The fifth season of Game of Thrones has rolled to a close, courting the usual controversy along the way. A key difference this year was an increase in viewer negativity about a few of the storylines, which was perhaps to be expected when even book readers agree we're beyond the apex of George R.R Martin's saga. But it hasn't been a complete downward slide, and there's added excitement in the fact the book readers have less advance knowledge of the plot, so everyone's on more even ground.
I didn't review the show again, for various reasons, but thought it would be fun to consider where season 5's left us with the key characters, and what might happen next year. Just to be clear, I haven't ready a single sentence of George R.R Martin's Song of Ice & Fire novels.
What happens next? Stannis's body is either never recovered, but Brienne makes it abundantly clear to Podrick he won't be buying any new hats this year, or... for some reason, Brienne decided to spare his life because of his final "do your duty" line. Is her duty to put him on trial, rather than slay him? I'm not convinced. In my opinion, Stannis is a goner. RIP.
What happens next? Sansa and Theon either hit the hard icy ground, denying Ramsay Bolton a wife and slave, which is a depressingly hollow victory, or get lucky by landing in a deep snow bank. But where to next? My guess is Sansa will join up with Brienne, and Theon will begin to reacquire his old identity—which should result in him unleashing vengeance on Ramsay.
What happens next? Presuming Sansa and Theon are alive and flee Winterfell, that's going to cause Roose and Ramsay some embarrassment and anger. Having Sansa by Ramsay's side gives their house legitimacy in the north, so finding her will be a higher priority than it feels.
What happens next? Vengeance! Presuming Cersei has atoned for her sins and is able to go back to being Queen Mother, awaiting trial... it's hard to see how the barefooted High Sparrow can avoid being stripped of his powers and hung from the nearest gallows. Maybe after The Mountain has personally snapped every one of his followers in two over his knee. King Tommen may also get a smacked bottom for doing nothing about any of this.
What happens next? This is a difficult one to predict. Arya's blindness will either by temporary, to ensure her future obedience as her training continues, or Maisie Williams is going to have to have a chat with Charlie Cox about how to 'play blind'. I quite like the idea Arya will become a blind assassin, who doesn't remember her own identity. I just hope that doesn't last forever, as I have my fingers crossed the show's going to end with the remaining Stark children in positions of power.
What happens next? I'm not entirely sure if the Dothraki horde that surrounded Daenerys like a whirlpool of horses are a tribe that won't even know her, or take kindly to a foreigner's presence, but I'm going to predict they'll honour her status as Khaleesi and help her. Someone may even know how to patch up Drogon's spear wounds. Although if the Dothraki are cool about her, this means her intrepid rescuers Daario and Jorah are going to be wasting their time travelling north. I'm sure Dothraki help will come at a price, but it seems likely they'll wind up joining the Unsullied in Mereen as a truly unstoppable army to crush any Daenerys-haters.
What happens next? In the absence of Daenerys, Tyrion's going to be running the old city of Mereen for her. He'll finally be able to live out his fantasies of being the man in charge, but obviously it's unlikely to go well. Tyrion's going to have to keep a lid on Mereen's societal tensions, but without Daenery's earned reputation and quasi-mystical air. Maybe he'll chain the remaining two dragons on the battlements, as warning to rebellious types that they risk becoming human BBQ if they step out of line? Varys will be a help with his network of spies, of course, but without Daario and Jorah around I'm presuming new characters will be brought in. I like Greyworm, but someone like Tyrion needs more loquacious company.
What happens next? Jamie either turns the ship around and goes on the warpath, or he continues sailing back to Westeros and tells Cersei she's another child down. That's the kind of news Cersei needs right now.
What happens next? It's possible Bran will be in a similar situation to sister Arya next season: being tutored by a supernatural elder. Maybe we'll see his development into a magical practitioner, echoing Arya's arc, or we'll jump ahead and discover Bran's abilities have evolved considerably (which would make sense of the season-long gap in his story). Maybe he'll even be able to help his half-brother Jon, which leads me onto...
What happens next? Jon either becomes another unexpected Stark victim, following father Ned and brother Robb, to instigate the rise of a replacement hero (his half-sister Sansa?), or the writers will use an escape clause. After all, as much as GRRM's books like to snub conventional "rules of storytelling", there comes a point when people need a hero who's going to factor into the ending once we're halfway through a story. And we don't have very many of those now.
My guess? I know there's a theory about Jon 'warging' into the body of his trusty Direwolf, Ghost, but that just seems ridiculous to me. Is Kit Harrington really going to return for season 6, just to mo-cap a CGI dog? No, more likely is Melissandra using her powers to bring Jon back to life, as there's a precedent for that happening with acolytes of the Lord of Light. Why else would the show keep her alive, as she could easily have been killed during the Baratheon-Bolton melee? Melissandra is also on a downer, doubting her own religion after her champion Stannis's swift defeat, so resurrecting Jon could be the miracle she needs to renew her troubled faith.
Of course, if Jon really is dead, that throws up a lot of questions about the Night's Watch. Without his presence, the Wildings are surely going to be slaughtered en masse, which means Jon's plan to unite everyone against the White Walkers falls to pieces. If the undead army scale the Wall, the Night's Watch won't be able to stop them, and then it's onto the Bolton's at Winterfell.