Spoilers ahead for every episode of Game of Thrones Season 5!
Game of Thrones is nothing if not action-packed in the latter half of each of its seasons. Typically, things will slowly build for the first five episodes, followed by a quick escalation that peaks in the penultimate episode. For Season 5 though, things have moved a little differently. We crossed the midway point weeks ago, only to see the story spend much of its time treading water. Compared to other seasons that featured battles, dragons, and plenty more before the final moments, this year has lagged behind significantly.
All that went out the window in just the last couple weeks though, when things finally ramped up to terminal velocity. While short on the major deaths that have come to define the most dramatic moments of the show, things have still intensified in a way that’s moved the Game of Thrones story forward more than any other season ever has. From White Walkers to 180-degree plot twists, Season 5 has proven to be the biggest one we’ve ever seen, chock full of defining moments.
1. Cersei finds herself thrown in a dungeon by the Faith Militant
The early part of this season saw Cersei Lannister finally free to plot and scheme sans the watchful eye of her now-dead father, Tywin Lannister. This freedom afforded her the ability to arm the religious arm of Kings Landing, with the goal of landing her rival (and son’s wife) Margaery Tyrell in prison. Her plan proved to be initially successful, only to have it backfire in the worst sort of way, when those very same religious fanatics she empowered discovered her history of incest and murder. This landed Cersei in her very own prison cell, providing the much-wanted retribution we all have wanted since we first met her character in Season 1.
2. The White Walkers finally attack, and it’s horribly amazing
We’ve been hearing people tell us that “winter is coming” for the better part of almost five years, despite the fact that it never seems to actually arrive. The eighth episode of this season though finally brought Winter with a capital “W.” In a stunningly realized 15-minute battle sequence north of the Wall, we see Jon Snow, the Nights Watch, and a village of Wildlings go head-to-head with an army of the undead, led by the terrifying White Walkers. The episode ends with the Night’s King (the ruler of the Walkers) raising the slain from the grave, doubling the size of his army, while showing us just how screwed Westeros will be if the kingdom doesn’t decide on one ruler quickly.
3. Stannis Baratheon burns his daughter alive at the stake, and it’s just plain horrible
There have been tons of heart-wrenching moments throughout Game of Thrones‘s run on HBO. But the penultimate episode of Season 5 may take the cake, as our worst fear as viewers is realized. Stannis Baratheon, desperate and left snowed-in with a starving army, allows Melisandre to take his young daughter Shireen as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. The ensuing sequence tears your already-beating heart right out from your chest, as Shireen begs for her father and mother to come save her. Stannis looks on stoically, the sacrifice is complete, and all our faith in him as a pillar of morality and justice is completely gone.
4. Tyrion Lannister finally meets Daenerys Targaryen
This moment has been a long time coming. On one side of the Narrow Sea, we’ve had Tyrion Lannister: A cunning, intelligent, and wise advisor marginalized by his society because of his diminutive stature. On the other, Daenerys Targaryen: The last surviving member of a long-since toppled dynasty of rulers, in desperate need of a cunning, intelligent, and wise advisor. Needless to say, Tyrion is a match made in whatever afterlife the Mereenese believe in for our Khaleesi. It hasn’t taken long for him to be seated at her side, placed directly within her inner circle.
5. Daenerys rides a mother-freaking dragon
All the legends of Aegon the Conqueror, the first Targaryen to bring dragons to Westeros, speak of him riding astride his dragon Balerion the Black Dread. This of course has led many to wonder when Daenerys would do the same with her own pets. After a coordinated attempt on her life by an army of assassins, we finally got to see it happen. Her runaway dragon Drogon flew in to rescue her, setting her attackers on fire, eating them whole, and causing general havoc and misery to all who opposed his mother. Our favorite Khaleesi finished the episode by climbing atop Drogon, as he flew her away to safety.
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