The Game of Thrones Season 4 finale, "Children", was as epic and thrilling as expected. HBO's mega-hit continues to titillate audiences with four (WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!) characters (Jojen Reed, Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, Shae, and Tywin Lannister) meeting their fates. Several storylines were wrapped up and new threads spun with as much intrigue as ever. The show has pretty much been faithful to the George R.R. Martin books, but as Game of Thrones Season 5 looms, rumors abound that the show will start to significantly deviate. The primary assertion is the show will soon catch up to the books and will need to chart its own course. It's a long wait until the premiere of new Game of Thrones episodes in Spring 2015, but we do know several key plot points that are headed our way. Our list below ranks the most important events to be seen in the upcoming season.
10The Mountain Lives
When we last saw Sir Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain, he had crushed the head of Prince Oberyn like a pimple after their epic duel. The Game of Thrones Season 4 finale has the raping, murdering Mountain comatose and dying painfully. Apparently, Oberyn's spear was coated in Manticore venom, which sounds pretty hideous. Qyburn - the disgraced maester, tells Cersei he can save The Mountain using his nefarious methods. The Mountain will keep his beastly strength...but be changed. That statement rings ominous. We can expect a monstrous transformation for The Mountain in season five.
Daenerys' trial by error method of ruling Meereen comes to a sad conclusion in Game of Thrones Season 4. Drogon, the black dragon, the largest and most fierce, has barbequed a child. Daenerys locks up his brothers in the catacombs with great emotional distress. She realizes she can no longer control them fully and they are incredibly dangerous. But as clearly stated in the finale, Drogon is nowhere to be found. The black dragon will be instrumental for Daenerys in Game of Thrones Season 5.
8Jaime and Cersei Go Public
The twisted, incestuous relationship between Jaime and Cersei Lannister is back with gusto. After the furor that arose in Breaker of Chains when Jaime forced himself on Cersei, their was a question as to their status. Not anymore, Cersei refuses to marry Loras Tyrell. She will stay in King's Landing to watch over Tommen, and continue to hook up with Jaime in every part of the castle. Letting this love bloom is sure to raise eyebrows in Game of Thrones Season 5.
7Sansa & Littlefinger Tour the Vale
Sansa Stark and Lord Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish were absent from the finale. Their plotline was wrapped in The Mountain and the Viper where Sansa lied about Littlefinger murdering her aunt, Lysa Arryn. Sansa has learned from the master of deception. She now has Littlefinger wrapped around her finger. And he is now the protector of the feeble, Lord of the Vale - Robert Arryn. As the trio tour the Vale in Game of Thrones Season 5, Sansa is no longer the frightened, abused girl at the mercy of others. She is firmly in control of her fate.
6Bran Learns to Fly
Brandon Stark's epic journey to find The Three-Eyed Raven comes to a close in The Game of Thrones Season 4 finale. Jorjen Reed, one of my favorite supporting characters, is killed. But the group is saved by The Children, a childlike race older than the first men. They are taken to meet The Three-Eyed Raven, who is actually a man entwined in the roots of the magical weirwood tree. He mysteriously claims that Bran will never walk again, but learn to fly. Game of Thrones Season 5 promises that Bran's warging skills will grow exponentially under the tutelage of The Raven.
5Stannis and Jon Snow at The Wall
The Night's Watch is saved by Stannis Baratheon. Flush with cash and men from the Iron Bank of Braavos, Stannis appears as Jon Snow undertakes his suicide mission to kill Mance Rayder. They cut down the wildling army, take Mance prisoner, and set up shop at Castle Black. Game of Thrones Season 5 holds the inevitable conflict between Jon Snow and Stannis, especially with the priestess Melisandre pulling the strings.
4Tyrion Solves His Daddy Issues
Tywin Lannister finally gets his comeuppance in The Game of Thrones Season 4 finale. The Head of House Lannister, The Hand of The King, and the de facto ruler of Westeros gets two arrows in the gut from Tyrion, while on the privy. Tyrion finds Shae in Tywin's bed, strangles her, then saves a fortune in therapy by dispatching his ruthless father. The last we see of Tyrion is that he's smuggled out of King's Landing on a ship with Varys; who decides to join him when he realizes what Tyrion has done. The smartest character in Game of Thrones, Tyrion is for the first time, truly alone. His adventures in Pentos, across The Narrow Sea, will open up a new storyline for Tyrion away from the Lannister name.
3Brienne and Podrick Uncover a Secret
In a major deviation from the books, Brienne and Podrick encounter Sandor "The Hound" Clegane and Arya on their way to The Eyrie. Brienne kills The Hound in a savage duel, but Arya absconds by herself. Season four leaves Brienne and Podrick scouring to find Arya. What they discover in Game of Thrones Season 5 will be the BIGGEST reveal in Game of Thrones since the events of The Red Wedding.
2Valar Morghulis! Arya in Braavos
Game of Thrones Season 4 ends on a surprisingly upbeat note as we see Arya Stark sailing away to Braavos. Arya left The Hound to die after his defeat by Brienne, and found a ship intending to find her brother Jon at The Wall. Rebuffed by the captain, and learning the ship's destination is Braavos, she pulls out the coin given to her by the assassin Jaqen H'ghar in season three. He told her to give the coin to any man of Braavos, then speak the phrase, "Valar Morghulis", all men must die! Stunned, the captain responds, "Valar Dohaeris", all men must serve. Arya's journey from a tomboy in Winterfell to a lethal killer will take place in Game of Thrones Season 5.
1Cersei Atop the Iron Throne
The most significant result of Game of Thrones Season 4 is Cersei now reigns unopposed. With the death of her father Tywin, The Queen Regent is now firmly entrenched as the ruler of Westeros. Cersei had long waited for this day, but as stated in season three by her now departed father, she doesn't have the skill to be an effective leader. Game of Thrones Season 5 will test Cersei as The Iron Bank of Braavos demands repayment for the money given to the Lannisters in The War of The Five Kings.
Wax poetic on the Game of Thrones Season 5 happenings in the comments, but please don't post spoilers from the books without warning. Follow me on twitter @realjulianroman