Every week throughout Game of Thrones' fifth season, a handful of Vox's writers have gathered to discuss the latest episode. We'll conclude our discussions for 2015 today. You can check out our recap of the season finale, as well the archive of our entire discussion to date.
Andrew Prokop: Jen, this season has definitely stirred some intense debate. But in the words of Petyr Baelish, "The past is the past. The future is all that's worth discussing." So I'm going to close this year's chat with some speculation on what we might see next time around. And for the first time, book readers like me will be just as in the dark as everyone else.
Well, almost as in the dark. The show is casting for season six right now, and many of its casting calls have already leaked onto the fan website Watchers on the Wall. Though the roles are only described, not named, it looks very likely that some characters book readers are familiar with, like Theon's dangerous uncle Euron Greyjoy and Sam's ruthless father Randyll Tarly, will show up for the first time next year. However, the book material for these characters so far has been mostly setup — which is probably why their introductions have been delayed in the show — so we don't know a ton about what they'll be doing.
Now, there's one hugely important question bearing on what will happen next season — how far away is the show from its ending? George R. R. Martin still has two unfinished books left in the series, which he expects to be gigantic. So if the show's ending is actually close at hand, it will have to move through the remaining events quite quickly to wrap things up anytime soon — which means we should expect major events like Dany's invasion of Westeros and the White Walkers' attack to swallow up much of next season. If the ending is far away, though, then maybe not. (HBO has said they'd love 10 seasons, but showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have said that their plan is to finish in seven, though the seventh could be an extended one.)
As I read some of the leaked casting calls, the next season seems to be incorporating more material from A Feast for Crows, Martin's fourth book out of the five in the series published so far, than I expected. Beyond that, the most recent episode did not in fact end with Dany leaving for Westeros (a change from the books I thought might happen). Instead, it seemed to sideline Dany, and spent several minutes setting up a new plot line where Tyrion would try to rule Meereen, apparently to give him something to do while she's gone. That's not the kind of thing I'd expect Benioff and Weiss to do if they were hurtling toward the finish line. So my impression is that the show definitely isn't going to wrap up in two more normal-length seasons, and that it might be planning for eight overall at this point.
Still, I have to expect that the growing portion of the cast in the east — the most important members of which are Dany, Tyrion, and Arya — will start heading over to Westeros by midseason, and make it there by the season finale or even a bit before. Dany being a prisoner of the Dothraki isn't particularly interesting, and this situation will probably be resolved relatively quickly by the horselords agreeing to be the cavalry for her invasion. Either Tyrion will fix Meereen, or it will be written off as a lost cause, and the march west will begin, and if Dany doesn't make it to Westeros by the end of next season, I'd be quite surprised. Meanwhile, Arya will either abandon the Faceless Men ... or get a very important assassination mission from them that calls on her to go back to Westeros.
Dany's delayed arrival means Westeros will have more time to self-destruct before she gets there — and oh, will it. Already, the look on Cersei's face during her final scene this week — in which Qyburn tells her that the reanimated Gregor Clegane will wipe out all her enemies — promises carnage. And that's before she learns that Ellaria Sand has murdered her daughter. Some sort of three-way conflict between the Lannisters, Tyrells, and Dornish looks certain — Doran Martell certainly won't be able to keep his country out of war this time around. It also seems highly likely that King Tommen won't survive next season — his death has, after all, already been prophesied by a witch. But a lot can happen before Dany arrives. Will she attack King's Landing when it's at its lowest point — or after King Tommen has already been replaced with someone much more effective?
Meanwhile, the North also looks ready for another round of battle. Sansa and Theon have surely survived their leap, and they'll probably meet up with Brienne to escape. But the biggest shoe that hasn't yet dropped in this plot line is Littlefinger's planned attack on the Boltons with the armies of the Vale. I expect Baelish will defeat them, and turn the men of the North against the Boltons, rallying them to Ned Stark's daughter's side. However, Ned's youngest son, Rickon Stark, could complicate this plan. Rickon's been absent since season three — he was sent to hide out with the Umbers, a Northern family — and his return is long overdue (as is that of his wildling protector, Osha).
Up at the Wall, I definitely expect Jon Snow to come back from the dead through Melisandre's magical help, and probably on the early side in season six. The Wall plotline is too important to be abandoned, and the remaining characters there are too thin to sustain it without Jon, particularly now that Sam has left. Hopefully we'll finally get to see Jon lead the wildling army he was meant to lead. We'll also finally see Bran Stark — missing since the season four finale — again. Benioff has promised that his reappearance will be like that of Luke Skywalker at the beginning of Return of the Jedi, when he had recovered and mastered his powers. The fall of the Wall would certainly be a dramatic note to end the season on.
But as for the most important prediction of all — whether Martin will finish The Winds of Winter before season six starts airing and spoiling huge chunks of it — I know nothing, Jon Snow.
Thanks for joining us! And tune in for our discussion of the second season of True Detective, starting soon.