First off, congratulations! With yesterday’s news that the first four episodes of Game of Thrones have leaked, you’re frankly pretty brave for even opening an article on the series in the first place. Second, no need to worry. No spoilers here- as long as you’re caught up and ready for season five. And if you aren’t… what’s wrong with you? You’ve got like half a day left. Shoo. Go watch.
Our calendars have been marked for months now- this is finally it. Season 5 of Game of Thrones, in which, for better or worse, we’ll be pushing past the current narrative of the novels themselves and into the uncharted territory of George R. R. Martin’s mercilessly brilliant story. That wailing you hear in the distance is the synchronized grief of a thousand once-smug book readers. For half a decade we’ve been delighting in watching the pained reactions of our friends and family to every twist in the plot, from the untimely but probably union-mandated death of Sean Bean Ned Stark to the even more untimely deaths of Robb and Catelyn Stark, uh… man, this family’s been having a lame couple years.
More to the point, the tables are finally turning. And while show watchers have always had the benefit of merely plugging their ears and waiting for their yearly fix of swords, sorcery, dragons and dynastic incest, dedicated book readers are in the much more precarious position of having to hope for the intercession of Martin himself, a cruel god if there ever was one, who often seems about as distant as one of Westeros’ muted Seven.
But instead of thinking about how the books will be spoiled, let’s think about how the incredible plot will be revealed- finally, and with all the fanfare of what has become the flagship production of American television. Here are three questions readers and watchers alike can agree we hope to find answers to.
1. How Does Everything Tie Together?
Fantasy novels and stories are excellent for their episodic qualities. By establishing an enormous world at the outset, writers like Martin can plop down dozens of central characters into far-flung locales, with only the promise of prophecy to ultimately bring them all together. It’s pretty much a given that at some point, the narratives will intertwine- after all, that’s why we’ve been following these characters for so long.
We’ve had more than a few tastes of this in the last few seasons, like the excellent departure from the book in which Brienne and the Hound meet for a cliffside grudge match, but ultimately the most interesting collision is shaping up to be whatever events bring the plotlines of the two continents together. Two key characters are already crossing the Narrow Sea, but when will they be coming back again.
2. Why Will We Be Crying This Time?
Don’t even act like you’re not waiting for it. Yeah, sure. Ned Stark loses his head and everyone is like ‘WOAH, OKAY. NOT GETTING FOOLED LIKE THIS AGAIN.’ And then you did, didn’t you? The Red Wedding reaches down your throat and rips your heart out like it’s playing Operation, and that was it, you were never going to be invested in another character again, ever. And then that stupid sexy Pedro Pascal comes along with a performance as Oberyn too good not to cheer for.
It’s clear both Martin and the showrunners, Benioff and Weiss, have no intentions of de-escalating the show’s inclination to build us up and then break us down completely. What nightmares are in store for us in the future of the series can scarcely be imagined. The story is expertly crafted, so it’s probably useless trying to read context clues until after the fact. Just watch each episode with the mentality that everything good and honest will ultimately be eviscerated by the cold, clammy grip of an unfeeling world and you should be fine.
3. Who The Hell Is This Guy?
The biggest warning sign we’ve received so far that the show is unafraid to tackle content yet unpublished, last season’s reveal of what appears to be the leader of the Others may be the biggest plot point of the coming season. To be clear, this character has never appeared in the books, although the next title in the series, ‘Winds of Winter’ seems like the perfect opportunity to make his debut.
So who is he? Just a particularly fancy Other? Doubtful, as the ritual with the child shows. An original character, a sign that the books and the show will ultimately part ways and form distinct narratives? Maybe, but not likely. Careful watchers have combined a close attention to detail and a PR mistake on HBO’s part to hypothesize that he is in fact a mythical figure mentioned in passing by Bran’s caretaker. The theory is compelling enough to avoid if you’re a real stickler for skipping spoilers, but like ideas about Jon Snow’s origins, it’s almost too hard not to look.
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