If there’s one thing that will be fascinating about Game of Thrones season 5, it’s the diversion from George R.R. Martin’s books. This is a trend that got a big shot in the arm last season with a little trip to the White Walker Fortress of Solitude, something that everyone – even those of us who have read the books – did not see coming. As we’ve heard from show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, both the show and the forthcoming books in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series are moving toward the same endgame. But there will be changes along the way.
With that in mind, I’m using our first entry into this week’s Game of Thrones Season 5 Preview to speak directly to my fellow book readers. What will we learn about Martin’s story in ten episodes to come? A lot of it isn’t about who dies or who wins the proverbial game, but who doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
Before we get started, here’s your spoiler warning. What follows is strewn together with knowledge of the books, a few wild theories and perhaps some experience with a bit of season 5. We’ll get started following this visit from Walter White Walker, Lord of Spoilers.
1. There is No Young Dragon
Thanks to season five’s casting, we get to file the story of Griff and Young Griff (later revealed to be Young Aegon Targaryen) away next to the Kingsmoot, Coldhands and Jojen Reed. Then again, at least Jojen Reed got into he show before being cut down on-screen despite being still alive in the books. The one thing we’ve learned from season 5 thus far is that Efficiency is Coming. If you are a part of a storyline in George R.R. Martin’s books that isn’t very relevant to the core story, you are not going to make it into the show. We know from trailers and set photos that Tyrion is headed for Daenerys. His travel companions include Lord Varys and probably (eventually) Ser Jorah Mormont, the Recently Exiled. There just isn’t room for a new set of companions, a big new storyline or more friends for Tyrion.
That is unless the show runners have something to hide, as was suggested by a recent “spoiler” hint by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. This is silly.
2. The Lost Martells
There will be plenty of room in season 6 for the Ironborn to make a big splash. There still may very well be a Kingsmoot and Uncle Euron and all kinds of Drowned God shenanigans. Just like Bran Stark, they wait off in the distance for a potential return. For Dorne, however, season 5 is going to be both the big coming out party and the big leaving out party. Here’s what we are getting:
- 3 very angry Sand Snakes (Obara, Nym and Tyene)
- One Prince in a wheelchair (Doran will be chilling, avoiding war)
- A vengeful paramour (Ellaria Sand is back and she’s not happy)
- A large man with a large ax (Areo Hotah)
- Prince Trystane and his love for the Lannister girl
That’s a good portion of the books’ Dornish regiment. Sadly though, that leaves out the extra-crispy demise of Quentyn Martell, the very fun and scheming Princess Arianne (whose schemes will likely fall to Ellaria) and Oberyn’s other daughters. The last of those is fine, as the show really doesn’t need any more child-related violence. The fear for book readers is that the Dornish storylines will also get caught up in the Great Efficiency of season 5 and while we will get some Sand Snakes action, we may ultimately find that Dorne is less important. Remember that after the Myrcella storyline is done, the only thing happening in Dorne is the return of Young Aegon. And that probably isn’t happening, so let’s enjoy Dorne during this brief (and possibly final) stop.
3. Keeping The Faith
We know that season 5 will introduce The High Sparrow and see him installed as the head of the Faith Militant (a decision that Cersei will very much come to regret). However, there are other rumblings of religion around the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. We’ve seen in trailers that Tyrion will encounter a red priestess along his travels (likely in Volantis). We’ve seen in the same trailer shot that the slaves of Volantis are very into what she’s saying about R’Hllor. Combine that with a lot of Melissandre sightings thanks to her proximity to Jon Snow all season and we’ve got a clear path of ramping up the religious storylines. The show likes to set things up well in advance in a way that will make sense later. For example, there’s one scene in a very early season 5 episode that shows someone doing a walk of shame at the behest of the Sparrows. This will undoubtedly set the precedent for Cersei’s big season 5 climax.
What is the show setting up by keeping the Lord of Light in the minds of its audience. As the title of episode one points out, it’s all about “The Wars to Come.” The greater war – as I understand it – is the one between the light and the dark. The Winter and the Light. Ice and Fire. Jon Snow riding a dragon to kill the Night’s King (right?)
Speaking of which…
4. The Night’s King Cometh
One of my favorite season 5 rumors, as pointed out by my good friend Joanna Robinson, is that The Night’s King may show up late in the season for the battle of Hardhome. The season 5 trailer showed us that not only is Jon Snow involved in Hardhome (where in the books he sent others), but he’s also brought along a bunch of others, including Sam and Tormund Giantsbane. The prevailing rumor is that The Night’s King and his ilk show up to make the battle that much more epic (which would explain why the show felt the need to introduce him last season) and that someone is going to die spectacularly in order for everyone else to escape. If that spectacular death is that of Tormund, played beautifully thus far by Kristofer Hivju, I will be said. I love that man.
That said, there is so much Jon Snow character acceleration coming in season 5. The fifth episode’s title, “Kill the Boy,” references Maester Aemon’s famous last words to Jon Snow, in which he urges him to become a man. Snow will spend much of the season learning to be a leader and a hardened war commander. What is it that would truly shock him late in the season, causing him to take an interest in what’s happening south of The Wall? Perhaps some real Winter magic. That would have me wanting to move to Winterfell, as well.
5. Lady Stoneheart
Before we get into this, I would like to point out that I’m not the only one holding out hope for a Lady Stoneheart appearance. We all want this to happen, even if it comes late in the game. At one point, Michelle Fairley was credited as “Hooded Woman” in episode 10 of season 5 on IMDB. It could have simply been someone trying to mess with those of us who check that page every single day, but it was so swiftly removed after someone noticed that we should not take this information lightly.
I can say with certainty that the storyline of Brienne and Pod is going nowhere fast in season 5. They lost Arya, they aren’t likely to pry Sansa away from Littlefinger and whatever scheme he has in store for her, and the most interesting shot of them from the trailers is just them being caught in a blizzard. This tells us a few things: (1) Winter is finally coming and (2) unless they run into someone interesting on the road, they currency of “The Misadventures of Brienne and Pod” is going to run out quickly and become very boring. I’d prefer they not get boring. In fact, I’d prefer they meet up with the Brotherhood, bringing back likable characters like Thoros of Myr and Anguy the Archer, survive a little Lady Stoneheart kill party and join the cause to exact revenge upon the Riverlands. It’s too good, I know. Things don’t ever end the way we want them to, but at some point a Stark (or three) is going to get their revenge. And with the show becoming very short on great characters (season 4 saw no less than 7 awesome characters die), bringing back The Brotherhood without Banners sounds like a fine idea to me. And with them comes the hooded woman. Surprise!
The key for book readers to remember is that we’re well into uncharted territory with season 5. It has been a lot of fun to watch unknowing friends squirm through all the colorful weddings, but now might be our time to find a few surprises. Even though I’d prefer to have another book to read, this journey into the unknown provides a new dynamic for my fandom. The night is dark and full or terrors but it’s also full of intrigue and excitement. How will Tyrion react if he’s present when Dany has her big fighting pit moment? Who else will Melisandre burn? Is Sansa heading to Winterfell to kill some Boltons (or at least feed them a Frey Pie)? There’s is nothing ahead of us but potential. And a few huge cliffhangers that non-readers won’t see coming.
But hey, let’s just keep that last part to ourselves.