Sunday, 12 April 2015

And now my watch begins

Televisual masterpiece, Game of Thrones, returns for its fifth series tonight/tomorrow.

Well, it would have had the first four episodes not leaked online. How that happened is anyone's guess, but fingers are being pointed at disgruntled scientologists (HBO recently aired a critical documentary about them), who have a reputation for being a chippy bunch. HBO have paid the iron price and now the night is dark and full of torrents.

The TV series was always going to catch up with the A Song of Ice & Fire novels eventually and we've  reached that point. US TV shows rarely last longer than 7 seasons (though I suspect Game of Thrones will go on for however long it's profitable for HBO to do so – perhaps 9/10 seasons), so it's now highly likely that the storyline (or rather a storyline) will be wrapped up in the TV series before the novels – which has to be some sort of first.

Season 5 stands to be pivotal. After the events of season 4, the two separate arcs (War of the Five Kings & Daenerys Targaryen's "reconquista") are about to cross over in a way that hasn't been seen yet, with Tyrion Lannister, Varys and Arya Stark all heading out of Westeros. It's already been hinted in the trailers that Tyrion and Varys are seriously considering joining the Targaryen cause – though it's not as if they have any other option.

And boy does that cause need help. You've got to question Daenerys's leadership credentials considering the mess that's been made trying to rule several free-standing cities. She hasn't been seriously challenged yet and is something of a self-righteous brat – a mirror image of Joffrey I suppose.

With Littlefinger, Tyrion, Tywin and Varys all out of the way, there's nothing standing between Cersei and de-facto rule....except Margeary Tyrell. It's become clear that Cersei is jealous of the hold Margarey could have over Tommen - such a poor boy, oh diddums for Tommen - and the Tyrells are building power for themselves in the same way the Lannisters did.

Also, after Oberyn Martell's splitting headache, it looks like Dorne – which has always been portrayed as more independent-minded than the other kingdoms - is going to play a bigger role this season, with the producers using Andalucia for the backdrop.

Despite all this, by any and all conventions of hereditary monarchy there is only One True King™ , and that's indisputably Stannis "The Mannis" Baratheon. If the dead monarch's sons have no legitimate claim, then the crown passes to the dead monarch's next oldest brother. That's how it works.

In Series 4 Stannis the Mannis decided to "save the kingdom to win the throne" by riding north of the wall to deliver a decisive defeat to the wildling army. With the Night's Watch now under his protection, he's looking south at the Boltons and Freys, who (quite literally) stabbed the Stark family in the back to take the North for themselves.

Although I found the Bran stuff boring last time around, I hope they don't just leave it where it finished i.e. as it actually got interesting. It's confirmed there's no Bran this time around though, but I presume we'll come back to that in season 6.

The element in season 5 worth keeping an eye on has to be Sansa Stark. As a character she's grown tremendously from wannabee princess/baby machine in series 1 to what, at the end of series 4, appears to be a world-weary "ladder climber".

As the series is no longer going to follow the books exactly (but presumably along the same lines), there's speculation that she could be heading back to Winterfell to marry into the Boltons – the family that killed her brother and mother.....for revenge? That doesn't sound like a brilliant plan, but subtlety was never this show's strong point.