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‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Finale Shootaround

Another season is done. Our ‘Thrones’ scholars tried to make sense of all the carnage.

Superfan Crazyperson Power Rankings of the Week: Finale Cliffhangers!

Mallory “Mother of Dragons” Rubin: Well hello, my sworn brothers. How are you? Finished wiping your Lord Commander’s blood off your traitorous blades? That “Traitor” sign was for you, right? You filthy, foul, treacherous ingrates! You’re the real bastards!

But wait. Perhaps all hope is not lost? Perhaps Ghost will wake from the nap he must be taking and rip out your throats? Or perhaps there’s a less violent path to the comfort that I seek? Perhaps Jon isn’t really dead? This was, after all, a finale full of cliffhangers, and since when has a Blackwater’s worth of blood ever guaranteed anything on this show? But which cliffhanger was the cliffhangiest of all? Glad you asked!


SERIOUSLY, THOUGH, IS JON REALLY DEAD? In a way, this seemed like the only clear-cut thing in the finale: Thorne, Olly, and their treasonous cohorts Caesared Jon, who crumbled to the ground as the camera lingered on the light leaving his eyes and the blood leaving his body. But, but, but! Jon’s stout! Maybe he just needs a little restorative snooze, like Drogon! Or maybe he is dead, but will return to the land of the living soon? Melisandre just returned to Castle Black, and we know that her peer, the red priest Thoros of Myr, was able to resurrect Beric Dondarrion time and again. We also know that Jon’s half-brother Bran is a warg; is it possible that Jon shares these gifts, and might now be sharing a mind and body with Ghosty the Mosty? Don’t give up hope yet, gentle readers. No matter what Kit Harington and D.B. Weiss say. (Also, tune in for waaaaaaaaay more Jon theorizing in this week’s Ask the Maester and Game of Thrones Book Symposium columns, because we’re not even close to through discussing this. We’re a tad obsessive around here. You might have noticed.)


Is Stannis really dead? Follow-up: Do we really care? This dude quite literally played with fire, and if he got burned by Oathkeeper’s edge, all the better. Still, if one of the main players for the Iron Throne remains alive, it matters, and the old rule holds true: No body, no guarantee, and we didn’t actually see Brienne deliver the fatal blow.


Is Myrcella really dead? Are you noticing a theme, my dears? Unless Bronn’s Sand Snake sidepiece snuck an antidote amulet into his carry-on, it’s hard to imagine Myrcella surviving Ellaria’s poisoned kiss. But again: No body, no certainty. A connected cliffhanger: What’s Jaime going to be more crushed about: Myrcella’s fate, or Cersei’s confessed infidelity? Twincest might seem icky to you, tender reader, but remember that Jaime lives by a code: He has proudly declared that he has never slept with anyone other than Cersei, so it’s hard to imagine him being thrilled by the idea of Lancel dipping his quill into the same inkpot.


Did Dany wind up among friends or foes? The Dothraki were her people once upon a time; will the arakh-carrying horsemen rally to her side again? Or will they seek to snuff out the former bride of a rival Khal? And if it’s the latter, how long is it going to take Daario and Jorah (and Jorah’s greyscale) to find her? Also, seriously, did Drogon get a good nap? Little fella looks like he could use a Gatorade and some Neosporin.


How many broken bones do Sansa and Theon have? It seemed like the thaw that aided Stannis’s march missed a corner of Winterfell, where the snow beneath the battlements remained thick enough to tempt Reek and Sansa into jumping for their lives despite having just witnessed Myranda go splat in the courtyard. Snow or no snow, though, that impact probably hurt! It’s going to be hard to run from Ramsay without full use of their lower limbs. Maybe Pod will swoop in just in time to catch Sansa and spirit her away.


Is Arya really blind? Or are the Faceless Men moving on to the next phase of her training, which presumably involves learning to rely on all of her senses and to live with increasingly fewer bits of herself? Also, is it a coincidence that Jaqen robbed Arya of the thing that she first took from Meryn Trant? There’s a place for tough love and demanding curriculums, but damn, J-Man, even No One needs to see.


Is Cersei about to break out a dope wig collection? Uncle Kevan didn’t seem to like the new ’do. Relatedly:


Is FrankenQyburn’s MountainMonster wearing too much eye shadow? Lookin’ a tad purple around the ol’ eyeholes, Ser Gregor! Admittedly, it probably doesn’t matter what color he is, or whether he’s strictly human, as long as he can do Cersei’s bidding moving forward. If I were the High Sparrow, I’d borrow a pair of Toms and hit the kingsroad.

Bonus! Borderline Weird Mallory Rubin Game of Thrones Memorabilia of the Week

image (1)Mallory “Mother of Dragons” Rubin

Pop Culture’s Killing Field

John Lopez: Does something count as “entertainment” anymore when you feel so beaten, abused, and destroyed after watching it that you need to decompress by putting Drive on and blissing out to Nic Refn? Granted, this has been everyone’s refrain from the beginning, and after five seasons, you’d think we’d have at least developed better coping mechanisms. But no, I haven’t. I think half the reason I can suddenly sympathize with Cersei so much after last night’s episode is that you couldn’t come up with a more perfect metaphor for watching this show. Except that so far, we’ve yet to reach the mountainous zombie knight who will hold us as we collapse into his arms, ready for some much-needed bed rest and a bottle of the finest royal Chardonnay.

It’s a testament to G.R.R.M.’s or David Benioff’s and Dan Weiss’s powers (is praise even the right kind of reaction here?) that every season after I thought I had no one left in whom to invest myself, I still walk away feeling like I’ve been dumped anew by the love of my life. And I can’t tell if all of those Jon Snow theories that in the heat of denial I quickly rushed to the Internet to obsess over are simply a function of my inability to accept (fictional) reality or a justified belief that hope (i.e., Jon Snow) springs eternal. That said, I still feel the whole Stannis story line suffered from some unnecessary roughness, even though I can’t deny a certain Shakespearean poetry to his Lear-esque ending. Maybe it’s the dad in me, but I’m just not sure I needed to watch a little girl burn to get there. The only certainty I have anymore is that next year, after I’ve recuperated with whatever comparatively breezy prestige dramas get nominated for Oscars, Game of Thrones will knock on my door, give me a knowing wink, and I’ll let it right back into my life, shifting my naive loyalties to whomever’s still left standing. My only solace at this point is knowing that next season, for once, all of those haughty book readers out there will be in the same boat as the rest of us.

PS: But do me a favor, G.R.R.M., David, and Dan: If your whole epic doppelgänger world ends in a blaze of fire and ice, at least promise me that Bronn and his Lady Sand Snake get to escape to Dorne and live out their days in raunchy irrelevance?

When One Dorne Closes, Another Dorne Opens

Dave Schilling: Dry your eyes, Thrones fans. You might still be reeling from the untimely death of Lord Commander Handsome McStoneface, but take comfort in the one silver lining of last night’s episode: We’ve finally left the narrative black hole known as Dorne. While the rest of the Internet is talking about Jon Snow like he’s Tupac Shakur (is it a coincidence that his direwolf’s name is “Ghost”?), I’d prefer to focus on the positives. If Benioff and Weiss are paying attention to fan opinions (they aren’t), the next time we hear from Prince Doran and the gang will be via raven only.

This particular detour from George R.R. Martin’s text initially promised Lawrence of Arabia swashbuckling and high intrigue but ended up reminding me more of Ishtar. I would have preferred to see Jaime and Bronn bust out a pair of bongos for a rendition of “Little Darlin’” than suffer through another second of ham-fisted dialogue, poorly choreographed fight scenes, and just about everything related to the Sand Snakes.

My god, the Sand Snakes. Can we talk about this? Did the writing staff of Game of Thrones add a 12-year-old to the room? I was half-expecting Kevin Sorbo or Louis Gossett Jr. to show up for an episode as Doran’s plot device/bodyguard, which frankly would have been an upgrade. After 10 episodes, the Sand Snakes accomplished two things: helping their mom kill Myrcella and fulfilling HBO’s nudity requirement. That could have taken half of one episode. You could have even skipped the nudity, folks. When was the last time Game of Thrones was even remotely titillating? After the 500th sexual assault and the millionth beheading, I’d be more excited by Dennis Franz’s bare cheeks on a rerun of NYPD Blue than this show.

Oh, and you know why John Lopez referred to “Lady Sand Snake” in that last section? Because he probably doesn’t know that character’s name! I don’t. I’ve seen this character naked, but I do not know her name. For the sake of this Shootaround, her name is Sandra. Sandra Sand, the Sand Snake. Come back with me to a simpler time, before Season 5 started. Remember when you saw all those promotional images of Sandra Sand, the Sand Snake?


Whoa, Sandra Sand, the Sand Snake looks so neat! She’s got some crazy daggers and a pretty mean scowl on her face (plus the fashion confidence to wear leather bracelets). If, at this point, you’d bet that her most memorable scene in Season 5 would be describing the dubious merits of her reproductive organs, you’d be rich! We were all fooled, me included. Let’s do our best to put this whole sordid mess behind us. Let’s also ignore the fact that Dorne will absolutely be back next year and that Sandra Sand and Bronn will probably hook up, leading to a Sandra and Bronn spinoff series set exclusively in Dorne! THIS NEVER HAPPENED.

Melisandre’s Lament: A Limerick

Holly Anderson:


A red priestess named Melisandre.


Did bid Stannis southward to wandre.


Spit-roasted the princess.


Gave sellswords the winces.


And did with a horse then abscondre.

The Season 5 Finale Stock-Market Movers

Ben Lindbergh:


Sam(s) and Gilly: If you’re wondering why we haven’t seen Oldtown, it’s because it’s unfit for TV, due to being the one place in Westeros where life isn’t a longer version of Cersei’s King’s Landing walking tour. Sam traded endless snow, permanent peril, and probable death for a temperate climate, interesting architecture, and the kingdom’s most coveted library card. No wonder everyone says he’s so smart.

Tommen, Temporarily: When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die, but those outcomes aren’t equally likely. Stannis, Renly, Robb, and Joffrey are dead, and Balon settled for a smaller reward. So guess who won the War of Five Kings? When the civil war started, the handicappers had Tommen somewhere between Ser Pounce and Ilyn Payne, but he unwittingly won while sulking, refusing food, and pretending his pillow was Margaery.

Sure, Tommen’s uncontested possession of the Iron Throne will last only until he suffers one of his siblings’ nosebleeds or has to face down Dany’s dragons, Dothraki, and Unsullied. But by the standards of most other monarchs, he’s had a good run.

Ygritte: Her Jon Snow assessment was retroactively proven right.

The Long-Suffering, 60-Percent-Sons-of-the-Harpy Citizens of Meereen: The Varys-Tyrion interim tag team can’t be worse than the old regime.

Jon Snow Speculation: Google any topic today, and the first relevant result will be buried below three pages of theories about why the Bastard of Winterfell will be back.

Sellswords: This is the easiest occupation in the Seven Kingdoms, bringing all of the spoils with none of the war. No one even expects sellswords to fulfill their contracts: The worst consequence of a predictable desertion is that someone will say “Never trust a sellsword,” a piece of advice that everyone ignores.

The Missing Starks: Their 10-episode exile is over. So pumped for Season 6, guys. BRAN’S BACK. RICKON RETURNS. We’re all thinking this.


The Sand Snakes: As we suspected, the Sand Snakes were the worst. We know this not only because their every expression was excruciating, but because all of their scenes could have been excised or totally stripped of Sand Snakes without affecting the one important plot point to take place in Dorne. Even Hodor has better dialogue and character development. With any luck, a new season will be the antidote to their poisonous presence.

Reek: Theon’s alter ego lost the battle for his psyche and ceased to exist. On the plus side, Reek contributed to the best high-walkway redemption of a turncoat amputee since Anakin Skywalker threw the Emperor down the reactor shaft.

Stannis’s Military Reputation: Benioff and Weiss took great pains to tell us that the eldest Baratheon brother was the second coming of Scipio, but between the Battle of the Blackwater and the rout at Winterfell, we’ve seen Stannis easily outsmarted by Tyrion and Ramsay Bolton, neither of them among their era’s finest military minds.

Brienne: She finally fulfilled one of her vows by avenging Renly, but (1) only after Stannis was stuck to a tree, and (2) in the process, she broke a promise to Sansa. Brienne is still letting Lady Starks down.

Night’s Watch Recruiters: As if the lifetime sentence, coarse company, and proximity to White Walkers weren’t problems enough, a second consecutive mutiny will make it even more difficult to attract qualified Lord Commanders.

Gods: The Mother’s Mercy is indistinguishable from punishment. Sacrificing family members to R’hllor works out as well as deals with the devil (which isn’t surprising, given their shared affinity for flames). And the Many-Faced God won’t endorse a well-deserved sadistic stabbing. What good are gods, anyway?

Loras and Margaery: The only thing worse than suffering Cersei-style indignities in the Faith Militant’s dungeon is doing so offscreen.

Ghost: Where were you, man?

Faces of the Finale

Mark Lisanti:

The “Who’s Got Two Thumbs and Is Enjoying How the End of the World Is Working Out for Him? This Guy”


The “All I Did Was Base My Entire Campaign for the Throne Upon the Instructions of a Witch Who Killed My Brother With a Smoke-Demon Emanating From Her Ladyparts. I Still Don’t Understand What Went Wrong”


The “Pay Very Close Attention, This Sudden Lesson in Physics May Prove Useful Later”


The “Father’s Day Is Going to Be So Perfect This Year. Let’s Make Sure We Get Your Nosebleed Situation Looked At Before Then”


The “Don’t Get Too Freaked Out About My Dead Face, I’ve Got Like 400 More Underneath This One”


The “If We’re Being Totally Honest, I Don’t Know How I Feel About You Bossing Me Around All the Time, Mom. I’m My Own Dragon-Person”


The “Atonement? That Doesn’t Sound So Bad, Just As Long As It Doesn’t Involve Me Being Ritualistically Humiliated by Hundreds of My Filthy Subjects”


The “What? Too Much Eye Shadow? I Was Going for a Smoky Vibe to Offset the Horror of Being a Reanimated Abomination”


The “Blood Magic Is More of a Dark Art Than a Dark Science”


The “How Many Times Did I Ask You to Watch The Wire? My Parents Really Loved The Wire!”


The “Why Does Nobody Believe I’m Dead? I Feel Like I’m Going to Be Pretty Dead in a Minute. Lotta Stab Wounds, Lotta Stab Wounds”


Goodbye, Jon Snow … ?