I think there’s quite a few of of us out there still recovering from the fifth season of Game of Thrones. This post will be littered with spoilers so please be aware if you’re going to continue on. In one of our famous collaboration pieces, the writers of HBOWatch have gotten together to discuss the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) moments this season brought to us.
The Doom of Valyria by Alexandra Mitchell:
Valyria. It’s the mythical, magical place we’ve heard bits and pieces about since the beginning of the show. Valyrian steel can defeat white walkers. Dany speaks Old Valyrian, as House Targaryen is seated there. The city fell and was destroyed in the catastrophic event called the Doom of Valyria.
So this wonderful, yet ruinous and possibly doomed, place remains away from the viewer’s eyes until Season 5, Episode 5 “Kill the Boy,” wherein we lay eyes on the ruined city. Tyrion says to Jorah, “How many centuries before we learn how to build cities like this again? For thousands of years the Valyrians were the best in the world at almost everything and then…” Jorah’s response is, “And then they weren’t.” The beauty of the moment is short lived, because ever since the Doom, something else has been haunting the decayed city. Enter the Stone Men.
The scene is set quite nicely in that you get a brief moment of suspense. While Tyrion and Jorah are distracted by the beauty of the city and the magnificence of a large dragon flying overhead, a Stone Man drops into the water. It creates a lovely moment for the audience as we know stuff is about to go down, meanwhile Tyrion and Jorah are wondering what the noise was. As they pass through an old archway, more Stone Men are visible among the ancient buildings. When suddenly, BAM! It all goes down! Stone Men attack the boat and Jorah is the only one available to fight since Tyrion has his hands bound. We see Jorah courageously continue battling and Tyrion doing his best to out maneuver them by scooting about and eventually dropping into the water. As all scary stories involving water must continue, a hand reaches up from the depths and begins pulling him down to his watery grave.
A quick cut scene later, Jorah has rescued Tyrion and released him from his bindings. Tyrion is grateful to be alive and would be even more grateful for some wine. Jorah walks away, but something seems amiss….when we discover he has been touched by a Stone Man and will be slowly consumed by Greyscale. This moment, which starts as a man bringing a captive to his Queen for redemption, has now become sour since he knows he will inevitably perish from the disease and live out whatever life you want to consider it as a Stone Man. The one thing in that moment between Jorah and his atonement is now what Jorah is destined to become.
Shireen’s Death by Jason Godfrey:
I can’t say I was ever on Team Stannis. Since his introduction in Season 2, he seemed so focused on pursuing the Iron Throne that he didn’t have time for anything else, including his daughter. Selyse even stated that he didn’t know how impossible Shireen was because he rarely saw her. When we saw Stannis with her, we saw a softer side to him. He cared for something other than power and he cared for his daughter more than her mother did… or so we were led to believe.
Episode 9 “Dance of Dragons” brought one of the most shocking scenes in the series.
Shireen hugged her father and said that she would do anything she could to help him. She didn’t know what she just agreed to being burned as sacrifice.
We saw, without a doubt, how far Stannis will go to pursue his goals. We also saw the death of one of the most innocent characters in Game of Thrones, a show flooded with characters that are morally gray. Once the torch was lit, we saw the true colors of Shireen’s parents. Maternal instinct finally kicked in for Selyse and she was held back by three guards from saving her only child. It was a reminder that nobody is safe… not even a child who was a threat to nobody.
Hardhome by D.A. Zapata:
Since first stated in a foreboding tone by Ned Stark in Season One, “Winter is Coming” has become one of the most recognizable phrases of Game of Thrones throughout its five-season run. Though originally considered the official motto of House Stark, the phrase has been used by many in the series to convey a sense of caution or warning of things to come. The true embodiment of “winter,” however, struck hard during the final fifteen minutes of season five’s eighth episode, “Hardhome”. Jon Snow and Tormund, along with other members of the Watch, travel to the Wildling town of Hardhome in an attempt to reconcile their differences and allow the Wildlings passage beyond the Wall if they agree to fight the White Walkers and their army of Wights when the time comes. Almost foreshadowing the events to come, Jon warns the Free Folk, “The long night is coming, and the dead come with it.”
After some deliberation and hesitation, numerous Wildlings begin to board the boats for Castle Black before an icy mist begins to pour down the mountains hovering behind Hardhome. Many of the Wildlings begin to flee, seemingly aware of the attack to come. In a matter of seconds, the army of the dead is upon them, slicing, stabbing, and biting away at the flesh of any of the living. The Battle at Hardhome is much less a war than it is a massacre. As hundreds of Wildlings lay dead after the slaughter, a White Walker descends onto the port as few survivors sail away. His piercing blue eyes lock onto Jon Snow as he raises his arms, summoning the all dead to life as they stand and stare maliciously at the survivors with the same piercing blue eyes. This marks a darkly pivotal moment in Game of Thrones because not only is this a grand defeat for the Night’s Watch—who must now deal with a much larger army of the dead than anticipated—but this slaughter is the first true embodiment of the arrival of “winter.” As a representation of both dark and cold times, the Battle at Hardhome is a violent and gritty signaling that winter has finally arrived in Game of Thrones, and ominously savage times are coming with it.
Karma: “action, word or deed. The spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). Good intent/good deed contributes to good karma/ future happiness, bad intent/ deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering.”
For five seasons, fans have watched Cersei Lannister lie and scheme her way from one situation to another. Many people have borne the brunt of her vanity, greed and murderous ways. Spoiled, selfish and rotten to the core, Cersei had her own daughter in law imprisoned on trumped up charges, all because she didn’t want to lose control of her son Tommen. She never once paid attention or gave thought to the fact that one day; she just may end up making a mistake or crossing the wrong person. One day, she would step over the line and someone would make her pay. Well, well, well. Arming the Faith Militant in King’s Landing didn’t turn out to be her brightest idea to date. There’s something tangible in the air in that particular scene: Cersei is so blinded by her own lust for control that she fails to pick up the very penetrating look that the High Sparrow is giving her. She prattles on without heed until the High Septon asks her about the original Sept that Baelor built. He carefully talks about vanity, greed and how people will ultimately get what they deserve. Cersei smirks until the High Septon’s facial expression changes to a dead serious look. It is revealed that someone has come to the High Sparrow, someone from Cersei’s past, and has damning information to share about the Queen Mother. The High Sparrow then delivers one of the most memorable lines in Season Five: “…and he has much to say about you.”
Before Cersei realizes the full extent of the High Sparrow’s words, she turns to see Lancel Lannister come in through the side. Both men stand there, the expressions on their face stone cold. Cersei makes a feeble attempt to flee and is promptly taken hold of by a Septa and arrested. The moment that fans have been waiting around the world for FINALLY came to life on screen. Hearing Cersei’s panicked and angry shouts of outrage, confusion and denial were like music to my ears. Like her father and son before her, she must atone for the many sins she’s committed.
Yeah, that’s the funny thing about being a walking, talking hypocrite: eventually all the horrible things you’ve done over the years come back to bite you. I, for one, welcome Cersei’s fall from grace and her downward spiral into desolation and madness.
The Death of Jon Snow by Toby Howell:
This scene officially broke the internet and here is why. As Jon Snow was told of someone knowing information about his long-lost uncle, we as an audience and lovers of Jon Snow were excited, we felt jubilation, we felt there was light at the end of a very dark tunnel for Jon Snow. We were however, misled. As the group began surrounding Jon, I felt the same feeling that I felt during the Red Wedding, the feeling of righteousness dying right in front of me. Jon symbolized all that was good about the show and to see him be betrayed in that horrific manner solidfied just how many fans were going to express their anger on various social networks. To call this scene my favorite would be a lie, but to say this scene represented everything we fear on this amazing show, would be me telling the truth. As Jon was almost a universal fan favorite I believe his death is more devastating than the execution of Shireen, which although horrible, didn’t match the emotional attachment we had to Jon Snow and his death meant a character of whom we have all grown to love and care for was now gone.
Damn you George.R.R.Martin
Drogon’s Deus Ex Machina by V.L. Vanderveer:
The last three episodes of “Game of Thrones” Season 5 had some memorable moments in it: Jon killing the Wight in “Hardhome” and then facing the Nights King who raises the dead; Shireen being burned alive in “The Dance of Dragons;” Sansa and Reek/Theon taking a leap of faith into a new life, Stannis supposed death at Brienne’s hand… So many scenes that will stick with us until Season 6 arrives next spring. For me, the best moment of the entire season was when Daenerys was saved by Drogon in the Meereenese fighting pits. One moment, she watching Jorah battle other fighters and the next the Sons of the Harpy of everywhere, killing her Unsullied, fiancé, Meereenese citizens, and trying to kill her. As Daario and Jorah try to lead her safety, with Tyrion and Missandei on their heels, Dany learns that there is no safety for her. All hope is lost – Daario, Jorah, Tyrion, Missandei, Daenerys, and perhaps ten Unsullied find themselves encircled by the Sons of the Harpy, all of them armed and prepared to kill the Silver Queen. Dany clutches Missandei’s hand, her closest friend. But, just as all hope seems to be lost, an unearthly cry shatters the sounds of battle and death inside the pits.
There’s a wonderful term called deus ex machina that fits in brilliantly in situations like this. Literally, it means “god of the machine,” but it has a completely different meaning in today’s world: “[A] character or thing that suddenly enters the story in a novel, play, movie, etc., and solves a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve.” In layman’s terms, it’s when something very unexpected comes in to save the day. Usually in deus et machina situations, all hope for the “good” character(s) is lost. Dany and her friends will not make it out of the Sons of the Harpy’s attacks. No matter what humanly efforts they attempt, none of the will survive. It is here that a deus ex machina is called for: that unearthly cry is from none other than Drogon, Denaerys’ fiercest, strongest dragon who had flown off after killing a small child in season 4. After appearing briefly early this season – once in episode one or two and again when Tyrion and Jorah were travelling through Valyria – Drogon had seemed to shun Dany. Now he is here, protecting his mother with all his power and might. And the Sons of the Harpy don’t stand a chance in any of the seven hells.
Through fire, teeth, strength, wings, and jaws, Drogon quickly dispatches the unwise Sons of the Harpy who don’t flee the pit. Drogon is wounded by spears but he quickly pays back the throwing with some dragon fire. In case you haven’t guessed, Drogon is the deus ex machina we have all been waiting for. He has saved not only Dany’s life in the pits but also her sanity. She wanted nothing more than to leave behind Meereen but knew she needed experience ruling. While her intentions were good, her methods were sadly devastating and terrible. As she flies away on Drogon, Meereen is left far behind. Her duties as queen are over for a time. Drogon, if Dany is ready, could now fly her across the Narrow Sea to invade Westeros. If she is smart and lets both Viserion and Rhaegal out, those will be two more dragons capable of crossing to Westeros.
We are seeing the creation of a true queen who is now loyal to herself and her heart’s desires, no longer placating the endless petitioners who visit daily or being forced to marry to appease the older Meereenese families. In the books, Dany is around 15 or 16 at this point; the show makes her probably close to 20. Still, there is a little girl inside Dany, one that longs for adventure and fun, a soul that has always dreamed of riding dragons. If she can survive the Dothraki, Daenerys may finally make the leap to cross the Narrow Sea and conquer her true inheritance, Westeros.
All our writers above make strong cases for why their scene was the best (or worst) of Season 5. Each moment left viewers with a pit in their stomach, feeling as though something substantial had been lost or taken from us. One of the most powerful things Game of Thrones provides us is the ability to connect with a world so different from our own. Season 5 was littered with moments that proved this fact. Be sure to vote below which moment you felt was the most powerful and leave a comment below letting our writers know your thoughts on the scene they discussed!