The Last Thing You See Before You Die: GAME OF THRONES, Season 5, Review

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No S5 Spoilers

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Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, is adapted primarily Books 4 and 5 in George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Along with Books 4 and 5 — A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons — the writers returned to Book 3, A Storm of Swords, for additional content. They also had access to material from Martin’s as-yet unpublished Book 6, The Winds of Winter.

Season 5 of the dramatic adaptation won a record number of Emmy Awards for a series in a single year: 12 awards out of 24 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series. Created and (mostly) written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the show’s writing, acting, and design are all brilliant, and Game of Thrones deserves every award it’s won.

Season 5

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Season 5 of Game of Thrones unites many of the storylines that have been converging during the previous 4 seasons. The major families who started the drama — the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens — are joined with the Tyrells, the Martells, and the Boltons. The only remaining Baratheon, Stannis, is still waging war against the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Season 5 also takes one of Season 4’s major themes — religious intolerance — and puts it in the forefront of the drama. Although family loyalty still determines most of the characters’ actions, the quest for power is intimately intertwined with any family obligations.

The Lannisters

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Cersei (Lena Headey, above R) competes with Margery (Natalie Dormer, below)

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for the affection of, and power over, King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), Cersei’s youngest son.

In an attempt to regain her political power and to unseat Queen Margery, Cersei arms the religious Zealots known as the Sparrows, and tries to manipulates their Machivelian leader, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). But is he as devout as he seems?

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Fearing for his daughter’s safety, Cersei’s twin Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) travels to Dorne

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in order to bring their daughter Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free, below L) home to King’s Landing.

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A complication arises due to the fact that she has fallen in love with Prince Trystane (Toby Sebastien, above R), to whom she is betrothed. Can he save Mycella’s life without risking his own?

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With the help of Varys, the youngest Lannister son, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), has escaped from King’s Landing. He goes to Mereer in an attempt to find Daenerys and join her cause to reclaim the Iron Throne.

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Before Tyrion can reach Daenerys, however, the exiled Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen, above L) captures Tyrion and holds him for ransom. Will Tyrion be able to escape his fate once again?

The Starks

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Jon Snow (Kit Harington) becomes Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and rivalries are fierce, especially since he wants to help the Wildlings reach safety, causing other Men of the Night’s Watch to question his loyalty, just as the Wildlings do. Where is Jon Snow’s real loyalty?

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Sansa (Sophie Turner) continues to be manipulated by her uncle-in-law, Petyr “LittleFinger” Baelish (Aiden Gillen),

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who aranges a marriage between Sansa and her family’s enemy, the violent and sadistic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon).

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For help escaping, Sansa looks to the former ward of the Stark family, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen, below L), now called “Reek,” but does Theon even remember who Sansa is?

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Arya (Maisie Williams) arrives at the House of Black and White,

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where she wishes to learn how to become one of the Faceless Men, and is reunited with Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Walschiha).

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Sansa is told that she will have to give up all her earthly possessions — even her sword, Needle, the symbol of her family and its love — in order to enter the House. She can change her appearance, but can she give up her plans for revenge?

Meanwhile, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) is still looking for Arya and Sansa so that she can keep her word to Lady Stark, their mother. Will she save either of them?

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The Targaryens

In a storyline that’s become increasingly socio-political, Danaerys (Emilia Clarke) rules the freed slaves of Mereen as well as the members of The Unsullied, a slave army whom she has liberated.

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When she attempts to administer justice — by being as violent as the former slave owners — a masked group of rebels, called The Sons of the Harpy, kill members of her army and try to kill her. Should she stay in Mereen and rule, or continue her quest for the Iron Throne?

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Danaerys’ dragons have become far too large and powerful for her to control, which saddens and alarms her. How will she rule Mereen or take back the Iron Throne without them?

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The Tyrells

Now that Margery (Natalie Dormer) is Queen, playing a dangerous game with Cersei,

her grandmother Olenna (Diana Rigg, below) competes with Cersei for power. Additionally, Olenna must maneuver to keep her family safe. Who will win this mortal political struggle?

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The Baratheons

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Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and his family are the only remaining Baratheons. Determined to become King in place of his murdered brother Robert, Stannis ignores the advice of his Hand, Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham, below R),

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instead listening to the prophesies of the Zealot RedWoman (i.e., prophet, seer, witch) Melisandre (Carice van Houten).

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She asks him to pay the ultimate price for the throne.

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Will Stannis pay it?

The Boltons

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Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton, above L) and his son Ramsay (Iwan Rheon, above, center) are Wardens of the North, occupying the Stark ancestral home, Winterfell. They bolster their position with an arranged marriage with Sansa Stark. When Roose tells his formerly illegitimate son Ramsay that his new wife (above L) is pregnant, Ramsay fears that his own position will be undermined by the prospective heir. What action will he take?

The Martells

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The ruling family of Dorne, the House Martell (pictured above) plot to revenge the death of their prince Oberon, who was killed in combat defending Tyrion, of the House Lannister. Will they punish the innocent Princess Myrsella for her grandfather’s treachery?

The One True God

In seasons 4 and 5, the “One True God” has almost become a character in his own right, as the Old gods and the New, through their followers, compete for power. Unfortunately, too much of that power is earthly and political, rather than spiritual, leading to violence and intolerance. Which of the many gods will win?

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The Night’s Watch

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With Jon Snow (Kit Harington, above L) as the new Lord Commander, the men of the Night’s Watch must prepare for an invasion of the Wildlings who live North of The Wall. Jon wants to save the Wildlings, if only to help in the battle against the dread White Walkers.

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Jon’s friend Sam (John Bradley, below R) has already become attached to the Wildling Gilly (Hannah Murray, below L) and her infant son, whom he rescued.

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Now he, and his other brothers, must decide if they will follow Jon or declare him a traitor.

Caveat Fantasia

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I have to admit, once again, that I am not a big fan of fantasy, either in books or in films, and that a drama that has too many paranormal elements or characters can distance me emotionally, simply because the characters are not real. Game of Thrones really amps up the fantasy elements in Season 5. There are White Walkers,

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Wights (skeletons who come up out of the ground and fight with the White Walkers), 

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this guy here, who looks like a White Walker and seems to control the dead, but confuses me with the crown-like points on his head. He’s The Night King, I believe.

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Fights involving too many of these dudes becomes an excuse for CGI effects and action scenes in which I have no emotional investment. Because, you know, half the characters aren’t even human beings, so I don’t care what happens to them.

Still, there were the Giants, some of whom had a droll sense of humor,

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and the Dragons,

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which were total awesomeness.

Game of Thrones Season 5 is available for purchase for $38.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers. Many of the retailers have special bargains for purchasing seasons 1-5, including Amazon, GooglePlay, and iTunes.

Rated Mature for (sometimes graphic) Violence, Sexual Situations, Nudity (sometimes full frontal, male and female), Adult Content, and Adult Language.

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