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?