Game Of Thrones Season Five Recap: Great Or Rubbish?

Game Of Thrones Season Five Recap: Great Or Rubbish?

The fifth season of Game Of Thrones ended last week, which means another long, cold year of intolerable waiting. For the first time, even book readers are mostly in the dark, with the show all but catching up to the source material published thus far. To round out our weekly recaps, we got together to discuss the high-points and low-points of season five. Was it a successful season overall or has the show jumped the kraken? Here are our two cents…

Chris Jager: So, Game Of Thrones Season 6, eh? The show really seemed to divide the audience this year, with the Twitterverse alternating between “too boring” and “too controversial”. What was your take?

Campbell Simpson: Look, I really think that GoT S5 played viewers really hot and cold. It was really slow to start off, got pretty damn good for the last couple of episodes, but for the most part it felt like we were just waiting for things to happen.

If you’ve read the books, I don’t think you’d find the show especially controversial — far worse things happen in the fifth book — but at the same time, even readers had some surprises in store for them throughout the last 10 weeks.

I think I sided with the “too boring” folks for the most part, but episode 9 and 10 really stood out — both for the storyline and the production itself — and salvaged the whole thing somewhat. So, mostly boring with a side of “whoa, that was cool.”

How do you think the season went? And what do you think about the ways in which the show departed from the books? (Also, you said Season 6, way to jump the gun there, bud.)

Chris Jager: Goddamn it, I just got back from five days of E3 insanity with a side of crippling jet lag – cut me some slack.

Okay, so season FIVE. I think it was a slow burn by necessity. The showrunners spent most of the season lining up all the pieces on the map so that key characters had an excuse to meet without it seeming rushed or implausible. The books suffered from the same problem at this particular juncture. (Die-hard book readers will know this as the “Meereenese knot”; an infamous chronology snafu that delayed the publication of A Dance With Dragons by several years.)

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the court intrigue and travelogue stuff, so I didn’t mind that nothing “important” was happening. For instance, I could’ have spent an entire episode with Bronn and Jaime gallivanting around the Dornish countryside, just chilling and sharing backstory. They made a good double act when the plot wasn’t getting in the way.

Game Of Thrones Season Five Recap: Great Or Rubbish?

As for the book changes, the series has morphed into a very loose adaptation which I’m absolutely fine with. It would be infinitely worse if D&D were working off detailed transcripts hand-delivered by George R R Martin — the future books would then be completely spoiled. At least we readers will still have a few mysteries to look forward to (assuming Martin ever finishes writing them, that is.)

You mentioned that you thought this season wasn’t particularly controversial. Really? I’d argue that some of the choices made by the show — particularly Sansa’s pervy fan-fiction nuptials — were gratuitous in the worst of ways.

The fact that something worse happens to a minor character in the books is a pretty weak justification. This was a MAJOR character who is now a rape victim and relentlessly abused spouse. What was the point of it all? They could have come up with plenty of reasons to delay the wedding – I feel this would have also heightened the tension with the threat of Ramsay always lurking over her head.

While we’re on the subject of book changes, what did you think about the shock characters deaths? Barristan Selmy, Mance Rayder, the remaining Baratheon clan (including Stannis), Myrcella Lannister, Maryn Trant and presumably Jorah Mormont are now doomed, despite being alive in the books. Personally, I didn’t give a stuff about anyone except poor, sweet Shireen Baratheon. Her screams made my blood run cold.

Game Of Thrones Season Five Recap: Great Or Rubbish?

Campbell Simpson: I have a problem with this slow burn thing, to be honest. It very much telegraphed the moves the show was going to make — Stannis is stuck in snow, he’s burned a royal before, who will he burn next? — and every viewer had at least a full week to think about what was going to happen next. It took away from the immediacy and dread of it all a little.

I think I’m going to have to accept the fact that the show and the book are completely different now. I don’t like the direction that the show has taken, actually — I think in simplifying some of the ridiculous amounts of storylines, the writers have really dumbed down a few of them and created some plotholes and unnecessary moral quandaries. That whole Sansa thing, for example — completely unnecessary, enough to drive viewers away from the show, and in the end irrelevant because we already knew Ramsay was gross and evil. That’s what gets me the most — it didn’t really help and it just distracted.

While we’re talking about distractions, what about Dorne? Most completely useless and tangential subplot ever. The Sand Snakes were a bit one-dimensional, we didn’t really see any character development from Jamie and it ended with a death that sits completely at odds with the attitude that Prince Oberyn tried to champion — “we don’t hurt little girls in Dorne” — caused by his lover Ellaria Sand. It’s all just a little bit nonsensical if you think about it. (By the way, I still think that Bronn will be the one that ends up sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the series, to be honest. But we’ll get back to that in a couple of years.)

Game Of Thrones Season Five Recap: Great Or Rubbish?

The shock deaths were the best part, but that’s not saying much. I was more annoyed at Barristan’s death, because he’s one of my favourite characters in the book and is supposed to be one of the best fighters in the entire world despite his advanced age. Why should a bunch of pricks in gold masks be able to take him down? I would’ve chosen Grey Worm to die for sure, but he’s around for some tiresome romantic subplot. I don’t think Jorah is dead, TBH, he’ll be back — the writers wouldn’t lose the chance to rekindle that Daenerys flame and create some faux-love triangle.

I know I’m being a bit of a downer on the show, but I want to make it clear I thought the fifth book was pretty boring too. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Chris Jager: Yeah, in regards to Jorah I was referring to the whole grayscale thing. He’s obviously going to cark it at some point or why waste so much time bigging up how fatal the disease is? The only question is who he takes with him — the careless jerk has made skin-to-skin contact with Daenerys and Tyrion since knowingly becoming a carrier.

I agree with you about the Dornish subplot — it was mostly pointless and easily the weakest part of the season. Doubtlessly the truncating and wholesale removal of book characters contributed to this. Also, Alexander Siddig wasn’t given nearly enough to do. He didn’t even get his big “fire and blood” moment from the books.

Game Of Thrones Season Five Recap: Great Or Rubbish?

Perhaps the show would have been better off focusing on what’s going in in the Iron Islands? I would have happily given up all three Sand Snakes for more of Yara/Asha. I’m guessing the showrunners didn’t want another dreary, damp location — if nothing else, at least Dorne provided some visual variety. Maybe its importance will come into focus next season but as of right now, none of the people in Dorne are likable or compelling. (Especially compared to Prince Oberyn.)

In fact, I think the new characters are a chief reason why many viewers were bored this year — the introduction of previously unknown players meant there was far less screen time for fan favourites. Instead of spending lots of time with Arya and Tyrion we kept returning to the bloody Sand Snakes, the High Sparrow and Dany’s boring slaver fiance. Most fans didn’t particularly care about this stuff.

Campbell Simpson: I think the Iron Islands would have been a thousand times more interesting than Dorne, actually. To be honest, when a couple of seasons ago we had Stannis versus Renly versus Robb versus Joffrey versus Balon Greyjoy, and basically all those guys have eventually been killed off, it’s really funny that Balon kinda won — just by being off-screen and being too boring a storyline to follow.

Game Of Thrones Season Five Recap: Great Or Rubbish?

​ There were a lot of characters that didn’t get enough screen time. Hey, does anyone remember Bran? That kid will have grown up so much in the last season that no-one will recognise him when/if he ever comes back into the show. Oh, and there’s that other Stark kid, still sitting in a boat somewhere with the wildling Osha. And there’s Gendry. Still rowing. Eh, maybe the next season will focus on these characters a bit more (in the same way that book four and five did).

So, I guess in summary, this season was one of the weaker ones — but that’s to be expected when you’re building up to what hopefully should be an amazing sixth series full of blood and guts and White Walkers.

Chris Jager: Well, it wasn’t the most action-packed season but it was probably the best looking. And when those big moments came, they delivered in spades: the Hardhome sequence wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster and the realisation of the fighting pit was equally spectacular. Despite the occasional wonky shot, Daenery’s dragons were also pretty impressive.

I think I was less disappointed with this season than you and many others seem to be. Sure, it was a little uneven in places and the “Red Wedding” moments felt cynically concocted, but overall it ticked the important boxes: there were a bunch of sword fights, lashings of court intrigue, dark magic bubbling away at the fringes and plenty of gratuitous naughty bits. What more does a GoT fan need?

Game Of Thrones Season Five Recap: Great Or Rubbish?

It will be fascinating to see where the show goes next year: it will be entirely uncharted waters for book and show fans alike. Here’s my hot take — Jon’s going to get battle-rezzed by Melisande. He will then join up with his aunt Danny (it is known) and take on the Others. Possibly as a talking wolf.

Campbell Simpson: I know I’m being cynical but my reaction was just “wow, there went 95 per cent of the series’ CGI budget” for the dragons and Hardhome sequences. Hardhome was pretty impressive in an emotional sense, to be fair — when you saw all the wights rise up at the command of the White Walker, that was a good feeling, and that I think more than anything else is what is making me excited for Season 6.

I think Jon getting rezzed by Melisandre is almost a certainty, moreso in the show than in the books — her arrival at the Wall a mere scene or two before his gutting seemed like a massive foreshadowing, considering what Thoros of Myr did for Beric (wow, do you remember that? Seems like centuries ago.) That’ll be an interesting storyline, at least, and I really hope we find out what Bran is doing up in the north. I’d also love some more northern intrigue, if we can wrangle it — there are some great characters from the book that need on-screen introduction.

Game Of Thrones Season Five Recap: Great Or Rubbish?

Season 6 of Game of Thrones has a huge amount of potential, but for me I think it’ll be make or break; I might just give up on the show altogether if it doesn’t live up to my expectations. I think I’m cautiously optimistic.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Game Of Thrones Season Five Recap: Great Or Rubbish?

Kotaku’s Game Of Thrones coverage is presented by the new HP Spectre x360. Any way you bend it, the Spectre x360 delivers. With four modes, lightning-fast performance, and impressive battery life, this convertible PC has the best of all worlds and the shortcomings of none.

Bend the Rules with the HP Spectre x360




  • 1. Stannis Baratheon may not be dead, we didn’t see him die on screen. Rule of TV, even Game of Thrones, if you don’t explicitly see them die, they can always come back: Case in point: Jon Snow.
    2. I quite liked the season, I enjoyed the slow build followed by the grand payoff. If it was payoff payoff payoff constantly it’d be different, it’d get boring quick, but 4 solid episodes at the end was almost half a season of payoff, which worked well, after 6 episodes of plotbuilding.

    • Well Thoros has been shown to revive people and he is a red priest. He actually revives a pretty major character in the books. Melisandre would also most certainly have that ability so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Jon Snow.

      Either way, it looks like her prophecy may actually concern Daenerys and not Stannis. At least I get that impression from the books. But they have diverged very significantly, and will diverge even further as the next books are not out yet but the show is continuing on.

      • Indeed, and I agree. It’ll be very interesting to see. I’m happy the show is diverging grandly, I intend to read the books and I look forward to seeing one tale and experiencing another in the books just as the walking dead gives me one story on tv and another in the comic 🙂

    • Really, nothing happening? Mance Raider is burned and John Snow intervenes to give him a decent death, Tyrion crosses the sea and is kidnapped by Jorah, Jorha and he fight the grey scaled men, Jorah and he are captured by slavers and sold, and have gladiatorial adventures, and Jorah sees Danny again… Brienne finds Sansa, The Harpy’s go crazy, very cool fight scene eventuates, Barristan is killed, Grey Worm is badly wounded, Arya gets a job with the scary many faced dudes, Arya kills the first guy on her list, Arya goes blind, Sansa returns to Winterfell, Sansa marries Bolton and is abused.
      The sparrows are armed in a Cersei plot to take down sexy new young queen, it works and she and her brother are imprisoned.
      It backfires, Lancel squeals and Cersei is imprisoned, Tommen is hamstrung and Cersei confesses and does the walk of shame.
      Bron is poisoned and revived in a sexily Bron fashion. Myrcella is poisoned and appears to be dead.
      Fighting pits are re-opened, Tyrion becomes an advisor, Danny and crew are under attack from Harpies, Jorah saves her, all is nearly lost… Dragon time! Lots of BBQ’d harpies later and Danny rides off Neverending-Story-style on back of said Dragon, and ends up surrounded by Blood riders and left as a cliff hanger.
      Stannis marches on Winterfell, sacrifices his daughter, engages in battle and has his entire army wiped out, Brienne finds him and delivers the final blow. The wildlings are brought through the wall to the kingdoms, John Snow organised ships to bring back the wildlings, a massive White Walker battle ensues, John Snow is betrayed and killed.

      Damn, it is a shame nothing happened this season.

        • Tywin’s funeral is held, Daenerys’ dragons try to attack her, Tyrion and Varys travel to Mereen and Mance Rayder is burned alive/shot in the chest in episode 1.

          Brienne finds Sansa, Jon Snow is voted Lord Commander and Daenerys deals with an uprising in episode 2.

          Sansa learns she’s to be traded into marriage with Ramsay Bolton, Arya gives herself to the House of Black and White and parts with Needle, and Janos Slynt is executed by Jon Snow for insubordination in episode 3.

          Loras is arrested by the Sparrows, Bronn and Jaime sneak into Dorne and the Sons of the Harpy engage in a surprise attack on the Unsullied, killing Ser Barristan and nearly killing Grey Worm in the process in episode 4.

          Tormund agrees to an alliance with the Night’s Watch, Stannis’ army begins its march on Winterfell, Daenerys has her dragons eat a noble and reopens the fighting pits, Tyrion and Jorah are attacked by Stone Men and Jorah is infected in episode 5.

          Jaime and Bronn have a fight in the gardens with the Sand Snakes, Margaery is imprisoned by the High Sparrow and Sansa is married to and then raped by Ramsay in front of Reek in episode 6.

          Maester Aemon dies, some men try to rape Gilly and beat the shit out of Sam, Sansa’s ally is flayed and crucified, Tyrion convinces the slavers to let him go with the other pit fighters, Jorah reveals himself to Daenerys and Cersei is imprisoned by the High Sparrow in episode 7.

          Plenty of other things, but the battle of Hardhome is in episode 8. Enough said.

          Melisandre has Stannis sacrifice his daughter’s life, the wildlings return to the Wall, the Sons of the Harpy attack again and Daenerys is forced to flee on dragonback in episode 9.

          Stannis’ wife commits suicide, his forces desert him and after his defeat he’s killed by Brienne, Sansa and Reek kill Myranda, Cersei confesses and is force to do a walk of shame naked through the streets, Myrcella is killed by poison, Arya stabs Ser Meryn in the eyes (among other places), Daenerys finds herself surrounded by Dothraki and Jon Snow is betrayed and stabbed to death in episode 10.

          Sure, the last episode had a lot in it, but these events (and the ones poita listed above) were very much spread through the whole season, not just in the last few episodes.

  • I thought the last 2 seasons were a big step back in quality. I’m over it now. Moving on to other shows.

  • Overall the season accomplished a lot but episode to episode it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable to watch as previous seasons. I hope it’s because they were sandbagging so as not to completely overtake what GRRM has written and give him a chance to release The Winds of Winter before next year.

    Either way, next year should be great.

  • I think the series was way way better for being ‘too boring’, i.e. actually developing characters, having dialogue, having things take time to unfurl, which added a weight and scope to the world that was missing in the past season where travelling the vast distances happened within single episodes.
    I understand some people like the ‘highlight reels’ of sporting matches rather than watching the entire game, but I much prefer it the other way around.

    • I was rewatching season 1 recently and in the first episode when Robert arrives at Winterfell Cersei moans about how “we’ve been riding for a month”. In recent seasons things like travel time simply haven’t been factored in. One comment I saw on reddit suggested Littlefinger spent this season zipping up and down the coast in a Lamborghini or something for all the gravitas given to the fact he arrived at King’s Landing the episode after a crow reached him at Winterfell – more weight was given to the fact that the crow had to fly to Winterfell instead of reaching him at the Vale, which is only about half as far.

      I hope now that they’ve sewn all the plotlines together (because they sort of fell apart apart in the books around book 4/5 as well) they can go back to giving more attention to pacing where it matters.

  • I liked it, you could tell that they were conserving their budget in the first few episode for the set piece episodes that came later but I don’t mind that. It probably would have worked better as a watch in one sitting type series instead of week by week but it was still good.

    • I had a friend who watched them all in a row last weekend and he said it depressed the hell out of him. I much prefer the week-by-week standard. All the episodes would blur into one if you shotgunned them.

      • I get that, I just mean the flow of this season might have suited some better in one sitting. I didn’t find any episodes to be overly dull myself but I’ve heard a bunch of people complaining the first few were boring because they lacked action scenes.

  • I still think that Bronn will be the one that ends up sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the series

    No way. My money is on Hodor. He’s playing it smart… keeping a low profile, waiting for everybody else to fall over dead.

    • You could be right, Hodor is the closest character to George R.R Martin in real life and could be his favourite if he’s modelled after him.

  • Every single episode of this show has been a 10/10 for me.

    Now we wait… 41 weeks to go?

  • This season was flat. Plotlines being dragged out, others being rushed. Dorne was a big let down in what we saw, the fighting choreography didn’t seem as good as previous seasons, the only major point for me was the white walkers and the big fight with the wildlings. Everything else was just ‘meh’. As has been said above, it was building towards something but nothing really happened.

  • Episodes 8 and 9 were baller, but the rest was just *wiggly non-committal hand gesture*.

  • I thought it was a great season- like Books 4&5 if they’d had a decent editor.

    The ‘Hardhome’ battle is one of the best things I’ve seen on TV *ever* and the fact that they followed it up with two more episodes of barnstorming goodness really puts this season at or near the top.

  • I thought this season was great. The ADHD generation may have found it too slow, but I find so much comfort in those slow, character building and story setting scenes. People say that GoT is losing it’s touch, but will continue to watch crap like the Walking Dead. Now THERE is a show that started off brilliantly, and totally did a True Blood.

    Also, what about Hannibal? That was a gut-punch.

    Got a feeling it’ll be back though… fingers crossed!

  • This show is like the steeple chase in athletics.
    Sure there is some excitement with the jump into the water once a lap and theres usually some carnage there but that’s one bit of excitement per lap and the rest is just some dude running while we all wait for him to get back to the Water jump and more carnage.

  • Say, Stannis, remember when you out-lasted a siege by eating rats? Well, too bad; you’re being rail-roaded into going nuts. Ramsay just activated Super-Ninja Batman cheat codes to time-bomb the exact tents he needed without being noticed in your massive camp.

    “Even Jaqen needed weeks, posing as a soldier, to scout out the Lannister camp in S2”, you say? Sorry champ, but that insane whack-job is just better than a master assassin. Because Super-Ninja Batman cheat codes.

  • Just finished the season last night. Certain character and plot decisions aside, I really enjoyed it. The GoT team did a fantastic job creating and rendering the dragons, particularly Drogon. His movements and mannerisms were spot on.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!