Welcome, friends, to the worst time of the year. The longest time we have to wait before there’ll be more Game of Thrones, but last night’s season 5 finale left us with more than enough to speculate about, with insane cliffhangers to digest in every single locale. Lets dive in, shall we?
Most predictably, though disheartening for this particular Team Stannis member from way back, our last true Baratheon standing didn’t fare very well against the Boltons in Winterfell, finding another half of his army deserted and his wife having hanged herself after last episode’s nastiness. It wasn’t Ramsay who finally did him in but Brienne of Tarth, as revenge for the smoke monster death of Renly waaaaaaaay back in Season 2. Stannis gives into defeat at the end, “do your duty” he tells Brienne before she delivers the killing blow. Sansa, meanwhile, realizing that her hope for Stannis to unseat the Boltons is lost, lights the candle in the tower only to have Brienne and Pod miss it in their pursuit of Stannis. Trying to flee the city Sansa is cornered by a bow and arrow wielding Myranda, who gets a few taunts in before being tossed over the castle wall and onto the concrete by Theon. He grabs Sansa and they jump over the other side to freedom, into snow presumably deep enough to safely break their fall.
In Meereen the Daenerys bunch (Tyrion, Daario and now Jorah) are still scratching their heads about last week’s dragon shenanigans. They devise a plan for Jorah and Daario to go searching for the still missing Dany, while Tyrion, Messandei and Grey Worm stay behind to govern the city. Dany herself has been stranded in the middle of nowhere by Drogon, who now refuses to heed to her commands. She goes off wandering and is surrounded by what appear to be an army of Dothraki. Are they friend or foe? Will they hurt or try to help our intrepid mother of dragons?
Traveling to Braavos we see Arya completely abandon her League of Shadows, I mean Faceless Men approved mission to kill the crooked land baron as a fish monger, now posing as a young prostitute in pursuit of Meryn Trant. As he whips three young girls at the brothel from last episode only one wont scream for him, and causes him to send the others away so he can focus just on her. This is Arya of course, who sheds her disguise and pounces on the villain, gouging out his eyes and slashing his stomach, then throat. Jacquen is understandably displeased at her employing her new-found skills for personal ends and poisons himself in front of her. Or does he? He then appears behind her as she removes several masks from what she thought was his corpse, ultimately reveling herself, and she’s mysteriously blinded as the scene goes black.
Everything’s seemingly peaceful in Dorne, until it’s not, with Jaime, Bronn, Myrcella and Trystain headed back to King’s Landing. Jaime and Myrcella have a Full House style heart to heart on the boat, she knows she’s really Jaime and Cersei’s incest baby, and she’s totally cool with it! Wow! But what’s this blood coming out of her nose? Yup, turns out the Sand Snakes poisoned her before she left. No happy ending for you, Lannisters. Speaking of Lannisters, possibly having the worst day of anyone who actually gets to live through it is Cersei, who finally confesses to incest with Cousin Lancel (but not with Jaime, or killing Robert Baratheon, or anything else) and is released by the High Sparrow to await trial, but first she has to “atone”, which involves having most of your hair violently pulled out by razors to the point of bleeding and having to walk naked from the dungeons back to the castle while the common folk throw piss, shit and god knows what else at you. She returns home, having survived the ordeal and is greeted by Qyburn and his newly resurrected, zombified Franken-Mountain, revenge surely on her mind.
Which finally, sadly, inevitably, brings us to The Wall. Sam and Gilly leave with Jon’s approval, Sam being tired of all this Night’s Watch shit and wanting to become a Maester, and Melisandre returns after Stannis’ defeat at Winterfell, though to what end we’ve yet to discover. In the episode’s closing moments Jon Snow is roused from his usual brooding with news that his uncle Benjen has been spotted beyond the wall, but when led to supposed information confirming this he is instead met with a dead end, the word traitor scrawled on the wall, and everybody from the little kid to the guy who looks like Michael Rooker each stabs their Lord Commander in the stomach, repeating “for the watch.” Jon Snow is dead, long live Jon Snow.
Again, that is A LOT to process, especially given how slowly this season began. It seems like whether intentional or not they saved all the earth shattering revelations for the last three episodes, which has made for one hell of a past three weeks of viewing but a wholly unremarkable previous seven. Hopefully the showrunners can find more of a balance now that they’re wholly in “no book to adapt” territory and have to forge ahead on their own. As for the episode’s two big deaths, we never really saw Brienne actually plunge the blade into Stannis, even though he was (literally) on his last legs anyway, but Jon Snow’s possible un-death offers a whole world of possibilities. Will he turn into a white walker? Will Melisandre resurrect him somehow? If not what was the point of all this wildling/walker business and her return to Castle Black in the first place? These narrative seeds were planted for a reason, it just sucks that we have to wait a year to see how they grow.