Every week, several of Vox's writers will discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Check out the recap for "The Dance with Dragons" here, and follow the whole discussion here. This week, we'll be hearing from culture editor Todd VanDerWerff, deputy culture editor Jen Trolio, executive editor Matt Yglesias, climate change writer David Roberts, politics writer Andrew Prokop, and more.
Jen Trolio: And then we came to the end — the season five finale is upon us! Dave, even though I'm not familiar with the Arya of the books, I'm with you on wanting to see her be more of a badass or, at the very least, less of a befuddled klutz when it comes to stalking her prey. Based on her scenes in episode nine, I'm thinking you're correct in believing she'll kill Meryn Trant in the finale. My personal prediction is that she'll crib a new look from the Hall o' Faces at the House of Black and White, retrieve her trusty Needle from its waterfront hiding place, return to the brothel where Trant revealed his disturbing pedophiliac preferences, and use her youthful figure to get him alone and cross his name off her hit list.
But mulling what might happen as Game of Thrones signs off until 2016 made me wonder what my Vox compatriots think the finale, "Mother's Mercy," has in store for us. Who will live? Who will die? Who's the "mother" in the episode title? Which characters will succeed or fail in their various quests for revenge, love, freedom, and power? Below, several Vox staffers weigh in.
Andrew Prokop, politics writer: As I said earlier in the week, I think Stannis is doomed. Despite sacrificing Shireen, I'm guessing he'll be killed in the finale while besieging Winterfell — by Brienne, who, as we were reminded in episode three, has sworn to exact revenge on Stannis for his murder of Renly. It would surely be sad to have Bolton rule in the North continue (though, remember, Littlefinger is planning to swoop in at some point with his Vale armies, if that's any comfort). But it would be fitting for Stannis, a man who puts too much trust in black magic and too little in basic human decency, to be brought down by Brienne, one of the most decent characters in the entire story.
German Lopez, justice writer: I think the Lord of the Light stuff will work out, get the Boltons killed, and, while Stannis is rushing in to finish up the dirty work, Littlefinger will show up and kill Stannis. There will also probably be some horrible and senseless shock scene that adds nothing to the plot.
Zack Beauchamp, foreign policy writer: Ramsay Bolton is literally the worst: he's cartoonishly villainous and not even remotely entertaining, and he makes good characters' plot lines unpleasant to watch. So, knowing Game of Thrones, he'll probably survive.
Which means Stannis will die. But in the process, I think Brienne is going to bust Sansa and maybe even Theon out of Winterfell: the momentum of that plot has kind of waned, and Game of Thrones needs to set something new and dynamic into motion to get people excited. I'm guessing they head for the Wall, the better to pit Ramsay against Jon Snow next season.
Speaking of, it sure looks like Jon is going to face an unmanageable political crisis at the Wall — the tension between the Night's Watch and the wildlings is reaching its peak. Arya is going to kill Meryn Trant brutally, and it's going to be great until Jaqen finds out. Meanwhile, after Dany's Neverending Story moment, Tyrion and Jorah will leave Meereen — and ideally, they'll head for Westeros with the Unsullied in tow.
Finally, something will happen to justify all of the dilly-dallying in Dorne. I gotta have a little faith.
Joseph Stromberg, science writer: I think a sudden thaw will allow Stannis's forces to make it to Winterfell. There, they'll be crushed by the Boltons, revealing Melisandre as a charlatan.
Dany will return to Meereen on her dragon and take the Harpy attack as a sign that it's finally time to give up on the city and pursue her throne in Westeros. Tyrion will stick by her side. I also think Dany has Greyscale, but it won't be revealed until next season.
Arya will kill Meryn Trant and leave the Faceless Men. Cersei, Margaery, and Ser Loras's status won't be resolved before the end of the season.
Todd VanDerWerff, culture editor: This is tough to talk about, because there's a pretty huge book plot line that is almost certainly going to happen in this episode — but I'm also predicting the show will push past that plot line and reveal its resolution. (Briefly put, it will be too hard to keep the resolution a secret, because it would involve an actor showing up on set — or not, as the case may be.)
Beyond that, I agree that Stannis is probably done for, but I'm guessing he and Ramsay take each other out (or maybe I just want Ramsay dead and gone that badly).
Finally, it's another potential book spoiler, but I found this post from our sister site, The Verge, convincing as to a character fans have long wanted to see on the show finally appearing in this episode. This is definitely going to happen. There is absolutely no way I will be disappointed. Nope!
Dylan Matthews, political correspondent: I haven't read the books, so this is probably entirely wrong, but here goes: because the Lord of the Light is clearly real and receptive to Melisandre's offering, I expect that the blizzard will lift and Stannis will make an attempt at Winterfell. But unlike apparently every other Vox staffer, I think he'll win — again, with help from a higher power. It's too easy for D. B. Weiss and David Benioff to dispatch him right after he's alienated Game of Thrones' entire audience. Ideally, I'd like to see this somehow achieved through Varys's assistance. A Stannis victory divides Westeros and sets up a battle with the Lannisters, creating a climate of instability, which Dany (Varys's apparent horse in this race) can exploit, making it easier for her to invade and claim the throne for herself. It also makes it harder for Varys's nemesis Littlefinger to claim the North and marry Sansa, who would presumably be Stannis's prisoner in this scenario.
Warning: The next prediction is only for those who've read George R. R. Martin's source novels. It will spoil events that are likely to happen in the finale.
Matt Yglesias, executive editor: Andrew, you've convinced me that Brienne is going to kill Stannis. I also think Stannis's army will defeat the Boltons, creating a power vacuum that Littlefinger rushes into. He'll persuade Sansa that marrying him is the only way to stabilize the situation in the north. Thus, Sansa's plot line will get a bit more on track with the Alayne plot from the books.
Afterward, a despondent Melisandre turns north to head for Castle Black. That'll be fortunate, because up around those parts the Night's Watch will have its second straight Lord Commander assassinated in a mutiny — meaning a certain bastard is going to need some resurrecting next season.
Read our recap of "The Dance of Dragons," then check back this week for our thoughts on the season five finale!