ASOS is an action-packed book. It has a lot of set pieces and closes a number of story arcs which makes it relatively easy to adapt into two good seasons. The problem with giving AFFC and ADWD two seasons each (!) is that a good 60% of each of those books is world-building. I love that shit when I can just sit down with a mug of coffee or in the garden on a sunny day. But for television, man, that is dull to the nth degree. How many viewers want to watch Tyrion literally staring into space for 4 minutes, just watching the river roll by?
I kind of agree that decisions were made for season five which meant that too much material was compressed and that created storytelling problems. If it could have been strethced to 12 or 16 episodes and still covered most of Feast/Dance then we would be in a better place by now.
However, I will repeat again what I say all the time on this: we are phenomenally lucky to get anything of the quality of GoT on television. Fantasy and sci-fi TV shows usually get 20% of GoTs budget and look horrendous. GoT isn't giving us everything many fans want, but it's giving us a hell of a TV show that easily goes down as the best fantasy drama ever on TV.
He can do what he likes. ASOIAF is Martin's baby, but don't expect him to change things fundamentally just to make a point. He'll make his decisions based on what works best for the plot. As far as I have read, both Martin and HBO know where the series will end up but the journeys each takes will be quite different from this point.
Handing a show over to new producers rarely ends well. Whether you like it or not, GoT is D&Ds interpretation or Martin's material. It will lose all coherence if handed over to someone else - look at how WoT turned out post-Jordan. It's so difficult to inhabit another artist's world. But hey, we could get lucky and Brett Ratner would be ready to step in!
I will also hold back judgement on whether 8 seasons is a good or bad thing. If Martin is back on form with his writing and TWOW and ADOS promise great material then 8 seasons would be fine. If he's still on his world-building kick (which I like in the books but it's hardly going to make for golden television) then stretching to 8 seasons could be painful. It could also mean storylines start getting strung out just when they appeared to be moving on which could frustrate viewers - I'm thinking of Dany in particular whose story arc has been just one long pregnant pause.
Let's see though. I'm an unabashed fan of the show despite it's occasionaly missteps (Season 2 and parts of Season 5). Whenever I think about what D&D haven't done so well I just remind myself that sci-fi and fantasy rarely get any airtime, critical acclaim, or serious studio investment for television. It still amazes me that a fantasy drama is a prestige TV show. Enjoy this while you can, it is highly unlikely to happen again any time soon.
That NYT review is funny because it could just as well be a review of AFFC/ADWD. What are the biggest complaints about those books? Nothing happens, the plot barely moves forward, etc. This season was always coming for the TV show. Martin himself couldn't untangle the Meereneese Knot very well so why should Benioff and Weiss be able to do any better?
The biggest problem the show now has is that they over play the "Jon is dead" card and viewers decide that it's not worth watching since anyone they root for just comes to an ignoble end (beheaded after compromising his position; stabbed over dinner; stabbed by comrades in a dark corner). On top of that, Dany never seems to go anywhere, she's been more or less stuck for three seasons (or indeed, around 16 years in the book series). Viewers want someone to root for or identify with and they all either die or seem so far removed from Westeros that it's hard to give a damn. Simply put, next season needs to reaffirm viewers' faith that, OK anyone can die, but there is hope. People won't tune in to relentless misery, that's what the news is for.
All of Roose's army looked to be mounted. Maybe we can assume he had his infantry ready behing the cavalry charge. I wouldn't let it worry you too much. Even if Stannis outnumbered Roose 2:1 Roose's men were fed, rested, prepared and largely on horse. Stannis' men were undernourished, lacked even basic defences other than whatever natural defences they could find, and were all on foot. It was a total massacre and chillingly done.
It's all kayfabe, anyone who was ever a fan of WWF/WWE will know how this works.
In any case, what will be the point of Davos and Melisandre next season if not to be part of Jon's storyline? They have no function of their own, they are characters that exist to further the arc of others. What do their scenes even look like next season if not to play a part in Jon's resurrection?
Mel: Looks like Stannis isn't coming.
Davos: Aye. We'll probably have to do something else now.
Mel: I could burn someone.
Mel: Dunno. Something to do, force of habit and all that.
Davos: I could... hmm... make an impassioned case on Stannis' behalf! Oh, right.
Mel: We could have sex.
Davos: Nah, thanks. It just all gets a bit weird afterwards.
Mel: Your loss.
Davos: Well then.
Mel: Yep, well then.
Dorne won't look too bad after a few episodes of the Wall without Jon Snow.
Maybe D&D just cut out a step. In the books Stannis could still lose but not be routed as he is on the show. He could make it back to Castle Black, woefully depleted in resources and men. This could be the desperate point at which he chooses to sacrifice Shireen. Ooooooorrrrrr... Martin may have changed his mind about the sacrifice of Shireen. You never know. Marting plotted these books in advance but once you start writing you go where the characters seem to be taking you. This is why I don't care if the show "spoils" the books: I love reading around Martin's world and even take a perverse joy in the lists of food. It doesn't matter if I know the major stops on the way to the end of ASOIF, I can enjoy the ride just as much. I mean, I read Lord of the Rings every 2-3 years and love it very time.
No way this series ends without Jon and Dany ever even meeting. Martin's plotting is some of the best I've read in the fantasy genre, maybe the best. He knows what makes a good story even if he sometimes meanders. He's established his world is dangerous, that dead characters stay dead... most of the time. But he's also established that Jon's parentage is important, that Jon's journey is important, and that blood magic is important. The scarcity of magic in Martin's world only reinforces the belief that it will be used in some sort of story-changing way at some point - it isn't like Wheel of Time in which magic is everywhere so you're just waiting for the magical solution to the problem. In ASOIF we've seen magic used only occasionally and only once in a way that feels like a major plot point (the hatching of the dragons). All this "only death can pay for life" stuff will have a huge payoff and that is the rebirth of the Last Hero. Maybe he'll find a razor and go for a short back and sides when he's reborn so Kit Harrington can clean himself up for the role.
Jon will be back by episode two. The cast and producers are doubling down to sell the "death" because they need to try and maintain some thread of drama to it. But think about it: in what way does Jon's death at this point make any narrative sense? By the end of the series is Jon Snow's role really going to be limited to that of a POV so we can see what's going on at the Wall and in the lands beyond? He's on a classic hero's journey and right now we're at the end of the Empire Strikes Back.
Can the show leave Jon aside for a season? Not in my view. The show has ramped up the threat from the Others and it was taken up a notch this season. We need to see action there in order to see the threat start to knock on the door of Westeros and the only characters at the Wall with any standing are Mel and Davos, secondary characters. Essentially, next season is going to be about Dany resolving the situation in Meereen and then making her way in Westeros, and the realm slowly seeing that there is a threat from Beyond the Wall. For the series to wrap up in season 7 we pretty much need to Others to be ready to marching on the Wall by the end of season 6. Plus, I suspect that season 7 will be primarily about the war against the Others (which I do expect to be a war rather than one epic Helm's Deep style battle, expect defeat, despair, turning the tide, etc) so a lot of dangling plot threads will need to be resolved next season.
They could still retain the mystery surrounding Jon if they can keep Castle Black a closed set but I expect to see reports of Harrington spotted on set by the end of this year.
The Malazan series is very patchy. Some of it is downright awful but some entries in the series, like Memories of Ice, are wonderful. The biggest problem is structural; it's hard to get invested in any particular characters since the leads change almost on a book-to-book basis and the few characters that are in every book aren't actually that interesting. On top of that, there's very little seeding of the finale throughout the series which is indicative of a writer that didn't really know where he wanted to go with the story. There's hundreds of other little problems with the series which will quickly become evident and have been well-worn in online discussions (e.g. the endless stream of philosopher soldiers) but some of these would spoil the plot. If I could get my time back, and I wasn't obsessive about finishing things that I start, then I'd choose to read only select books from the series starting with Gardens of the Moon which is a pretty tight standalone story.
If you're looking for further sci-fi/fantasy reading give the Acts of Caine series a go. They won't win any prizes for literature but they're incredibly entertaining. The Gentleman Bastard Sequence is pretty good too.
I don't think this will happen purely because I believe Benioff and Weiss will want Martin to be the one to finally put this "mystery" to bed. I understand that a great many people on this forum believe Benioff and Weiss love nothing more than to bugger the source material but these guys are, and always have been, on good terms with Martin. Keep in mind that they weren't the first to approach Martin about adapting his work but they were the most convincing. That's a big deal, it shows Martin trusted them and seemingly continues to trust them even if in an ideal world every word he wrote would appear on screen.
The respect between Martin and the producers leads me to believe that they will want him to be the one to settle what is one of the biggest talking points in the series. He may have to do this in TWOW otherwise Benioff and Weiss will simply have to spoil this particular plot point (assuming GoT lasts seven seasons and ADOS won't hit the shelves before 2020). Call me naive, I just don't see Benioff and Weiss trying to trump the books when there is no real need.
I do stand by my earlier thoughts in another thread that the season can't really end with Jon's death; I expect evidence of him warging before we cut to black or whatever. I do wonder if we'll get Melisandre's moment of realization in this episode.