Game of Thrones: Series 1-8 Review

Explosive!
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Summary

After 8 seasons Game of Thrones had more highs than lows; yes the final season may have felt a little rushed and the constantly horrible characters does get a bit tiresome but there were some stunning battle scenes and generally I’m pretty satisfied with how it all ended. Whether you liked or hated the show there’s no denying that it changed the television landscape forever and gave us mind blowing visual effects, a sense of scale and battle scenes the like of which we had never seen before on the small screen.

Now that all the hype has died down and the general fan disappointment with the show’s finale is out of the way I thought I would watch the entire series of Game of Thrones from start to finish. I tried watching it a few years ago and it didn’t grab me so I figured it was time to give it another shot while we’re all stuck inside. Cameron did a review a few months back and he hated the show (which I 100% get as I was on the fence about it) but I thought I would give an alternative perspective.

So let’s have a look at the entire series of Game of Thrones.

Before going any further if you have never seen the show and are interested in watching it do not read on as there are MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!

 

Season 1

The first season takes a little while to get going as it introduces us to all the various characters and their motivations and it builds up the world of Westeros which of course bears no resemblance whatsoever to Middle Earth. There are several obvious nods to Tolkien’s works like the character Sam, mention of The Horselords and more but we all know that author George R.R. Martin is a fan of Tolkien so it’s more of an homage. Aside from some minor similarities Game of Thrones is a very different beast than LOTR as it is far more adult and darker in tone. There is lots of graphic sex, nudity and violence so this definitely isn’t for the kiddies and it regularly goes over the top, clearly going for shock value.

The Starks are (for the most part) the good guys while The Lannisters are a bunch of incestuous weirdos; there are no real heroes or villains and although it’s an overused term the show is filled with shades of grey. No one is guaranteed to see the next episode keeping you on your toes and preventing the series from ever becoming dull or predictable.

The acting by the entire cast is first rate with my favourite characters being Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Ned Stark (Sean Bean), Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Tyrion Lannister played by a scene stealing Peter Dinklage who has all the best lines. Poor Sean Bean doesn’t live to see season 2 but he wouldn’t be Sean Bean if he did. No wonder he has decided he won’t sign on for anything else where he dies. Ned Stark is generally an honourable man and one of the few heroes in Westeros but when he is called by his old friend and King Robert (Mark Addy) to come to King’s Landing and become The King’s Hand he knows his future isn’t bright. The two men are hugely entertaining on screen together and Mark Addy has some hilarious lines as he bullies everyone and drinks far too much.

Then we have Daenerys Targaryen played by Emilia Clarke who is to wed Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), a nomadic warlord in exchange for an army. After Daenerys is married to Khal she tames him before too long and her strength as Queen grows as does her confidence. It’s too bad Khal died so boringly as I wanted to see more badassery from him… although he did get to rip a dude’s throat out which was awesome.

Jamie Lannister is played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who is wonderfully smug and hateful where every moment he is on screen you want someone to decapitate him. His sister Cersei is even more evil and conniving where she is the true villain of the series.

Julian Glover from The Last Crusade must be a thousand years old by now and plays Grand Maester Pycelle who manipulates everyone and is incredibly devious… although that sums up the majority of the characters. No one is more devious than Petyr Baelish also known as Litttlefinger and played by Aidan Gillen; he is always scheming to do whatever keeps him alive and wealthy no matter the cost to others.

As everyone knows the most evil person in Westeros (so far) is Joffrey who becomes king before the end of the first season and is such a little monster that I haven’t hated a character so much in a long time.

There are too many other characters to go into here and it’s very easy to get confused which admittedly is why I never got into it the first time; it requires patience and maybe even several viewings to pick it all up.

The main theme has become iconic but the whole score from Ramin Djawadi is fantastic and helps to add some genuine emotion to the series.

This season clearly didn’t have the budget of later ones so any battle scenes happen off camera and we hear about them afterwards which is rather disappointing. There are still plenty of swordfights and unnecessary limb removals so action fans can be happy there.

Overall, Season 1 of Game of Thrones takes a while to get going but from about episode 5 it really picks up and becomes engaging until the cliffhanger finale. I’m still getting to know the characters but I am now hooked.

Season 2

The end of season 1 had me reeling for days after the death of one of my favourite characters and Season 2 continues where that left off; it is a little slow to get going but there is a lot happening and the final 2 episodes are incredible with the second last one having an awesome battle scene.

I still find that all the sex and deviance going on isn’t important and it’s the actual story that’s interesting. My favourite aspect of this season and the show in general however, is the discussions of strategies and tactics for the upcoming invasion of King’s Landing. Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is effectively the true heir to the iron throne however, he isn’t particularly sympathetic or likable so you are never really rooting for him despite Joffrey needing killing as soon as possible.

Rob Stark (Richard Madden) is the truly honourable warrior who is still marching on King’s Landing and for some reason hasn’t arrived there by the end of this season. Along the way he meets a nurse who he falls in love with and marries despite having made a promise to marry another which is going to cause problems later… now that I think about it maybe he isn’t so honourable after all.

Jon Snow and Sam continue working with the Nightwatch and end up getting separated about half way through the season and do their own thing.

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) I think will always be the best character as he has all the memorable dialogue but also tends to be the smartest person in the room; his sister Cersei Lannister is still utterly irredeemable and I hate her every moment she is on screen and the same can be said for Joffrey who is a sadistic little nightmare.

Everyone continues to be manipulative all trying to get ahead in the world but Theon Greyjoy really comes into his own and like the majority of the characters he is also a monster. There is definitely an element of modern entertainment that focuses on cruelty and graphic violence (which I admittedly enjoy most of the time) but there are very few genuinely nice people in the world of Westeros who you care about so far.

Daenerys Targaryen continues her quest of walking around a lot and ends up in the city of Qarth which really isn’t all that interesting a storyline and I generally find her a little dull but I know that isn’t going to last.

On to the good stuff; the battle scene I mentioned is awesome and this season clearly has a bigger budget than the first with a bit more action and no shortage of bloodshed.

Overall, Season 2 moves everything along storywise but I still feel like it is all still coming together; the battle is truly spectacular and there are several entertaining moments but the relentless grimness may be a little off-putting for some.

Season 3

Believe it or not I have for the most part been able to avoid spoilers for this series; obviously some things I couldn’t avoid but the majority of shocking twists have remained a surprise. I had heard about “The Red Wedding” but didn’t know what it was and I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the show but I don’t think I have ever said “holy shit” more times in my entire life. It’s from Season 3 that I truly understood why Game of Thrones became such a phenomenon as it is easily my favourite so far.

This has to be one of the only TV series where the bad guys consistently win; it’s still mostly horrible people doing horrible things to other horrible people but there are still heroes in Westeros like Jon Snow and Sam and of course Tyrion down in King’s Landing who remains a noble hero who can’t help but have a good heart. I also adore Brienne of Tarth and her relationship with Jamie Lannister is one of the most interesting so far as we finally get to know why he is known as the “King Slayer” and makes us nearly sympathize for him.

I also almost felt bad for Theon Greyjoy as he goes through just an awful ordeal in this season and I found myself dreading any of those scenes where he is being tortured. I didn’t have much sympathy at first as he had done some pretty nasty things himself but a few things happen where I thought “nobody deserves that”. Ramsay is pure evil and it bothered me that he still lives by the end of this season.

Daenerys Targaryen continues to build her army and the scene where she takes control of The Unsullied is one of the best scenes of the series with a truly epic music score to boot.

There isn’t much in the way of big battle scenes as the show this season is still all about the machinations going on behind the scenes but there is no shortage of bloodshed and it is certainly never dull.

I still don’t get why Jon Snow betrays the Wildlings as they were far nicer to him than the Nightswatch ever were and he even found himself a lady but that didn’t end well. I guess their tale isn’t over yet so I will be interested to see where the story goes next.

Where I grew to like and respect Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) previously, in this season he really is a bit of an ass especially towards Tyrion who is a greater man than he will ever be.

As usual there are far too many characters and story arcs to go through here but season 3 is where Game of Thrones really hits its stride; occasionally the coarse dialogue gets a little tiresome but the performances are all fantastic with some great costume/set design and a story that is now getting more intense and surprising. Bring on Season 4…

Season 4

A lot happens in this season with even more shocking moments than ever before. My favourite new addition to the cast is The Mandalorian himself Pedro Pascal as Prince Oberyn who has come to King’s Landing seeking revenge for the rape and murder of his sister. As we all know by now his battle with The Mountain doesn’t quite go as expected with yet another “holy shit” twist moment. This show really excels at turning expectations on their heads and once again the good guys lose regularly which is why it really captured the attention of the general public. No show before has ever taken so many chances with characters and that’s why we keep coming back for more.

Just as you are coming around to liking Jamie he rapes his sister next to the body of her dead son… however, as it’s Cersei then I don’t care as she is arguably the most evil person in the entire show. Joffrey finally meets his maker and it’s incredibly satisfying except we don’t really get to enjoy it as it is made to look like Tyrion did it so he ends up imprisoned.

The second last episode is the best of the series (until the next excellent one) as it has another cracking battle scene with the Nightswatch finally facing off against The Wildlings. I still find The Wildlings far more sympathetic than any of The Nightswatch but that makes it so much more interesting. We get more fantasy elements this season with giants riding mammoths and at one point Bran faces off against some skeletal guardians which is something straight out of Jason and the Argonauts.

As always the performances are excellent with impressive visuals and a story that refuses to be predictable. The scenes with Daenerys Targaryen are more interesting and finding out that Ser Jorah was initially sent to spy on her was quite the surprise as he seemed like such an honourable and decent man… not in this series I guess.

Once again there are some fantastic music score moments although it never quite reaches the choral greatness of Season 3.

Overall, Season 4 takes some bold choices and is never afraid to do the unexpected; the battle scene is fantastic and there is of course no shortage of violence making this a must-see.

Season 5

Season 5 is when things start to really get interesting and we can tell that it’s all building up to a huge showdown with the White Walkers.

This is one of the most action-packed seasons yet but also one of the best in terms of character moments. Cersei has always been so irredeemably evil that when she has to do her “absolution” scene you can’t help but smile and think she totally deserves it after a life of deviance and treachery.

Jonathan Pryce enters the show as The High Sparrow who leads the “faithful” against the sinners like Cersei as well as Queen Marguerite and her brother. It feels like the Spanish Inquisition as people are given harsh punishments with trials that barely give them a chance to defend themselves.

Jamie Lannister and Bronn set off to Dorne to bring back Cersei’s daughter Myrcella who they feel is in danger after they received a viper with Myrcella’s necklace attached. We find out that it is Prince Oberyn’s widow who is responsible as she blames the Lannisters for his death.

Since Tyrion escaped King’s Landing at the end of last season he and Varys set off to find Daenerys but on the way Tyrion is kidnapped by Jorah Mormont who is also on his way to see the Queen and they go through various pitfalls along the way.

Daenerys meanwhile is trying to keep the people of Meereen at bay as the freed slaves and former masters are still fighting with a group of masked assassins wanting to take down the queen. So she isn’t doing an amazing job as queen so far; are you sure you want to follow her, everyone?

One of my favourite storylines this season has to be Arya and her training for the Many-Faced God; it’s wonderfully surreal and incredibly imaginative so I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Bran is conspicuous by his absence not making an appearance whatsoever, but I have a feeling he will appear in season 6.

Poor Jon Snow goes through Hell in this season even getting betrayed by the Nights Watch which isn’t a surprise as they have never been particularly sympathetic other than Sam.

This season clearly has a bigger budget now as we get some truly spectacular battles with the highlight being when the White Walkers attack the Wildlings when they are trying to leave and join up with the Night’s Watch. My personal favourite episode is the second last which is reminiscent of Gladiator with Jorah still trying to prove himself to Daenerys, but the battle is interrupted by the masked assassins creating a truly chaotic sequence which is one of the best of the entire series.

The visual effects are fantastic with the dragons looking fiercer than ever and the White Walkers coming across as truly terrifying creatures that are going to be tough to defeat when the final battle ensues.

As always the performances are faultless with the entire cast giving their all and I really thought Lena Heady was fantastic during her absolution scene which must have been very difficult for her to film.

I still say that the show seems to celebrate evil a little too much and it would be nice to have a few more sympathetic characters. I think it’s safe to say that Ramsay is the nastiest character to date making Joffrey look like a choir boy in comparison. Poor Sansa really goes through the ringer as well this season and I count the seconds until I get to see Ramsay die…

Overall, Season 5 is one of the best yet with several spectacular action scenes, amazing performances and a hell of a cliffhanger at the end.

Season 6

You know how I thought Season 5 was awesome? Well Season 6 just might be even better once again with a scale that we have never seen in a TV series before.

This time we have the Battle of the Bastards with Jon Snow and his army marching upon Ramsay who finally gets what he deserves in one of the most satisfying scenes of all time. I have never despised a fictional character so much in my life so credit is due to Iwan Rheon for giving such a fantastically hateful performance.

This is the first time where we actually get a feeling of hope as by the end of this season the Starks have finally returned. Arya completes her training and proves what a total badass she is becoming. I found this season just had more positives to it; I know it will be short lived but let me have this short period of peace.

I never thought I would cheer for Cersei who is evil incarnate but her destruction of the High Sparrow and all his supporters was jaw dropping stuff and had me cheering and laughing.

The special effects, set design and costumes are once again incredibly cinematic and the dragons are the best ever committed to celluloid. I still think that it’s no surprise that Daenerys will become The Mad Queen as she has exhibited a ruthless side really since the beginning of the show.

I remember a few years ago when this season first played and everyone was wondering if Jon Snow would come back and it was a scene that was talked about for some time. I now wish I had stuck with Game of Thrones initially so I could have enjoyed the surprises with everyone else but sadly more of it was spoiled than I realized.

One thing I hadn’t heard about was the return of Sandor Clegane AKA The Hound who was one of my favourite characters so having him back was a real treat. Keep your eyes open for Richard E. Grant and Ian McShane who both make an appearance in this season.

As expected Bran finally shows up again but if you didn’t shed a tear during the “Hold the Door” scene then you are more of a man than me.

Baelish finally gets his long overdue comeuppance and it is one of the most enjoyable scenes of the entire series as the tables have finally been turned on him.

In terms of action there are huge battle scenes, the usual violent kills and some impressive sword fights making this one of the best seasons for action fans. The Battle of the Bastards is for me the best action sequence of the entire show.

Overall, Season 6 is classic television with so many memorable moments that I won’t go into here. There are stunning battle scenes, twists and turns and some great character moments. I am starting to get nervous as I go into season 7 as we buildup to the apparently disappointing finale…

Season 7

The penultimate season is mostly building up to the final battle between mankind and the army of the dead but there are a few nice little character moments too like finding out Jon Snow’s true legacy and just seeing Stark family members reunite with each other after such a long time. You really feel like you’ve been through it all with them and it’s nice to see all the people including former enemies come together for the greater good.

There are several standout action sequences this season both involving Daenerys and her dragons who just steal every scene. The highlight is when she attacks the Lannister forces and completely decimates them with Jamie and Bronn barely getting away with their lives. That pair have some great banter and it’s almost like a buddy movie with their snarky humour (mostly from Bronn).

The other amazing sequence is when Jon Snow and his group are surrounded by the dead on the ice and just at the last second in comes Queenie on her dragons to save the day. It’s rousing stuff and the visual effects are really impressive making you actually believe that dragons are real.

When you see the size of the army of the dead you know the battle is going to be an epic one so they will need every person they can. Of course, not everyone is willing to join the fight; Cersei is still every bit the evil monster she’s always been and despite a brief few minutes last season we still never really take to her as she is arguably the most satanic, conniving person in the Seven Kingdoms. Just when you think everyone is going to come together, she can’t help being Cersei and is only ever interested in herself and her petty vendettas.

Jon finally meets Daenerys and they have immediate chemistry but once again there is a coldness to her and she can be especially ruthless; one scene has her executing the Tarly’s who refused to bend the knee so like any reasonable ruler she incinerates them with dragon fire. Yeah, we never saw her becoming the Mad Queen later on…

I have to be honest; I’ve enjoyed this second half of the series more than the first; there is less focus on depravity and it just has more action and finally the good guys are coming together.

I’ve mentioned it before but I do love the character of Sandor “The Hound” Clegane; he’s such a surly bastard that he really reminds me of myself and despite never actually being nice you can’t help but love him.

I was thinking that Game of Thrones despite its flaws made the fantasy genre respectable for a mass audience. Lord of the Rings was huge but it was still mostly people who like the fantasy genre that were fans. People of all ages and walks of life took to Game of Thrones and at first I couldn’t understand why but as it’s gone on I’ve found myself really caring about the characters like Arya, Daenerys, Jorah, Jon, Sam, Sandor, Pod, Tyrion, Bronn and Brienne. Every character has a complexity who has more to them than you would at first think. Aside from Cersei who is just a bitch.

There hasn’t been a bad performance in the series that I can remember and this season is no different with some incredible scenes; Cersei meeting with Tyrion for the first time since the death of their father bristled with tension as you just don’t know what she will do. I have to give a shout out to The Mountain who is one of the best henchmen ever; he is huge, silent but deadly.

Overall, Season 7 is another winner and its shorter number of episodes (7 this time rather than the usual 10) keeps the pacing brisk paving the way for the ultimate showdown between the living and the dead in the final season.

Season 8

And so we come to the final season which at the time caused a lot of controversy and after having watched it I’ll admit it has its flaws but generally I was impressed. I thought it was a profoundly satisfying finale with everything wrapped up nicely. Anyone who didn’t see Daenerys becoming the Mad Queen just needs to go back and watch when she crucified people several seasons ago and as I said before she has always been cold and ruthless. She saw herself as a liberator, but she was always a conqueror; I never particularly liked her as she even stood by as her own brother was killed by the Dothraki at the beginning of the show.

Speaking of which, what happened with the Dothraki? I find it hard to believe that they would have just lived happily ever after with the people of Westeros (or what was left of King’s Landing). They were a rapey bunch of murderous savages so they would end up becoming a problem. I know the Unsullied sailed off to Naarth but did I miss something there? Did they go too?

I know a lot of people were disappointed at the way Cersei was disposed of and I agree it felt rather rushed but it didn’t bother me that much; she saw her entire world collapse around her knowing that her brother and her child would be dead so if that isn’t satisfying then I don’t know what is.

I know we all thought Jon Snow should have been the king at the end, but would people have really followed him after he vouched for the Mad Queen? I doubt it so him walking off with the Wildlings seemed like a fitting end as they were really his people. Bran was actually the perfect choice as he had wisdom beyond anyone else in the world; he wasn’t emotional, he wasn’t interested in debauchery or drinking so if anything, the world would become more civilized than it ever was under his rule.

I loved Sandor Clegane’s final battle with his brother The Mountain which had both of them die in truly epic fashion. Then we have The Long Night battle with the people in the North versus the dead which was another thing people whined about (they do that a lot these days) but I thought it was fantastic and I had no problem seeing anything that was going on. Maybe because I watch my TV with the lights off in my room so there were no external distractions. The battle scenes and visual effects were out of this world and as I said previously, we’ve never seen anything like this in a TV show before.

In terms of character arcs I think Theon had one of the best after going through everything he did; becoming a warlord and killing his own kin, then being captured by Ramsay where he is broken physically and mentally and then rising up to join the Stark’s at the end for the final battle.

I also thought Jamie Lannister was one of the best characters in the entire series as I remember hating him at first with his swagger and arrogance… and the fact he loved his sister but then as he loses his hand and saves Brienne from a gang of potential rapists, he goes on to do several noble things (aside from raping his sister which isn’t very noble) and even fights alongside the Starks for The Long Night only to end it with his sister which felt fitting as he loved her more than anything.

Sansa gets her wish and becomes Queen of the North with Arya sticking to her character and sailing off West; she was an adventurer and warrior from the start so this also felt like the right way to end her story… or potentially start a new one.

I must raise a glass (or Starbucks cup ho ho) to Ramin Djawadi who provided the music score to all eight seasons and gave us some truly magnificent themes. The Stark’s Theme is one of the best as it is filled with sadness, nobility but also a vague sense of hope.

The majority of my favourite characters survived so by the time the end credits rolled I was happy, and it was one of the few times watching Game of Thrones where it was genuinely uplifting. The good guys finally won after many sacrifices and the world looked like there might actually be some optimism so what was wrong with that?

Overall, Season 8 may not have been perfect but it was much better than some would have you believe; maybe because I knew about a lot of the twists I had an idea what to expect and look out for; I think you’ll find if you were to binge it as I have over the past few weeks then you’ll find it actually ends everything in a generally satisfying way and I don’t feel disappointed by it at all.