I'm a huge fan of the TV show "Game of Thrones", and an even bigger fan of the book series it's based on. The performances are uniformly amazing, and the writing is almost uniformly amazing (almost!). Despite my criticism, I still love the show and am eagerly awaiting the new season. But even though it's been a few months since the season ended, I'd like to put down my thoughts (spoilers to follow!).
The first writing problem, to me, was in Dorne, early in the season. I think this is a carryover problem from the previous season, whose Dorne storyline never seemed to catch on and has been criticized a lot by fans and critics alike. Essentially, I think the writers realized that their original plan (which may have included more involvement of Dornish characters like the Sand Snakes in the main storyline) would not work based on the poor reception from Season 5. So they decided to cut their losses, and killed off Doran Martell, his son Trystane, and his bodyguard Areo Hotah in a rather pathetic and unsatisfying way.
The other major problem, to me, was in the Northern storyline and it was spread throughout the season. I was disappointed that there was no conspiracy of Northern Lords against the Boltons (which has been strongly hinted at in the later books), and that the Umbers were exactly what they appeared to be in the show -- betrayers of the Starks, and content to work with Ramsay. I'm really disappointed that Ramsay lost because of bad luck and not bad strategy. No one would want to work with a psychotic mess like Ramsay for the long term, and they would jump at the chance to serve someone reasonable like Jon (except for maybe the Karstarks) or Rickon.
But that's only part of it -- I think there's a much larger theme for the show that this storyline missed: One of the great themes of both the show and the books is that bad leaders are brought down by their own flaws. Even Tywin failed to honor and respect his family, and it ultimately bit him in the ass, fatally. If Tywin had been decent to Tyrion, he would have been the ultimate victor easily, sweeping away the Starks and ruling by proxy through Joffrey or Tommen, with Tyrion as a crafty lieutenant. Ramsay is far more flawed of a leader than Tywin -- few men would trust that they could be safe with him as a long-term ruler. Everyone would be plotting behind his back, and at least some of them would jump at the chance to serve someone else with a claim (like any of the surviving Starks). There really should have been consequences to the random cruelty and bloodlust he displayed -- betrayal would be much more likely, and his men would be much less loyal. Considering the theme of the show and the books, and how poor leaders have usually been brought down by their own mistakes, it was a disappointment that this didn't happen to Ramsay as well.
And this could have been done with minor tweaks to the story. The Umbers could have been plotting to turn in the middle of the battle, or save Rickon (who served no purpose in the story, sadly). When Ramsay ordered the archers fire into his own men, the others waiting could have run off, leaving his flank undefended -- soldiers don't like fighting for a leader who doesn't value their lives. Or a million other permutations. Instead, Ramsay just has some bad luck (and maybe a bit of bad strategy for not having scouts that would have seen the Vale coming). It should have been his own flaws that brought him down -- that has been the downfall of every ruler defeated so far -- Stannis's stubborness and inflexibility; Ned's trusting nature; Robb's betrayal of his oath to the Freys; Robert's drunkenness and lack of discipline; and more. Ramsay should have been brought down by being a psychotic monster, and men usually won't follow a psychotic monster for long.
This isn't a fatal flaw -- the episodes were directed and performed magnficently, even when the writing didn't quite meet the mark to me. Can't wait for season 7!
Andy Crawford is the writer of two novels: the fantasy adventure Sailor of the Skysea, and the satirical fantasy The Pen is Mightier, which is perfect for fans of Game of Thrones. You can find his books in paperback or ebook on Amazon below.