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'Game of Thrones': How has the season without the books been reviewed?

Most of the source material from George R.R. Martin's books had already been aired before this season, which has two episodes remaining. How have reviewers responded to this season of mostly original material?

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    'Game of Thrones' stars Gwendoline Christie (l.), Clive Russell (r.), and Daniel Portman (center).
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The sixth season of “Game of Thrones” has had to forge new ground, as the first five seasons ran through most of the source material from author George R.R. Martin. How have reviewers reacted to this off-the-map season? 

“Thrones,” which airs on HBO and depicts a struggle for power in the fantasy world of Westeros, aired its eighth episode (of 10) on June 12. The program features an enormous ensemble of actors, including Maisie Williams, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Sophie Turner.

As fans of the book series know, most of the events depicted in Mr. Martin’s books had been seen onscreen by the end of the fifth season, which concluded in June 2015. This season, the storylines have been new to TV fans and book fans alike, with viewers left to guess how many of the stories will eventually be seen in Martin’s books, if any. 

How have critics reacted to the first set of episodes in which the creators were working with little source material? 

So far, critics seem pleased by some developments but many have complained about the lack of forward movement, especially in the most recent episode.

One highly praised aspect of the season is the reunifications among various characters – events which in most cases have not happened in the books.

Reviewers were pleased when Sansa Stark and her half-brother Jon Snow saw one another for the first time in years, earlier this season.And critics seemed to for the most part enjoy knight Jaime Lannister and Brienne being reunited in the newest episode. “Villainous Jaime revealed his cuddly side in a genuinely endearing reunion with old road pal Brienne,” Telegraph writer Ed Power wrote. “This was a sweetly played scene.”

But New York Times writer Jeremy Egner called the most recent episode “uneven,” writing of his displeasure with another aspect of the most recent episode: how Arya's multi-season storyline involving a school for assassins was resolved. “The larger issue is that the show burned a lot of calories over the past couple of seasons on Arya’s mostly uncaptivating assassin training, only to have her arrive where we expected her to: reaffirming her sense of self and off in search of greater adventures," Mr. Egner writes. "The needle remains similarly unmoved, in the big picture, at Riverrun [where Jaime and Brienne met].” 

Mr. Power of the Telegraph was similarly displeased with the resolution of Arya’s multi-season storyline. “Arya’s never-ending story in Braavos lurched to a vaguely satisfying conclusion,” Mr. Power wrote.

However, Myles McNutt of the A.V. Club wrote that the dearth of forward movement in the newest episode could be because those behind the show are preparing for events to come. “The lack of momentum driving these stories is surprising to me given that the season has largely been doing a fine job with internal momentum,” Mr. McNutt wrote. “The clearing of the deck could be an important service to the larger narrative … The episode seeds the type of unexpected storytelling that the season has delivered, even for book readers. It’s just unfortunate that ‘No One’ had to be quite so committed to some predictable, confusing, and seemingly inert developments for us to make that transition.”

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