Did you know The Flash can time travel?
If the Flash lets things get way, way out of hand he can run so fast he goes backwards in time. Events unfold in one way with characters falling where they will like so many variables reaching the other end of the equal sign but then the Flash can go back, tweak a variable and watch the variables play out again with drastically different results.
Watching Game of Thrones’ most recent season, a majority of which takes place beyond the events depicted thus far in author George R. R. Martin’s source material, I felt like The Flash, barreling toward a conclusion that I know to be malleable.
Not having access to HBO during the first season of Game of Thrones I wound up just reading the books, and by the time season two had wrapped I’d finished Martin’s most recent entry in the series, A Dance with Dragons. As such, before season six began I had never seen an episode of Game of Thrones that I couldn’t at least vaguely predict the outcome of.
Prior to its premiere season six loomed large on my mind. I knew going in that the show would be entering into territory that the books hadn’t covered yet. I began to feel the littlest bit guilty. This is, after all, Martin’s story, one he’s been hard at work on for over twenty years, and here the spiffy, shiny TV adaptation that’s been around for less than a decade is going to swoop in and start resolving Martin’s plot threads for him, before he has the opportunity to do so himself.
Obviously I didn’t feel all that bad about it because I didn’t miss an episode of season six, and I’m glad for it, because season six not only begins the show’s brisk departure beyond the chronology of the Song of Ice and Fire books, it also sees a massive snowballing of all the little tweaks the show has made from the original novels into events that can never transpire in the books.
Season six of Game of Thrones is when the show started to feel less like an adaptation and more like an alternate timeline.
Characters in the show are in wildly different parts of the world then they are in the books, if they exist in the show at all. Substantial character arcs have been reassigned and swapped and deleted and added and mashed together.
Almost immediately season six made it clear to me that I had become like unto The Flash, watching the timeline of the TV Show unfold all the while stretching my legs for my sprint back to the past and an alternative unfolding of events when the sixth and seventh books eventually come out and Martin himself ends his sprawling epic.
I wasn’t big on Game of Thrones fifth season. Honestly, I assumed it had taken a dip in quality from which it would never recover, as plenty of shows do after reaching such dizzying peaks as Thrones’ fourth season. My distaste for season five coupled with my uncertainty about marching into new territory without the books in hand made me weary going into season six.
The show proved me wrong over and over again.
Game of Thrones season six is an utter triumph. Its finale shattered records that had shattered records that had shattered records. Its battles were above and beyond anything I’ve seen in the theater this year. Its twists and turns and connecting threads were consistently exciting and satisfying. But most of all, it’s smart, interesting and (I can only imagine) calculated deviations from George R. R. Martin’s original Song of Ice and Fire novels not only breathed new life into the show but to retain the mystery and uncertainty of Martin’s yet-to-be-released sixth and seventh books.
Watching season six of Game of Thrones required a sacrifice, albeit a small one. It required my forfeiture what, in another timeline, would have been my first interaction with Martin’s material after the events of a Dance with Dragons. When Martin’s sixth book, The Winds of Winter, finally does come out, the way I read it and interact with it will undeniably have been shaped by my already having seen season six of Game of Thrones. I’ve taken on suspicions, expectations and questions that wouldn’t otherwise have been there. I won’t be experiencing The Winds of Winter like I experiences its five predecessors. I’ll be experiencing it like the Flash, fresh from a sprint back in time, knowing how events did play out under one set of circumstances and waiting to see how they transpire under new ones. And Game of Thrones season six was so good that I’m okay with that.