Game Of Thrones Episode 6 Review: The Ice Dragon

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Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones has been marketed for its dynamic narrative choices. Does the season finale follow through on them?

Developer: Telltale Games

Publisher: Telltale Games

Platforms: PC (Version Reviewed), Mac, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, iOS, Android

Release Dates: November 17, 2015 (All Platforms)

(This Game of Thrones Episode 6 review will try to remain as spoiler-free as possible, but due to the nature of the review, some general details about the ending can be inferred. This review may also make passing references to books 1-3 of the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, seasons 1-3 of the HBO television series Game of Thrones, or the previous episodes of the game series.)

The build-up to the final episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones has been intense. The end of Episode 5 left each of the main characters in a desperate situation, where one wrong move could easily ensure the destruction of the Forresters, their house, and everything they’ve worked for…though it’s foolish to pretend that every episode thus far hasn’t ended in a similar vein. Telltale’s story of one northern family torn apart by the events in Game of Thrones has thus far been full of intrigue, desperation, and plenty of blood–everything you’d expect to find in Westeros.

But, what had me gripping my chair going into Episode 6: The Ice Dragon was the emphasis on how much my choices up to this point and throughout the episode would matter to the final outcome. If you watched the trailer or paid any attention to the episode’s introduction, Telltale is waving the flag from every window it can: Your choices matter. It was enough hype that I was convinced I had at last stumbled upon a game where my decision were as important, if not more so, as they had been in The Walking Dead’s first season.

I should have known better.

Thicker Than Blood

Two hours isn’t a lot of time to cram the finale in, and it shows. With an invasion of Ironwrath imminent, a North Grove to finally discover, plus whatever Mira can do at this point, the clock is ticking quickly to do something, anything, to save the remaining Forresters. Gared’s story at first appears the most hopeful, with the culmination of his journey to find and protect the mysterious “North Grove” beyond the wall. His plotline has thus far been the weakest one, with some serious drag and delay in prior episodes, so it was the one I was most interested to see bear fruit.

And for a little while, I was convinced it would. The first half of Gared’s portion of the episode is strong, full of desperation and eventual hope as he and his companions at the end of their strength at last find what they’ve been searching for–a hidden place of mysterious power peopled by some new and interesting characters. I wish the cast and concepts introduced in the North Grove portion had been introduced sooner (perhaps during the awful delay in Gared’s story in Episode 5), as they are highly unique in the world of Westeros.

[Gared’s final choice is] not a choice at all, but rather an elaborate and disappointing set-up for a promised second season.

But for all the build-up to the reveal, the North Grove turned out to be a huge waste of time for everyone involved, not to mention really easy to find. The dichotomy represented by the two characters you meet there is too little, too late and Gared’s final “choice” has no bearing whatsoever on the final outcome of the season. It’s not a choice at all, but rather an elaborate and disappointing set-up for a promised second season. The power in the North was something I thought of throughout the series as a salvation if I could only make it there– a way to gain some sort of happy, or at least neutral ending for the Forresters. Instead, Gared ends the series far away from his friends and family, powerless to save them, and likely just as powerless to save the new friends he’s made on his journey.

With one character utterly useless, surely one of the others remaining holds some hope of salvation?

When You Play The Game of Thrones…

Mira’s position at King’s Landing has grown more and more precarious, and as with Gared’s story, I had high hopes for the first half of the episode. There are some awesome callbacks to decisions you made in earlier episodes, which can be comforting or very troubling depending on how you handle them. Old friends and enemies may reappear, or may not, but all of their help and hindrance ultimately pushes Mira down the same road…and it’s not a pretty one. The inciting incident that seals her fate is even the most disappointing and trivial of all the possible things that could have put her on that path.

No matter how well you navigated Westeros politics, how much you sucked up to whoever, who you helped or who you got thrown in jail, Mira’s ultimate fate resides in a single choice, just as Gared’s did. That’s it. For so long, Mira’s story was my favorite. I genuinely felt I was influencing things, that the lies or truths I told or who I persuaded of what could save me, my family, and my friends. Episode after episode, Mira brimmed with the potential to succeed beautifully or fail spectacularly–to gain her family an army or put an aggressive one at their gates. All for nothing; all for one impossible choice at the end, one branch of which is nothing but a massive question mark to lead into a Season 2, just as Gared’s was.

Two major disappointments later, we’re left with the Ironrath armies and people, battered and desperate. Without any help or influence from those on the outside, can they really hope to prevail?

Next: Ironrath's fate, and our final verdict