Features and Columns · TV

No Pressure: Game of Thrones Is Setting a High Bar for Itself in Season 6

By  · Published on March 22nd, 2016

Traditional wisdom might indicate that if you’re in the position of Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss ‐ in that you’re about to truly diverge from George R.R. Martin’s source material, something that has brought you some trouble in the past ‐ you might want to keep your heads down and let the work speak for itself. Fans are excited to see what comes next for their favorite people and places of Westeros, so why add any fuel to the flame?

Because Entertainment Weekly, the Game of Thrones Ministry of Propaganda, needs content, I suppose. And for some reason, the only way to keep us all talking about Game of Thrones one month before its sixth season debuts on HBO is to jettison some hyperbole into the world and let that power the hype train. When asked about their favorite part of season 6, Benioff had this to say:

“The whole season. Dan and I talk about this a lot. This is not us trying to hype it. Usually there’s an episode or two we’re kind of nervous about, that didn’t turn out as well as we hoped. This season there is not a weak episode. We had great directors who knew what they were doing, paired with excellent [directors of photography]. We thought at the script stage it might be our strongest season. Then the episodes came in better than we hoped. We’re always reluctant to say it’s ‘the best season yet’ because so much of that is in the eyes of the beholder. And Dan and I are so close to it that it’s impossible to be unbiased. But that’s my sense ‐ watching them all together now, this is the best one we’ve done. It’s also the one I’m proudest of, because it was the hardest.”

As HBO’s EW’s James Hibberd points out, “Normally the writer-producers are pretty cautious about making statements that raise fans’ already astronomic expectations for their international hit series.” Except, that’s not true. Flashback to June 2014, when Benioff and Weiss had the following to say to the very same publication:

“For Season 5, again, the fear started to dissipate when we outlined it and realized how much story we had to tell. Now that we’re nearly finished with the first drafts of each episode, we see no reason why the coming season shouldn’t be the strongest yet.”

So they’re confident. Ok.

It’s extremely hard to go down this road when season five was undoubtedly the most up-and-down season. If we were to rank them, seasons three and four would come out near the top, with many of the pitfalls of seasons one and two being easily written off under the categories of “too faithful an adaptation” and “too little budget.” That leaves season five, a season not plagued by either budgetary limitations or adaptation restrictions, as the outlier. Don’t get me wrong, Game of Thrones is still good, but you’d be hard pressed to say that its last season was its best. So forgive me if I’m not jumping on the hype train so much as waiting patiently to see what happens.

Next: The Game of Thrones Season 6 Trailer: Spoiler Analysis

I will say that today’s update, with quotes from the always-earnest Thrones producer Bryan Cogman ‐ who is having a lot of fun live-tweeting the #GOT50 marathon ‐ is interesting. In talking about an upcoming battle sequence in season 6, he had this to say: “It’s definitely the biggest [action sequence yet]. We’ve always wanted to get to a place ‐ story-wise and budget-wise and time-wise and resource-wise ‐ where we would be able to do a proper battle, with one army on one side, one army on another side.”

For those who listen to A Storm of Spoilers, you know what two sides are likely at play here.

The end result of all this propaganda is that Game of Thrones has somehow raised the bar for season 6 beyond the already sky high expectations of its audience. That feels like a recipe for a letdown, especially as the production moves further away from its source material. Will Benioff and Weiss deliver the best season of Game of Thrones yet? It’s certainly possible. But I wouldn’t go anointing season 6 king just yet. We all know that being prematurely elevated to the Throne is the least safe place in Westeros.

On Amazon: Game of Thrones: Season 5 [Blu-ray + Digital HD]

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)