The immensely popular—and at times controversial—fantasy show, Game of Thrones, returns for its sixth season this April as it departs ever further from its source material
It was recently announced that writer, George R. R. Martin, has now missed the deadline to finish his latest book in time for it to be published before the new series airs. This puts the upcoming season in the very strange position of airing before the book that it is based on is released. When Series 6 airs in April, it will mark the first time in the show’s history where all major plot lines will be entirely new to everyone watching, and this venture into unknown territories brings both excitement and trepidation.
The show’s latest season was arguably its weakest yet and it was also the first that really began to deviate from the source material—the writers also continued to face much criticism for their handling of sensitive topics like sexual violence. As the show tries to distance itself from Martin’s novels and become more of its own beast, it has started to feel more reliant on Red Wedding-style style shock factor moments, and less on the slow-burning character development that made it so brilliant in the first place.
This is partly to due to the fact that Game of Thrones is quickly becoming the biggest TV series of all time, with each series bringing a substantially larger budget than the last. Visually, this now means the show is able to pull off more immense spectacular set pieces with bigger sets, bigger battles and much bigger dragons. But as the show grows bigger, so too does its sprawling cast of characters, which makes it increasingly harder to tie up plot lines and give stories the same level of depth as previous seasons had achieved.
The show’s real strength though, has always been its layered characters and how, despite living in a mythical world inhabited by giants and ice zombies, they have always managed to feel three-dimensional and real.
Where most fantasies choose to deal with the binary battles of heroes against villains, Game of Thrones has always focused more on the internal struggles of good and evil faced within each character. As the complex fights for political power increase and the stakes grow higher and higher, we see the impact that this is having on the world and its inhabitants, which makes for much more compelling and rewarding drama.
It’s because of the show’s rich and enigmatic characters that the show is so entertaining and has such universal appeal. Be they good, like the tough and resilient Arya Stark, evil like the conniving and manipulative Petyr Baelish, or morally dubious like the troubled Jaime Lannister, these brilliant characters are the reasons that fans have invested time and emotion into the series, and why the show’s return still brings plenty to which one can look forward.
Game of Thrones is also completely relentless, and has no problem whatsoever killing off its main characters—noone’s fate is certain, which makes it thoroughly gripping in its unpredictability. Season 6 poses many a formidably ominous threat, such as the rise of the monstrous Ramsay Bolton in the North, as well as an ever-growing army of the undead led by the sinister White Walkers. There’s also the small matter of a certain Lord Commander’s fate following Season 5’s cliffhanger finale, that has left fans aching for April 26th.