In its sixth season, Game Of Throneshas finally outpaced the events of George R.R. Martin’s books and there are promising signs that this uncoupling of the novels and series will make the TV show an even leaner, nimbler beast.
Yet, there are also troubling hints as to how far the Emmy-winning hit will go to pander to fans – hints not as ominous as, say, a three-eyed raven, but worrisome nonetheless (spoilers ahead for those who have not seen the latest episode).
Granted, it is still early days and much of the two episodes so far has been spent picking up narrative strands dropped many moons ago and reintroducing characters such as Bran, scion of the decimated Stark clan, who was missing in action for all of Season 5.
For anyone but die-hard fans, this can be disorienting. You probably remember Bran, but who is Dolorous Edd again? There is even a segment on the official recap show After The Thrones, called Who The F**k Was That?, to reintroduce some of the more obscure of the show’s 150 or so named characters.
With storytelling on such an epic scale (and no helpful appendices to flip to like in the books), a little trimming helps and the show’s writers have done this with great success in previous seasons, which displayed a wonderfully economical narrative compared with the occasionally overwritten novels.
They are continuing to do this by apparently sidelining, at least for now, the entire subplot of the kingdom of Dorne. This has prompted an outcry from fans of the books but, in the series, Dorne’s Sand Snakes were responsible for some of the hammiest acting in the cast, so it is a relief to have them out of sight for a bit.
Having Ellaria Sand kill Prince Doran also reinforces the distinctly feminist slant of the new season, which is teeing up a string of newly ascendant female characters including Sansa Stark, Cersei Lannister and Yara Greyjoy.
The writers could take the nip and tuck a little further. The baffling fate of Arya Stark is another subplot that needs to be reined in soon or it may risk becoming tedious, especially with her vengeance quest put on hold for so long.
Finally, there is the matter of Jon Snow. After going to the trouble of dropping those clues about his parentage, there was never any real doubt that the show would resurrect him as it finally did in the last episode, to the delight of many.
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But the series overplayed its hand, stringing viewers along for almost a year and, when the reveal finally came, cheapening it further. Did we need quite so many shots cutting to or lingering on his body in these first two episodes? When he finally gasps to life, all that signposting makes it a little hollow.
The braver move would have been to leave him dead. This was the sort of boldness that made the Red Wedding and other instances where key beloved characters were slaughtered as impactful as they were.
In the sixth season of a show that has become one of the most important dramas for HBO, the stakes have changed, however, and “fan service” is more important than ever.
This is why long-running series, such as The Walking Dead, often lose their edge. The zombie drama resorted to cheap theatrics such as pretending to kill Glenn, a major character, recently, only to bring him back. One hopes Game Of Thrones will avoid this trap.
MythBusters host Adam Savage in the final season of the science show. PHOTO: DISCOVERY CHANNEL
Performing fan service of a different kind is the 10th season of the iconic science programme MythBusters, capping 14 years of offbeat experiments testing various myths and hypotheses.
This final season is a love letter to loyal viewers who, in Episode 1, get a behind-the-scenes look at how each idea is brainstormed, safety-tested and executed.
It was always going to be hard to top the series’ all-time bests – such as the episode where it tested the theory that Jack and Rose could have both survived on that wooden board in the movie Titanic, or the breathtaking look inside a sinking car which confirmed every nightmare you had about that scenario.
But the show gives it a good try, with a few of those large and delightfully pointless explosions that have become de rigueur, along with an exploration of the mundane (can duct tape be used to lift a car?) and an inquiry into Hollywood physics (can you disarm someone with a gun using a whip like Indiana Jones?).
Falling ratings and competition from similar shows online dealt the death blow to the series and more’s the pity. With science education falling by the wayside or being trumped by ideology in the United States and elsewhere, this earnest and joyous celebration of curiosity and the scientific method will be sorely missed.
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