Game of Thrones returns worldwide for its fifth season on April 12th, and with it comes the dozens of familiar (and sometimes not so familiar) faces, as well as a few newcomers, and it can be pretty damn tough keeping track of who everyone is, what they were last up to, and where they currently reside. In an effort to please R’hollor and to help re-light the wildfire in our brains, I’m here with a Season 5 primer to get you locked, loaded, and ready to go for the premiere. Unless of course you’re Rickon, in which case let’s just hope Osha is keeping you safe.
We’ve already covered the South in Part One and spent a day at the Wall in Part Two, so today we’ll catch you up on everyone in between (and out East). Warning: this post is dark and full of spoilers from Seasons 1 through 4 of Game of Thrones, as well as some light speculation and news from Season 5.
Peter “Littlefinger” Baelish
Westeros is Littlefinger’s world, and everyone else is just living in it. A master of misdirection, Littlefinger thrives on people underestimating him, as well as relying on the sustained ignorance of those in charge. Littlefinger first succeeded in King’s Landing by keeping the gold dragons flowing as the Master of Coin, despite King Robert’s gluttonous tendencies. Littlefinger presented himself as a man who could rub two coins together to make three, when in reality he was merely ruthlessly borrowing from the Iron Bank of Braavos (who we glimpsed last season when they agreed to lend Stannis Baratheon money for his war efforts). Littlefinger borrowed and borrowed and borrowed from the Iron Bank, with hardly any intentions of paying them back, knowing that it’d cripple the realm. As Varys noted, Littlefinger would gladly burn down the realm if it meant being king of the ashes. His plans are always two steps ahead of everyone else, as evidenced by his plan to kill Joffrey and smuggle Sansa out of King’s Landing and into the Vale. With Starks running low, having Sansa gives Littlefinger a trump card that’s unmatched by other lords, mainly the Boltons. Now he’s just biding his time until he can present Sansa to the realm. That’s Littlefinger’s master plan; or at least that’s what he wants us to believe. Expect Littlefinger to tour the Vale with Sansa and Robin Arryn this season.
If I’m being completely honest, Sansa Stark is the person I’d most like see sitting on the Iron Throne when all is said and done. Sansa has done an incredible job not only staying alive this long, but also remaining strong. People are always quick to blame Sansa for Ned’s death because she told Cersei about her father’s plans to out Joffrey’s bastardry. But everyone seems to forget that Sansa was simply a young girl, jaded by pretty dreams of being queen. When the Starks arrived in King’s Landing, Ned gave Arya an important speech that she shouldn’t trust anyone because they weren’t in a safe place. But he never taught that lesson to Sansa. Ned’s undoing came from a collection of small missteps and can’t be blamed on a singular event, and his failure to properly warn Sansa is definitely in that collection. With Littlefinger aiding her every move at the moment, she has nowhere to go but up, and it will be interesting to see what happens as they tour the Vale. (This storyline is one I’m most looking forward to, because as of Season 4’s conclusion, we’ve already caught up to Sansa’s storyline from the books. So everything we see from here on out will be new to all viewers.)
It might not be fair due to his sheltered upbringing, but man do I hate Robin Arryn. It didn’t help that the first time we saw him he was still sucking milk out of him mom’s breast. Robin is prone to fits of histrionics, no doubt a reflection of his mother’s insistence on giving him whatever he wants. But now that his mother has taken a nonstop flight out of the moon door and won’t be coming back, he’s in for a rude awakening now that Littlefinger will be taking care of him. Robin is the heir to the Vale, and Littlefinger insists that as its lord, he must be brave and travel the lands, visit the people, and exude confidence. Will he be up to the task? I have my doubts.
Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne
We last saw Brienne and Pod in the Season 4 finale after an epic fight between her and the Hound, where she was left bruised, bloody, and at a crossroads. Arya clearly didn’t want Brienne’s help, an outcome that Brienne never even saw coming. Brienne and Pod now find themselves alone in the Riverlands without a real clue as to where to go next. It's time for them to reevaluate their plan of action, and they might even decide that it makes sense to go their own ways.
Valar morghulis. With those two words and an old iron coin, Arya is off to Braavos, leaving Westeros in her wake. No one has come so close to safety more times than Arya. In Season 2, Yoren nearly returned her home in route to his trip back to the Wall, but then the Lannister soldiers inadvertently captured her and brought her to Harrenhal. In Season 3, first she was promised a trip to Riverrun by the Brotherhood without Banners, and then she was brought by the Hound to the Twins on the NIGHT OF THE RED WEDDING! Later, she arrives at the Vale soon after her Aunt Lysa’s death, unaware that Sansa is there too. All this is to say it’s nice to see Arya finally make it somewhere she intended. Braavos is the land of Jaqen H’ghar – a place where the faceless men assassins are trained, and Arya is hopeful to join their ranks. Casting news has confirmed that Tom Wlaschiha, the actor who played Jaqen H’ghar in Season 2, will return, so look for him and Arya to reunite this season.
My girlfriend and I can barely train our cats to obey us, so I can’t pass judgment on Daenerys for failing to properly control her dragons. But I can judge her for her lack of foresight. It should be no surprise that dragons are wild creatures prone to carnivorous killing, just like it's no surprise when I go in for a belly rub and leave clawed and bloody. And yet Daenerys took no precautions. As a result, she’s had to lock up two of her dragons, while the third remains free and uncaught. This does not bode well for the dragons, as recorded Westerosi history confirms that when the Targaryens began locking up their dragons indoors, stunted growth and shortened lifespans resulted. This is just one of many examples as to why it would be in Daenerys’s best interest to leave Meereen, but she refuses, citing unfair treatment of slaves as the reason. It’s noble of her to fight for the people who don’t have a voice, but all Daenerys seems to be doing is making enemies. Slavery was the cash crop of Meereen, and the dragon queen has torched the fields. Expect backlash and vengeance to be sought out by the Meereenese people, and for her circle of trust to weaken.
Daario Neharis, Barristan Selmy, Grey Worm, and Missandei
Together, these four people make up the inner circle of trusted advisors to Daenerys. It’s inevitable that these four will have conflicting opinions at some point, but they should all continue to serve their queen valiantly. If anyone’s a wildcard, it would be Daario. The full-time sellsword and part-time booty call is the only character who does not tiptoe around his queen when it comes to advice, and he’ll continue to voice his unwavering opinion by her side in Season 5. Speaking of Daenerys’s side, do you know who’s not by it?
The last time we saw Jorah, he was exiled from Meereen on Daenerys’s orders after he confessed to informing on her to Varys early in their relationship. Jorah originally sought out Daenerys in hopes that his reports to King’s Landing would help get his name cleared after he bought and sold slaves – a highly illegal act in Westeros punishable by death. But it didn’t take long for Jorah to fall in love with the dragon queen, and he insists that his spying days were long past. But Daenerys didn’t care, going as far to say that if Jorah was still in the city at daybreak, his head would find its way into Slaver’s Bay. So Jorah’s whereabouts are currently unknown, but don't count on him to stay missing for too long.
Roose Bolton, Ramsay
Snow Bolton, and Reek
This atrocious father-son duo continues to climb the ranks, as many villains of George R.R. Martin are known to do. Silently brooding since the beginning, Roose’s plans to overtake the North came into focus during the Red Wedding when he sent Robb Stark the Lannisters’ regards via a dagger to the abdomen. Since then, Roose has set his sights on Winterfell. But to safely take that seat, he first had to acquire safe passage through Moat Cailin, a castle with a strategic placement that prevents Northern travel without granted passage. Moat Cailin was the last holdout remaining from Theon Greyjoy’s failed northern attack in Season 2. The soldiers remaining in Moat Cailin are sick, injured, and abandoned, but just like the Night’s Watch proved against the massive wildling army, proper position is key when it comes to battle. Rather than risk the loss of soldiers, Roose orders his bastard son, Ramsay, to take the castle. And Ramsay just so happens to possess the perfect person for the job – Reek, or the man formerly known as Theon Greyjoy. Reek walks into Moat Cailin and orders his ex-men to hand over the castle to Ramsay, who will let them all return home to the Iron Islands. They surrender, ready to go home, except Ramsay kills them all. To show his son how much his efforts are appreciated, Roose hands Ramsay a document granting him the right to call himself Bolton, erasing his bastardry. And now, with Moat Cailin fallen, Roose and company have a direct path to Winterfell, which is where they’ll be headed this season.
Some people might say that when he refused to serve as Tyrion’s champion against the Mountian, Bronn betrayed the man who made it possible for him to climb as high as he did. But I disagree. As we’ve learned from the series, there are old sellswords, and bold sellswords, but no old, bold sellswords. Bronn knows there’s a ceiling on how far he can climb, and the odds stacked against him in a duel with the Mountain did not make the proposition an enticing one, especially considering that Cersei had also arranged for Bronn to marry Lollys Stokeworth, a nobly born women, thus giving Bronn an even higher social status. Even Tyrion understands Bronn’s decision. As they shake hands and leave each other, Tyrion muses that he’ll have to kill the Mountain himself, and that it will make a great song. Bronn tells him he looks forward to hearing it someday. And I look forward to seeing more of Bronn. Will he be content to grow old in a castle? Or will an opportunity for more adventure come knocking?
Thanks for reading, and check back Monday for my reactions to Episode 1!
Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.
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