We haven’t written about TV shows or movies before, but for this we simply could not resist. Game of Thrones, which was based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, is one of the most popular shows of all time. Its final episode aired on Sunday May 19, and its entire eighth season was met with strong controversy for quality downgrades. This controversy has led to countless memes that poke fun at it and expose its poor writing. For example:
Or one of my absolute favorites:
In this article, we will examine the downfall of Game of Thrones more closely. I find it interesting that the masses haven’t started complaining until now, when I have been calling out the rapid deterioration of Game of Thrones’ writing since season 5.
This article contains spoilers for all seasons and most of the books. It also assumes that the people reading this have at least watched the show, so it will not go into much detail about the universe’s backstory and lore. Note this article is several pages long so make note of the page scroller at the bottom of each page!
What Was So Good About Game of Thrones Originally?
Game of Thrones followed A Song of Ice and Fire quite closely in the first four seasons, especially in season 1. It is no surprise that this is when the show was great. During these seasons, what everyone loved about Game of Thrones was the mix of intriguing, original characters, intense character drama filled with excellent dialogue, the unpredictable political intrigue that gives the illusion of no plot armor and reminds the audience that any character can die at any time. Think back to the execution of Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark in season 1, the slaughter of King Robert Baratheon’s bastard babies in season 2, the mutiny and brutal murder of Lord Commander Jeor Mormont in season 3, the Red Wedding in season 3, the sudden demise of King Joffrey Baratheon in season 4, and the death of Lord Tywin Lannister in season 4.
The first four seasons weren’t without their epic battle scenes either, and those were impressively shot and were, for the most part, tactically sound. The Battle of Blackwater doesn’t live up to what it is in the books, but it is still remarkable by any cinematic standards and not filled with stupidity in the design of the defense nor the assault. The battle at Castle Black no longer spans several days and several nights, and is filled with cinematic grandeur, but is still impressive to behold and is not poorly written.
Seasons 1 through 4 have their own faults, most notably the complete mishandling of Stannis Baratheon since the first season (the show takes every opportunity to dumb down his accomplishments and change him into someone you’re supposed to dislike) and Shae being unbelievably stupid in seasons 3-4 (boasting that she does not fear the two most powerful people in the world and even acts according to this, when anyone would know better). And of course, the first four seasons had to make sacrifices to fit the story into television. But overall they represent top tier television, elevating it to new heights in some ways.
The downfall of Game of Thrones happened sooner than people think. Season 8 is the only poorly received one, but in reality terrible writing has been the bane of Game of Thrones since season 5. That is where we will begin our analysis.
Season 5 – Things that are Ruined
- Dorne (a missed opportunity at the same time though)
- Barristan Selmy’s fate
- The complete total destruction of Stannis Baratheon at the hands of 20 good men
- Littlefinger’s massive character contradiction
- Jon Snow, the incompetent
- The unremarkable Mance Rayder
Here is where things go downhill rapidly. This is when the show departs from the books and never really returns. Season 5 actually contains many of the show’s worst moments aside from season 8, most of them taking place in Dorne. Jaime Lannister is sent to Dorne to bring Myrcella Baratheon home, and for some reason he takes sellsword Bronn with him. Jaime has no reason to trust him this much, this is illogical writing and fan servicing. There are plenty of men actually loyal to the throne that he could have, would have taken instead. Once in Dorne, the focus is on “badass chicks”: the Sand Snakes (bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell) and them killing people and calling each other “Greedy bitches” and what not. It’s like a really bad parody filled with terrible dialogue and no sense of cohesion. It is largely a waste of time that drags on, and it ends with powerful levels of stupidity.
Ellaria Sand, a bastard paramour of Oberyn Martell who has no support in the country, murders Prince Doran Martell, leader of Dorne who has a good reputation there, with no backlash and comes to rule Dorne in his stead. Umm… what? Ellaria and her daughters would’ve been signing their own death warrants with such actions.
On its own, the Dorne storyline represents poor writing quality even by TV standards, but I don’t know if it’s funny or just outright disgusting that this is meant to serve as a replacement for the Dorne storyline from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, the fourth and fifth books respectively. So much happens in Dorne in the books so I’ll try to be brief. In the books, Doran Martell has three children, but he only has one in the show: Trystane, the one betrothed to Myrcella Baratheon. In the books, Quentyn Martell is Doran’s second child but oldest son, and Arianne Martell is his daughter and oldest child.
Arianne is the one who should inherit Doran’s position and title after death by Dornish custom, since she is his first child. But at age 14, she encountered an unfinished letter from her father addressed to her younger brother, stating that Quentyn would be his heir. Devastated, this strained the relationship between the two of them, and during the books when Arianne hears that Quentyn is overseas, Arianne assumes this means he is hiring mercenaries and will use them to secure his position as Prince of Dorne.
This, along with Doran’s apparent inaction at the death of Oberyn Martell causes Arianne, who is intelligent and deceiving and uses her beauty as a weapon, to hatch a devious plan. She seduces Arys Oakheart, the member of the Kingsguard whose duty is to keep Myrcella safe. Along with the Sand Snakes, Ser Gerold ‘Darkstar’ Dayne, the enthralled Arys Oakheart, and others since Arianne is liked in Dorne, she plans to steal Myrcella from Doran’s grasp and crown her as Queen of Westeros, to force a war between Dorne and the Iron Throne. With Arianne and her supporters directly supporting Myrcella, she’d then inherent Dorne if her plan succeeds.
Arianne executes this plan, but it fails. Doran was able to gain knowledge of it in time, and arranged an ambush to stop them, led by Areo Hotah. When encountering this ambush, Arianne wishes to surrender but not all of her supporters agree with this. Foolish and in love, Arys Oakheart charges towards the ambush and is utterly destroyed by Areo Hotah’s axe. Darkstar, who lives up to his name and reputation as being ruthless, does not want to fail. He wants a war between Dorne and the Iron Throne, so he tries to assassinate Myrcella and nearly succeeds, but instead only manages to deliver a life changing facial wound with his sword that will leave her deformed for the rest of her life. Darkstar then escapes the scene.
With the plan foiled and Arianne in custody, it becomes a delicate situation in Dorne. Knowledge of the attempted assassination of Myrcella cannot leave Dorne. Doran, seeing the chaos that Arianne started, now chooses to reveal his secrets to her: all those years ago he chose Quentyn as his heir only because he secretly planned to marry Arianne Martell to Viserys Targaryen, and support Viserys’ claim to the throne. This would make Arianne Queen of Westeros. Doran Martell does not forgive Tywin Lannister for the brutal murder of his sister, Elia Martell, and her children with Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. He is a secret Targaryen supporter. But with Viserys being dead since book 1, he alters his plan and sends Quentyn out to propose to Daenerys Targaryen, so this is the reason why Quentyn is traveling overseas.
This plot meshes in very well with the story, making Doran Martell another power player in the never ending politics of Westeros. Even though Quentyn Martell dies in A Dance with Dragons: in season 5, Tyrion Lannister succeeds at freeing the chained up dragons of Daenerys. It is Quentyn Martell who tries this in the books, and he gets burnt to a crisp for his troubles and dies 3 days later in unthinkable agony.
Barristan Selmy’s fate
Killing off one of the most legendary characters in recent ASOIAF history just for shock value in such an unremarkable way? What a poor decision, especially considering what Barristan Selmy goes on to do in the books. He becomes a POV character in the fifth book, and he is the one leading Dany’s armies against the slavers who have laid siege to Meereen.
Stannis Baratheon died before he even appeared
Stannis infamously sacrifices his daughter to the Lord of Light at the end of season 5, while in the books he won’t succumb to anything like that. If indeed Shireen ends up being sacrificed in The Winds of Winter, it won’t be the work of Stannis. He has made his daughter Shireen his heir, and he is adamant about this. Stannis is not one to reverse his decisions.
But the botching of Stannis Baratheon’s character actually dates back to season 1. Every single accomplishment he does during the course of the books is dumbed down in the show, and at every turn the show tries its hardest to change his character to make him impossible to like. Just to briefly go over this, in the books Stannis actually lived in King’s Landing before the War of the Five Kings. Jon Arryn was Hand of the King, but really ruled the realm with Stannis, the Master of Ships, as his own hand. Jon Arryn and Stannis Baratheon ruled the realm while King Robert ate, drank, whored, and hunted his way into an early grave.
When Jon Arryn discovered the truth about Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella all being the bastards of Cersei and Jaime Lannister, he informed Stannis. Stannis didn’t need Ned Stark to find out and tell him in the books. Knowing this, Stannis and his family fled from King’s Landing to avoid being assassinated like Jon Arryn was. Throughout the first book, Stannis hiding in Dragonstone not responding to any correspondence is a mystery. Ned Stark sees that he is hiding, but has to figure out what he is hiding from.
This line about Stannis, spoken by Tywin Lannister, is removed from the show since it gives Stannis more credit than the show wanted to: “I have felt from the beginning that Stannis was a greater danger than all the others combined.”
He is referring to the War of the Five Kings, where Tywin himself admits that he believes Stannis, with an army of only 3,000 – 4,000, is a bigger threat than the combination of Renly Baratheon with an army of at least 80,000, Robb Stark with at least 20,000 Northmen (and no doubt he knew he’d gain the support of the Riverlands), and Balon Greyjoy with the Iron Fleet.
In the books, Stannis doesn’t fall for such an easy trap during the Battle of Blackwater, it took two traps + reinforcements from Tywin and the Reach to defeat him. In the show, Stannis burns Lord Alester Florent alive for failing to convert from the faith of the Seven to R’hllor, because you’re supposed to hate him. In the books, Stannis burns him alive for the highest level of treason; hatching a plan to kidnap Shireen, have her marry Tommen, end the war, and become Lord of Dragonstone.
When Ser Davos Seaworth frees Robert’s bastard to rescue him from Melisandre (in the show this is Gendry, in the books this is Edric Storm), Stannis sentences Davos, his best friend and a character everyone likes, to die. In the books, Stannis sees that Davos is in the right, and for this names him Hand of the King.
Throughout the books, Stannis also wields what appears to be Lightbringer (it might be an imitation), the legendary sword supposedly made of pure flame that belonged to Azor Ahai. The show did not give this to Stannis, just like how it didn’t give Dawn to Ser Arthur Dayne. What’s up with the show excluding these legendary blades? Even the imitation?
Season 5 delivered the final blow to Stannis. First, Stannis’ entire army is crippled by “20 good men.”
That is some of the laziest, most unbelievable writing anyone can come up with here. 20 good men destroying most of their supplies because there are no such things as scouts and sentries at this point in the show. Then Stannis sacrifices his daughter to the flames, which is actually not out of character for the show’s version of Stannis – the issue here is just that they diminished his character from the get go. Lastly, he marches the rest of his army to Winterfell, prepares for a siege only to be ambushed in the open during broad daylight by an entire army. This is the start of what is to come in Game of Thrones: entire armies ambushing you from right in front of you. That is not how ambushes work.
See? I’m not exaggerating. There are miles of open field between here and Winterfell and they get ambushed by an entire army? The books are not this stupid. Stannis is currently laying siege to Winterfell. He wasn’t ambushed by an army on open ground in broad daylight. Scouts still exist in the books, as do people with eyesight, as does armor which became rare after season 4 for some reason. Logic and common sense also still exist in the books, while they departed from the show starting with season 5.
Littlefinger breaking character
But we’re not done yet. Season 5 totally ruins more, like the entire character of Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish. He was changed from the get go in season 1, being someone everyone trusts and likes in the books to being someone everyone dislikes and doesn’t trust in the show. The books’ take on this makes more sense since it explains how he rose from being a meaningless Lord with almost no land to being well respected and Master of Coin.
It is established that Littlefinger was in love with Catelyn Tully, and it seems clear that he’d like her daughter, Sansa Stark, to fill that void. This is why he went through all the trouble to rescue Sansa from King’s Landing and bring her to the Vale under the guise of Alayne Stone, his bastard niece. Littlefinger is Lord Protector of the Vale, the heir to the Vale is the sickly boy Robert Arryn (Robyn in the show) who loves Petyr and can easily perish from his sickness which is convenient for him. He has this power, and he has Sansa at his side. Sansa is one of his prizes and he’ll keep her close while he can.
Yet in the show, Littlefinger decides to… rent her to the Boltons? What for? And he marries Sansa to Ramsay Bolton. We’re supposed to believe Littlefinger didn’t know about Ramsay’s sadistic nature, even though he would have. He knows everything and Ramsay’s sadistic nature is not even a well kept secret at any point in time. The show is just apparently obsessed with rape; we get to see Ramsay rape Sansa, just like how Khal Drogo raped Daenerys Targaryen in the first season when it was instead consentual in the books.
Littlefinger got the girl he wanted, then sold her to a rapist, and apparently he planned to just come back North one day and take her back? The Boltons were just borrowing her? This is a big character contradiction with Littlefinger and a strong lack of logic, but not even last bit of terrible character contradiction the show had to offer.
Jon Snow’s missing leadership and management skills
Most of the damage done to Jon Snow is during seasons 7 and 8. In season 5, the mishandling of Jon Snow boils down to him not taking an active stance on the politics of the North and aiding Stannis Baratheon like he does in the books. Around this time in the books, Jon Snow surprises all readers and solidifies himself as a bold, but cunning and competent commander. Obviously his actions as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch to make peace with the Wildlings and sail them south of the wall from Hardhome will always be controversial, but one can’t deny his foresight and surprising amount of wisdom.
We mentioned how Stannis’ campaign in the North is far more successful in the books. He is able to rally the support of the mountain clans and various houses by ridding them of Ironborn, and he promises to avenge the Red Wedding. Much of this is Jon Snow’s plan, which shows some desperation on behalf of Stannis but also shows that Stannis places trust in him. When the Wildlings are south of the wall (Jon Snow never goes to Hardhome in the books), his cunning continues to be on display. Alys Karstark, daughter of Rickard Karstark, flees Karhold and reaches the Wall (Melisandre mistakenly believed this was going to be Arya Stark). Alys explains that there is turmoil and treachery within House Karstark. Arnolf Karstark, Lord Castellan of Karhold, wants to marry Alys to his son Cregan. Arnolf also declares for Stannis Baratheon but plans to betray him, and Alys catches wind of this.
Alys, not wanting to marry Cregan, flees to the Wall and tells Jon Snow of this planned treachery. Jon then sends word to Stannis, who receives the message in time and will act before the Karstarks get to. Jon Snow seizes the opportunity of having Alys Karstark on his side, and is able to get her to marry Sigorn, Magnar of Thenn. The plan is now for Sigorn to march his 200 Thenns to take Karhold, and it is expected that Karhold will surrender to them as they don’t have the manpower to do anything about it right now, with most of their men being with Stannis.
The show totally skips out on Jon Snow being a proactive, capable commander. Jon is never given that kind of intelligence or wisdom in the show, but this only gets worse later on.
Where is Mance Rayder?
The last thing we’ll go over is the mishandling of Mance Rayder. This issue goes back to season 1 arguably. In the books, Mance Rayder is a charismatic bard, who played the lute at Winterfell when King Robert arrived, and nobody even noticed that a Wildling was among them. On the way back north, he met Dalla, who would become his wife and bear his child. The show never gives Mance this character attribute, nor does it give him his legendary fighter status. The best fighter in the north I’d say, as he had to defeat every Wildling tribe leader in combat to gain their support, including Styr, the Magnar of Thenn, three times. He outclassed Jon Snow in sparring under the guise of Rattleshirt, also known as the Lord of Bones.
Apparently just informing all the Wildling tribes that only together can they defeat the dead was enough to gain their support. Sorry, I don’t buy it.
Mance’s character is utterly left out of the show, but so is his importance. After Stannis defeats Mance’s army, Mance is taken prisoner. Since he won’t kneel to Stannis, he must be executed, which means fed to the flames. But even Melisandre saw the value in Mance and deceived Stannis to save Mance’s life. She used magic to disguise Mance as Rattleshirt, the Lord of Bones, and the opposite for the real Rattleshirt, so poor Lord of Bones is the one who got fed to the flames. As for Mance? Him and some Wildling assassins (mostly women) masquerade in Winterfell (held by the Boltons) assassinating people, to make things easier for Stannis.
On a related note, while the show removed all character from Mance, we want to mention that they also dumbed down the character of Tormund. Traces of his humor remain, but it is kept to a minimum in the show. More often in the books does he tell his crazy, unbelievable stories. His humor is toxic in a good way. Eddison Tollet’s humor is also kept to a minimum in the show.
Season 5 – Missed Opportunities
Season 5 is where the show and the books split apart, and this is where the show starts to outright ignore brand new plots. We mentioned one already: Dorne, and instead the show wrote its own awful Dorne plot. Other major, missing plots are listed below.
- The stories and characters of Euron ‘Crow’s Eye’ Greyjoy, Aeron ‘Damphair’ Greyjoy, Victarion Greyjoy, and Asha Greyjoy
- The real Aegon Targaryen
- Lady Stoneheart
The missing Greyjoys
One of the biggest missed opportunities involves the Iron Islands and the characters Euron Greyjoy, Victarion Greyjoy, Aeron Greyjoy, and Asha Greyjoy (renamed to Yara in the show). The important events surrounding these characters would have fit into season 5, but instead Victarion simply doesn’t exist in the show, Euron is changed into some other character entirely and introduced in season 6, Aeron (also called Damphair) either doesn’t exist or only has a cameo, and Asha isn’t even accurately portrayed. On that note, Asha/Yara Greyjoy and Euron are the only miscasts in the show I think. Good actors but not quite right for the roles, but most importantly the changes to the characters destroyed them anyway.
This is the real Euron Greyjoy, also known as Crow’s Eye. He is one of the most fabled, mysterious, and terrifying characters in the books, while in the show he is just an idiotic goofball with bad jokes. During the third book, Euron returns to the Iron Islands after voyaging to the furthest corners in the world, supposedly going as far as Asshai, sailing the Smoking Sea and walking the ruins of Valyria. His ship is called Silence, and all of its crew members have their tongues removed. He claims to have found a Dragon egg but a Myrish wizard was unable to hatch it. And it seems like the Three-eyed Crow (in the show the Three-eyed Raven) may have reached out to him in the past as well. His lips are blue from drinking Shade of the Evening like the Warlocks of Qarth, which gives him a youthful appearance for his age. Euron is above many of the petty desires of normal men, he’s more ambitious than that as he doesn’t even take much loot from his raids. He’s a bit of a mystery, but one of the most dangerous and untrustworthy characters in the series.
Euron is hated by his brothers; Aeron hates him primarily because he is not at all a religious person, while Victarion has more personal reasons for hating him. Euron had apparently seduced and impregnated Victarion’s third wife, making Victarion beat her to death to retain his honor as that is their custom. The only reason Victarion never tried to kill Euron is to avoid becoming a Kinslayer, which is one of the worst things a person can become in ASOIAF lore.
Victarion is an awesome character as well. He is the youngest brother of Balon Greyjoy, the commander of the Iron Fleet, and it was him who led the fleet and torched Lannisport (though it was Euron’s plan). He is an “honorable” man in the Ironborn sense of the word, loyally following their customs and loyally supported Balon. This makes him and his older brother Aeron see eye to eye on most things, and makes both of them hate Euron.
The Iron Islands have a Kingsmoot, and the three most serious candidates are all Greyjoys: Asha, Victarion, and Euron. Asha, who is more boasting, more rowdy, yet more cunning than her TV show counterpart (with a different appearance as well), approaches Victarion and suggests they pool their votes together and put Victarion on the throne with Asha as his Hand, then there’s no way Euron can win the Kingsmoot. Victarion can never allow this since women can’t rule in his eyes, so he refuses.
Euron ends up winning the Kingsmoot by showing off more impressive loot than anyone else can, and sounding the most ambitious. After all, the guy has Valyrian Steel armor and Dragonbinder for crying out loud.
This should’ve happened during Season 5, as should the events that happen next. King Euron gives Victarion a special mission: to sail to Meereen and convince Daenerys to marry him. No doubt does Euron want dragons under his command. He gives Victarion Dragonbinder, a horn that can supposedly tame dragons, which Euron stole from warlocks of Qarth (whom he may still hold captive). His plan is to use Victarion to steal Dany’s dragons and make them his own, and on this voyage Victarion learns from a Red Priest that Dragonbinder is known to kill the person who uses it. This is part of Euron’s plan and it would rid him of his most dangerous enemy in Victarion.
While Victarion is at sea, Euron commands the rest of the fleet and launches raids on the Reach. So far he hasn’t done anything but raid, although he has given captured lands to Ironborn lords he considers potential enemies as he knows they could never hold them. Euron is no fool like he is in the show, he has deadly cunning and might be the most evil character in the story.
Meanwhile Victarion is approaching Meereen towards the end of the fifth book. He has been changed: he had a festering wound on one of his hands, which a Red Priest of R’hllor treats with magic. Victarion’s hand ends up healed, but blackened and full of ash. The Red Priest serves him and sees visions in the flames much like Melisandre, and Victarion devotes himself to both the Drowned God and R’hllor. If you believe in the prophecy of Azor Ahai at all, Victarion is one of the candidates in the books. What a thing for the show to miss out on.
With the Iron Islands being removed from Game of Thrones almost entirely, we don’t get to see their culture and how it shapes Asha (illustrated above) and Euron. Since she has no wish to serve Euron, she takes her supporters back to Deepwood Motte which she had captured a while back, an event that actually occurred in the show as well during season 2. While there, she is attacked and taken prisoner by Stannis Baratheon.
The true heir to the Iron Throne
Next we’ll go over another huge missing opportunity and storyline, that of Aegon Targaryen, the son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and his wife Elia Martell. It is common knowledge in Westeros that Rhaegar and Elia’s children, Aegon and Rhaenys Targaryen, were slaughtered by Ser Gregor Clegane, also known as The Mountain. This is also true in the show. Only… it isn’t actually true in the books. “Common knowledge” is often incorrect after all, as it was once common knowledge that the Earth is flat.
In the books, The Mountain killed a poor little impostor baby instead, a plan hatched by Varys. Aegon was smuggled across the Narrow Sea to be raised by exiled Lord Jon Connington, an ex-Septa, and Haldon who trained to be a Maester but never forged enough links to become one. After Tyrion kills his father, Varys has him sent to Magister Illyrio who then sends him to Aegon, posing as Young Griff with Jon Connington posing as Griff, his father. They’ve dyed their hair purple to conceal their identities.
Without going into too much detail, Tyrion spends time on the ship where Aegon and Connington live. He sees that Aegon has been groomed since birth for the throne, hence the presence of an ex-Septa and one who trained as a Maester. He is knowledgeable in history, war, religion, many languages, Tyrion says despite being a teenager he is more learned than most lords of Westeros. He becomes a power player in the game of thrones, particularly when him and Jon Connington hire the Golden Company; the best but most expensive mercenary company numbering 10,000 (the show raised this to 20,000 in season 8). They set sail to Westeros, take Griffin’s Roost (ancestral home of House Connington), and then Aegon makes the bold choice to lead his men to capture Storm’s End. This is where we left off in the books.
Aegon’s plan was to land on Westeros before Daenerys, let her come to him. He expects to marry Daenerys as per Targaryen tradition, and combine their armies to take back the throne. So yes, the real heir to the Iron Throne, at least from the Targaryen dynasty, is not even in the show! Not Daenerys, not Jon Snow, but the real Aegon Targaryen. I suspect Jon Snow actually is a trueborn child of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark like in the show, but he came second to Aegon. Rhaegar also thought that Aegon was the Prince that was Promised (Azor Ahai reborn) since a comet was visible in the sky the night he was born.
In the books, Beric Dondarrion, leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, come across the corpse of Catelyn Stark several days after the Red Wedding. Fun fact: her corpse is dragged from the water by Nymeria, Arya Stark’s direwolf, which Arya is aware of due to her warging abilities. In the books, most or all of the Stark children have some amount of warging ability.
Catelyn’s corpse had been tossed into the river, the corpse now bloated from the water. Dondarrion told Thoros of Myr to revive her like he had done for him, but Thoros said the corpse is too… past its expiration date for this. Beric wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he uses a magical ritual known as the Last Kiss, in which he trades his life for hers. So Catelyn comes back to life, but is transformed into Lady Stoneheart, looking even worse than the artwork above shows. Her head isn’t held together perfectly since her throat was slit so deeply, the water damaged her skin, it’s beyond gross.
As her name implies, she is stone cold. The only purpose of her existence is to see everyone involved in the Red Wedding die. She leads the Brotherhood Without Banners now. In A Feast for Crows, they capture Brienne of Tarth, Podrick Payne, and Ser Hyle Hunt. She sees Brienne’s ornate armor and Valyrian steel sword, and is able to deduce that she broke her oath to Catelyn and now serves the Lannisters. She gives Brienne a choice: help her kill Jaime Lannister or die. Brienne refuses to choose, and has she’s about to have Podrick and Hunt hanged, Brienne changes her mind.
During A Dance with Dragons, she finds Jaime and pleas for his help to save Sansa Stark from The Hound. A lie no doubt, she is bringing him into a trap set by Lady Stoneheart. We’ll see how that plays out in the next book, but all of this tension and the odd hope that Lady Stoneheart brings is missing from the show. I hope the trap is a success and Jaime is killed by the Brotherhood, though I expect Brienne to betray her word and manage to get Jaime out of there alive. We’ll see. By the way, I hate Brienne in the books. She is an oathbreaker.
Instead of filling the show with the nonsense we ended up getting, they should have continued to follow the books and introduce these storylines. But it is clear that the show decided to go all in on Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen by disgracing Stannis Baratheon, removing Aegon, and making Jon Snow a legendary superhero.
Season 5 also had less of that great character drama and dialogue that flourished in seasons 1-4, largely due to terrible subplots like Dorne eating up too much time. Well, time to move on to season 6 on the next page.