Let’s get something out of the way: I think that Game of Thrones season six was a remarkable season of television. It was easily the show’s best effort since the third season and also proved that the show could not only carry on, but thrive without any available books from author George R.R. Martin left to adapt. But just because season six was excellent overall doesn’t mean it was without its faults. Game of Thrones season six suffered from issues both new and familiar, with the following 10 disappointing aspects being the most significant.
Seriously though, keep an open mind with this one. We love Game of Thrones and only point these things out because we want it to be the best show possible.
10. Dorne Still Stunk
To be fair, the southern kingdom of Dorne wasn’t the abysmally plotted snoozefest that it was last season … but that’s only because it was largely forgotten about for long periods of time. The season began with the fallout of Ellaria Sand’s plot to murder Myrcella Baratheon, with Ellaria proceeding to not only murder Myrcella’s betrothed Prince Tristan, but his father Prince Doran as well (oh and Doran’s bodyguard Areo Hotah who, in the end, proved to be surprisingly incompetent for someone with such a cool looking axe).
This assassination plot should have been a shocking moment but Game of Thrones stumbled with it by making us care so little for these characters that the whole scene borders on being laughable. The show then proceeded to act like nothing ever happened by completely ignoring Dorne and its inhabitants for the next eight or so episodes until they briefly appeared again in the finale. Thankfully, this time Ellaria and the Sand Snakes got a boost from Lady Olenna Tyrell’s presence, which is about the best thing that can be said for Dorne in season six.
9. No CleganeBowl / Not Enough Hound
The return of The Hound this season was definitely a standout moment, even if most viewers already knew it was coming. Rory McCann has always been sensational in the role and it was great to see him return after being absent for the better part of two seasons. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough of Sandor Clegane to go around. Although we did get to see him seek brutal vengeance on the unfortunate souls who slaughtered Brother Ray’s (Ian McShane) commune, it was disappointing that we didn’t get to see The Hound face off against his greatest foe, his brother Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane.
Now, the logistics of having this actually take place would have meant that the overall plot would have had to have shifted dramatically, as some had predicted that The Hound would face his brother during Cersei’s trial by combat, which of course never happened. There’s a good chance that we’ll get to see the #CleganeBowl next season, as The Hound is arguably the only person who has a chance to kill his brother at this point (well, him and Arya, who could very well be the one to do The Mountain in), but it was still a bit of a letdown to not see The Hound utilized more after such a dramatic return.
8. Resurrected Jon Snow Was Kind of Lame
One of last year’s biggest cliffhangers was resolved surprisingly early on in season six, as we only had to wait until the end of the second episode to find out that Jon Snow could indeed come back from the dead. As Game of Thrones has taught us in the past, characters who return from the dead are often missing a part of their former selves and this was true for Jon as well … but probably not in the way any of us were expecting. First off, the show did nothing with the idea of Jon Snow as some sort of messianic figure to the Wildlings (Tormund’s line about them thinking Jon is a god feels especially throwaway in hindsight). And instead of a darker, possibly unhinged Jon Snow, we got one who was dull, world-weary, and as his actions in “Battle of the Bastards,” indicated, a boneheaded leader and military tactician.
Admittedly, Jon Snow has never been the most dynamic Game of Thrones character, as he’s a bit too much of a conventional hero archetype to compete with the likes of Tyrion or Cersei, but it’s surprising just how bland Jon was this season when he wasn’t swinging a sword. He may be the new King in the North but that crown feels more than a little unearned when his sister (cousin?) Sansa outshone him in pretty much every way this season.
7. The Pacing Was Almost Too Streamlined
One of the greatest strengths of season six was the confidence with which it barrelled ahead with the story, despite no longer having one of George R.R. Martin’s books to rely on for guidance. Previous seasons spent a lot of time spinning their wheels in order to buy time for “big moments” but it felt like we were getting forward momentum in almost every episode this season, which was a refreshing change of pace. Unfortunately, this quicker pace sometimes came at the expense of nuance and even stretched plausibility on occasion. Game of Thrones was so focused on getting characters where they needed to be that it sometimes overlooked how ludicrous these movements actually were in practice. For instance, it felt like characters such as Littlefinger, Yara, Theon, and Varys, just to name a few, had access to wormholes that instantly moved them across vast distances, so rapid was their ability to go from one place to another.
Granted, no one wants to watch a show about characters travelling to their destinations, but the balance between story concerns and realism was definitely imbalanced. This issue is only likely to intensify as the show tries to pack in a lot more story into the abbreviated final seasons (there are reportedly only 13 episodes left) but it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if certain aspects were slowed down a bit going forward, as it would be rather deflating if Daenerys ends up conquering Westeros in a day.
6. Arya’s Braavos Story
Arya Stark’s character arc remains one of the most fascinating in all of Game of Thrones, but her story was largely a dead end in season six. Thankfully, things got back on the right track by the finale, as Arya has not only made a return to Westeros, but is back in the business of crossing off the remaining names on her list. The problem is that Arya just spent the better part of two seasons remaining stagnant as a character; sure, she picked up some cool assassin abilities along the way (well, the ability to wear dead people’s faces at least), but in terms of her arc? Arya went to Braavos as a vengeful murderer and returned to Westeros a … more skillful murderer.
One might argue that the crux of her plot had to do with her conflict with the Waif, but considering we never found out why the Waif had it out for Arya resulted in a pretty uninteresting adversary. Arya’s time in Braavos is the definition of Game of Thrones killing time with a character until it actually needs them and thankfully, it looks like the show is really going to need Arya in the final seasons. After all, those awful people who wronged her and her family aren’t going to assassinate themselves.
5. Dany’s Story, While Thrilling, Felt Too Neat and Tidy
Daenerys achieved the most she probably ever has over the course of this season, securing an entire army of Dothraki and setting sail for Westeros with a massive fleet behind her. While it was satisfying to see Dany actually get proactive after multiple seasons of middling storylines that had her largely stuck in one location, reversing these problems so abruptly has caused some other ones to crop up. Most notably, Dany has arguably assumed the role of the show’s Mary Sue, as she’s a female character who can seemingly do anything while being loved by everyone around her (besides her enemies of course).
Granted, there were hints of subtext in the final few episodes of the season that suggested that Dany isn’t necessarily the hero everyone’s made her out to be (she did have to be talked down from heading off to burn several cities to the ground, after all), but since the medium of television doesn’t easily allow us to get a read on a character’s internal thoughts, it’s difficult to know where Dany’s head is at in all of this. An all flash and no substance Dany season wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as we’ve been waiting six seasons for Dany to set sail for Westeros, but hopefully she can encounter a few hurdles next season so that she doesn’t just cruise to an easy finish.
4. It Wasted Peter Dinklage
Peter Dinklage has won multiple Emmys for his work on Game of Thrones and deservedly so. Tyrion Lannister is easily one of the show’s best characters and whenever Dinklage is on screen, he absolutely owns the scene. Unfortunately, his role in season six was greatly diminished because he was saddled with a pointless story designed to give him something to do while waiting for Daenerys to return to Meereen. Although Tyrion’s comic relief moments are always welcome, it felt like we got far too many scenes of him just killing time with Missandei and Grey Worm, two other victims of the no story curse.
The show tried to inject some life into Tyrion’s story with his negotiations with the slavers, but this was just a throwaway plot designed to give Daenerys and her dragons something to destroy once they finally returned to Meereen. It’s a shame to see an actor of Dinklage’s caliber wasted on one of the season’s weakest storylines, but on the bright side, his recent promotion to Hand of the Queen is a positive sign that he’s going to return to his position as one of the show’s most important and dynamic characters in season seven.
3. Not Enough White Walkers
This is definitely more of a personal preference than a legitimate complaint, but season six should have had more of the White Walkers. After the dramatic introduction of the Night’s King last season, it was safe to assume that we would be seeing more of him and his undead army this year, but other than an all-too-brief (but awesome) appearance in “The Door,” the White Walkers largely sat on the sidelines yet again. They were even absent from the season finale and with a title like “The Winds of Winter,” you would think that the show’s ice zombies would stop in for at least a brief appearance.
Admittedly, the White Walkers work better when they are used sparingly (not to mention that the show’s special effects budget balloons any time they’re on screen) but the Night’s King and his army are so mysterious and terrifying that the show instantly becomes that much more watchable every time they’re around. It’s also about time that Game of Thrones stops holding these guys back and just lets them loose on Westeros. The finale’s ending, with Daenerys’s fleet making its way to Westeros, was a sight to behold, but personally, I would have enjoyed closing out on the more foreboding shot of the Night’s King staring menacingly at the Wall, signaling to the audience that next season, winter really is coming.
2. Many Of The Big Moments Were Heavily Telegraphed
Although this season contained some of the most exciting, satisfying moments in Game of Thrones history, very few of them actually felt like a surprise. Outside of “Hold the Door,” which is arguably the greatest twist since the Red Wedding, most of the season’s big moments could be seen from a mile away. The last minute save by the Knights of the Vale in “Battle of the Bastards” was a foregone conclusion because we already knew Sansa had called on Littlefinger’s aid. Cersei’s wildfire plot in King’s Landing would have been much more impactful if the show hadn’t made several references to wildfire in the episodes leading up to the finale.
Part of the reason for this lack of surprise is that fans have become so good at predicting what will happen that it’s almost impossible for the writers to truly surprise them, unless they do so at the expense of the show’s plot trajectory, which would arguably be even worse. Again, it’s not exactly a bad thing that Game of Thrones has become more predictable, but it is a bit disappointing that the days of being truly shocked by this show are long over.
1. Ramsay Was A Boring Villain
Ramsay Bolton has been a Game of Thrones villain for awhile now, but he was undoubtedly the central villain of the sixth season. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a very good one. The problem with Ramsay is that there’s no nuance to his villainy and that makes him painfully predictable. Oh, Roose Bolton’s wife is giving birth to a son? Ramsay’s going to kill that baby (and the mother and the father). Osha, newly reintroduced, tries to seduce Ramsay in a ploy to grab a nearby knife? Yeah, she’s gone. Heck, even Sansa acted like an audience surrogate at one point when she tells Jon that there is no way they’ll ever get Rickon back alive because Ramsay is just going to kill him, which is exactly what ends up happening (Come on Rickon, learn to serpentine).
Sure, Sansa letting Ramsay’s hounds eat him alive was a nice bit of karmic justice and was enjoyable to watch on a purely visceral level, but I suspect that many viewers had become so numb to Ramsay’s bland style of psychotic villainy that it didn’t land half as well as it would have one or two seasons ago, or if it had happened to a more interesting villain. On the bright side, at least Ramsay’s death signaled a transition in the show’s worldview, in a way, as it showed that there is a sense of justice and comeuppance in the Game of Thrones universe. You just have to wait a really long time for it sometimes.