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A Primer for Season 5 of Game of Thrones

GOT 5 - AlexIt is June 11 in the year 323 B.C. and the most powerful man in the world lies in his bed.  He’s slowly breathing his last and his most loyal and trusted of subjects are around him.  His wife is near him, carrying in her womb his expected son and heir.  In his short reign, this man conquered more land and brought more people under his rule than any before him.  He established new cities and brought his adopted culture to new corners of the world.  In so doing, he would be laying the foundations for future conquerors and kingdoms to claim to descend from him.  His name would reach legendary status and stretch through the ages.

But for all his might, Alexander of Macedonia died that night all the same.  Whether from a fever of unknown origin or due to poison by one of his enemies – or subjects – has been the subject of much debate.  The cause of his death was never known.  The effects of it, however, are another thing.  Legend says that when he was asked who should be his kingdom go to when he died, his response was “to the strongest.”  Whether true or not, this is what happened. His vast empire fell into civil war as his various generals, family members and allies (the Diadochi) each fought to succeed Alexander the Great.  By the time the various political machinations, assassinations, wars and murders were all done in 275 B.C. – 48 years later – Alexander’s empire had been carved apart and thousands lied dead.

Just as in real life, in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the most powerful man lies dead – shot dead in the toilet by his own son, no less.  Tywin of House Lannister, Hand of the King, Shield of Lannisport and Lord of Casterly Rock may never have worn a crown, called himself a king or sat the Iron Throne.  However, by his strength, will and cunning, he ruled like few kings could.  By his hand, noble houses fell and were destroyed.  Through his willpower, alliances between enemies were made.  At his command, the king pardoned enemies and ordered the death of family.  And all of it was done so that the scions of House Lannister would sit the Iron Throne and rule for a thousand years.GOT 5 - Tyrion & Varys

But what happens now? One of those scions is his murderer and he’s fled for parts unknown.  Tyrion may have killed his lifelong tormentor, but there is now nothing for him in Westeros.  He’s a wanted murderer who is broke and friendless.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  Varys the Spider has fled with him; a wanted accomplice for his hand in freeing Tyrion from the black cells.  But Tyrion, who had grown to love the intrigue and maneuvering of court, is now without a home and without a purpose. To what end can he now act? For what purpose?

It may be that his friend, the Spider, plans for him to ride to the aid of an upstart queen out East.  Danaerys Targaryen has risen in power and influence.  But ruling is not the same as conquering.  She has upended the world’s rules and this has consequences.  Can she face them when she’s had to chain and seal away her dragons, the very thing that gave her strength when she felt lost?  And having her heart broken by the betrayal of Jorah Mormont could she find herself into the arms of another?

Back at King’s Landing, Tyrion’s act of patricide will also directly impact his siblings, Jaime and Cersei.  For Jaime, who was so willing to sacrifice himself to spare his beloved little brother, everything is now up in the air. He guards a king who doesn’t know he’s his father even though he’s still unsure of his fighting skills with his off-hand.  Meanwhile Cersei has, by her father’s death, gained unfettered power. Her son sits the Iron Throne and no one can exert greater influence than she.  But what does that do to the delicate web of deals and politicking that her father had built?  How will she manage the delicate balance between the Lannisters and the Tyrells?  Cersei has her own ideas of how things are meant to go and now that she has no one to reign her in, these ideas will be put into place.

Tywin Lannister’s death will also be felt far from the eyes of the Iron Throne.  To the North, where House Bolton now rules as Wardens by edict of the former Hand, a new enemy has arrived: Stannis Baratheon.  The erstwhile King and contender to be Azor Ahai managed to maneuver past the Bolton and Lannister forces to reach The Wall and break the siege of Mance Rayder.  Now he and his new forces sit besides the black brothers of the Night’s Watch and must dole out justice to the former King Beyond the Wall.  Stannis’ plan is to save the Seven Kingdoms in an attempt to prove his worth as king, but will it work?  Will people turn to him and to his red priestess and forget years of fealty and loyalty to their liege lords and their faith?

GOT 5 - Jon & StannisAs for the Night’s Watch, they enter into a precarious situation.  Their vows prevent them from taking part in any of the wars of the Seven Kingdoms.  Leaderless since the murder of Lord Commander Mormont and stretched to their limit by the Battle of Castle Black, the crows must manage a dangerous entreaty with the proclaimed King of Westeros who houses his army besides them.  What will Stannis demand out of them for his aid? And can they give it? How will Jon Snow manage to navigate the new demands that his order will face and stand against Stannis and Melisandre?

Death will also be felt to the South. Tywin’s death but also the death of Oberyn Martell.  For the Dornish to have another member of the princely family fall to Lannister treachery might be too much to accept.  Elia Martell’s death may have occurred during war, but Oberyn was felled trying to bring about their much desired justice.  Instead, his corpse will return and inspire who knows what reaction will ensue from Dorne as a result. And don’t forget: the Dornish hold Cersei’s daughter, Princess Myrcella, as an “honored guest.”

One who could have been just a hostage is Sansa Stark. Instead, she’s decided to grow up and play the game of thrones under the tutelage of her “father” Petyr Baelish.  But she also knows that their survival hinges on the Lords of the Vale not standing in Littlefinger’s way.  For the moment, she needs to play the part of subservient pseudo-daughter to a man who sees in her a mixture of power and lust.  Can she learn quickly how to play the game and play one of its biggest players? Her life depends on it.

LGOT 5 - Aryaikewise, her long-lost sister, Arya, sails for a future unknown in the Free City of Braavos.  She pursues the twin calls of her dance master, Syrio Forel, and the assassin that saved her, Jaqen H’gar.  But Braavos is not Westeros and, in this foreign land, she will find no allies. All her life, Arya has felt a different calling than the one of a noble lady.  Can she find it in a strange and foreign land? Or will she simply lose herself with no one to guide her and no one to help her?

Just like Alexander’s death brought chaos to the world, so will the murder of Tywin Lannister bring chaos to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.  Those who thought themselves mighty will start doubting their positions.  Those who are opportunistic will see a chance to grow in power.  Those who are desperate for revenge or for a new start will see in this a moment where things are open for them to grab what they want.

But while everyone continues to play the game, they forget that they’ve spent years warring, burning, looting and destroying.  The Kingdoms have been bled and bled. Now that winter is nearly upon them, who will survive? How will they survive? Who will they turn to? Chaos speaks of randomness, of a lack of a pattern.  After years of war and death, that’s all that’s left in the Seven Kingdoms and in the lives of the characters of this story: chaos.

And as we were warned before, chaos can be a ladder for the right man or the right woman.

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