Season five of Game of Thrones has come and gone leaving behind a host of revelations, plot twists but mostly bodies in its wake. Where were you when Tyrion met face to face with Daenarys, when Ramsay and Sansa were wed, or when Hardhome fell to the forces of evil? Lets talk shop about last night’s finale, and reflect on season five overall. This post is so spoilery it’s not even funny. Valar spoilghulus!
Many writers (myself included) have come down hard on season five. It has some of the biggest upsets to longtime fans of the show, and for longtime readers of the series. American audiences aren’t used to that much harshing of their mellows, which I guess makes GOT our training bra for good TV; uncomfortable, awkward looking, but totally exciting at the same time! Season one’s penultimate episode where Ned Stark is beheaded was for sure a tone setter, along with season three’s red wedding where his son Robb Stark is killed. The continued effect throughout the series seemed to diminish, even with the Lannister body count forever on the rise. Its almost as if season five was a reminder that bad things happen to good characters all the time, and not to assume trauma is reserved for the wicked or the blonde. Oh and that good characters aren’t really good because they’ll totally kill their own kids if they think it gives them a shot at winning a war – we’re totally looking at you, Stannis.
Gosh, Stannis Baratheon – what a tumultuous relationship we’ve had with you in season five. You were supposed to be the good guy who valued his lovely young daughter you fought so hard to keep alive when she was first infected with greyscale. Instead you gave in to the call of power and sacrificed Shireen to the Lord of Light so you could march on Winterfell. That didn’t really work out that well did it? You said it yourself its true; you’d rather have marched on Winterfell and died than return to Castle Black a loser. You got your wish, half your army deserted you after you torched your kid, and the other half died for you at the gates outside Winterfell.
We assume that Brienne of Tarth has executed you for killing your brother, her King, Renly Baratheon but we didn’t see it on screen so its not a done deal just yet. I mean, probably but still – there’s a little part of me that hopes The Hound is out there too. All limpy doing Hound stuff. Probably not. Stannis lost tragically, and Melisandre returned to Castle Black and The Wall, along with Davos Seaworthy. What is in store for them, now that their King is dead and his forces defeated? We hope Brienne doesn’t catch up to them, because she’s racking up a body count that is starting to draw attention.
You know who else is at the Wall? Jon Snow, who is officially the most unpopular Lord Commander ever! And that’s saying a lot, considering that whole story about that one Lord commander who left the watch, married a Wildling, and then waged war against Castle Black as a white walker. That dude is liked more than Jon! Yes, there’s some complicated history between the watch and the freefolk, but it’s not hard for the audience to align with Jon’s reasoning – you’re all going to be zombie toast unless you work together. Tormund knows it, Jon knows it, Sam knows it but the rest of the watch? Nope, too stubborn. They follow Alliser in a rebellion against Jon that includes multiple stab wounds and betrayals to his face. He’s left for dead, bleeding out on the snowy grounds of Castle Black.
Well shit. Sam is likely headed to Oldtown to become a Maester, assuming he and Gilly can GTFO of Castle Black after that stabby session. This would be great for the show if his future plot starts to explore Oldtown, and that whole journey he made with Aemon in the books. Its in those pages we learn of Aemon’s realization that Daenarys Targaryen is likely Azor Ahai. Maesters have all kinds of helpful knowledge, like the fact that dragons have no gender and that because of this, the predictions of The Prince That Was Promised could easily be about a woman. We like the idea of Sam going to a city that is basically a giant library. It might also be a tie in for other characters like Ariane perhaps? Maybe even Young Griff? Anything to bolster the Dornish plots would be great tbh.
Oh Dorne. Poor Dorne. We had such high hopes for you this season. My friends and I would get drunk at bars and talk about what we were looking forward to most in the coming seasons, and the Sand Snakes were always at the top of the list. These days we just shake our heads and drink our IPAs in silence. Now, if the Dornish plots were written by a bunch of drunk nerds in a bar, they would have likely included Ariane Martell, kept the Sand Snakes more of a mystery, and maybe introduced Tristane and Doran later in the season as more supporting characters. Instead we got mini-Cersei aka Princess Peach and this whole Jamie Lannister semester abroad in Spain plotline that just dragged on and on and on. However, we must confess that the last scene in Dorne this season where Marcella hugs it out with her dad was super moving, especially that part where she dies innocently cut to the sand snakes looking super evil in flowy dresses on the pier. See, now that level of badassdom should have come a lot sooner. These women are beloved by the people of Dorne because they are a reminder of how much Oberyn loved his country. Ellaria’s plot to send a dead Princess back to Kings Landing is a huge departure from the books, but still kind of metal in its own right. However, it makes us think that Doran’s machinations from the book and his involvement in restoring the Targaryen Dynasty might not show up in the Weiss/Benioff adaptation. Wah wah wah.
These days Daenarys Targaryen could use all the help she can get. Yes, last week’s Neverending Story homage was impressive, but we learn this week that her flight landed her in the Dothraki sea without any food, water or defense against a khalasar who would capture her. This is of course a literal reflection on the scene from last night’s finale. She could easily be lauded as their Khaleesi, and welcomed into their ranks. Dany loved the Dothraki people, and they followed her to the ends of world. Perhaps stories of the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons have united the Dothraki and they’ve been searching for her this entire time? Hmm, maybe not. Its good she ditched that wedding ring from Meereen noble guy that was killed last week. Lord knows Drogon isn’t going to do shit to defend her unless it’s the 9th episode or sweeps week. Seems now that Jorah and Daario will now leave Meereen to find their Queen while Misandi and Grey Worm rule in her place, with the aid of Tyrion Lannister as the Hand. This entire set up seems way too convenient, but for now it’ll work.
Sometimes things that are lined up perfectly often leave the viewer suspect. For instance the moment you saw Ser Meryn get off the boat in Braavos you knew, without question, that Arya was going to break her vows to the House of Black and White and kill that motherfucker dead. It was just a matter of time. Screw the thin man, screw the clam shack, this man was on her list and she wasn’t about to give him up. She even worse a different face so Meryn wouldn’t recognize her. Yes, this season was as gory as any other of the murderous moments in seasons gone by but there was a satisfaction as a viewer that could not be denied. This pain cut deep, all the way back to Ned and the beheading (the BeNeding?). Arya pays a price for her betrayal, a life for a life on top of a new lesson – blindness. In the books there’s a whole plot where Arya becomes Blind Beth and does some stuff. We’re curious how this is going to be integrated into the show, and what the longterm payoff is for her character. We are suspect of this perfect line up, where Arya stays in Braavos but to what end? Who is pulling the strings? Many readers have long suspected that we might see a return of Syrio Forel, the first sword of Braavos, or that Varys might be revealed to be a major player in this story. All of these are possible, so we’ll have to wait and see. Get it, see? Cause she’s blind? Ok I’ll stop.
Speaking of a sight, the scene we’ve been waiting for all season finally came to pass. Cersei got her ultimate comeuppance, and was forced to repent for her sins of fornication and betrayal by surviving the walk of shame from the Church to the Red Keep. She was shaved then released naked on the streets forced to endure public shame and a the disgusting judgment from her people. Spit, rotted vegetables, mud, more spit? You name it, they threw it and this badass Lioness who never cracked for anyone finally comes apart. This is one of the most powerful scenes in the series. Cersei has been an embodiement of power and priviledge since day one, and to see her taken apart is a game changer. In the books you get her perspective during this walk. She’s trying to take it all in, and remember each face so that she can come back later and murder everyone. Seriously she’s crazy, and we love it but then something changes, she cuts her feet and has to walk through glass, even crawling at times. This breaks her spirits, and the viewers can see a similar collapse in the scene from last night. Lena Headey is a powerhouse actress, and what she’s done with Cersei has been phenomenal. They say that in film and TV the hardest parts are playing the villain, or playing the idiot. Cersei has been the former for better or worse since we met her, due in no small part to the expert craft from Headey. Total sidebar, yes we’re going to see Terminator Genysis but lets be clear, Headey’s turn as Sarah Connor in The Sarah Connor Chronicles was epic and worth checking out.
There was a host of smaller moments in the finale worth mentioning, most notably the whole trust fall scene with Sansa and Reek, or is it Theon again? Did anyone else get the whole Emperor/Darth Vader/Luke Skywalker vibe when Reek tossed whatsherface off the side of the building to save Sansa? The blocking in the scene was very much in homage to that classic moment from Return of the Jedi, and I was loving every second. Sansa has fled, and together her and Theon are out in the wilderness of The North. Are they going after Rickon and Bran? Will Ramsay pursue? I mean its that or I’m completely misreading the scene and it was a double suicide. I mean THIS IS Game of Thrones people, worse things have happened.
And so season five comes to an end. It started out slow, but picked up steam and ultimately kicked our asses five ways from Friday. For once we have absolutely no idea what’s coming next, and it feels damn good. See you next year Westeros!