Game of Thrones season 5 recap: Everything that matters for season 8

A full recap of the fifth season of Game of Thrones focused on the moments and revelations that will tie in to Thrones’ final season, set to begin on Apr. 14. 2019

The following recap is full of Game of Thrones spoilers. 

In the fifth week of a seven-week series, we recap the key points of Game of Thrones Season 5. ICYMI, you can read recaps of Season 1Season 2, Season 3, and Season 4 through those links.

Game of Thrones fifth season was one of change. The highest kings, queens, princes and princesses experienced some of their lowest moments. Cersei brought in the faith militia only to have them turn on her and lock her up. Her daughter went from happily engaged in beautiful Dorne to dead. Sansa was married to Ramsay Bolton by that rat Littlefinger. Arya gained an incredible ability but lost her sight. It was a rough season.

Season 5 also gave us the biggest cliffhanger in Game of Thrones history. Jon Snow, laying in the snow with blood pooling around his lifeless body. If you’ve seen it, that last sentence brought you right back to the look on his face. It’s an unforgettable scene and it led to a full year of “is he actually dead?” What a season.

Keep in mind: The following points should serve as reminders as to what happened in the season, but focused in relation to Season 8. Some key points will be glanced over in favor of what will come to be important this season.

Game of Thrones Season 5

Stannis Baratheon might have had the roughest season of all. In the early episodes, Stannis recouped some of his army by hiring sellswords, rode North, captured Mance Rayder and then set his sights on Winterfell. Unfortunately for him, Melisandre backed the wrong horse and realized it moments before he went into battle with Ramsay Bolton at Winterfell. Stannis was so hell-bent on winning the battle for Winterfell that he sacrificed his incredible, smart, amazing daughter Shireen by burning her alive after Melisandre told him it would help. Remember this moment next time you’re okay with Melisandre. Don’t let her fool you, she is a villain in this show. Ramsay defeated Stannis’ army fairly easily and Brienne put the final nail in his coffin sword in his head outside the gates of Winterfell, where she was waiting to help Sansa.

Across the pond in Meereen, Queen Daenerys was having problems of her own. With two dragons locked away and one roaming the countryside somewhere, Dany’s sole focus is on leading the massive city of Meereen. A group of vigilante former slavers named the Sons of the Harpy are assassinating guards, Unsullied soldiers and innocent free folk throughout the city. Their most significant accomplishment was critically injuring Grey Worm and killing Ser Barristan Selmy. The two put up a hell of a fight but were outnumbered. In the end, the Sons try to kill Dany and her advisers while she was attending the fighting pit tournament. It took a hell of a spear throw from a still-banished Jorah Mormont to save Dany from a Harpy assassination and put him back in her good graces. Oh, and Drogon showed up to save her at the last minute, brought her across the country and then decided he needed a nap right before a group of Dothraki found her.

Dany (very importantly) chose not to kill Tyrion Lannister after Jorah stole him from under Varys’ protection and brought him to her. He dropped an all-time Game of Thrones quote not long after meeting her which might have saved him from being beheaded. After convincing her that she could use a good political adviser, she asked what she should do about the outlawed Jorah Mormont. Tyrion told her “A ruler who kills those devoted to her isn’t a ruler who inspires devotion.” It was a turning point for both Tyrion and the hack-n-slash Dany who didn’t seem to listen to Barriston’s similar advice in the past. Perhaps the violence had caught up to her at this point. After she was flown out of the city by Drogon, Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei were left to lead Meereen while Jorah and Daario Naharis search for their queen.

Speaking of queens, in a ploy to stay queen herself, Cersei employed a new High Septon (or High Sparrow) who led a faith militant group that were hell-bent on destroying everything their faith viewed as evil. This included gouging Littlefinger’s brothel, breaking up various street parties and oh yeah, arresting Ser Loras Tyrell and then his sister Queen Margaery for various charges. King Tommen did absolutely nothing about this, making us wish we had Joffrey back for a minute. The plan backfired on Cersei, though. Fed up of her antics, Grandma Olenna and Petyr Baelish had Lancel Lannister, now part of the faith militant, turn on Cersei and she was locked up with the others. She confessed to sleeping with her cousin (something we all kind of glanced over in Season 1) and was walked through the streets naked in the iconic “shame” scene.

Sansa had her roughest season yet, which is saying a lot considering she lived with Joffrey and watched her father lose his head. She was married to and raped by sadistic psychopath Ramsay Bolton in the presence of Theon Greyjoy, or “Reek” as is now going by. Her life was a living hell from the beginning of the first season, and these moments were some of the toughest to watch in Game of Thrones history. In the end, Theon finally snapped out of his brainwashed state and took Sansa over the edge of the walls of Winterfell. As of the end of Season 5, they were in a snow bank somewhere outside of Winterfell while Ramsay was searching for them.

Over in Braavos, Arya continued her training and became a faceless man (Woman? I think they call it the faceless men regardless of gender). She was given a mark but instead of fulfilling her duty, she took the opportunity to use her newfound powers to kill Meryn Trant; the first name on her list. She ended the season being blinded by Jaqen H’Ghar after seeing her own face on a dead body. Scary times for Arya.

Jon Snow was elected to be the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch after his heroic leadership in the fight against the wildling army. Knowing full well what is in store with the Army of the Dead on the horizon, Jon knows it’s more important to have the living fighting on his side than as revived wights with the Army of the Dead. He struck a deal with Tormund to let the free folk live in the farm land south of the wall if he helped Jon convince them this was for the best. Together, they traveled to Hardhome (a wildling fishing village) and convinced a small number of free folk to sail south with them. Before they could get the boats loaded, the white walkers and their army showed up, unleashing hell on Hardhome. A few thousand end up making it out alive while tens of thousands are revived into wights in front of Jon’s eyes in what was the most intense stare down ever between him and the Night King.

Back at Castle Black, Jon’s fellow Night’s Watch brothers were not pleased with the group of wildlings crossing through the gate. Led by little Ollie, Jon’s personal assistant, they tricked Jon into coming outside late at night. Then a group of disgruntled crows stabbed him. Over and over. Ollie put the final blade in his stomach and we all watched Jon die, panicked and shocked in our silent households, while he lay lifeless on the snow as a pool of blood formed around him. End season.

In relation to season 8

Young Cersei’s prophecy: “Everyone wants to know their future until they know their future.” Ain’t that the truth, Maggy the Frog. The season opened with a young Cersei learning her future. Here’s a full post on her final season and whether or not Valonqar (her younger brother) will actually kill her.

Dany and the Dothraki: Whether Drogon intended to bring Dany to the Dothraki people or not, it couldn’t have worked out better for her in the end. Most of the discussions will go down in the next season, but Dany being flown to a random field and dropped off near a Dothraki hoard was good fortune for her, as she has some ties to their group through her marriage to Khal Drogo not too long ago.

Hardhome: Mance Rayder spent the better part of 20 years uniting the free folk north of the wall. They were dismantled in about a week. The loss at the wall was not all that significant but Stannis showing up and cutting them down at will really put things into perspective for the wildlings, many of whom fled to Hardhome after Mance was captured. Jon and Tormund were tasked with convincing them to go back to the place they were just slaughtered and then head south of the wall, to a place they’ve been at war with for years.

Jon sees the bigger picture. He’s seen the Army of the Dead and he wants to stifle its growth as much as possible before they make their move on the wall. The talks at Hardhome also show why Jon (technically the rightful heir to the throne) would make such a great king. It took him and Tormund all of 15 minutes to convince thousands of wildlings to board ships and travel south. The free folk who rejected his proposal soon changed their minds when the Army of the Dead showed up. It’s the first time Jon witnesses just how easy it is for the Night King to raise an army. This moment also brought us the best stare down in Game of Thrones history.

The significance of witnessing the battle at Hardhome will come into play in season 8. Any Game of Thrones character who has died near the Army of the Dead could make an appearance in Season 8. Stannis, Ramsay, Wun Wun the giant? Depending on how far the white walkers make it, that could be nearly everyone.

There are also mentions of spiders as big as hounds, which, though terrifying, would be awesome to see in Season 8.

Jon Snow: Obviously he isn’t permanently dead. Melisandre showed up to Castle Black a few days before he was assassinated and it didn’t take much for us to know what was going to happen there. It was still a long wait until Game of Thrones‘ sixth season to find out for sure.

Sansa Stark: Sansa had the roughest first five seasons out of any Game of Thrones character. While everything that has happened to her up until this point has been terrible, Sansa is free for the first time in her Game of Thrones history. She’s arguably one of the strongest characters in the show as she has truly seen and been through just about everything terrible that has happened so far. In a perfect world, she ends up becoming either the Wardeness of the North or the outright Queen of Westeros, but there is a lot that needs to happen before we get there.

Bran Stark: Just kidding. Bran was absent for this entire season. He’s training hard to become the Three-Eyed Raven.

Other Season 5 takeaways

  • Sam convinces Jon that he’s useless at Castle Black and should be training as a Maester in Old Town. Jon reluctantly sends him there
  • Jon discovers that Valyrian steel kills white walkers as he becomes the second WW killer
  • Princess Myrcella shares a tender moment with her father Jaime before she dies of the poison applied to her from Ellaria Sand’s “kiss of death”
  • He wouldn’t hesitate to have the faith militant cut down for arresting his queen
  • Maester Aemon Targaryen (the Maester at Castle Black) passed away
  • Varys returns to Tyrion’s side as the two begin their roles as very important advisers to Daenerys
  • The Mountain is back. He’s not alive, he’s not dead — but he’s back
Related Story: GoT season 4 moments that will matter at the end

Unfortunately for the Sand Snakes in Dorne, their involvement in the Game of Thrones TV adaptation was deemed unimportant (and a little slow for some). The highlight of the days in Dorne featured the sexually charged, flirt-by-attempted-murder relationship between Tyene Sand and Bronn. Perhaps we’ll see her reappear if Bronn somehow survives to the surely happy ending planned for Thrones‘ finale.

Game of Thrones returns to HBO on April 14, 2019.

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