A good episode of “Game of Thrones” always comes with a high body count, but the fifth season finale is one for the record books. Some definitely had it coming (cough, Stannis, cough) but not since Ned Stark has a death hurt quite like Jon Snow’s. Can the show really go on without him?
The Night’s Watch was never going to accept the Wildlings and once Jon sent Sam and Gilly away, he had all but sealed his fate. Telling a lie about a Benjen Stark sighting, Jon’s uncle who disappeared in the first season, Jon is lured into a trap by Olly, the boy who he once took under his wing. The first time Jon is stabbed, it feels like a trick, you can almost feel viewers counting down the seconds before someone comes to his rescue. Unfortunately, Jon doesn’t have a dragon on standby. He’s stabbed repeatedly, with young Olly delivering the final blow. The episode ends with Jon lying in the snow, blood pooling all around him, eyes vacant. Sure, one could argue that we don’t know that he’s really dead (Melisandre and her dark magic just returned to the Wall after all) but things definitely aren’t looking good for him.
On the other hand, when Stannis meets his maker it feels like a gift that couldn’t have come a moment too soon. When we first see Stannis he learns that a number of his men have taken off overnight. Even those who pledged their loyalty couldn’t respect a guy who burned his own daughter at the stake. It was a crime Selyse couldn’t live with-- members of Stannis’ army find her hanging from a tree just before they leave for Winterfell.
With a dead daughter, a dead wife, a dwindling army and a missing in action Melisandre, Stannis prepares to set up camp outside Winterfell, only to be met by an army of Bolton’s. We mostly catch the aftermath of the battle, as Stannis struggles around his dead men. One of the few survivors, he props himself up against a tree, wounded and ready to die. It’s then that he sees Brienne, who was preparing to rescue Sansa when the fight broke out. She reminds him of the oath she pledged to protect his brother and asks if he has any last words. A broken, bleeding Stannis tells her to get on with it and with a swing of her sword, one of the most-hated characters on the show is killed.
Using the battle to her advantage, Sansa breaks out of the locked room and lights a candle in the tower, signaling her need for help. Afterwards she is met by Myranda and Reek. Myranda points a bow and arrow in her direction, but Sansa is undeterred. She says she knows who Ramsay is and she’d rather die now then continue the abuse and die as a shell of her former self. It’s at this moment that Reek finally grows a conscience, grabs Myranda and tosses her over the railing to her bloody death. Sansa and Reek can hear Ramsay and his men returning through the gate and they know they have to act fast. They look over the Winterfall wall down at the ground hundreds of feet below, before locking hands and taking a leap.
In Braavos, Ser Meryn Trant is abusing three young prostitutes, one of whom is a false faced Arya Stark. Once she reveals herself, she gouges out his eyes and slices his throat, reminding her that she is “Arya Stark” and he is no one. The faceless men do not take kindly to the kill. After faking his death, Jaqen blinds Arya as punishment.
Over in Dorne, Jaime has left the Kingdom with his niece/daughter Myrcella, but not before she shared a too long good bye kiss with Ellaria Sand. Once they are safely on board he tries to open up the princess, who then lets him know she was well aware of Jaime and her mother’s incestuous ways. Lucky for him, she thinks it’s just great! The two share a hug, their first as father and daughter, but if you’ve ever seen a TV show before, you know something terrible is lurking just around the corner. Low and behold, Myrcella’s nose begins to bleed and she collapses, dying in her father’s arms as Ellaria watches the boat sail away, wiping the Ellaria’s poisonous lipstick off her lips.
The death of her daughter couldn’t come at a worse time for Cersei. She decides to confess to some of the sins, hoping it will lead to a lesser sentencing from the High Sparrow. She is allowed to return to the Rep Keep, but at a price. Her head is shaved and she is stripped of her clothing and forced to walk through all of King’s Landing. The Queen Regent is pelted with food, excrement and a string of words that would make a sailor blush as she is continually taunted. The word “shame” is repeated over and over. One could certainly argue that she had this coming to her and it's a testament to Lena Headey’s acting that we can remain sympathetic to the woman responsible for so many heinous acts over the course of the series.
Once she finally arrives, feet bloody, still naked and covered in garbage she is covered with a blanket by Qyburn, who introduces her to the newest Kingsguard. As a resurrected Mountain scoops Cersei into his arms, her tears stop and her face hardens. She’s already plotting her revenge.
Jorah, Daario and Tyrion sit sullenly on the steps to the throne, lost without Daenerys. When Missandei and Grey Worm arrive, a plan is hatched. Daario and Jorah will head out to search for Daenerys, leaving Tyrion to lead Mereen, with the help of the Unsullied and Missandei. Luckily Tyrion won’t go at it alone. Varys returns, promising to use his little birds to help Tyrion lead.
Meanwhile Dany is stranded somewhere north of the city, with a very tired Drogon refusing to fly her home. As she sets off to find food, she finds herself surrounded by men on horses. Not just any men, but an army of Dothraki. Will Khaleesi manage to have any pull over this army without her husband?