Looking back on any season of Game of Thrones is an exhausting proposition, largely because it reminds you of the sheer glut of storylines and characters that the show attempts to juggle with some semblance of clarity. To be fair, show creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have proven increasingly deft at streamlining the adaptation of George R.R. Martin‘s unwieldy, frankly gigantic source materials, and from the episodes of season 5 that have been previewed, they’re getting even tighter in their editing and visual storytelling. In fact, the first four episodes suggest that season 5 may be the most rewarding season of Game of Thones to date.
With the Lannisters currently on the ropes, while also seeking out Tyrion’s head, and Daenarys’ role as the leader of Meereen growing all the more complex following the abolishment of slavery, season 5 looks to get complicated and crazy awfully quick and in anticipation of all the blood, eunuchs, and dragons, we broke down just what went down in and around Westeros as season 4 came to a harrowing close.
- First and foremost, Tywin (Charles Dance) is deader than disco. Following his rather incessant attempts to have his son, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), executed, he got the less-than-advisable idea to start hooking up with Shae (Sebil Kekilli), the only woman Tyrion really loves. When Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) released Tyrion from jail, the only arguably not-evil Lannister made sure to take his time to strangle his beloved to death and put an arrow in daddy dearest’s heart, a big ol’ thank you for all the paternal love and care.
Subsequently, Tyrion heads out of King’s Landing with Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) as his primary keeper, leaving Jaime and Cersei (Lena Headey) to deal with both poppa’s death and the ascension of Tommen Baratheon (Dean-Charles Chapman) to the throne in the wake of Joffrey’s (Jack Gleeson) joyously drawn-out death. Meanwhile, Cersei is comforted by her blind contempt for Tyrion following the, er, messy fight between The Mountain and Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal).
- Jaime not only made an uneasy pact with Tyrion, he also worked to get used to life without his good hand and after his reputation as the King Slayer. His transition reveals new parts of the eldest of the Lannister progeny but not all of these changes were positive (see: that horrifying rape scene in the third episode). As is so often the case in this show, personal change and growth are seen as necessity but by no means clean or without uglier outcomes.
- Elsewehere, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) started making her first move from her relationship with the bed of the late king to that of the incoming king; Bronn (Jerome Flynn) started training Jaime on his new sword hand; and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) aligned himself with Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and got her out of King’s Landing, though his reasons, per usual, don’t seem entirely altruistic.
Speaking of Sansa, the ex-Mrs. Joffrey showed a lot more wisdom and sense of experience in the second half of season four. Her partnership with Littlefinger forced her to buy into a number of lies and betrayals, which she took to like a natural conspirer. Like her bastard brother on The Wall, Sansa’s indoctrination into a more complicated sense of morality has brought out more fascinating elements of her character than the put-upon daddy’s girl she’s been sold as thus far.
- Maisie Williams’s Arya Stark, on the other hand, continued her Bad-Ass 101 lessons with The Hound (Rory McCann) in the wake of the Red Wedding with all its…redness. That was up until Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) stuck a sword in the Hound. As the fourth season closed, Arya used her beloved coin to pay for passage to the House of Black and White, in the hopes of hunting down Jaqen H’ghar (Thomas Wlaschiha).
- Arya wasn’t the only one out in the wilderness. Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Hodor (Kristian Nairn) lost some members of their party while in search of the three-eyed raven, including a rather unsettling run-in with some sadistic mutineers. That being said, the dangerous trip also went toward Bran’s solidifying his otherworldly abilities. Too bad we won’t be seeing hide nor hair of Bran or Hodor this season; their quest will pick up in season 6.
Well, there was a bit of a toss-up with the Wildlings, which caused a few … sorry, a whole freaking tonnage of dead soldiers, giants, and all manner of other creatures. Jon Snow faced off with Ygritte (Rose Leslie), and Ghost proved that, in any situation, it is better to have a dire wolf by your side than your normal, everyday wolf. The arrival of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) means there will almost certainly be some change-ups at the Wall, both in leadership and general codes of conduct.
- The last thing Snow was tasked with was bringing in Mance Rayder (Ciarin Hinds), and Snow’s bond with Stannis, flanked by Melisandre (Carice van Houten), and Davis Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), was built on their cooperation in capturing the King Beyond the Wall. Those familiar with George R.R. Martin’s source material will know where this partnership is leading, and viewers can expect at least a few morsels of these two powerful leaders feeling each other out as season 5 gets underway.
- The Night’s Watch is also thrown into tumult by Samwell Tarly’s (John Bradley) insistence in keeping Gilly (Hannah Murray) and her baby at Castle Black. It’s partially what stirs up such a furious conflict between Snow and the elders of the Night’s Watch, whose obsessions with tradition and loyalty to hugely masculine beliefs lead to some pretty hairy situations.
Across the Narrow Sea:
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) took Meereen without really knowing how hard it would be to lead the largest city in Slaver’s Bay. Her time on the throne, flanked by Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) and Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney), is, in essence, an attempt to prepare for ruling over Westeros. Her attempt to show her fairness as a ruler, however, also caused her to lock up two of her dragons, which I’m sure will have no repercussions.
- Meanwhile, Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) was revealed as a betrayer and cast out of Meereen, with Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) continuing the most smoldering love affair between a eunuch and a former slave girl in history right under Daenerys’ nose.
Game of Thrones Season 5 premieres Sunday, April 12th at 9 p.m. on HBO.