8:00am PT by Aaron Couch
'Game of Thrones' Season 5 Finale: Can Stannis Redeem Himself?
There is just one episode left in Game of Thrones' fifth season, and Sunday's finale has plenty of questions that demand answers.
The HBO series will be ending its most controversial season yet, which saw fans outraged over rape and the brutal death of a child. Sunday's episode will pick up after Stannis (Stephen Dillane) allowed his daughter Shireen (Kerry Ingram) to be burned at the stake, while — in happier news — Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) rode a Dragon for the first time.
On to the questions that need to be addressed:
Can Stannis redeem himself?
Stannis is the only contender for the Iron Throne who understands the threats of the White Walkers and the impending winter. He believes he is the only man who can successfully lead humanity against the horrors to come, which is why he went as far as to sacrifice his daughter in order to free his army from the snow.
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In his mind, the magic he employees is sound and king's blood has power within it, as Melisandre (Carice van Houten) has successfully used king's blood to kill several of Stannis' enemies. In season two, a ghost baby he made by sleeping with Melisandre killed Stannis' brother Renley (Gethin Anthony). In season three, they burned leeches that sucked the blood of his bastard nephew Gendry (Joe Dempsie) while saying the names Robb, Joffrey and Balon. Only Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) is still alive, suggesting to Stannis that the magic worked. (Side note: Why didn't he consider using leeches to suck his daughter's blood, rather than kill her?)
That track record suggests the sacrifice of Shireen will be successful for Stannis' quest. As for whether it will cost him his soul is another matter. Stannis would literally have to save the world in order for his sacrifice to balance the evil he has committed. Anything less would be failure.
What do the dragons mean for Daenerys?
Fans went nuts when Drogon saved the day by swooping in at the last moment as the Sons of the Harpy closed in on Daenyerys. Now that she can ride her dragon, it's time for her to free Viserion and Rhaegal, who have been locked up since last season. Next up, she will likely consider exiting Meereen and heading to Westeros to reclaim her throne. The only other option is an extreme crackdown on the Sons of the Harpy, who show no signs of giving up. Moving on would be the smart choice.
What's next for Jon?
Things are looking worse than ever for Jon (Kit Harington), who returned to a less-than-friendly Wall after surviving a White Walker apocalypse at Hardhome. For a moment in the last episode, it looked like his enemy Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) wouldn't let Jon and the Wildlings in. His closest ally Sam (John Bradley) was beaten by members of the Night's Watch, who wanted to sexually assault Gilly (Hannah Murray). Even Jon's own squire Olly (Brenock O'Connor) is doubting him because of his sympathies for the Wildlings. In other words, this is not necessarily the safe environment Jon needs to regroup and consider a strategy to fight the Night's King.
Will Arya kill Ser Meryn Trant?
Arya is on her way to becoming a Faceless Man, a member of the group of assassins her mentor Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). The main thing standing in her way is Arya's desire to seek revenge against Ser Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie), the knight who killed her sword-fighting instructor Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou) in season one. The show has established Ser Meryn as human garbage who needs to be stopped, with him forcing a brothel owner to provide him with children. With the show laying the groundwork for this evil, it would be dissatisfying if Arya didn't get her revenge. At the same time, it'd be disappointing if she didn't become a fully-fledged badass like Jaqen. Catch-22.
Who will die?
Last season, the show lost Tywin (Charles Dance). The season before, Robb (Richard Madden) and Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) said goodbye. This year has had its losses, from Ser Barristan (Ian McElhinney) to Shireen, but none of its main players. Online, people are speculating anyone from Jon to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) could buy the farm, though it seems unlikely the series would go through all the work of bringing Tyrion and Daenyers together only to kill him off. As for Jon, the series (and books) has made such a big deal about Jon learning who his mother is, it's hard to imagine that his story is done after Sunday.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO. Stay tuned to The Live Feed for more from the series.