Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Television, Post Modern
Though I normally don’t review TV shows or movies on this site, in the great desert between the release of volumes of the Song of Ice and Fire, I feel there is a space to examine the latest season of HBO’s televised version of the saga. This seemed appropriate because it was, of course, the first season of the series to be written and air without a pre-existing book to guide it. Now, having time to have digest it, I feel that this somewhat shows.
In general, I have been a fan of the TV adaptations of George RR Martin’s epic tale. While the TV show has cut out a great deal of the beautiful and daring detail and tapestry of the novels, it has also cut down on some of the self-indulgent meandering the books seem to get into. Many viewers of the show have complained that season five seemed to waffle without much forward progress in the story lines. Woe to those who feel so, for one of the great achievements of the TV series is that they managed to compile two enormous meandering volumes (Books Four and Five) whose total length exceeded the entirety of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit (and indeed almost the Silimarillion as well) into ten episodes without seeming to lose any salient points. So it was that I was eager to see how they did with Season Six, their first ‘solo outing’ as it were (though they did have the outlines of Martin himself).
In some senses the show managed to exceed my expectations. There were some epic battle scenes, and we saw the brilliant playing out of aspects of the books that have long lay in the background. They worked in historic reveals in a manner that played very well on the screen, and they brought some real emotional fruition to character arcs we have been reading and watching for a long time. Oh, did I mention there were some epic battle scenes? No really, they played out very well. Not just from their excitement, but from the emotional payoffs for viewers/readers who have followed characters through five or six grim season/volume installments of the saga.
Yet, having said all this, and while I did enjoy Season 6, I cannot say I was as enthralled with this season as I expected to be. Now, this could be due to the fact that for the first time I actually watched the show on a weekly basis as it was released. Previously, I had binge watched whole seasons, but as that I wanted to avoid spoilers, my wife and I chose to actually watch it ‘real-time,’ and weeklong gaps always reduce the enthrallment. Yet I feel it was more than that.
It was good, no mistake about it, and we enjoyed it, but – but….
I cannot help but feel it lacked a little heart. It just didn’t have quite the magic of previous seasons. Whether this was due to the gaps in presentation or the distance between Martin’s vision and this work, I cannot say, but I cannot help but wonder what the effect will be on the last installment of the series. Will the conclusion meet, exceed or fail short of the epic journey that has taken us there? Who knows? What I do know is that even if it does fulfill my love of the series, I will read the books to see how the author himself manages to complete the trip he began us on so long ago. His books, for all the delays between volumes and the endless and self-indulgent meanderings of the last two volumes, has heart. There is a soul bound into Martin’s prose and vision that captures the imagination. No matter how well or terribly HBO manages to end the series, I suspect that Martin’s final chapters will exceed that.
 Well, ok there is one battle towards the end of the season that got a bit silly in its portrayal of the metaphor ‘mountains of the dead’ but beyond that… pretty good stuff.
 I would like to remind you that, for those of us who have been reading the books, we’re talking twenty years. Over half of that time has been spent waiting on two books. Now, this is something I have a new appreciation of, as that there is a growing gap in publication between my own works, but it does seem a long wait to have between cliff hanger endings.