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Before ‘Game of Thrones’ Returns, Let’s Revisit Season 5 – New York Times

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You may have heard that “Game of Thrones” is returning to HBO on July 16. To prepare for Season 7, we’re reviewing and reassessing the first six seasons of the show, with the benefit of hindsight. Each recap will contain spoilers for all six seasons. We’ve also looked at Seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Season 5 involves many characters attempting to learn to rule, often in the face of intransigent foes — religious fanatics, political insurgents, armies of the dead. (Diplomacy is not an option with White Walkers).


Game of Thrones
Where to watch: HBO

After Stannis saves Castle Black from the wildling attack, Jon Snow faces the unfortunate (and unpopular) task of turning those most recent enemies into allies. As the newly elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, he has to make some hard decisions. Since the White Walkers can grow their ranks with those they kill, it doesn’t matter if the bodies belong to crows or free folk — it’s a war of the dead against the living. The Night’s Watch, however, is deeply divided on this issue, probably because those who have not seen the wights or the Walkers can’t fathom how real the threat is. But Jon makes the call to go to Hardhome and rescue as many wildlings as they can. This, of course, gets him (temporarily) killed.

Daenerys Targaryen wants to install some sense of the rule of law in Meereen, but she finds that the Sons of the Harpy won’t let her keep the peace. She tries to figure out what kind of queen she will be. She teeters between justice and barbarism — between being more like her brother Prince Rhaegar, a favorite among the people who died in Robert’s Rebellion, or her father, the Mad King, as she faces decisions about reopening the fighting pits; building alliances; and what to do with Jorah Mormont (who unbeknown to her has greyscale), who has returned from exile with the unexpected “gift” of Tyrion Lannister. Perhaps Tyrion can give her the kind of advice she’s sorely lacking.

His sister, Cersei, however, knows just want kind of a queen she wants to be — one who can inflict cruelties without having to take the blame. To her, power is about rivalries and revenge, and hard-won and much-needed alliances are to be torn apart. Consumed with jealousy over Margaery’s influence on her son Tommen, Cersei seeks to undermine the Tyrells, sending Mace Tyrell off to deal with the Iron Bank, arming the Faith Militant and setting up Loras and Margaery to be arrested. Both the Lannisters and the Tyrells believe they can outmaneuver the other, but both lose as the High Sparrow emerges victorious.

The main winner, however, is Littlefinger, who has managed to play all sides against one another, using both the impending battle in the North (using his influence on Sansa and brokering her marriage to Ramsay Bolton) and the infighting in the South (giving the Lannisters and the Tyrells each a key witness to the other’s crimes — his spy-prostitute Olyvar, and Cersei’s co-conspirator, cousin and lover, Lancel). That ladder called chaos? He’s still climbing it.

(Also, in Braavos, Arya takes Assassin 101 and learns how to wear a new face. And in Dorne, Jaime and Bronn go on a “sensitive diplomatic mission” to rescue Myrcella from the Martells. It’s a huge mess, and it ends with Myrcella dead.


Season 3 in Six Scenes

‘Shame.’

What punishment could be worse for Cersei Lannister than being forced to walk among the people of King’s Landing — the very people whose needs she had disregarded in her climb to power — by decree of the forces that she had raised up? By arming the Faith Militant and setting them loose in King’s Landing, Cersei brought about her own downfall. Somehow, she had completely forgotten that she had committed her worst crimes — that little matter of killing King Robert? — with a witness, her co-conspirator and lover-cousin, Lancel, who’s since turned religious fanatic. And so a diminished Cersei makes her long, painful, humiliating, naked, barefoot march from the Sept back to the Red Keep, launching a thousand memes.

Dany, Dragon Queen

Just when it looks as though the Sons of the Harpy have finally won, Daenerys closes her eyes and takes Missandei’s hand, preparing for her death. Instead, she gets a deus ex dracarys, when her rebellious “child” Drogon senses her need and swoops in out of nowhere to save her. Before he gets too injured by the flying spears, she climbs on his back and tells him to fly — and a dragon-rider is born, inspiring awe in Tyrion and viewers alike.

Arya Needs Her Needle

Arya tried. She really did. But the self-abnegation requirements of the House of Black and White to become a Faceless Man are so severe that she can’t take the last step. She can get rid of almost anything except Needle, her child-sized sword gifted to her by Jon Snow, and her last symbol of home. So she hides it somewhere safe, so that if she ever needs to reclaim her old identity, it will be there for her.

Sansa’s Second Wedding Night

Westeros has a foggy notion of consent — in noble families, marriages are arranged for political purposes, and children are born not out of love, but to further the dynasty. Sansa had no illusions that her marriage to Ramsay would be a love match — she was stripped of her fairy tale wedding fantasies long ago — but she at least had some expectation that she’d be treated decently. She even managed to escape a bedding ceremony for a second time. But once they are in the bedchamber, Ramsay decides to drop the act and finally be as cruel as he can be, forcing Reek to watch. Sansa’s rape was primarily offscreen, but the uproar was immediate, as angry fans threatened to boycott the series.

Shireen and the Stake

Of all the horrific things that can happen to someone, being burned at the stake has to be one of the worst — which is why Jon Snow puts Mance Rayder out of his misery. But it’s Melisandre’s favorite pastime, and she can’t seem to get enough — especially when it involves those with royal blood. This scene went on for an agonizingly long time.

‘For the Watch’

It’s the moment that launched “Hair Watch,” as fans fervently tracked the length of Kit Harington’s locks in real life, as well as his travel plans, desperate for clues as to whether Jon Snow was just temporarily dead, with perhaps a magical option to come back to life, or dead dead, never coming back at all. Satisfied now?


Gone, but Not Forgotten

Shireen Baratheon — Poor girl. Davos will never forgive Melisandre for this.

Stannis Baratheon — He murdered his brother. He murdered his daughter. And in the end, all his kin-killing caught up with him, courtesy of Brienne.

Mance Rayder — The King Beyond the Wall, the one man who was able to unite all the warring factions of the wildlings, refused to bend the knee (and give his army) to another king, so Stannis ordered him to be burned at the stake. (Jon Snow saved him from the worst of it with a timely arrow).

Maester Aemon — A kind soul, he had a few singular achievements — turning down the Iron Throne, and being one of the few people in this world to die of old age.

Ser Barristan Selmy — He was a knight. And as he wished, he died a knight.

Gone and Somewhat Forgotten

Myrcella Baratheon — Goodbye-kissed.

Hizdahr zo Loraq — Dany’s onetime fiancé, who tried to convince her to reopen the fighting pits … only to die at the opening of the fighting pits.

Ser Meryn Trant — Turns out he had a hobby of beating up little brothel girls. Arya crossed him off her list and never looked back.

Myranda — Ramsay’s lover felt threatened by Sansa Stark and did everything she could to make her life miserable — as if being with Ramsay weren’t enough.

Janos Slynt — He’s got friends, important friends in the capital. You’ll see. (He couldn’t after Jon beheaded him.)


Looking Ahead

“You’ll never wed the prince. You’ll wed the king. You’ll be queen, for a time. Then comes another, younger, more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear. The king will have 20 children, and you will have three. Gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds.” — Maggy the Frog, to Cersei Lannister.

“I have seen myself along the battlements of Winterfell. I have seen the flayed man banners lowered to the ground.” — Melisandre, both right and wrong, to Stannis.

“He always comes back.” — Sam Tarly, regarding Jon Snow.

Looking Ahead, Ineptly

“I’ll never hurt her. You have my word.” — Ramsay Bolton to Littlefinger, regarding Sansa Stark.

“I shall take back the North from the thieves who stole it. Tywin Lannister is dead. He can’t protect them now. I shall mount Roose Bolton’s head on a spike.” — Stannis Baratheon.

“I will not kneel before some barefooted commoner and beg his forgiveness.” — Cersei Lannister.

“There is only one way. You must become king before the Long Night begins. Only you can lead the living against the dead. All your life has led us to this moment.” — Melisandre, to Stannis.

Before ‘Game of Thrones’ Returns, Let’s Revisit Season 5 – New York Times

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