We’re halfway into season six, so it’s as good a time as any to take a look back over the main players on the show, and review, update and comment on how they’ve got on so far this year.
AryaOf all the characters this year, Arya’s been the quietest. It isn’t that there haven’t been developments in her plot – being temporarily blinded is a fairly big deal – but that those developments have been somewhat circular, always more or less leading back to her training, and failing, in the House of Black and White. While the Braavosi play scenes that started last week and will continue this week will likely have a big impact on Arya’s immediate future, longer term there is still too much uncertainty.
She’s never really been ‘free’ before, always being in the charge of someone – be it Ned, Yoren, Beric or The Hound – but that’s been fine because those in control of her have always had clear motivations, and haven’t ever stayed in one place. At the moment, the nature of the Faceless Men means we get no such insight, so it’s literally a waiting game to know what happens next. Hopefully she’ll be on the move again by the end of the season.
BranOh Bran. What have you done? Just writing about him brings poor Hodor’s suffering to the fore. But really, the fact that everything’s gone wrong for Bran shows just how right his storyline is going. From the very first episode, he’s engineered his own downfall by doing something he was told not to, and that character trait of rebelliousness has continued with his visions. I was worried that he would return to the show domesticated, simply acting as a conduit for the flashbacks, but it’s extremely relieving to see the characterisation still being prioritised. Now fleeing the cave, it’ll be interesting to see who might pop up out of the cold to lend a hand or two…
CerseiI’ve been slightly disappointed with the traction of Cersei’s arc this year. Coming off of last season’s finale, there was a sense that Cersei was going to be truly unhinged and volatile this year – choosing violence as the trailers suggested. Yet Myrcella’s death, or rather Cersei’s discovery of that – changed the dynamic. Now, she seems far more pragmatic, dare I say calmer, and probably more dangerous because of it. It’s just not quite as entertaining to watch.
DaenerysIt’s taken time, but Daenerys is finally back on the right path. At the end of last season, her capture by the Dothraki opened up multiple possibilities about what could happen next in the immediate sense, but longer-term, it always seemed to point to her regaining her place at the head of the Khalasar. As I said in my reviews, the pacing has been a bit off, with nothing really happening in a few episodes, before suddenly she goes from prisoner to unified leader of all the Dothraki, but the positive of this is that now we have 5 episodes for her to really kick on towards the ultimate goal of getting to Westeros. Hopefully. More likely something else will happen and she’ll never get there but we can dream, right?
DavosWith Stannis gone, Davos has latched onto Jon a bit too easily. While his characterisation is such that he’s constantly craving a leadership figure to follow and believe in, and so it makes sense for him to try to assimilate, it feels like it’s happened too smoothly. Aside from the scene in the fourth episode where Brienne reveals she killed Stannis, and Davos’ incredulity at Melisandre’s own swift change in allegiance, there hasn’t been any reflection on his past arcs. Looking forward, his role is much the same as it was before, the lieutenant trying to recruit houses to the cause. Hopefully Jon and Sansa can be more successful than Stannis eventually was…
JaimeComing back from Dorne with Myrcella, after her heartfelt declaration on the ship (albeit one about accepting incest…), Jaime feels a bit broken this year. Just like Cersei’s arc was curtailed by the news, so too Jaime hasn’t really done much but brood around the Red Keep. Hopefully the upcoming confrontation with the Sparrows changes that, as he’s had too much development over the course of the show to fade to the side-lines.
JonThe big one. Guess who’s back, back again and all that jazz. Since his return at the end of episode two, Jon hasn’t wasted time. He’s hanged the traitors who killed him (yes, including Olly, much to the internet’s happiness), been reunited with Sansa, and now left Castle Black, to fight his family’s war. It’s been some three episodes for him, and it’s likely only going to get more intense before the end of the season. What will be interesting though is to see if the effects the resurrection start to show. Given Beric’s example, there has to be some sort of effect, and I’m convinced it’s just a matter of time before we see that start to show.
MargaeryAnother one with little to do. She’s retained her spirit and intellect where she has appeared, trying to lift Loras’ spirits and doing a convincing job on the High Sparrow. But her whole arc is reliant largely on what happens outside the Sept, between the Lannister forces and the High Sparrows. Then again, she does have her own walk of shame looming…
MelisandreIn the first two episodes, she revealed herself to be far older than she looked in a dramatic end to episode one, then brought Jon back to life in even more dramatic fashion. Since then she hasn’t done much but glide around and declare Jon the new chosen one. With her faith restored, it would present a disturbing moral dilemma if she uses her blood magic for Jon. We all hate Ramsey, but would Jon still seem a ‘good’ character if he used the same nefarious means that Stannis was condemned for? It might not happen, but without it there isn’t as much of a role for Melisandre right now, while her Meereenese counterpart Kinvara might be growing in influence.
RamseyThere’s been a lot of criticism online of the perceived repetitiveness of Ramsey’s arc this year. He appears, and menacingly kills someone. Repeat. And while I won’t dispute the formula seems to exist, I would dispute it’s wrong to use it. Just like it was unfortunately in character for him to rape/abuse Sansa once their marriage was confirmed, it’s similarly logical for him to continue to act as he does. Killing his father, mother-in-law and half-brother was all necessary to consolidate his power as Warden of the North and head of the house. Can anyone say the way he disposed of them wasn’t fitting for him?
Meanwhile, he had to kill Osha to stop her killing him, but more importantly the way he did it was typical Ramsey bravado, taking a risk and doing things the difficult way to show how cunning and dominant he is. Those arguing he shouldn’t keep showing up to kill people, there are only two alternatives: he doesn’t appear at all, in which case Rickon being a captive is a non-factor until Jon and Sansa turn up; or he doesn’t murder anyone, in which case it just wouldn’t be Ramsey. He’s not a nice character, but the point of cruel people is that they’re, well, cruel. And hopefully he’ll meet his demise sometime soon.
SamHaving only appeared once this season so far, it’s hard to judge Sam’s plot. We know where he’s eventually going, and we also know where he’s going first. Both of those plots should be interesting to watch – he just needs to get there. His and Gilly’s dynamic is as always a strong one, but it’s been marginalised overall while they travel and other plots elsewhere take precedence. Once they reach Horn Hill things should pick up.
SansaIn my eyes, Sansa has been the best character this season, a far cry from how she was in the early days. The consistently brilliant performances by Sophie Turner have been a part of this, but the character herself has finally been let loose as a major political player. Episode five was the biggest demonstration of her development, having Littlefinger wrapped around her, well, little finger, but also picking and choosing what to tell Jon. That doesn’t have the impact on their relationship people have been worried about, but it does show her growing confidence as a leader, something that will only continue to grow as the season continues.
TheonTalking of acting quality though, Alfie Allen’s performance as Theon is not far behind. Following his escape from Winterfell with Sansa at the end of last year, he diverted from joining her journey to Castle Black to return home to the Iron Islands. Beyond this, while Allen’s portrayal continues to confound, displaying the volatility and range of emotions Theon now exhibits after his seasons of abuse, the storyline itself has been odd.
The introduction of Euron was good, as was the return of Yara. Yet the way the last episode left them makes less and less sense each time I think about it. Who was captaining the fleet they escaped with given Yara didn’t have the support to win the Kingsmoot? How did they get away from shore so quickly? None of this takes away from Theon as a character, but the arc he is now part of isn’t quite on the same level.
TyrionIt’s been a mixed bag for the character who is typically the main attraction of the show. Up until season four, Tyrion benefitted from being a reactionary genius in rich surroundings – playing off the intricacy of King’s Landing in a big way. His season five arc was naturally a big change, without the environment to exploit, but still successful because he had Varys and then Jorah to play off, too strong established personalities, before he reached Mereen and all that entailed.
This year, while he’s had a good dynamic with Missandei and Grey Worm, he’s suffered greatly from the lack of detail in Mereen. The city just feels a bit empty, never feeling like life goes on off screen. Instead, things only come to life when the plot compels them too. On screen, it’s procedurally the same, with characters appearing when needed, but it feels far less organic and far more contrived.
- Bronn, where art thou Bronn?
- Dorne and it’s connected characters have barely appeared. Given they killed off Doran Martell, the best character there, this is good news.
- Gendry is still rowing. But if Rickon can return…
- Then could Benjen Stark too? Someone needs to save Bran in the North, after all.
- I’ve never been a fan of shipping characters. But I approve of Brienne and Tormund’s relationship. Especially the way both characters treat that very idea.
So, there we have a somewhat exhaustive character update as of episode five. An update that by Sunday night in the US, and Monday night in the UK will be completely out of date! That’s what makes the show so compelling, though, so see you all then.