For the Watch! The last three episodes of “Game of Thrones” Season 5 were certainly exciting. The homestretch packed enough deaths, battles, betrayals, dragons and White Walkers into three hours to fill a whole season. Unfortunately, that was also the problem. The backloaded season forced viewers to endure a rather drawn-out seven-episode buildup first. Don’t be fooled! No matter how high fans may be after Sunday’s thrilling finale, this was the HBO series’ weakest season yet.

There was a moment in Sunday’s finale, “Mother’s Mercy,” where Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) finally got the opportunity to serve Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) some overdue justice after sitting idly by for most of the season waiting for a distress signal from Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). Finally able to make good on her oath to avenge Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), Brienne discovered a pitiable, broken Stannis, not the monster she had been hunting for so long. That’s an apt metaphor for a season that gave viewers a rousing, if unexpected and slightly underwhelming, conclusion after a season of waiting.

“Game of Thrones” failed to deliver on many of this season’s biggest promises. After all the hype surrounding the Sand Snakes – and four episodes of waiting – the trio turned out not to be the independent, fierce feminine warriors – à la “Mad Max: Fury Road” – the show could have used, but instead three more indistinguishable objects of sexual exploitation. In fact, the introduction of Dorne left a lot to be desired.

One of the most highly anticipated moments of the season was the long-awaited meeting of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). However, after eight episodes of stalling, the pair shared about five minutes of screen time before the Mother of Dragons skipped town on Drogon’s back.

Elsewhere in the show, many storylines remained surprisingly static until the final episodes, considering how much action has been packed into previous seasons. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) toiled in her jail cell for far too long. Sansa and Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) remained in a stagnant state of fear until the finale – aside from that clumsy, controversial rape scene. Stannis spent eight episodes playing the voyeur to Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) growing leadership, before his wisdom with Snow was undercut by his delusional desperation in the final two episodes.

Many of the season’s big payoff moments, though often powerfully disturbing, were cheap story-wise. Much was made of Shireen’s (Kerry Ingram) shocking execution and Myrcella’s (Nell Tiger Free) poisoning was certainly heartbreaking, but both were characters the average fan would have had trouble naming before their fatal episodes. Likewise, the White Walker siege on Hardhome was a dazzlingly brutal sequence, but one that claimed no real consequential characters – in the books, Jon Snow merely hears of the tragedy but is not present himself.

The season was not without its strengths! Arya Stark’s (Maisie Williams) Faceless Man training was a constant source of mystery. Plus, Jon Snow had his busiest season yet trying to balance the Wildlings, the Night’s Watch, Stannis and the impending White Walker doom before following in his father’s martyrdom footsteps. The finale was a barrage of powerful and satisfying scenes, from Cersei’s walk of shame to Tyrion’s unofficial new role as the interim king of Mereen.

Overall, the season had the feel of a show stretching for time, before masking its shortcomings with an electrifying finale. Perhaps, the writers are struggling upon reaching the end of their rope with the show’s source material – by the finale’s end, the series had covered all of the action in the published “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels. If that is indeed the case, then viewers have reason to worry, because in Season 6 the “Game of Thrones” writers will be on their own and seemingly down yet another fan favorite character.

What did you think of “Game of Thrones” Season 5? Tweet your thoughts to @Ja9GarofaloTV