UPDATED: What can we expect from Game Of Thrones season 5?
We take a spoiler-free look ahead to what Game Of Thrones season 5 has in store…
Warning: contains major spoilers for the season four finale, The Children, but designed to be safe for non A Song Of Ice And Fire readers.
“Season five gives me nightmares”. It may not be the most inspiring quote from Game Of Thrones co-showrunner David Benioff, but as A Song Of Ice And Fire readers will tell you, his fears aren’t unjustified.
Book four of George R.R. Martin’s series - A Feast For Crows, the events of which would ordinarily be adapted for season five - is easily the saga’s least popular volume. Were season five to follow it slavishly, we wouldn’t see fan favourites Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen or Jon Snow in the forthcoming run at all as none features in the fourth book. Instead, Feast introduces a host of new characters destined to create more headaches for anyone having trouble keeping up with the series’ current thirty-odd regulars.
Benioff and Weiss have already solved the first problem. Just they did with season four by augmenting the events of the second half of book three, A Storm Of Swords, by cherry-picking storylines (Brienne and Pod’s pairing, Theon Greyjoy’s brainwashing into Reek…) from the next two instalments, season four will jump chronologically between A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons. That means we’ll follow the current regulars as well as meeting new faces and new lands.
So, avoiding book spoilers then, what else can we expect from the show’s fifth season?
A new location
Game Of Thrones is already a global enterprise, with units regularly filming in Croatia, Iceland, Northern Ireland and more. Another European country, Spain, is the latest to be added to that list, standing in for the Iberian-tinged coastal desert region of Dorne.
Andalusian Spain is now playing Dorne, which is home to Westeros' good wine, good weather, and of course, Martell royal family. Currently a ward - or perhaps hostage is a better word - of the Martells is also Cersei's daughter, young Myrcella Baratheon/Lannister. Originally played by Aimee Richardson (who made her feelings clear on the matter here) the character has since been recast and will now be portrayed by relative newcomer Nell Tiger Free.
Cersei vs. Margaery: round two
“If you ever call me sister again I’ll have you strangled in your sleep”. There’s no love lost between two of season four’s survivors: Cersei Lannister and Margaery Tyrell, and season five promises yet more political and personal rivalry between the pair, who have new territory to contest in the form of King Tommen. Take a look at the wedding glimpse in this season five trailer and see who is very definitely not applauding the happy couple...
With her father and little brother now out of the picture, and the growing distance between she and Jaime, the checks on Cersei’s wine-fuelled power in King’s Landing promise to be fewer and fewer in season five. One of Game Of Thrones’ perennial themes is the responsibility and suitability of those who rule. How will history remember Queen Cersei, we wonder?
Lots of new characters
“Time for negative population growth” was Dan Weiss’ ominous statement on how the Game Of Thrones showrunners would make room in the new series for the many new faces arriving from books four and five of A Song Of Ice And Fire. George R.R. Martin recently stoked the same fires by teasing non-book deaths due to occur in season five, leaving book readers in something of a quandary as to whether they should keep watching the TV series for fear of book spoilers.
Before they can start swinging the scythe though, here are the characters we’re due to meet.
Following on from the leaked season five casting call which announced twelve new names being added to the series, HBO released this video introducing a host of new faces. Five of them are Dornish characters, starting with Prince Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), the royal brother of the Red Viper, three of the latter’s bastard daughters, Obara, Nymeria and Tyene (Jessica Henwick, Keisha Castle-Hughes, and Rosabell Laurenti-Sellers), known collectively as the “Sand Snakes”, and Prince Doran’s son, Prince Trystane (Toby Sebastian). Also part of the Dornish contingent, though in the books he was originally from Essos, is the captain of Doran Martell’s guards Areo Hotah (DeObia Oparei).
Other roles reportedly being cast are Wildling warg Varamyr Sixskins and Bronn’s wealthy but dim-witted wife Lollys Stokeworth, as well as King’s Landing religious folk Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham) and the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) the High Septon of the Faith of the Seven.
Further East, The Waif in the Braavosi House of Black and White is also on the list, along with slave owner Yezzan (a sort of yellow-eyed Jabba the Hutt). Finally, fortune teller Maggy the Frog will be played by Jodhi May, while the young Cersei Lannister will be portrayed by Nell Williams. Which leads us to…
With talks about a prequel series adapting George R.R. Martin’s Tales Of Dunk And Egg ongoing, there’s every possibility that Game Of Thrones fans could be journeying into Westeros’ past at some point in the future. Following the news that fortune teller Maggy the Frog and a young Cersei Lannister have been cast in season five, and the glimpses of what looks to be Nell Williams as Cersei in this trailer that journey is now imminent.
Without spoiling anything, the Maggy/Young Cersei episode is a flashback in A Feast For Crows in which Queen Cersei remembers a pivotal event of her youth. Though Martin’s ASoIaF books regularly dip into flashback, especially regarding the events surrounding Robert Baratheon’s rebellion, the TV series has so far simplified matters and kept costs down by sticking to the present. With the Maggy/Cersei flashback happening though, can we expect more flashbacks in future episodes and seasons?
A return trip to Braavos
The city of Braavos, recognisable for its Rhodes-Colossus-alike Titan statue, was added to Game Of Thrones’ opening credits map for season four episode The Laws Of Gods And Men. That episode was our first visit to the free city, as we followed Stannis and Davos Seaworth’s attempts to secure financial support from the famed Iron Bank (presided over by none other than Mark Gatiss as Tycho Nestoris). As such, we saw little other than some steam baths and a posh Braavosi office, but season five promises a much closer look at the city that gave us swordmaster Syrio Forel and Jaqen H’ghar.
We last saw Arya Stark buying passage on a ship bound for Braavos, using the coin given to her by the mysterious Jaqen. Season five images and the trailer have shown a newly decked-out Maisie Williams as Arya enters the next stage of her journey at the House Of Black And White. A Song Of Ice And Fire readers of course, have some idea of the adventures Braavos will be to host to, and Ayra isn't the only one heading East.
More impressive CGI creatures
With the potential arrival of Wildling Varamyr Sixskins in season five would come the arrival of the snowbear (think polar bear), shadowcat (a black and white tiger/mountain lion cross) and three wolves he is able to warg into. They don’t call him Sixskins for nothing.
Season four’s The Watchers On The Wall gave us a good look at the mammoths ridden into battle by giants, and The Children introduced us to some fierce skeletons and the Children of the Forest North of the Wall (though Bran's storyline is largely being rested for season five, so we'll have to wait until next year now to see their return). Some CG and motion-captured characters we are highly likely to see in season five are the impressive White Walkers.
The creatures we certainly want to see more of are currently under lock and key inside the great Meereen Pyramid, following some child-charring action in the season four finale. Well, two of them are at least. The largest and most vicious of Dany’s dragons, the errant Drogon, evaded capture but is surely due a dramatic return.
The Iron Islands?
Another royal family becomes central to A Feast For Crows: the Greyjoys of the Iron Islands. However, that the Greyjoy storylines - in which we meet brothers to Balon, Aeron, Euron and Victarion - are either being excised completely from the TV show or simply pushed to a later season. We'll have to wait indefinitely for the Krakens and the kingsmoot, it seems.
Game Of Thrones is no stranger to the Easter Egg cameo. Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós could be glimpsed momentarily (getting injured, as the season 4 DVD commentaries told us) at Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding in season four, as were Coldplay drummer Will Champion and Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody in season three.
Long-time Game Of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman told the Game Of Owns podcast that he played a waiter at Dragonstone in season four, and was planning another background cameo in season five. The cameo the show is really waiting for though, is another by writer George R.R. Martin, who played a guest at Dany and Drogo’s wedding in the unaired pilot and has been teasing another background appearance ever since.
The same talented creative team
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are signed up to perform their current showrunner duties until the end of the sixth season at least, but realistically, those guys are going nowhere until the final buttocks have settled upon that Iron Throne. Almost as constant a presence on the writing team is Bryan Cogman, who has told the Game Of Owns podcast that he will be back writing two episodes in season five, despite also having been hired to script in-development movie, Magic: The Gathering. George R.R. Martin is expected to hand in a season five script as usual, too.
Director David Nutter has told Comic Book Resources that he’s returning to direct episodes nine and ten of season five. We’d like to see another episode at least gifted to the talented Neil Marshall (Blackwater, The Watchers On The Wall), and more from Game Of Thrones directing stalwart Michelle Maclaren. We also know that Breaking Bad's Michael Slovis is directing the first two episodes of season five.
One director we know to be taking a breather for season five is Alex Graves, who was behind the camera on a whopping four of season four's episodes. See point 67 on this list of things we learnt from the season 4 DVD commentaries for a glimpse of his working day).
Now on its third Mountain, Game Of Thrones has proved itself happy to recast roles for the good of the show. Hence the arrival of Michiel Huisman as Daario Naharis in season four, as a replacement for season three’s Ed Skrein.
Season four also introduced a new Tommen Baratheon/Lannister in Dean-Charles Chapman ageing up the role from original actor Callum Wharry. (Eagle-eyed viewers will have recognised Chapman as having previously played Martyn Lannister, one of the two young squires treated by Talisa then executed at Riverrun in season three.)
We already know that Aimee Richardson has been recast as Myrcella Baratheon. Are there any more face-swaps to expect in the new episodes?
More face-meltingly exciting action
The Watchers On The Wall was nothing short of a marvel of choreography and direction. It may have unfairly suffered in the eyes of some following comparisons to Neil Marshall’s previous episode, Blackwater (really though, how is an non-Tyrion episode ever going to best a Tyrion one in the eyes of fans?), but in terms of action and scale, it stands unsurpassed in Game Of Thrones.
Its success though, and the many, many shocking events of season four, presents a problem for season five. After Joffrey’s poisoning, Prince Oberyn’s skull-crushing, Tywin Lannister’s encounter with that crossbow…, how much bigger can you go? The issue of escalation is a real one if Game Of Thrones’ creators don’t want season five labelled as anti-climactic. A Feast For Crows undeniably has fewer spectacular events than the previous book, though A Dance With Dragons has its fair share. Benioff and Weiss haven’t let us down yet, so we’re betting season five will climax on a show-stopping number.
There’s plenty more to predict and chew over in terms of what’s to come in season five over the next few weeks. More fights, more weddings, more disguises, more deaths, more extended family members to meet, and even the potential return of some old faces. Being respectful to those who haven’t read ahead though, please try to keep the comments section free of book spoilers.
Read our spoiler-filled review of the season four finale, The Children, here.
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