Game of Thrones - The Complete Fifth Season

by David Foucher

EDGE Publisher

Tuesday March 15, 2016

Game of Thrones - The Complete Fifth Season

It takes six episodes for the fifth season of "Game of Thrones" to hit its pace. As with most seasons of the hugely popular HBO show, early exposition and the introduction of new characters culminate quite slowly into destructive showdowns -- usually in Episode 9 (see: Red Wedding). But there's a lot of ground to cover in the sprawling last two tomes (thus far) of George R. R. Martin's epochal books, and comeuppance arrives early.

If you're not a GoT fan, move on. But for the rest of you who haven't been living under a rock, here's a reminder of the setup. At Castle Black, Stannis and newly minted Lord Commander Jon Snow deal with the wildings and the would-be kingly aspirations of the truculent Baratheon. Meanwhile, after the untimely death of Tywin Lannister and Joffrey Baratheon, Cersei attempts to maintain her hold on King's Landing despite the religious fervor of a sect led by the High Sparrow. Jamie heads to Dorne to rescue his neice/daughter and fend off the Sand Snakes. Arya lands in Braavos to learn how to be no-one. Tyrion connects with Daenerys Targaryen in Mereen, where she is fighting on multiple fronts.

Ultimately, it's the usual bloodbath for a significant percentage of our favorite warring families (who the hell wants to sit on that pointy throne anyway?) But in Season 5, HBO deviates from the novels to a significant degree, and in doing so delivers some of the most unforgettable moments in recent television (not counting the Republican presidential debates). These include the jaw-dropping battle at Hardhome, Shireen's difficult-to-watch death by fire, Drogon's timely reappearance to rescue Daenerys from certain death in the pit of Mereen, Cercei's atonement in King's Landing ("Shame") and, of course, the much discussed death (?) of Jon Snow at the hands of mutineers in the Night's Watch.

The availability of Season 5 arrives just in time for you to review it -- once a week, if you like -- prior to the premiere of the next season on April 24. And there are some great extras for those of you who love behind-the-scenes action. No doubt fans saw "A Day in the Life" already, as HBO launched it prior to last year's season; but it's here for your enjoyment again. Uber-fans will love the commentary, although the in-episode guide is bordering on unnecessary given our collective history with the show (some tidbits are amusing and/or educational). But two showpieces here are just terrific. "Anatomy of an Episode: Mother's Mercy" is a riveting look at the final episode -- although I would also have loved to see how "Hardhome" came about. And do not miss "The Dance of Dragons," which features a history of the Targaryen civil war as told largely by dead characters from previous seasons. It's a joy to hear their voices, and it's also very amusing to have the story told from their unique points of view.

David Foucher is the CEO of the EDGE Media Network and Pride Labs LLC, is a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association, and is accredited with the Online Society of Film Critics. David lives with his daughter in Dedham MA.