Features and Columns · TV

The Big Moments That Remain for the Game of Thrones Season 5 Finale

By  · Published on June 12th, 2015


Winter has come and so has the end of the road for snooty book readers like yours truly. This week is something that we should consider, as those who have tormented our friends by YouTubing their reactions and waiting with disturbed glee for the most shocking Game of Thrones moments, to be the last hoorah for book spoilers.

For those who have not read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, your day has arrived. With this weekend’s season 5 finale, there will likely be no more major book spoilers available to your more literate friends. There will be nothing left for them to hold over your heads and carefully tease as seasons go forward. Unless George R.R. Martin releases another book between now and next spring (which seems unlikely), everyone is going to be forging on with Game of Thrones at the same pace. It’s a brave new world for show watchers, book readers and the spoiler culture that has been as much a part of the show as Cersei’s wine goblet. It’s always around here somewhere.

That said, if you are not a book reader and are spoiler averse, you may want to stop reading here, as I’m about to run down all of the big book moments that remain for the season finale. One last journey into the fray, for old times’ sake. If you choose to pass beyond Walter White Walker, Lord of Spoilers, you shall be met with the last vestiges of book spoiler territory.

How long will this finale’s runtime be? That’s one of the great questions, as there is so much that will need to happen at the end of all the storylines at play. On this week’s episode of Storm of Spoilers, I theorized that the finale will have to be much longer than a normal episode in order to fit everything in. My silly guess: 2 hours and 20 min. My less silly guess: it will probably run in the 65 minute range. For more on that and a deeper discussion of what we expect out of the finale, the most recent episode of Storm of Spoilers is embedded below:

Now let’s rundown the list of big moments that are likely to happen in the finale:

1. Arya’s Next Lesson

At the end of A Feast for Crows, Arya is out in Braavos working for The House of Black and White as Cat of the Canals. When she kills a Night’s Watch deserter, something that’s not part of her training, she is given milk meant for “Arya.” When she wakes up the next day, she is blind. Much later in one of the released chapters of The Winds of Winter, Arya is part of a group of mummers putting on a play when she spots Raff the Sweetling (a member of her kill list). She takes to seducing him and relieving him of his man-bits. It’s likely that these two events will be compressed into the Meryn Trant storyline the show has already set up. Last week it was revealed that Trant is trolling the brothels of Braavos for some very young girls with which he can do unsavory things. It’s likely that Arya’s seduction (in the book her name is “Mercy” at the point, which goes with the finale’s title, “Mother’s Mercy”) of Meryn Trant will lead to his demise in a gruesome manner. And this betrayal of her training (she’s supposed to be killing the thin man) will lead Jaqen to giving her the milk, leaving her blind. It’s the right kind of shock that would fit in well with the episode’s potential theme of consequences.

2. Cersei’s Walk

The episode title, “Mother’s Mercy,” refers directly to the walk of penance for Cersei Lannister, who is going to need to confess some of her crimes (though perhaps not all) and pay for them with a great deal of shame. As we know from set photos and reports of expensive on-set security for the filming of this sequence, it’s going to be brutal. We can expect Lena Headey to shine in Cersei’s darkest and most publicly humiliating moment. The big questions revolve around how long the walk will be and how non-readers will take it. The show has been justifiably criticized this year for its treatment of female characters and this will be some of its most brutal work to-date. For book readers, the big moment may come toward the end of the walk if the show reveals Ser Robert Strong and his pale white enamel armor. They’ve kept the zombified remains of The Mountain in the background of Qyburn’s wonder emporium all season, calling back to it several times (see: “The work continues.”) It’s unlikely that the show is going to save this reveal for next season, as it won’t be fresh in the minds of show watchers. The resurrection of The Mountain also goes with another expected theme from the finale, which we’ll talk about shortly.

3. Dany’s Landing

There isn’t much book runway left in the story of Daenerys Targaryen other than the fact that she will need to land somewhere and possibly be spotted by a Khalasar. It will be interesting, however, to see how the show wraps up the situation in Meereen. Unlike one of the big cliffhanger’s of Martin’s “A Dance of Dragons,” there is no siege of Meereen. There’s also no Ser Barristan or Hizdhar. Who will be in charge while Dany is off finding herself on the back of Drogon? My guess is that Tyrion, Daario and Ser Greyscale of House Friendzone will get a little bit of screentime to decompress and form a plan. The big thing that could be left for next season, but could very well show up in this already stuffed finale: someone has to get barbecued trying to release the other two dragons (I miss you, Quentyn Martell). There are plenty of candidates, including either Missendei or Grey Worm, though I hope they both stick around and end up in a love triangle with Tyrion. Did this just get weird?


4. Sam’s New Journey

Things are clearly not safe at The Wall for Sam and Gilly. Now that Jon snow is back at Castle Black to do some Lord Commandering, there’s a clear narrative path toward him sending Sam on his way to Oldtown and having Gilly go with him to be dropped off with at the Tarly residence at Horn Hill. We know that this is all coming, as the show has already begun scouting locations for Oldtown and the early season 6 casting lists include what appears to be Sam’s father Randyll Tarly (a loyal general of House Tyrell, which may come in handy) and his family. Also, sending Sam and Gilly away clears the last roadblock between Jon Snow and some increasingly unhappy men of the Night’s Watch.

5. Myrcella Gets Some Work Done

After last week’s episode, I would have speculated that the Dorne storyline was over, mercifully so. Perhaps there was no need for Arianne Martell to show up and be a feminist champion for social change. Perhaps the Sand Snakes would be ultimately relegated to action figure status and Oberyn’s legacy would die in the fires of my disappointment. Then actress Jessica Henwick, who plays Nymeria Sand, gave an interview stating that she and her on-screen sisters have another big action scene in the finale. And that something “extreme” is going to happen that changes the entire direction of the show. There isn’t much from the books that supports the latter half of that claim, but there is something extreme about the disfigurement of Myrcella Baratheon. This has led both myself and my good friend Joanna Robinson to wonder if Dorne hasn’t been a waste of time, after all. I’m still holding my expectations very low for this one, as Dorne has strayed too far into the weeds, but perhaps while in those weeds we’ll get an awesome Dornish Master Plan speech from the otherwise docile Prince Doran. Then it won’t all have been a waste. At least not a total waste.

6. Poor Uncle Kevan

In the “Hardhome” episode, Cersei is getting the news of King’s Landing from Qyburn in her cell. Among his creepily delivered updates is word that Grand Maester Pycell has recalled Kevan Lannister to serve has Hand of the King and keep things in order while most of the royal family is imprisoned by the Faith and Tommen is very sad about it. I’ve no doubt that other book readers noticed this little detail, as Uncle Kevan meets a very untimely death at the hands of Lord Varys, who is skulking around in his chambers right as a white raven arrives with the news that Winter has begun. There’s a chance that this event could be part of a an onslaught of death and destruction toward the end of the finale, but it seems less likely. There is still a lot for Kev to do, including the scolding of Cersei, the settling of the situation between the Lannisters and the Tyrells (which includes appointing Randyll Tarly to the Small Council) and simply bringing some balance to the situation in King’s Landing before Varys comes along and insights chaos again between the Tyrells and Lannisters. If I had to pick anything on this list to get moved to early season 6, it would be the death of poor Uncle Kevan Lannister.

7. For The Watch

The biggest book cliffhanger that George R.R. Martin has ever written is the stabbing of Lord Commander Jon Snow by an angry mob of Night’s Watchmen. In the books, the inciting factor of this mutiny is that Jon decides to leave for Winterfell to attack the Boltons. He does so after receiving a taunting letter from Ramsay Bolton detailing his victory of Stannis, the capturing of Mance and referencing his marriage to Jon’s sister “Arya.” This causes Jon to relinquish command, to abandon The Night’s Watch and ask some of the wildlings to join him in a siege of Winterfell. Before he is able to leave, confusing breaks out with the giant Wun-Wun and Jon is stabbed by his brothers, who murmur, “for the Watch.” To date, there is no further book information that explains Jon Snow’s fate.

It would be incredibly difficult for the show to pull off a cliffhanger like that of the books, mostly because in between now and spring 2016, Kit Harrington would likely be spotted on the set of Game of Thrones should Jon Snow survive the ordeal (or be resurrected). A better cliffhanger would be Jon falling to the ground only to be reawakened somehow. There are numerous ways that Jon’s reawakening could happen, be it by the hand of The Night’s King or perhaps The Lord of Light. There is also the popular book reader theory that Jon wargs into Ghost before his body dies, but the show has laid very minimal groundwork for this. They showed the wildling warg throw himself into his bird before he died, but they’ve never established the fact that Jon (or any other Starks) have powers similar to those of Bran. It would be out of left field and in my personal opinion, pretty silly. My hope is that somehow, even though it’s a logistical challenge, Melisandre and The Lord of Light have something to do with it. That’s because I’m on Team Jon is Azor Ahai, the child of Ice (Lyanna Stark) and Fire (Rhaegar Targaryen). Then again, all of that could be wrong. And perhaps the show will give us those answers before Mr. Martin fits it into his busy schedule.


What About Everyone Else?

There are a number of big question marks that fall outside the realm of book knowledge:

What happens to Stannis? The episode 10 trailer shows him leading a siege of Winterfell, which has not yet happened in the books.

What will become of Sansa Stark? She too is in the next episode trailer, seemingly ready to take some kind of action while she’s still got some fight left. As this is very off-book, I can only imagine what will happen and if the gods are good, we’ll see some gruesome end for Ramsay Snow.

How do Brienne and Pod fit into all of this northern chaos? The little moment between Brienne and Pod from earlier in the season, in which she talks about her new life goal of getting revenge for Renly by killing Stannis, is still very interesting. What if Stannis’ siege of Winterfell is successful (thanks to the buckets of king’s blood burned away with Shireen last week), only to have him land face-to-face with Brienne the Beauty? This would be a fitting and traumatic end for Stannis.

What will Jaime Lannister do? Depending upon what happens with the Sand Snakes and Myrcella, Jaime Lannister’s trajectory will be interesting. In the books, he discards Cersei’s cry for help after finding out about Lancel, returning to the Riverlands to bring order in the wake of the War of the Five Kings. This puts him in line to see what happened to the Blackfish (after his very long pee outside the Red Wedding) and as far as we know, puts him in the sights of the Brotherhood Without Banners and their new traveling companion, the hooded darkness formerly known as Catelyn Stark. She’s always ready to deliver some Mother’s Mercy.

Perhaps we’ve come to far if we’re getting into Lady Stoneheart trutherism. For her, my watch continues until the final moments of the entire series. If her appearance ends up being one of the great surprises at the end of season 5, you won’t find a happier book reader than yours truly. It might be the show’s way of giving us one last gift before we must venture into the true darkness.

For the future is dark and filled with a lack of book spoilers.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)