Much like the fugitive Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones viewers are heading into new territory when the fifth season of HBO’s hit show returns this April. We’re still reeling from the dramatic events of last year (I still can’t look at crushed tomatoes without thinking of Oberyn Martell), based largely on the last half of George R. R. Martin’s arguably greatest novel, A Storm of Swords.
Written as two distinct novels, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons take place almost simultaneously for all of the former and a big chunk of the latter. It’s George’s great “Meerenese knot” untangling the various plots and loose ends and theories that still have yet to play out. While not considered the strongest installments of A Song of Ice and Fire, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been given some editorial spoilers for Thrones’ not-yet-written endgame. While this isn’t good news to book fans—some of whom have even decided to stop watching the show for fear of outpacing what’s known in the novels—fans of the show might just get another really great year of television as Benioff & Weiss trim some fat from George’s manuscripts and quicken the pace in ways the published novels have not.
And that’s to say nothing of the liberties the show is taking, creating rampant speculation and huge anticipation. So what themes might the show cover in its fifth year?
Spoiler alert: This article assumes readers have watched all of season 4 of Game of Thrones and contains major spoilers for season 5, pulled primarily from the currently published novels.
With the Lannister patriarch dead in a very deserved end, the Lannister children are left without the stern hand of Tywin to guide them. Cersei in particular will be unfettered, free to scheme behind the throne as her son Tommen’s Queen Regent. With her youngest sibling and her, uh, “favorite” sibling far from King’s Landing, I expect a lot of scowls, much wine, and really bad political decisions making for the darkest days of Cersei’s life.
In a huge departure from the books, season five finds Jaime in the sultry kingdom of Dorne on a diplomatic mission regarding his daughter-niece Princess Myrcella. Key characters from the books are rumored to have been cut, leaving one to wonder if Jaime might take on some story from them, specifically Ser Arys Oakheart, The Soiled Knight. (Ew. Even Kingslayer sounds better than that.)
Everyone’s favorite Lannister, Tyrion, arrives in Pentos with master manipulator Varys and is set on an eagerly-awaited early collision course with Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons. I really can’t stress the eagerly-awaited enough; A Dance with Dragons took things much, much, much slower than the show. Good editing is worth Fat Walda’s weight in gold.
A New Queen in Town
Make that several new queens in different parts of the map.
The third time could be the charm for Margaery Tyrell, aka the Angelina Jolie of Westeros, as she is betrothed to young, impressionable Tommen Lannister. For Tommen’s sake, let’s hope he lives beyond a honeymoon as he seems mostly sweet, unlike his dead brother Joffrey. Margaery is more beloved by the smallfolk than ever, thanks to her knack for P.R. and her house’s considerable coin. Margaery continues to rise as the younger, prettier, more popular version of Cersei—and cleverer, too. Isn’t this the kind of schadenfreude we all wish to befall the most hated (currently alive) Lannister?
In Dorne, the controversial absence of Arianne Martell might be to the benefit of Myrcella. She’s aged up and could theoretically have more agency in the plot to make her own bid for the Iron Throne.
Lastly, never discount Sansa Stark, under the creepster gaze of Petyr Baelish. He’s grooming her in all kinds of uncomfortable ways, but Sansa will be learning the game of thrones from someone who might be the savviest player of them all. I think one day the student will surpass the teacher and she’ll get the last laugh. Maybe not this season, but before the story’s end. Until Littlefinger is unseated, Sansa isn’t hiding her identity as she was in the books, so she could declare herself a Queen of the North when the opportunity arises, throwing the seven kingdoms into further chaos.
Cat of the Canals
Arya arrives at the House of Black and White and begins her training among the Faceless Men. And she wears a dress. And has an even fouler mouth. She’s the character that’s stayed truest to her first season-self. Let Sansa plot as a lady and a politician. Arya knew she never wanted that. But she wants this. Badly. And she has nowhere else to go. And no one else to trust. This is an exciting crossroads for her as she literally and figuratively leaves her old life behind. But becoming a master assassin won’t come easy to her—when did anything come easily to a Stark?
Keep your eyes peeled for the reappearance of a familiar face: Jaqen H’ghar is rumored to show his again for at least one episode. Good. A woman needs some visual interest in a world of bereft of male beauty. (See above re: Oberyn and crushed tomatoes.)
Sand Snakes Strike
Fans of ASoIaF have been waiting for these twisted sisters to show up. Sure we’re getting about five less of them than anticipated, but there’s no reason to think the missing girls might not turn up later. In the meantime, we’ve got three very fierce young woman who fight as one, looking to avenge their father. I’m particularly excited to see Keisha Castle-Hughes as Obara Sand, whose weapon of choice is the same as her dad’s. I can’t believe the little girl from Whale Rider is all grown up and not riding a dragon. For the time being.
Cracks in the Wall
Jon Snow is no longer the slack-jawed young boy he once was. He’s been tested beyond the Wall, loved and lost love, and played a crucial part in leading the Night’s Watch to an uneasy alliance with the wildlings. With the dour Stannis and his army new to the Northern scene, egos will war. But of more pressing concern is the Red Priestess Melisandre and what her flames might show. There’s no way Jon will get along with her, but I bet it’ll be fun for viewers. Especially if they aren’t kind of bored of watching Melisandre distract men with her boobs. Just guessing. I mean, it isn’t Game of Thrones without bare breasts to watch.
What Not to Watch For
You’ll strain your eyes trying to find Bran Stark, Hodor, that other little Stark kid who liked walnuts, Tonks, any Greyjoy not Theon and probably Yara, and eleventh hour surprise Targaryens. They are not in this season.
Game of Thrones returns to HBO Sunday, April 12th at 9PM E/PT.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com, covering book reviews, gaming news and TV, including Game of Thrones. She’s also covered entertainment news on Boing Boing. A student of the 2008 Clarion West Writers’ workshop, her short fiction has appeared in ChiZine. Follow her on Twitter @tdelucci.