June 27, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Game of Thrones”


This was the first season of GAME OF THRONES A.N. (Ahead of the Novels), and we can’t know at this point how much series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were informed by what they know about the work novelist George R. R. Martin hasn’t yet published.  But Martin will be hard-pressed to come up with a climax more satisfying than tonight’s Season 6 extravaganza, not just one of the best hours (well, 69 minutes) anywhere on TV this year, but more thrilling than just about anything in movie theaters as well.

The first half-hour was devoted entirely to Cersei’s (Lena Headey) plan to defeat the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and the rest of his religious fanatics once and for all.  Even though the idea that Cersei would make use of the explosives long hidden under King’s Landing had been widely circulated, the sequences leading up to the big bang were so brilliantly written (by Benioff and Weiss) and directed (by Miguel Sapochnik, who also shot last week’s epic “Battle of the Bastards”) that it had all the suspense one could wish.  Cersei had it all under control, but there was a kicker–she hadn’t anticipated that her son King Tommen, seeing the devastation his mother had wrought, would plunge out a palace window, a death that echoed the crippling attack on Bran Stark in the series pilot.  And then that, too, had a kicker, as Cersei herself took the Iron Throne in her son’s place.

She’ll soon have competition.  Although Game of Thrones has foolishly been accused of misogyny over the years (its brutality extends over genders), it’s the women who are rising to the fore.  Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) finally has a fleet to go with her dragons, and the season ended with her mighty force on its way to Westeros.  Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) may not be King of the North, a title awarded to her… as it turns out, not so much half-brother as cousin, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), as Benioff and Weiss all but confirmed (one whispered sentence away) the biggest fan theory of all, that Jon is the son born of Rhaegar Targaryen’s rape of Lyanna Stark, Sansa’s aunt, which makes him a contender for the throne.  But Sansa, who can have an alliance with King of the Vale Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) for the asking, isn’t to be trifled with.  Nor is her sister Arya (Maisie Williams), who took the express boat from Braavos to slit Walder Frey’s throat, but not before feeding him a meat pie made from his murdered sons.  And then there’s Dorne, where Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) has now joined forces with Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) and her dangerous daughters.  The men are mostly marginalized, either supportive of their ladies, like newly-appointed Hand of the Queen Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), or discarded, like Dany’s lover Daario (Michiel Huisman).

Although we were solemnly informed that “Winter is here,” there was little sign of the Dead in the finale, aside from a quick visit to Bran and his semi-dead uncle Benjen.  What with CG dragons, digital fleets and giant battles, HBO had to save money somewhere.  Nevertheless, Game has a size and sweep the likes of which television has never seen before, matched with phenomenally skilled writing and extraordinary performances from the huge cast.  Even when the series seems to be biding its time (we probably had more of Arya’s adventures with actors and assassins this season than we needed), it’s never less than engrossing, and usually just minutes away from something remarkable.  Benioff and Weiss have a touch that can encompass both spectacle and piercing character moments, perhaps nowhere more this season than in the sequence that both ended the life of Hodor (Kristian Naim) and explained that life’s path and meaning.

To HBO’s sorrow, Game of Thrones is nearing its end, with Benioff and Weiss making it clear that they only intend two more seasons–the number of episodes, apparently still being negotiated, has yet to be announced.  (Although no one will be surprised if a spin-off is instantly put into development, considering how large and fertile Martin’s universe is.)  Much can go wrong as a series approaches its finale, as fans of Lost can testify.  But so far, Game seems to be in the hands of grandmasters who know exactly how to reach their endgame.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."