Wednesday, 17 June 2015

GAME OF THRONES season 5 – WTF? And WTF happens next?!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

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.

Stannis Baratheon
Brother-slaying, daughter-burning Stannis. Rightful heir to the Iron Throne (according to him) and person least likely to get a Father's Day present this year. Last seen slumped beside a tree with a nasty gash to the leg, completely exhausted, with his depleted army defeated by the Bolton riders. Or, more specifically, about to have his head lopped off by Brienne of Tarth—who finally gets to make good on an oath. She has perseverance, that one.

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.

Sansa Stark & Theon Greyjoy
Newly-wed rape victim Sansa and brainwashed eunuch Theon (or "Reek") managed to escape Winterfell during the Baratheon vs. Bolton battle in a nearby field, after turning Ramsay's ex-lover Myranda into courtyard pizza. Unfortunately, the escaped by hurling themselves off the top of an incredibly high wall, sort of like 'Reek Cassidy and the Starkdance Kid'...

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.

Ramsay & Roose Bolton
In a season full of defeats, deaths and awful problems, the Bolton family had it relatively easy this year. Lord Roose Bolton has taken the northern stronghold of Winterfell, and his bastard son Ramsay got married to beautiful Sansa (um, the daughter of Catelyn Stark and sister of Robb Stark, whom he killed during the notorious Red Wedding). A 'happy every after' was never really on the cards, but the Bolton's ended season 5 on a high: defeating Stannis Baratheon in open battle, meaning they're pretty much the dominant force in the north.

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.

Cersei Lannister
Incestuous Queen Mother Cersei Lannister was hoisted by her own petard this season, having become a victim of the pious High Sparrow she bestowed too much power on. She was last seen making the ultimate 'walk of shame' (and I've seen girls limping home with one stiletto on and a kebab spewed down their top), pushed naked through the streets of King's Landing as peasants exposed themselves to her, or smeared poo over her shoulder. It's hard to bounce back from that kind of experience, but at least this is a pre-Facebook and nobody recorded her humiliation and tagged her in. Although maybe pencil sketches are selling for small fortunes across Westeros now? Cersei was last seen being carried to a warm bath by head-squashing legend 'The Mountain', now back from the dead as a dead-eyed Monster in a helmet. Presumably he won't be the one washing the spit, blood and poop off Cersei's back.

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.

Arya Stark
Orphaned Stark daughter and budding sword fighter-turned-assassin Arya had a rather tedious season, washing corpses and having endless conversations with Jaqon Dzah. The finale showed she's acquired some knife skills, and the ability to take a whipping without making a peep, which she used to vicious murder one of the people on her kill list. Sadly, this was against orders and as punishment she appears to have been blinded by the Faceless Men.

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.

Daenerys Targaryen
Daenerys Stormborn of the House of Targaryen, the First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynard and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons. Try fitting that on your Twitter profile. The finale revealed where she was taken after escaping assassination on dragon-back from an arena swarming with Eyes Wide Shut fans: hundreds of miles away in Dothraki-land, back where she started her rise to power, with Drogon either dying or requiring long recuperation time.

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.

Tyrion Lannister
The Imp really knows how to land on his feet, doesn't he. He committed patricide and fled the country he calls home (in a cramped wooden crate), only to be kidnapped by a disgruntled Ser Jorah in a brothel, before they're both kidnapped by slavers and tossed into Fighting Pits, and yet Tyrion still managed to become the royal advisor to Daenerys Targaryen by the season's end.

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.

Jamie Lannister
The one-handed sister-shagger had the worst season of everyone (with maybe the exception of Brienne waiting for someone to light a candle for half a season). Jamie travelled to Dorne to kick foreign ass and rescue his daughter Myrcella, which turned out to be a less-than-thrilling adventure with Tyrion's old pal Bron. Once there and encountering the toothless "Sand Snakes" (a huge disappointment of bad casting), Jamie realised Myrcella's arranged marriage was actually going well and her life wasn't in danger. Oh, fine. And the Martell's let them both travel back to Westeros with anyway, so he could probably have just asked. Sure, so there was a surprise when we learned Ellaria had poisoned Myrcella before waving bon voyage, leaving her to die in Jamie's arms aboard ship.... but that also means Jamie's storyline this year was all for nought.

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.

Bran & Rickon... oh, and HODOR! HODOR! HODOR!
The runaway Stark lads weren't even featured in season 5, as their storyline had exhausted GRRM's novels by the close of season 4. But they're surely going to come back in a big way next year, and possibly with some passage of time accounting for why Bran looks so much older. Or does sled travel put years on? Last time we saw them, Bran had found the mysterious Children of the Forest and was brought before the Three-Eyed Raven.

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...

Jon Snow
Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and know-nothing bastard son of Ned Stark, Jon was last seen getting knifed multiple times in the belly by several of his men from the 'We Don't Like Jon Snow' secret committee. Last seen looking very dead in the snow, with a large pool of dark blood widening behind him.

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.