Season Seven is over and all the players are on the board.

The Women of Winterfell

Sansa spent the whole of Game of Thrones as a victim. From the first season, things always happened to Sansa. She never did anything of consequence. She just waited for someone to come along and rescue her- or kill her, whichever came first. Game of Thrones Season 7 is Sansa’s time to finally shine. Specifically, Sansa found her backbone when she ordered the death of Little Finger.  Most of us had been waiting for years for that sleazy little weasel to get it. Go, Sansa!

Aria turned out to be quite an accomplished assassin. She wore faceless well. She Eventually found herself back at Winterfell where she apparently had a tiff with Sansa but got to slice Little Fingers throat in the end.

The Northern Migration

The Hound did not die from the wounds Brienne of Tarth gifted him. Sadly, he did not find peace in religion for long either but he did make the journey North of the Wall with John to try to deal with his existential crisis. Maybe the giant zombie circle of death gave him some perspective.

During that crazy white walker death trap, something unthinkable happened. The Night King killed one of the dragons! Viserion is now a wright dragon- a blue-eyed ice dragon!

If everything that has happened in Game of Thrones Season 7 so far is just too much to digest, hold on to your pants because Johns life just became mad crazy too. First, he was hailed the King of the North. Then we find out he’s the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark-because they were married and the whole war that ended the reign of the mad king was a farce! But that means that John is the rightful heir- not Dany. Who he bent the knee to… and slept with… and she’s his aunt. Um ew.

While we’re on the topic of incestuous coupling, Cercei is pregnant again and Jamie left her and headed for the wall to fight the white walkers.

In fact, everyone is headed North, except Eron Greyjoy who is out for Cerceis um.. affection. But Dany is leading her Army that way with John and all of the Starks who are still living reside in the North again.

The Death of Game of Thrones Season 7

Of course, lots of interesting people die in Game of Thrones Season 7. What else would you expect?  No one will mourn the passing of Walder Frey, but the Sands and the Tyrells were fun while they lasted.  And while Bran isn’t dead, his trials North of the Wall left him not quite human or “Something Else,” as he explained it. It turns out that being the Three-eyed Raven isn’t all flying and seeing through the eyes of animals. All knowing is quite a burden.

Bran watched as the wall at Eastwatch, manned now by Wildlings, fell- or is it ‘will fall?”

All the players are in position for an incredible final season.

While I’m personally still waiting for the Wheel of Time to be made into a series of movies or episodic TV shows, the Shannara Chronicles based on Terry Brooks amazing series – the  Sword of Shannara is definitely a good placeholder!

The Sword of Shannara’s events take place 2000 years in our future after a nuclear war wiped out the majority of humanity.  Due to the massive damage from the bombs, not only was the landscape itself drastically changed but due to the excess radiation, mankind mutated into races that we’re more familiar with from myths and legends.  While elves themselves returned to Earth from their hiding, man is now present as Dwarves, Gnomes and Trolls.

In this new world, magic has been rediscovered but science and technology has been lost.

Hopefully this show is done better than the quite horrible Legend of the Seeker.  While I never enjoyed that book as much as I did Shannara, it was still awful to see what they did to/with the story there as it definitely deserved a lot more.  Fortunately Game of Thrones has raised the bar for the fantasy genre quite significantly since that time though and here’s hoping the directors, actors and writers have paid attention!

For the last four seasons, watching “Game of Thrones” has been a great experience.

It still is a great experience, but it’s different now. As a book-reader, I’d been anticipating these big, shocking moments (Red wedding! Joffrey gets poisoned! Tyrion murders his father!) for quite some time, and that “waiting to see” factor kept me very engaged in the show. What I liked most was when the show’s version of an event eclipsed anything I’d envisioned while reading the books. Take, for example, the spectacle that became Joffrey’s wedding: the huge outdoor set, the massive cast, and the outstanding directing really transformed the scene into a climactic event, where in the books it felt more subtle and contained. Or take the smart changes made with Tywin interacting with Arya in Harrenhal, or the fight between the Hound and Brienne. All well-executed changes, but none that would cause any huge ripple effects.

Now, though, the show has begun to seriously diverge from the books. What I’m finding difficult while trying to write these reviews is distinguishing these two thoughts: this is not as great as I’ve come to expect from the show” and this is a divergence from the book that is not doing the show any favors“. I figured I could get some thoughts out now, as we’re about mid-season, and probably write out another review at the end of the season judging it as a whole. I’m curious to know if my opinion of the season will change, depending on which direction the show takes certain story-lines. However, the truth of it is (and I hate to say it): we’re six episodes into the fifth season of Game of Thrones, and I think it’s my least favorite season yet.

 

The biggest and most obvious misfire this season is the unfortunate plot that has befallen Jaime Lannister. I can understand that the writers would want to capitalize on Oberyn Martell’s popularity, and I see that this is why they chose Dorne as the survivor of the “cut-the-plot” game (losers include the Iron Island’s kingsmoot and Jon Connington.) However, the adaptation of this plot cannot in any capacity be considered a success. The Sand Snakes, walking and talking cliches, are essentially introduced as one character, doing disservice to all three. Cutting Arianne and Quentyn Martell has now given Indira Varma more to do as Ellaria Sand, however this has drastically changed her character’s essential beliefs. Where in the books Ellaria states that enough blood has been shed, in the show she has become a token for revenge.

This is where I find one of my struggles: “Do I not like this this change because I don’t like changes?” or “Do I not like this change because it weakens the show?” The answer here, I think, is clear: this plot is weakening the show. The writing for these characters and the contrived coincidences that led to the shockingly bad climax fight in the sixth episode cannot be dismissed. However, I will continue to reserve judgement on the characterization of Doran Martell, the only possible glimmer of hope from Dorne, until his monologue moment that will certainly be coming later this season.

And that’s it. As I began writing this I really thought I would have a longer list of “things I’m not really liking” this season. There have been some minor quibbles (Arya hasn’t been doing too much, the King’s Landing situation is a slow-burn), but otherwise, it seems the Dorne story-line is enough to put some serious tarnish on my thoughts of the show.

 

I’ll take some time here to mention the happenings in the North and at the Wall. Personally, I’m fascinated by the changes made with Sansa Stark returning the Winterfell. Marrying her off to Ramsay Bolton makes for an intriguing and disturbing pairing, and having Theon Greyjoy skulking around only makes it worse. I can’t say I was necessarily pleased with how the show portrayed their wedding night, brutal as I’d expected it to be. Perhaps it’s that these kinds of shocking moments don’t shock so much in Thrones anymore, perhaps it’s that it just felt like a gratuitous way to end the episode, or perhaps it was that the moment lingered too hard on Theon when it should have been about Sansa. I’d have hoped that maybe Sansa would take a more active stance during their wedding night, glimpses of which we’ve seen of her book-counterpart in the sample The Winds of Winter chapter released. Regardless, I look forward to seeing what becomes of the Winterfell plot with the added factors of Brienne and Podrick circling about and Stannis marching south.

Speaking of Stannis, his arrival at the Wall has benefited all of the characters involved. Where the writing for Stannis in the past seemed to be a bit weak, under-selling him as a character, this season has seen him blossom as he takes a more active stance in the political battles in the North. Though the scenes at the Wall have been very “talk-heavy,” there’s an impending sense of doom around them, as Stannis reveals he is both aware of the larger threat and still very interested in the war to the south. In last week’s episode, Jon and Tormund come to an agreement that they will head north to Hardhome (also the title of the eighth episode), and this promises to be one of the larger set-pieces of the season.

 

These scenes at the Wall have also served well to develop characters we’d already spent much time with in newer, interesting ways: Jon becoming more of a leader, Stannis revealing his love for his daughter, and Melisandre throwing sexually-fueled intrigue around it all. We’ve also spent significant with Shireen, which makes me both curious and afraid. One reason for her increased screen-time was revealed last week, as Jorah Mormont became infected with the same greyscale that scarred her face. Still though, it always seems like the show builds up characters only to hand them a crushing death.

I mentioned that King’s Landing is going through a slow-burn. Although The Wall’s story is similar in that not much has yet happened, the plot in King’s Landing differs from lack of characters, not newly-interacting characters. With so many out of city (or murdered), the show’s scenes here lack the strong protagonist they used to have, whether it was Sansa, Tyrion, Brienne, or even Jaime. Now, we’re left with the bubbling tension between Cersei and the Tyrells, which, while interesting, has yet to really become the fascination it was when viewed from Cersei’s point-of-view in the novels as she descends into madness. However, the Queen of Thorns’ return to the city is welcomed. It’s always a pleasure to hear her one-liners, so I’m expecting everything to be kicked up a notch, especially now that both Margaery and Loras are in custody.

 

Meanwhile, Meereen is going through the same type of slow-burn. It almost seems to be biding its time until Tyrion and Jorah arrive, throwing in an unexpected death to keep things interesting. I won’t comment more on Ser Barristan Selmy’s death beyond saying that it was not handled properly and was not a worthy death for such a great character. Regardless, things in Meereen seem to be headed in more-or-less the same direction as they are in the novels – Daenerys getting prepared to wed Hizdahr and the upcoming events surrounding the re-opening of the Fighting Pits.

That leaves us with Arya Stark, whose story, as most others, is going at a really slow pace. For those that are unaware, her kill list has been reduced to four names: Queen Cersei, The Mountain, Walder Frey, and Ser Meryn Trant. And to spoon-feed you a bit more, we know that Ser Meryn Trant is headed to Braavos with Mace Tyrell. I’m expecting some kind of interaction to occur here, as it will likely take the place of the “Mercy” chapter that George R.R. Martin released one year ago. (In truth that chapter had parts taken and added to the first episode of the fourth season as Arya reclaimed Needle from Polliver.) If Arya killing Meryn Trant is to be the conclusion of her arc this season, I will certainly be disappointed. However, in terms of book material, she doesn’t really have much else to do, leading this to be yet another story that could go in a dozen directions, and I’m very interested to see what the writers decide to do.

 

As a whole (and I may change my mind on this), this season has been difficult to review critically. Game of Thrones is a television show, it’s not the novels, and I can understand that it should be viewed as such. This means cutting plots, changing things, tweaking characters. But this doesn’t mean that changing things always leads to the best outcome. The show is attempting its biggest swing yet with the Sansa plot, and I’m still curious to see how it turns out. The second big batter is the Dorne plot, and while throwing Jaime and Bronn into the mix added some emotional resonance, it seems like this one is going to sizzle out, as cliche and uninteresting as it began.

The question remains: What kind of show will Game of Thrones become, once all the source material has been exhausted? Are we looking at more rushed and contrived sequences like Yara Greyjoy’s pathetic rescue attempt in season four? Or are we looking at the more well-regarded changes, like Tywin and Arya, or the aged and developed Margaery Tyrell? Regardless of whether or not the changes start to become more appreciated, I will continue to watch. I will continue to cringe through the contrived parts. I will continue to think that I know what’s going to happen, only to have it ripped out from under me as the writers tear apart what I thought I knew.

Season 5 of HBO’s massive hit returned last night, and as has become the norm, the season premiere spent most of its time setting the pieces for the rest of the season. This is not a bad thing, and in fact it has always felt like a necessary breather for the series after the climactic events that occur in the previous season’s final episodes. However, where Season 4’s confident “Two Swords” contained some excellent sequences, such as Oberyn Martell’s introduction or Arya and the Hound’s fight at the inn, “The Wars to Come” is a much quieter episode, focusing on character dynamics and reflections on the new state of things.

Note: This review is coming from someone who has read the book series. Nothing from the future will be spoiled but differences between the book and the show are likely discussed.

A quiet episode like this works well at this time because the show itself has undergone a massive shift since the last episode of Season 4. King’s Landing deals with Tywin Lannister’s death, Tyrion’s escape, and the upcoming nuptials between King Tommen Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell. The Wall has invigorated focus now that King Stannis, Davos, and Melisandre have arrived and Mance Rayder is locked up. After having spent three seasons in King’s Landing, Tyrion is off to Essos with Varys at his side. The character that has undergone the least amount of change in surroundings would likely be Daenerys Targaryen. While she now has to come to terms with the fact that she locked up two of her dragons, it’s still mostly a lot of Dany talking to her advisors about the hardships of taking a city that isn’t too keen on having her there.

For the first time, the show decided to use a flashback – to a younger Cersei Lannister, who visits a witch deep in the woods to get told her future. It’s not good news. She says: “Oh yes, you will be queen. For a time. In comes another, younger, more beautiful to cast you down and take all you hold dear.” She also tells Cersei that she will have three children, and “gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds.” With Joffrey dead, the newly-upgraded series regular Dean Charles-Chapman as Tommen taking a more prominent role, and the recast Myrcella slated to appear this season, it does seem like the witch’s predictions on her future will play a strong role. Whether this role was to enlighten us on Cersei’s paranoia about Margaery, to warn us that her children won’t be staying around for much longer, or to simply set the tone for the season, is yet to be seen. I certainly commend the writers for choosing the flashback as the opening sequence, as it seems they will be anchoring much of the season on Cersei and her experiences in A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, which is, in my opinion, the strongest story through the two books.

After the flashback we get back to the main event in King’s Landing – Tywin Lannister’s funeral. Cersei and Jaime bicker over his dead body as Cersei blames Jaime for mistakenly murdering Tywin when he set Tyrion free. Where in the past, Jaime might stick up for Tyrion, it does seem he may be regretting having let him go, or perhaps regretting not seeing him out of King’s Landing himself. Elsewhere, Margaery Tyrell continues to prove that she is scheming, sneaky, and truly her grandmother’s daughter. When Loras tells her that she’ll be stuck in King’s Landing with Cersei, Margaery responds with a very thought-filled “perhaps.” It seems Cersei likely has a reason to be paranoid after all. Natalie Dormer has been doing fantastic work on the show, but the way she played that scene was one of the highlights of the episode.

Meanwhile, Tyrion finds himself in Pentos with Varys at Illyrio Mopatis’s palace. Unfortunately, we aren’t given a look at the cheesemonger himself, and in fact I don’t think that we will be seeing the character this season. A real shame, considering the great dialogue shared between Tyrion and Illyrio in the early chapters of A Dance with Dragons. However, Varys is not with him in the books, and a familiar face is always chosen over an unfamiliar face when it comes to the show. Some dialogue shifts over and it becomes evident that Varys will be taking over Illyrio’s duties in the show. Their two scenes together are mostly dialogue, and as I mentioned, this is the kind of conversations I expect that the show needs to be including when it goes through a massive shift. Tyrion murdered Tywin and then was set off in a crate to drink his way across the sea. And through it all, he raises a valid question: Why should I live? Fortunately, Varys sees potential in him, and with that comes Tyrion’s new journey: meeting Daenerys Targaryen in Meereen to decide if the world is worth fighting for.

We come back to Meereen to see how Dany is dealing with leadership. Two of her dragons are locked up and Drogon hasn’t been seen in weeks. Daario tells her “A dragon queen with no dragons? That’s not a queen.” And so Dany heads down to where she’s chained Viserion and Rhaegal, only to find that she may have been right: she can’t control them anymore. That’s not the only bad news for the mother of dragons, as she finds out that the Sons of the Harpy are not pleased and have murdered one of her Unsullied. The show makes good use of this storyline, donning the Sons with some creepy-looking golden masks and setting the horror-esque tone of these scenes. Another major plot is also set forward as Dany rejects Hizdahr Zo Loraq’s request to have the Fighting Pits re-opened. While Daario tells her that he thinks she should open them, she seems set on her decision for now.

Back in Westeros but further north, Brienne and Podrick are at odds after their encounter with Arya and the Hound. Where Podrick still feels optimistic about finding Sansa, Brienne seems to be dejected, unsure of how to continue, and lashing her anger out on her poor “squire.” Their scene together is more lighthearted than anything else the show has to offer, which is a welcomed breath of air. Gwendoline Christie and Daniel Portman continue to exhibit all the exact qualities of Brienne and Podrick that I’d envisioned when reading the books. It’s unfortunate that Brienne is feeling pessimistic about her quest to save the Stark daughters, because of course the show decides that Sansa’s carriage with Littlefinger would pass by near them. We aren’t given that much to chew on with Sansa in this episode, though seems Littlefinger has plans for her, plans that he says will keep her out of Cersei’s reach. As a book-reader, this seems to be one of the most diverging of the storylines yet, so I’m very excited on what’s to come.

Further north still, Jon Snow accustoms himself to the presence of Stannis, Davos, and Melisandre. He trains in the Castle Black yard for a bit with Olly, the youngster that shot Ygritte. I do wonder if he was taking some anger out on the little guy. Melisandre then shows up, telling him that Stannis wants to speak to him. Jon and Melisandre share an awkward scene up the Wall, as she tells him that she is never cold and asks him if he’s a virgin. Nothing out of the ordinary for the red woman, though it did feel striking to hear her theme running in the background score. At the top of the Wall, Stannis informs Jon that he has until nightfall to convince Mance Rayder to bend the knee, or else he’ll be burned. I’m not entirely sure what the show will do with this, nor am I hoping for any direction in particular, but I felt the end of the episode was not as effective as it could have been because the show has done a poor job of characterizing the King-Beyond-the-Wall.

Ciarán Hinds is an excellent actor, and he makes the best of what he’s given, but his speech with Jon at the start of the episode felt like the most we’d seen of him. Much like Stannis, I’ve felt that Mance’s story has been tiptoed around, almost as if the writers didn’t want to give him that much to do. Regardless, the episode ended on a note that I did not expect – Jon shoots Mance Rayder with an arrow to the heart. Will this upset Melisandre, as it now seems he died by arrow and not by fire? Probably. I’m certainly interested to see where this goes, as I would say it’s the first time in while that Jon is taking things into his own hands.

What is most striking about “The Wars to Come”, and how I expect I’ll feel as a book-reader going forward, is how seamless the things that I know are coming tie together with the things that I don’t know are coming. Margaery is not a point-of-view character in the books, but by this point in the show, her scenes don’t need to be rooted by another character (Renly, Joffrey, Cersei, etc.), and it doesn’t scream out to me as a scene that wasn’t in the books – it simply stands out as a scene with an interesting character. Tyrion’s story seems to be headed for the same destination that it has in the books, but it also seems like he’ll be taking a significantly different journey to get there. While Jaime travels the Riverlands in A Feast for Crows, the show seems it will be sending him to Dorne with Bronn on a rescue mission to get Myrcella. Regardless of whether the show follows the books or not, I’m definitely excited for what’s to come.

Final Thoughts:

  • No Arya this week, which may have contributed to what felt like a hole in the episode. Fortunately, next week’s episode is titled just for her.
  • There was also no Theon, but less pitiful Theon is not a bad thing, is it?
  • The required season-opener dragon shots were well-done, as the show made effective use of the dark dungeon to hide many dragon features while still portraying how intimidating they are.
  • Did anyone notice the Bolton sigil on Winterfell in the opening credits? I also think this is the first time the show landed on two cities in Essos.
  • Lancel Lannister and Kevan Lannister made appearances! I’m glad the show decided to bring them both back, as I feel they are important elements to Cersei’s journey this season.
  • Interestingly, the prophecy in the flashback cut out the “valonqar” section. Thoughts?
  • Maybe have Shireen not watch the man be burned to death. She’s just a little girl.
  • Yes, the first four episodes leaked online, but no, that does not mean they can be discussed in the comments.

Episode Grade: B

Game of Thrones returns Sunday, April 12th, and as I’ll be reviewing the show here at Zone Six, I thought I would write some thoughts on previous seasons as well as offer some hopes for Season 5 of HBO’s massive hit.

Note: While I am a book-reader and the reviews when the season airs will contain thoughts on the show’s divergence from the books, this post will be spoiler-free of such information.

At this point in the story, our characters have been split from each other across the continents of Westeros and Essos for some time, all with their own motivations, goals, and struggles. However, three primary conflicts are contained within the show that run parallel with our characters and affect them at every turn. The struggle for the Iron Throne sits central to these, and at Season 4’s close, we have Tommen Baratheon sitting the throne, being pulled in two directions by his mother Cersei Lannister and his betrothed wife Margaery Tyrell. I expect season 5 will deal with the repercussions of Tywin Lannister’s death, certainly to be blamed on Tyrion as he conveniently disappears from the capital the same night with Lord Varys. But who will Cersei think released Tyrion? Will she suspect Jaime, who actually did it? Or might she blame the Tyrells from her own paranoia?

Through the previews and articles about Season 5, we also know that the show will be taking us to Dorne, which is the home of Oberyn Martell. As we know, Oberyn perished in “The Mountain and the Red Viper,” the climactic and brutal eighth episode of Season 4. The Martells already languished for revenge for Elia Martell’s death at the hand of The Mountain and at the orders of Tywin Lannister, and I expect this revenge to be fuelled when Ellaria Sand returns with the news of Oberyn’s death. How Oberyn’s daughters the Sand Snakes and his brother Doran, the Prince of Dorne, handle this news is yet to be seen, but with a name like “Sand Snakes,” I think we can safely assume they will be itching for Lannister blood. And in fact, they have a Lannister in their midst, Myrcella Baratheon, who was sent to Dorne in Season 2 by Tyrion to be betrothed to Trystane Martell, Doran’s son and heir. We know that Myrcella will be taking a more central role this season – last played by Aimee Richardson, the character was recast and will now be played by Nell Tiger Free, likely signifying more screen-time as happened when Dean Charles-Chapman took over the role of Tommen.

Meanwhile, the Stark daughters are off on their own quests, with Arya heading to Braavos with the help of the coin Jaqen H’ghar gave her in Season 2. As we know, Braavos is where the Faceless Men are trained in the arts of assassination, and I think this story-line promises a lot of great scenes for Arya. Her elder sister Sansa, meanwhile, continues to be intertwined with Peter “Littlefinger” Baelish and his schemes, though it seems she has learned how to pull some strings of her own. I’m especially looking forward to her character arc this season. While her scenes in the past were not boring or otherwise bad, it is always difficult to watch a character have bad thing after bad thing happen to them. Not that she was in a great position to do anything about it, but a meek, passive character turned to a darker, more cunning character always makes for enticing scenes, as I discussed in The Walking Dead finale review.

Further north are an array of scattered characters not central to the main plot, but certainly of key importance. Firstly, after their disastrous run-in with Arya and The Hound, I assume that Brienne and Podrick will be continuing their quest to find Sansa, and based on the previews released, it seems they are heading into snowy territory. Considering Sansa is currently at the Vale, I’m wondering if this hints that Sansa will be traveling north, as some fans have guessed. In the darker, more tortured storyline, we have Theon Greyjoy, now known as Reek, continuing his role as the plaything of Ramsay Snow, now known as Ramsay Bolton, true-born son of the current Warden of the North, Roose Bolton. Last seen heading back to Winterfell to rebuild, it seems from the previews that their story will be crossing with that of King Stannis Baratheon, who has taken up residency at The Wall.

This brings us to the second main conflict of the series, that of the White Walkers impending return, and the Night’s Watch goal of protecting the realm from those north of the Wall, free-folk included. In the trailer, Jon Snow says “We can learn to live with the Wildlings, or we can add them to the army of the dead.” It seems this will be of significance this season, as the bastard son of Ned Stark attempts to convince the Night’s Watch that they need to allow the free-folk through the Wall to join their side. Running alongside this conflict will be his dealings with King Stannis, Melisandre, and Davos Seaworth, and I expect each will find some significance in Jon, being a son of Winterfell. Stannis mentions that Roose and Ramsay Bolton have taken the North, which means he will likely be looking for ways to take it from them. I’m quite excited for this storyline, and if the show does it justice, I expect it will be one of the many highlights of Season 5.

Our final, major conflict of the series is that of Daenerys Targaryen, her dragons, and her desire to return to Westeros and claim the Iron Throne for herself. Last seen chaining up her dragons due to their unruly behaviour and exiling Jorah Mormont due to his betrayal, I don’t expect Daenerys to be quite yet ready to leave Meereen, and it doesn’t seem like good tidings ahead. The trailers tease that Varys and Tyrion may be heading in her direction, and it will certainly be interesting to see these characters cross paths, if at all, especially considering her hatred of the Lannisters. If they interact, will she trust Tyrion? I would assume that the fact that he murdered Tywin (and can even take the blame for Joffrey’s death) would play into her favour, but we’ll see if that happens. It also seems that Drogon, still loose and flying about Essos, will be a major factor in the storyline ahead.

Meanwhile, after an explosive final scene in Season 4, it seems that Bran, Hodor, Meera, and company will be sitting out this season. David Benioff and Dan Weiss explain that chronologically, Bran is way ahead of where the other characters are. They mention that it made sense to stop where they did as he’s now entering a training period with the Three-Eyed Raven, most of which “isn’t particularly cinematic.” While I will certainly miss Hodor saying “Hodor,” the cast of Game of Thrones is large enough as it is, so I think it’s a wise move to focus on the important, crucial plots of the season, especially if Dorne is to take a more central focus.

So, what do I hope for from the new season? Well, mostly, I hope that Game of Thrones is able to deliver what it has consistently delivered in the past: political intrigue, large-scale action battles, fantastic character development, betrayals, blood, sex, dragons, and magic. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that each season has been better than the last, and I hope this season is no different. Specifically, I’m looking forward to more revenge for the Starks, a sharp dose of reality for Cersei Lannister, a surprise death or two, and as mentioned, some intriguing scenes between Jon Snow and his new visitors at the Wall. What are you hoping for?

Yesterday, at the Apple Keynote “Spring Forward” event, a new trailer for Season 5 of Game of Thrones was launched. With it came the announcement that HBO Now would be available on Apple devices beginning this April in an exclusive partnership.The confirmed pricing for the streaming service will be $14.99 a month.

The new season of Game of Thrones premieres April 12th with an episode titled “The Wars to Come”, and features new characters played by Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow of King’s Landing, Alexander Siddig as Doran Martell, Keisha Castle-Hughes, and Jessica Henwick, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, and DeObia Oparei as the Sand Snake sisters.

You can watch the trailer below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6a3HfOxlsI

From HBO’s official press release:

Upon launch, customers can subscribe using the HBO NOW app on their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, or directly on Apple TV for instant access. Users can purchase HBO NOW directly in-app for $14.99 a month. Upon registering, subscribers will also be able to watch at HBONOW.com. HBO will offer a 30 day introductory free trial period to new HBO NOW customers who sign up through Apple in April.

HBO continues to be in discussions with its existing network of distributors and new digital partners to offer HBO NOW. At launch, HBO NOW will be available on iOS devices and on PCs.

Highly-anticipated upcoming original programs like Westworld, the drama series starring Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris and Evan Rachel Wood; The Brink, the dark comedy series starring Jack Black and Tim Robbins; the new season of the Emmy®-winning True Detective with Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams; and HBO Films’ Bessie, starring Queen Latifah, will become available on HBO NOW as they air on HBO.

In addition, HBO NOW will showcase Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, named “best of 2014” on many critics’ lists; VICE, the Emmy®-winning, cutting-edge news magazine series hosted by Shane Smith; HBO Sports documentaries, series and World Championship Boxing events; and groundbreaking documentary programming like Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst and the Oscar®-winning Citizenfour.

Beware of spoilers!

HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones” is known for many things, but it’s not the intense action, the sex, the gore, or even the dragons that it’s most known for. No, the show is most known for its shocking, brutal deaths.

As we gear up for the season premiere, this Sunday, April 12th, I thought I’d share my top ten deaths in “Game of Thrones.” How are they ranked, you ask? Through a combination of four factors: method of death, shock level, character significance, and emotional impact. Would you use different metrics? Sound off below!

Without further ado, my list of the top ten deaths in Game of Thrones:

10. Khal Drogo

Method of death: Strangled while in a coma. 2/5
Shock level: Low. 2.5/5
Character significance: 4/5
Emotional impact: 4.5/5
Total death rating: 13/20

While it was long obvious that Khal Drogo would not be coming back from his infected wound, he was still a fantastic character at his prime, an undefeated Dothraki with the longest of hair, and truly soft-hearted, once Daenerys had come to know him.

9. Ygritte

Method of death: Arrow through the heart. 3/5
Shock level: Medium. 3/5
Character significance: 3/5
Emotional impact: 4.5/5
Total death rating: 13.5/20

Deaths were bound to occur when an entire episode is dedicated to the Battle at the Wall, where Wildlings coordinated an attack from the north and from the south at the same time. While we thought that maybe Jon Snow and his lover would be able to make things work, perhaps take her in as they’d done with Gilly, Ygritte had too much of the free-folk in her to ever turn her back on her own people.

8. King Renly Baratheon

Method of death: Stabbed by Melisandre’s dark magic. 4/5
Shock level: Medium. 3.5/5
Character significance: 3.5/5
Emotional impact: 3/5
Total death rating: 14/20

Though Stannis was next-in-line for the throne, we still rooted for Renly, especially when he had decided he would side with Robb Stark at Catelyn’s request. In one of Melisandre’s first magical showcases, she birthed some kind of black shadow that sneaked into his tent and murdered him, opening up an arc for Brienne of Tarth, Catelyn, and Jaime Lannister.

7. Prince Viserys Targaryen

Method of death: A golden crown. 5/5
Shock level: Medium. 3.5/5
Character significance: 4/5
Emotional impact: 2.5/5
Total death rating: 15/20

One of the earliest deaths in the series, Viserys Targaryen certainly had it coming. Scoring the only 5/5 on this list for method of death, Khal Drogo killing the Beggar King while his sister watches was a fantastic, brutal scene and ended up as the title of the episode.

6. Lord Tywin Lannister

Method of death: Crossbow to the stomach while on the toilet. 4/5
Shock level: High. 4/5
Character Significance: 5/5
Emotional impact: 3/5
Total death rating: 16/20

Lord Tywin Lannister could never live that long in the show. He was cunning and a fantastic player of the game,but  it seemed that almost every character could not bear the man, his own children included. While I could watch endless hours of Charles Dance playing Tywin Lannister, I think his death will push his twin children to new limits, and I look forward to see how this all affects the politics of King’s Landing.

5. Prince Oberyn Martell

Method of death: Crushed skull during trial by combat. 4.5/5
Shock level: High. 4/5
Character significance: 4/5
Emotional impact: 4.5/5
Total death rating: 17/20

By the time “The Mountain and The Red Viper” aired, viewers had become long-accustomed to the frequent deaths in the series. So while we were cautiously hopeful, even optimistic that Prince Oberyn might beat out Gregor Clegane, the truth was: We really didn’t know who would win. Accompanied by an excellently-choreographed fight sequence, as well as some fine acting from Pedro Pascal, it’s no surprise Prince Oberyn Martell’s bloody end made the top 5.

4. King Joffrey Baratheon

Method of death: Poisoned at his wedding. 2/5
Shock level: High. 4.5/5
Character Significance: 5/5
Emotional impact: 5/5
Total death rating: 17.5/20

Has any character ever been so despised as King Joffrey Baratheon? His emotional impact rating certainly scores high, as does his character significance rating. While poison doesn’t rank high in my method of death scale, it did allow for him to score a high shock level. Did anyone expect Joffrey to die in the second episode of the season? He was in King’s Landing, relatively safe from unknown people and war-zones, and surely we all expected the most brutal villain of the series to last longer.

3. Lady Catelyn Stark

Method of death: Slit throat at brother’s wedding. 3/5
Shock level: High. 5/5
Character significance: 5/5
Emotional impact: 4/5
Total death rating:18/20

The show managed once again to shock viewers at the Red Wedding. For that final moment before her throat is slit, you might think that Lady Catelyn could still live. Robb is dead, after all, and she could become a prisoner. But no, after a much-too long wait, a Frey soldier steps up and ends the episode with one of the most cringe-inducing, bloody deaths followed by utter silence.

2. King Robb Stark

Method of death: Stabbed in the heart at uncle’s wedding. 3/5
Shock level: High. 5/5
Character significance: 5/5
Emotional impact: 4.5/5
Total death rating: 18.5/20

After his father’s death, many viewers had hoped Robb would be able to avenge his father. Alas, he went ahead and married a girl, breaking a promised vow in the process. Featuring betrayals by Walder Frey and Roose Bolton, Robb’s death in “The Rains of Castamere” was arguably the most brutal moment of Season 3.

1. Lord Eddard Stark

Method of death: Beheaded in King’s Landing. 4/5
Shock level: Very high. 5/5
Character significance: 5/5
Emotional impact: 5/5
Total death rating: 19/20

Look, I know, he only beat Robb by a half point. If I were grading individual episodes, the double whammy of “The Rains of Castamere” would probably beat out “Baelor”. But of course Lord Eddard Stark would top the list. Before “Game of Thrones” was known for its brutal deaths, it was a show about our hero, Ned.

Honorable mentions: Talisa Stark, Shae, Lady Lysa Arryn, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, Ros.

Final thoughts:

Well, there it is. I did have to shuffle the scores a bit so that the rankings fit what I felt was most appropriate and so that there weren’t any ties. I judged emotional impact as feeling either devastated that they died (the Starks) or giddy with excitement that they finally tied (Joffrey). How would you rank the deaths in Game of Thrones?