TL;DR Didn’t read the books, but want to learn some trivia? Read on!
Spoiler-free experience guaranteed (terms and conditions might apply).

The Followup series are nearing an awkward moment where the show catches up to the books. This does not mean there will be no source material to bring up, as trivia and details from the past are still relevant, but without the direct book-to-show comparison the volume of particular articles will diminish in a slight, but noticeable way. Unless The Winds of Winter get released before season 6 airs, in which case several people will eat their hats or some other funny inedible objects.

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

s05e07_1_aemon

It’s dragonglass. I hope you don’t need them
Samwell Tarly, invoking a such apparent use of Chekhov’s Gun that it might as well have been a red herring

Jon is going beyond the Wall again — it’s the third time he does that in company, and only once he wasn’t in charge of the party. Fun fact: both expeditions led by Jon are show-only content. Last season we had a similar “filler” subplot with the raid to Craster’s keep. It had its problems, there was a moment of awkwardness when Bran and Jon passed each other on the way, and the Bolton spy Locke wasn’t particularly interesting, but Karl fookin’ Tanner saved the sequence. All things considered, it was a “filler” for all intents and purposes other than tying up Locke’s role, but it was introduced to the show for a good reason — keeping Bran and Jon doing something, as their book material was almost entirely utilized in season 3.

Jon going to Hardhome is hardly a filler, though. It’s a replacement for what the books had going for him at the Wall with Melisandre, Selyse and Shireen staying there, Mance’s wife, the alternative “sacrifice the child to save the world” dilemma with Mance’s newborn son, and, at this level of divergence it’s safe to say, Mance himself. That is correct: book Mance is alive and well, but everyone believes him to be dead. Melisandre actually switched him with Rattleshirt, and, thanks to her magical glamour, nobody has noticed the difference. Together with Jon they devise a plan to infiltrate Winterfell: Mance comes there with a few spearwives, disguised as a minstrel (he is a decent singer himself). The “external help” element at Winterfell got taken over by Brienne, and the general “no magic” policy led to the glamour switch being written out completely.

In the end, it makes lot of sense — even in the books, there is someone from the Night’s Watch going towards Hardhome (Cotter Pyke, commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea), and there is an expedition from Castle Black led by Tormund. The details of this difference will be described once we reach the conclusion of A Dance with Dragons, which should be a common point for both the show and the book (and might not even be the last scene at the Wall of the season, meaning that the show could spoil the future events, not written in the books yet).

Aemon’s death, even though in a different place, occurs under very similar circumstances. Both Sam and Gilly are there, and the famous touching line “Egg, I dreamed I was old” made it into the show without change. Contrary to the “Inside the Episode” video by HBO, this isn’t the only “peaceful” death the show ever had — Hoster Tully died of old age as well, although that was off screen. Again, I have to leave you guys hanging with describing the details of Aemon’s death, as it’s part of a separate development that has been pushed to a later moment — one of the last few episodes of this season. We’ll bring that up once we get there, but no promises on when would that be exactly.

Sam and Gilly’s encounter is another bit of TV-only content that actually makes very much sense considering the circumstances. Book Stannis leaves his wife and daughter with a decent force of knights, which makes the place a bit safer. The confrontation with the brothers of the Night’s Watch has been foreshadowed; Stannis correctly judged them as murderers and rapists, stating his reason for taking his family with his army. Overall this bit adds to development of both Sam and Gilly, considering their book development is put “on hold”, if happening at all.

Winter Is Co… Practically Here Already

s05e07_2_sansa

It can. It can always be worse
Theon “Reek” Greyjoy, well aware of what could have happened to Sansa if the story of Jeyne Poole got adapted with all its details

In terms of raw plot progression, Winterfell is all buildup and no resolution… yet. There is no common plot point with the books so far, and you guys really don’t want to hear about the parallel story and what Jeyne Poole (she marries Ramsay posing as Arya Stark) has endured. There’s also still a possibility that some of the abuse on Jeyne might make into the show onto Sansa or Myranda.

Perhaps I was wrong with assessing Sansa as more aware, cold-hearted and determined, which kinda undermines my own interpretation of last week’s final scene. Since it’s all completely show-only content, I’m in the same boat as you guys, picking up the clues and pretty much guessing what matters and what doesn’t.

Right now we should probably start worrying about the possibility of her getting pregnant, although Westeros knows a very reliable form of birth control called “moon tea,” a special brew made by maesters for women who want to avoid pregnancy. It’s never explicitly said what it is, but it’s most likely an abortifacient. We’ll bring this detail up later in this post.

We Are Marching In The Light Of Lord

s05e07_3_stannis

Have you lost your mind?
Stannis, steadily climbing in popularity ranks even amongst the non-readers

As mentioned in the Wall section, book Shireen and Melisandre are both at the Wall. This does not mean Shireen is not in danger (au contraire, I’d say, her fate is very much open to any potential development). Since we’re clearly treading on show-original territory, all’s fair in this game. I have my guesses on where is Melisandre’s subplot going, but it’s a few episodes too early to talk about that. We haven’t made much progress with Stannis’s storyline (well, he’s literally stuck in the snow), and even having read the books I have no idea what the big picture is. He might do the book stuff, he might try to do the book stuff with different results, he might do something else entirely – like I’ve said, it’s show-original content and anything can happen. All in all, we can’t discuss much about Stannis himself.

A reminder, then: seasons in this world last for years. That’s correct, years. It’s been autumn since the the beginning of season 2, and the uncommon climate of Westeros allows for a very vague timeline, especially when Littlefinger gets from Winterfell to King’s Landing in two episodes, while it took a month for King Robert to do so. Books keep a much tighter grip on the flow of time, but it also means that characters who were originally meant to grow up during the planned timeskip, didn’t. The timeskip plan failed and now we have a fifteen year old Daenerys ruling Meereen, fourteen year old Sansa getting engaged (not yet married in the books, and definitely not to Ramsay), and ten year old Arya training to become a faceless assassin. So in a way, the fact that show characters grew up older than their book counterparts is a good thing.

Long autumn means several crops and an immense stock of supplies in granaries. Winterfell, for example, has an entire town rise around it during winter, as people from all the countryside in the North gather up for the long cold. The details of agriculture and logistics aren’t described in an exceptionally profound way, but you can imagine how difficult it is to feed people during such a long winter and how important it is to have a political stability when such time arrives.

Plot Armor Feedback

s05e07_6_daenerys

Khaleesi…
Jorah Mormont, ruining this season’s perfectly null Kelly C Counter

Good news is that all the mess that was Meereen is coming to a much faster and smoother conclusion, or at least, development. Bad news is that now that Tyrion has met Daenerys, we have one more plotline that has accelerated ahead of the books, and I’m running out of things to talk about. There is still some source material on Meereen – but it’s quite a different story, with Barristan Selmy alive and Tyrion Lannister still very much away from Daenerys. By the end of ADWD, Meereen is still a mess, so it’s a valid opinion that the book storyline might actually be a better way to handle it.

There are few gems in the slaver’s speech about Jorah’s feats: he says “Siege of Spike” when talking about the Siege of Pyke, the last battle that quelled the Greyjoy rebellion and resulted in Theon becoming a captive at Winterfell. The flaming sword story belonged to Thoros of Myr (the priest, not the one-eyed zombie vigilante). It sounds ridiculous, but it’s the truth – before Thoros got the real mojo from the Lord of Light, the drunken priest used to coat his swords in wildfire to achieve the impressive effect, and that’s exactly what made the legends when Robert and Ned crushed Balon on his home island (also, Stannis defeated the Greyjoy fleet, but hey, nobody ever gave him credit). I say “swords” because every time he did that, the wildfire damaged the blade, rendering it useless. The story with Drogo isn’t that far-fetched, either – Jorah has proven himself to be superior fighter to Dothrakis, and the details of Drogo’s death aren’t common knowledge.

The man who cut Tyrion free could have been a nod to Strong Belwas (similar body size and weapon), a book-only character whose role in the show got partially taken over by Daario, as it’s Belwas who fights the champion of Meereen. Belwas’s signature fighting move is letting his opponent cut him once during the fight before he goes on the offensive and kills them. He proudly displays all his scars and claims to never have lost a fight. He’s part of the Queensguard and advises towards opening the fighting pits, another trait of his that got taken over by Daario. A similar nod to the readers was made in “The Watchers on the Wall”, when he had a glance at the Night’s Watch cook Three-Finger Hobb joining the battle with a meat cleaver.

Overall what you should take from this scene is the fact that two of the few most important characters of this show have met. This is good news for anyone who likes Daenerys, but also for those who dislike her, as she’s no longer the sole plot pole of Essos.

House of Cards

s05e07_4_cersei

You are the few. We are the many.
Pope Francis about the one percenters

We’ve come to a pivotal point in King’s Landing: Cersei has collapsed under the weight of her own machinations. All the disputably imperfect changes to the show have reached a common plot node with the books and we’re back on track with “canon” stuff. Quick reminder for what’s not “canon”: Loras isn’t an only son, homosexuality is never persecuted, Faith Militant isn’t an anime-like comically evil caricature of medieval Christianity and it doesn’t take for Littlefinger to take action for Cersei to slip.

The short version goes as follows: book Tommen is 8 years old and hasn’t consummated the marriage. Cersei tries to incriminate Margaery by gathering evidence against her: testimonies of Kingsguard Osney Kettleblack claiming to having slept with her, the fact that she’s not a virgin and testimony of Grand Maester Pycelle providing her with moon tea (the aforementioned birth control substance). This puts Margaery in the dungeon, but when the High Sparrow pressures the Kingsguard claiming to having slept with Margaery, he breaks and confesses that Cersei had coerced him into testifying sleeping wth Margaery.

One might wonder, why hasn’t Lancel come up with his full confession before? Whatever the answer is, it’s within the show continuity only. Book Lancel is a pious man, but not a sparrow and not a fanatic (none of the Sparrows are as comically crazy in the books). Let’s be honest here, Kevan Lannister would not let his only son join the Sparrows under any circumstances. However, the books still have him confess to the High Sparrow, but only now does he emerge in the story.

Endowed and Venomous

s05e07_5_dorne

“It wasn’t supposed to happen that way.”
“Why is it happening at all?”
Jaime and Myrcella, equally confused about the show version of Dorne

Turns out I didn’t have to bore you last week with the full lyrics of “The Dornishman’s Wife”, as Jerome Flynn has delivered the rest of the song this episode. Way to utilize a great voice – and a great character. Book Bronn has settled with Lollys Stokeworth, took control over the place and named Lollys’s bastard son Tyrion (she got pregnant during the riots at King’s Landing in season 2), which made Cersei furious.

Tyene Sand, against all my fears, has developed a character. Her voice is still the utmost annoying performance in the show after her sister, but hey, we’ve lived through Shae, we’ll live through this as well. Believe it or not, but this well-endowed beauty was a daughter to a septa, the Westerosi equivalent of a Catholic nun. Book Tyene doesn’t really deal in hand-to hand combat, but her knowledge of poisons is unmatched. This is brought up when Doran’s maester checks for puncture wounds after they touch. Given the fact that the middle sister Nymeria also has some distinct personal traits in the books I think anyone looking forward to seeing something more from the Sand Snakes can remain hopeful, even if their accent is displeasing.

Footnotes and Forecast

The casting calls are in, and the book readers are HYPED. Some of the best characters that could have been on screen already were presumed written out, and thankfully that is not the case. We’ll know the details in a good few months, but I’m not going to hide my own satisfaction, which has probably already lightened the mood of my writing (at least the parts I wrote after reading the news). Expect less grumpiness and more cheerful sharing with fellow fans.

And that concludes this week’s followup! Took some time to deliver and I’m sorry for it. Hopefully there will be no such delays next week. As always I’m looking forward to all your feedback, both here and on Reddit.

There was supposed to be a second batch of content on Sunday, but The Witcher 3 is simply too awesome. I’ll probably end up writing an enormous review explaining why this is the best RPG ever made.