Lena Heady as Cersei Lannister in "Game of Thrones". Picture: HBO

Do you doubt me? Still? After all that you have seen? There is only one way. You must binge before the Long Night begins.

Welcome back to your guide through an epic “Game of Thrones” re-watch. If you’ve just joined us, novices beware: This article is dark and full of spoilers. 

How Should I Rewatch ‘Game of Thrones’ season 5?

Concentrate on the installments that are central to the famously complicated plot and provide all the feels. Here are four must-watch episodes.

Episode 1, “The Wars to Come” — To savor the show’s first flashback, revealing that there was a time when Cersei actually had friends! To untangle the clues regarding King Robert’s death. To cuddle with the Unsullied. To unpack Tyrion’s crate and Varys’ plan, and to drink to the future of Westeros.

Episode 4, “Sons of the Harpy” — Delves into the rise of radical movements in both King’s Landing and Meereen, provoked in both places by the actions (or inactions) of their respective queens. Bonus: Lots of Rhaegar and Lyanna tidbits.

Episode 9, “The Dance of Dragons” — An episode thick with emotion, from the intimations of doom surrounding Shireen’s BBQ to the sheer exhilaration of Dany’s takeoff from the fighting pit.

Episode 10, “Mother’s Mercy” — This one is jam-packed. Sansa escapes. Arya kills. Cersei walks. And — oh no! — Jon dies. (For now.)

5 Things to Watch for in Season 5

In the chaos following Tywin Lannister’s death, many characters attempt to take control, often in the face of intransigent foes — religious fanatics, political insurgents, armies of the dead. Trying to pick apart the intricate plot? Thinking along these themes and settings might help.

Hero Logic

Two knights set off to rescue a princess in Dorne. Never mind that she’s feisty and in love and doesn’t want to go home. (She should, though — her life is in danger in ways she doesn’t understand.) A would-be knight and squire set off to rescue a princess in the North; she refuses their aid as well. Both of these rescue attempts fail at first, but later sort of succeed — when it’s too late, unfortunately. (Myrcella gets poisoned; Sansa gets raped.) These things happen all the time in Westeros (and Essos), where the characters are determined to save not just other people but whole classes of people, even countries. “Westeros needs to be saved from itself,” Varys says.

Jon Snow, an action hero if ever there were one, wants to save the wildlings to prevent them from becoming soldiers in the Night King’s army. But the Free Folk waste valuable time arguing about this, and then the Night King and his minions roll up. Thousands of people die (thus qualifying to join the army of the dead). The dragonglass is lost. The Night’s Watch — not thrilled that Jon’s bringing the surviving wildlings through the Wall — decides to kill him. Rescue attempts will not succeed simply because the rescuer has honorable intentions. After Dany takes off on her first flight on Drogon, her people decide that she needs a rescue from her rescue. Why does it occur to no one in this world that maybe she doesn’t — that maybe she will be the one to save them?

Proxy Power

What do you do when you need some dirty deed done that you can’t do yourself? In Westeros and Essos, it’s simple: Use a proxy! Hire a Faceless Man to assassinate anyone you like and make it look like an accident. Deploy the Sons of the Harpy to mount violent protests against abolition (not a popular idea among former slave masters). Or empower the Sparrows (now the Faith Militant) to simply arrest your enemies.

Using a proxy has the added advantage of affording some degree of anonymity — something most of these shadowy organizations also prize. The Sons of the Harpy go masked on their terrorist excursions. The Faceless Men require acolytes give up their belongings and their names. And the Sparrows must surrender their worldly possessions as well, even their shoes. The High Sparrow maintains a prudent distance from the violence done in his name, allowing him to put on a kindly and avuncular mask of his own. Of course, the Night King is the ultimate master of proxies — he’s able to compel masses of the dead to do his bidding. He doesn’t even have to ask (or pay) them.

Sally on the Side

Sex is a big deal on this show because it’s a form of power. That’s why Margaery crows about consummating her marriage with the king — the sex is what makes her queen. Sex outside of marriage is an even bigger deal this season, as brothels become a key part of the political landscape. Littlefinger’s brothel, managed by male prostitute Olyvar, is raided by the Sparrows not once, but twice. The first time because the High Septon enjoys its services, the second just to shut the place down and make a statement about who’s in charge of King’s Landing now. And let’s not forget that Olyvar’s relationship with Loras Tyrell was only a means of spying on him for Littlefinger and Cersei. Even though Littlefinger also facilitates highborn marriage arrangements, don’t forget that he is actually a pimp. (Or a flesh-peddler, as Lancel calls him. Whichever you prefer.)

There are more brothels across the Narrow Sea, and naturally we visit them, too. There’s the one in Braavos, where Meryn Trant seeks underage girls to abuse; the one in Meereen, where a sex worker lures cuddle-hungry Unsullied to be ambushed by the Sons of the Harpy; and the pleasure house in Volantis, where a slave cosplays as Daenerys, Mother of Dragons. Is this some kind of political statement? Not far from there, slaves gather to hear a former sex slave-turned red priestess preach the gospel of the Lord of Light and herald the Red Temple’s endorsement of Dany as the Savior. “Someone who inspires priests and whores is worth taking seriously,” Varys observes.

Dany, as we know, is trying to end human trafficking in Slaver’s Bay; Yunkai’s primary export is “bedslaves.” The Wise Masters of Yunkai are merely Littlefinger writ large. Dany isn’t fighting a war only against common slavery, she’s fighting a war against sex trafficking, and against a patriarchy that provides few options for slave-born, lowborn or otherwise vulnerable women and men.


“The Lannisters made you one of the great lords of Westeros,” Roose Bolton tells Petyr Baelish. “Yet here you are in the North undermining them. Why gamble with your position?” Because, says Littlefinger, “Every ambitious move is a gamble.”

There is a lot of gambling this season, not all of it paying off. The Iron Bank calls in one-tenth of the crown’s debt at a time when the Bank is backing both Tommen’s and Stannis’ competing claims for the throne. “We are not gamblers here at the Iron Bank,” Tycho Nestoris insists. Mace Tyrell counters: “You are the world’s best gamblers.” After all, like Littlefinger, the Iron Bank is hedging its bets by playing both sides.

In Littlefinger’s case, he’s trying to keep the Eyrie in his pocket (via his influence over Robin Arryn); win the North (priming Sansa, brokering the marriage alliance with the Boltons); and retain favor with Cersei (telling her about the marriage, giving her Olyvar as a witness against Loras); andundermine the Lannisters (giving Lancel to the Tyrells). Whoever comes out on top in the North or at court, he should be able to claim the victor as an ally — or so he hopes. At least Littlefinger is thinking several moves ahead, something Cersei and several others should be doing. Arya gambles with her position as a Faceless Man acolyte by ignoring her assignment: to kill one of the biggest gamblers in Braavos, the insurance man who agrees to pay the families of the ship captains and owners should they die at sea. This is a man who is gambling with the lives of other people — apparently something even the god of death cannot abide.

Power to the People

As despicable as some of the High Sparrow’s methods are, he actually has a point — the common people have been much neglected in the games that the high lords play.

The crowds make their feelings known to Dany in Meereen — when they hiss at an execution, when they cheer the contests at the fighting pits — but Cersei has spent the bulk of her time in King’s Landing avoiding the riffraff. (Part of her fight with Margaery stems from the fact that Margaery became a beloved figure of the people.) Varys dreams of a land “where the powerful do not prey on the powerless,” where the ruler could “intimidate the high lords and inspire the people.” Dany struggles all season with just that, especially when it comes to the high lords. She debates what she should do with the great families and former slave masters of Meereen. Intimidate them, as she attempts by burning one alive? Kill them all, as Daario suggests? Or marry one to build an alliance? She knows she has to do something, and she’s going to have to have a better strategy should she ever hope to rule Westeros.

“Here in Slaver’s Bay, you had the support of the common people and only the common people,” Tyrion points out to her. “What was that like? Ruling without the rich?” Her response is that she’s going to “break the wheel” — stop the endless jockeying for position among the noble families that crushes the people underneath. But how?

New York Times