Season 4 was a gut-busting and heart-wrenching season, where we lost several major key characters and saw the power equation change in Westeros and Essos. From Stannis's surprise entrance to the North in Westeros, to the demise of Tywin to Daenerys's chaining of her dragons, things are set for fireworks in S5. With Tyrion, Arya and Daenerys all on Essos, there is the potential for interesting tie-ups and serious fireworks. Season 5 looks like it will focus much more on Dorne, which will arguably see the narrative of Westeros & Essos suffer. But let's recap anyway - first, a summary of new characters (credit: HBO) and a bite-sized summary of key events and people lost in S4.
Doran Martell: ruling lord of Dorne and older brother to the late Prince Oberyn Martell. Interesting to see his reaction to Oberyn's death and whether he makes a play for Westeros.
Trystane Martell: heir to Dorne, betrothed to Myrcella Baratheon.
Myrcella Baratheon: eldest child of Cersei & Jaime Lannister.
Areo Hotah: loyal captain of Doran Martell’s palace guard.
Yezzan: rich slave trader expelled by Daenerys Targaryen.
Sand Snakes: Nymeria (HBO: "cultured, graceful and deadly with a whip"), Tyene (HBO: "fiercer than she looks, especially with her twin daggers") & Obara (HBO: "a fearsome warrior").
Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow: HBO: "A devout and pious man, the High Sparrow came to King’s Landing to serve those forgotten by much of the world – the poor, the downtrodden and the infirm – and quickly amassed a large following."
Cersei to Jaime: “I love my brother…I love my lover…people will whisper and tell jokes, let them, they’re so small I don’t even see them. I only see what matters.”
The equation in Kings Landing changed dramatically - King Joffrey and Hand of the King Tywin Lannister both met brutal ends. The death of Joffrey was an unalloyed joy for all involved, but Tywin's death is a mixed blessing because although Tywin was a tyrant, he kept law and order in Kings Landing / Westeros. Much like in the Arab Spring (#currenteventsreference), a power vacuum often allows things to go from bad to worse. This may be the entrance the 'Sparrow' above has been looking for.
Power is now in the hands of Cersei, a traumatised, power-hungry psychopath, Jaime Lannister, her somewhat conscientious brother/lover, King Tommen (a child who names his cat "Ser Pounce") and the new player on the scene, Margaery Tyrell (guided by her wise old mum, Olenna). On the plus side, Cersei doesn't have to marry Loras Tyrell anymore, although we all know what happens to Game of Thrones characters who break marriage oaths (see Robb Stark). Cersei will also want to temper Margaery's influence on Tommen, which may be very malign for the people of Kings Landing.
Stannis Baratheon: "If I do not press my claim, my claim will be forgotten. I will not become a page in someone else's history book."
Stannis is not a man to be trifled with and potentially the new Tywin Lannister of Westeros. Having lost a lot of men and ships in the Battle of the Blackwater, Newly fortified with a loan from the Iron Bank of Braavos (led by Ser Davos), Stannis made a dramatic entrance to the North, rescuing Jon Snow and the Brothersof the Night Watch from the Wall. This sets up an interesting battle between Roose Bolton (+Theon + Ramsay Snow/Bolton) and Stannis Baratheon. I can't imagine Stannis losing this but Roose plays dirty. There's a possible flare-up here with Greyjoys possibly teaming up with Stannis against the Boltons.
Danaerys had to shackle two of her dragons deep inside a cave. As Tywin reminded us in season 2: "Harrenhal was built to withstand an attack from the land. A million men could've marched on these walls and a million men would've been repelled. But an attack from the air, with dragonfire...Aegon Targaryen changed the rules." Dragons are the game changer, and in locking them away, Danaerys has defanged her own army. There's a bitter irony in being the "breaker of chains" in de-slaving the men and women but then having to chain her own "children". In her wider story, she's having trouble ruling as opposed to simply winning battles. Having exiled Ser Jorah for being a spy for Robert Baratheon WAY back in S1, she is now guided by Barristan Selmy and playboy Daario Naharis. Is Daenerys about to cross paths with Tyrion Lannister?
In the best episode of S4, by horror Director Neil Marshal, the Nights Watch uses Castle Black and all their wits to resist the wildlings, their mammoths and the Thenn. We lost Ygritte, Pypar, Grenn and many others. It all becomes moot, however, as Stannis's story intersects with that of the North of the Wall. Most likely, Stannis will leave some of his army to help fortify the Wall, but the wildlings are running scared from White Walkers and other nasties further North. The White Walkers have mostly been confined to the far North but they could act as a spoiler to the Baratheon v Bolton game.
We lose Jojen along the way, as Bran, Hodor & Meera finally get to the children of the forest. We find out that Jojen had known from the beginning that he would die, but atleast Bran would get to the three-eyed raven. The raven s actually a man fused into a tree, who states the Bran "will fly". Perhaps this is a reference to Daenerys's dragons. Hopefully this will be resolved in S5.
The Vale of Arryn sees all change as well, as the grand designs of Lord Baelish are revealed - he is the one who killed Jon Arryn and thus set into motion all the events of Game of Thrones. More urgently though, in an incredible development, Baelish simply kills Lysa Arryn, who had longed for Petyr for so long. Sansa, having been smeared in Kings Landing as also involved in Joffrey's murder, has found some respect and power in the Vale, and is slowly becoming a mini-Cersei, lying for Baelish (under examination from Lord Royce). Baelish raised the spectre of the Arryns, Baratheons & Starks riding together, but we'll see if he's serious about this. Sansa has an axe to grind against the Freys & Lannisters...
Brienne & Podrick - last we saw these two, Brienne was committing all kinds of savagery to the Hound. These two were obssessed with finding Arya but given that Arya is now escaped to Braavos, their position in Game of Thrones will need a jumpstart.
The bastard Gendry - missing since season 3 and although technically with the strongest claim to the Iron Throne, probably quite irrelevant now.
Arya - after witnessing the brutal deaths of almost her entire family and the Hound, Arya escapes to Braavos, the land of Syrio Forel and Jaqen H'ghar. Who knows if we'll see her in S5?
Greyjoys (Theon + Yara) & Boltons (Roose & Ramsay) - Yara's aborted attempt to extricate an unwilling Theon Greyjoy leaves her as slightly irrelevant for the moment. Theon is now officially Ramsay Bolton's servant and secret weapon, while Ramsay himself is now in a more exalted position.
Hope that's an adequate refresher, see you after S5, episode 1!