WARNING: Major spoilers for events in George R.R. Martin’s book series and informed speculation about possible plot points in season five of Game of Thrones to follow, although we have kept them vague and teaser-y so as not to ruin any enormous surprises. But just to be safe, do not click through if you don’t want to know anything that might happen beyond what’s already aired on the show.
And so our watch has ended. For this season of Game of Thrones, anyway. As we leave Tyrion and the gang behind for ten (!) months, we’re left to wonder what in seven hells could possibly top Joffrey being poisoned at his own wedding, Oberyn Martell getting an eyeful of the Mountain’s fingers, and Tywin taking a bolt in the privy, let alone the revelation that it was Littlefinger who set it all in motion. On top of that — baby White Walkers! So where do we go from here? HBO still has enough material from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series to work with to give us hope that season five will be just as exciting (it will likely draw largely from GRRM books four, A Feast for Crows, and five, A Dance With Dragons). Given what we know from the story in the books and the roles being cast, we’ve made our best guess about what’s coming up next. [Again: Book and show spoilers to follow.]
At and Beyond the Wall
Stannis has saved the day — for now. But how does his arrival complicate things for the men of the Night’s Watch, who pointedly refuse loyalty to any one king? And what will he (and Melisandre) do with the Wildlings, who just want to find safety south of the Wall, and Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall? Melisandre might be happy to know that not only will her burning bodies be more accepted by this crew, but there are multiple sources of king's blood at Castle Black. The long look she gave Jon Snow is intriguing, but if Jon has any sense, he'll take Master Aemon (a Targaryen, remember) somewhere far, far away. Meanwhile, Castle Black will need a new leader who can devise a new plan to fortify the Night's Watch. Guess who's moved to the top of the list! (And no, it's not Gilly.) But the Wall is really no place for a baby, so it might be time for little Sam to put out to sea.
Meanwhile, Team Bran has much to learn from the three-eyed raven, who is actually a man living in a weirwood tree. (Don't knock it until you try it.) Given that the heart trees actually do bear witness to the events that unfold before them, the Last Greenseer might do Bran (and us) the honor of letting him take a sneak peek at events that unfolded before his time. Flashbacks! This would be the perfect way to reintroduce some of the mysteries of the books (cough, Jon Snow's parentage) that have been semi-ignored on the show since season one. What if Bran could see and hear Ned Stark praying at Winterfell's heart tree? Or better yet, Lyanna Stark? Weirwood-tree visions could enlighten us all.
In the North
Little Rickon Stark is still on the loose, presumably having his adventures with Osha and Shaggydog. Did they make it to House Umber? Did they go somewhere else? Are the Bolton boys on their heels? If they can't find a male heir to Winterfell, the Boltons might be satisfied with a female Stark instead. Just as Sansa was married off to a Lannister to secure a claim to the North, another arranged marriage might be in the works for torture-happy Ramsay, who's finally been made a legitimate heir to his father, Roose Bolton, Warden of the North. Woe to any girl who looks like a Stark ...
Yara Greyjoy would have returned to the Iron Islands after her failed attempt to save Theon/Reek, but who does she find at home? What's Balon Greyjoy been up to? And will we finally meet the other members of the Greyjoy family — such as Uncle Euron? — or will we have to wait until season six to have a kingsmoot?
In the Riverlands and the Vale
So close, and yet so far away — other remaining Starks and Tullys are in proximity to each other without realizing it. A darker Sansa Stark (although given her marriage to Tyrion, she's technically Sansa Lannister now) is about to make her tour of the Eyrie with the scheming Littlefinger and the none-the-wiser Robin Arryn. Edmure Tully is still held captive by the Freys. The Blackfish is off somewhere splashing around. And somewhere in the midst of all this, someone thought to be dead may get a second chance at life. Brienne will keep searching for a Stark girl, even if Arya slipped through her fingers — maybe she'll have better luck with the next Stark she encounters. (Hang in there, Podrick!)
In King’s Landing
Cersei and Jaime reunited in the season finale, but how will Cersei feel when she learns what part Jaime had to play in the death of their father? (Indirectly, of course — he was only trying to free Tyrion.) With Tywin out of the picture, how effective can Tommen be as king, and who will be Tommen's new Hand? How will power in King's Landing be restructured? As much as Cersei wants power, she's got a track record of awful leadership decisions, and she constantly refuses to pay much mind to important matters, such as the crown's insurmountable debt — which might make the Iron Bank a little testy. Septons and septas also gain new importance, as the leaders of the Faith of the Seven become more militant.
Tommen's marriage to Margaery might still be on track, but that doesn't mean Cersei is going to be happy about it. Remember her threat in season three to strangle Margaery in her sleep if she even dared call her sister again? Well, Margarey did it again in season four, and you can be sure that Cersei won't let that go. If you thought the War of the Five Kings was brutal, wait until you see this War of the Two Queens — which won't end until one of them is completely shamed, naked, and alone. From the casting calls, it looks like we'll even get to see Cersei's run-in with Maggy the Frog, a fortune-teller who had warned her about a "younger brother" and a "younger and more beautiful queen," which might explain the source of Cersei's paranoia. More flashbacks? Bonus — Bronn is still in town, so we should get to see how his marriage to Lollys Stokeworth turned out.
Jaime and Cersei's daughter, Myrcella, was sent to the Martells back in season two, to be betrothed to Trystane Martell — Prince Oberyn's nephew. (It looks like our original Myrcella, played by Aimee Richardson, might be recast so that it's a little less creepy that her fiancé is older.) But with the Red Viper's death, we get to meet his extended family, including Oberyn's brother Prince Doran, and Oberyn's bastard daughters, the deadly Sand Snakes. Or at least a few of them: Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene. The Dornish contingent are going to be none too happy that Oberyn didn't get the justice he set out for — although the Mountain is only barely alive and Tywin is dead, albeit by another’s hand. Will their response be to try to start a war? By Dornish law, Myrcella, not Tommen, would be the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, as she is the older surviving child in the line. What happens if the two siblings are reunited? Cersei says she misses her daughter — but does she want her daughter to be queen?
In the East
Arya Stark is en route to Braavos, where she might be able to track down Jaqen H'ghar, if his face hasn't changed again by now. What could she hope to learn from the guild of the Faceless Men? Perhaps a fellow waif could instruct her in the art of lying and using poison — Braavosi, beware. Arya isn't the only one heading East — Tyrion and Varys are heading across the Narrow Sea as well, presumably to Pentos first, to visit with Varys's old friend, Illyrio Mopatis, who once gave aid to Targaryen exiles, and may still. What if Tyrion were to join their cause? Road trip! (Boat trip?)
Meanwhile, Dany, the Mother of Dragons, has just chained up two of her "children," while Drogon flies free, in search of more little-kid BBQ. Ruling Meereen has meant making some hard choices, especially as the power structure continues to crumble. Could an arranged marriage help soothe the locals? Or opening the fighting pits? (Hizdahr zo Loraq thinks so, on both counts). How will Dany cope without Jorah Mormont, and is there any way he could get back in her good graces? And what of her favorite son, Drogon? If only they could just fly away on a wing and a prayer — it would be the most excellent closing shot of a season finale ever.