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 Gendry, in which case you’re still rowing in circles around Dragonstone.
This week, we’ll pick up in the north and cover those currently at or beyond the Wall. 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.
The last time we saw Jon Snow, he was walking away from the burning remains of Ygritte and towards the uncertain future of the Night’s Watch. You see, Stannis’s last-minute heroics, as required as they were, put the Night’s Watch in awkward territory. The Watch operates as an entity completely separate from the rest of the realm, meaning they offer no allegiances to individual families or kings. Everyone is a member of the realm, and the Watch protects them all. It doesn’t matter who sits on the Iron Throne. So Stannis, a nomad king, turning up at the Wall was great in that his troops defeated Mance Rayder’s army, but now they’re still there, and it’s not going to take long before it looks like the Night’s Watch has chosen a side. But what awaits Jon Snow? Maybe it's time time he proves he actually knows something.
While Alliser Thorne is certainly not the most likeable character in Game of Thrones, it’s hard not to respect him, especially after his speech during the Battle at Castle Black:
The fate of Thorne is unknown, as he was last seen being dragged away by his brothers after sustaining battle wounds, but he was clearly still alive. Although the Watch is technically operating without an elected Lord Commander, it’s been Thorne who’s been serving as the de facto leader, which makes his uncertain health just another question mark on the already convoluted future of the Watch. Now that the wildlings have been defeated, expect a formal vote to occur sometime in Season 5 where the Night’s Watch will formally elect a Lord Commander.
Between Joffrey, Walder Frey, and the Bolton boys, there have been some pretty vile characters in Game of Thrones, yet I find myself hating Janos Slynt the most. Slynt has been around since Season 1, where he commanded the City Watch in King’s Landing and duplicitously told Ned Stark that the his men would support Ned’s plan to out Joffrey as a bastard. Slynt lied, as he’s prone to do, and when Ned confronts Jaime Lannister, the City Watch attacks Ned’s men, killing all of them (including Jory Cassel) and allows Ned to be taken prisoner. That’s only Season 1, and that’s already enough for me to convince you that Slynt’s the worst. For further proof, let me remind you of the scene during the Battle at Castle Black where Slynt sheepishly seeks refuge from the fighting in the food pantry, only to be greeted by Gilly and her baby. Seriously, this man sucks! And he’ll continue sucking in Season 5.
It might have taken four seasons and his entire life, but Sam “The Slayer” has officially arrived. He may have bumbled his way into killing a White Walker (something, mind you, that hadn’t been done in thousands of years), but Sam manned-up during the Battle at Castle Black and earned his cloak. It will be interesting to see how this newfound self-confidence effects Sam in Season 5.
Out of all the horses in which to hitch your chances to survival to, Sam Tarly is as far from a thoroughbred as a man can be. But miracles do occur, and whether it came in the form of a dragonglass dagger or an unknown tunnel through the Wall, or some out-of-place compassion from a murderous Ygritte, Gilly has survived, despite the odds stacked against her. Currently, she's at Castle Black where Sam has promised to protect her. There's only one problem, women are not allowed at Castle Black. Let's see how this plays out.
Everyone knows the type of person who, when in an argument, will plant their feet and refuse to see the other side of the story. Stannis isn’t that type of person. Stannis will not only plant both his feet down, he’ll pour cement over them and berate you for your shortcomings through gritted teeth. After all, he chopped the fingers off of the man who saved his life, and if that doesn’t perfectly define his character, than I don’t know what will. Stannis begins Season 5 at the Wall, having recently defeated the wildlings and taken Mance Rayder prisoner. Though Stannis covets the Iron Throne, he’s almost as far away from it as he could possibly be right now, and he’ll have to work his way south, where he won’t have safe passage to do so unless he can convince the northern lords to side with him. As an expert strategist, it’s safe to assume Stannis will have a few ideas up his sleeve in Season 5.
After I finished watching LOST, I feared that I’d never again witness another death via smoke monster, but Melisandre proved me wrong in Season 2. A priestess of R’hollor, Melisandre believes that Stannis is Azor Ahai – a hero destined to defeat the Great Other. After being left home during Stannis’s defeat in the Battle of the Blackwater, Melisandre made sure to accompany him for his trip north, where she’ll continue to influence Stannis’s decisions.
I respect Davos more than any other character in the series. He’s the moral center of the show, and he’s not afraid to stick to his gut and speak his mind. It’s clear that Stannis respects Davos’s opinions, as displayed by his new title as Hand of the King. Being that George R.R. Martin has a tendency to kill off moral characters, I fear for Davos’s longevity. But for now, Davos resides at the Wall with Stannis.
Like the wildlings he oversees, the King Beyond the Wall kneels for no one, regardless of titles. Unfortunately, Mance didn’t see the Stannis Inquisition coming, and he’s now been taken prisoner. Knowing Melisandre and her fondness for king’s blood, Mance might want to keep his head on a swivel.
Myths don’t bother themselves with average men, so even though Tormund might not actually have fooked a bear (You know you read that as Ygritte.), and his member may or may not be thrice the size of other men, rumors like this don’t associate with the unworthy. As proven by his impressive fighting in the Battle at Castle Black, Tormund is no joke. Even with multiple arrows protruding, he still refused to go down, and was taken away kicking and thrashing. Like Mance, Tormund is currently a prisoner at Castle Black, and he was last seen drinking with Jon Snow in remembrance of Ygritte.
Bran Stark, Meera Reed, and Hodor
As writer and executive producer David Benioff announced earlier this year, it has been confirmed that Bran, Meera, and Hodor will not be appearing in Season 5. The reasoning is simple enough: the show had already caught up to the end of Bran’s storyline from the books, and it made little sense to rush ahead, especially considering the various other storylines that still need to be flushed out. Bran and company were last seen finally arriving at the weirwood cave that houses Bloodraven (The Three-Eyed Raven), whom they had been following per Jojen’s greendreams for the better part of the last two seasons. We’ll pick back up with Bran in Season 6, where hopefully we’ll have a new book to read, a new season to enjoy, and a six-foot Bran to watch ride on Hodor’s back.
Thanks for reading, and check back next Friday for my recap of everyone I’ve yet to discuss, including the Stark sisters, an idle Dragon Queen, a wayward warrior woman, a banished knight, the Bolton boys, and a Littlefinger. And then get ready for the premiere, which I'll be discussing here on Monday, April 13th! Until then, Valar Morghulis.
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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