ad nauseam, Season 5 diverges further from the Game of Thrones novels than any previous year. I’ve only ever read the summaries for work purposes rather than the actual books, but just about everything you’ve heard about Season 5 is true: Still-living book characters die horrible deaths, distant characters cross paths much sooner than expected (if they were meant to at all), and certain others have already advanced beyond George R.R Martin’s original conception.

"All the usual trimmings, but the bigger swings and surprises will really take your breath away this time out."Still, there’s plenty of excitement for book and television fans alike, as the series finally seems to step out from Martin’s shadow and starts pacing itself more like TV. Apart from all the usual power games, this year’s early episodes strongly focus on the limits of control, particularly among the women, as Daenerys finds both Mereen and her dragons paying less and less mind to her merciful “Mhysa” image. Cersei rises in power after her father’s death, consolidating the small council and maneuvering on King Tommen’s behalf at every turn, yet still finds herself troubled by an inability to outshine Queen Margaery. Meanwhile, a new power rises in King’s Landing to threaten them all, and with it unfortunate but necessarily executions. The spirit of Ned Stark feels more and more present with each swing of the sword.

The Stark girls also have their most impressively independent outings this season, with Arya finally arriving in Braavos, and the so-called Dark Sansa showboating her new look all across the North. Of course, Game of Thrones is still Game of Thrones, as Arya’s expectations of a new life aren’t quite so simple as she’d hoped, and Sansa finds herself burdened with even more men’s visions for her future, albeit in a way she can finally embrace and draw power from. Oh, and did we mention the deviations from Martin’s books? Might want to look out for those…

Game of Thrones Season 5 Review Sansa

Powerful women also carry us as far as Dorne, including Ellaria Sand and the infamous Sand Snakes we’ve heard so much about, both of which seamlessly ingrain the region into the show’s larger world. The brisk pace of all four hours only allows so much time spent in the newest exotic locale; that so much of its culture comes across in so little time speaks how good Game of Thrones has gotten at introducing and detailing histories.

So far, Season 5 of Game of Thrones boasts some of the series’ best surprises, particularly as storylines converge and start to wrap inward toward a seventh season ending. Just what kind of surprises, you ask? Why, a wayward Arrow star! Someone you thought dead still (literally) kicking! Kidnappings! Butts! Plus all the usual trimmings; the gravy on top seems to be that the women have all the power this year, cementing Game of Thrones at its most dazzling and important peak yet. The season’s bigger shocks will really take your breath away.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • As already revealed, we’ll dip back into the past a bit, and see the brief return of a character killed in Season 4.
  • Stannis and Melisandre’s arrival at the Night’s Watch injects some much-needed excitement into both storylines, and gives the former his finest, most humanizing moment in the entire series.
  • Rampant gratuitous nudity returns! As expected, it is not well-proportioned between genders.

Game of Thrones Season 5 will debut its HBO premiere “The Wars to Come” on Sunday, April 12 at 9:00 P.M. EST.

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