NOTE: This article contains spoilers about the "Game of Thrones" Season 5 finale, "Mother's Mercy."
The body count was off the charts in the Season 5 finale of "Game of Thrones," and one major character appeared to meet his doom in a fairly decisive way ... or did he?
Returning to Castle Black after battling the White Walkers at Hardhome, Jon Snow tells his friend Sam that he's the most hated man there, because he sacrificed members of the Night's Watch to save the Wildlings. Sam asked Jon to send him, Gilly and the baby to Oldtown, where he can study to become a Maester. Jon reluctantly agrees, leaving him with essentially no friends at the Castle.
At the end of the episode, Jon is lured outside his chambers with the news that one of the Wildlings knows what happened to his long-lost uncle, but it's a trap: he's shown a sign reading "traitor" and then all the remaining members of the Night's Watch – including young Ollie – step up one by one and stab Jon, each saying, "For the Watch." The episode ends with Jon on his back in a pool of blood, eyes open; he appears to be dead. By the way, this is how he ends up in the books as well – neither readers nor viewers know if he's still alive. Our one hope? Melisandre is at Castle Black too. Could she bring him back to life?
But Jon wasn't the only one to meet a bloody end: Stannis Baratheon, his wife, Ser Meryn Trant and Cersei's daughter Myrcella Baratheon all die too. Here's what happened:
-- After Melisandre convinced Stannis to sacrifice his daughter Shireen to the Red God in the previous episode, things seem to be looking up: the snow melts and he prepares to attack Winterfell. But half his troops have deserted him, horrified over the sacrifice, and his wife, Queen Selyse, is found hanging from a tree in the forest; presumably she took her own life after Shireen's death. Melisandre slips out of the camp and heads for Castle Black, as Stannis and his much smaller army march on Winterfell; there, they're soundly defeated by Ramsay Bolton and his troops.
Stannis ends up wounded in the forest, where he's confronted by Brienne, who gets him to confess that he used blood magic to murder his brother Renly, the man to whom Brienne had pledged her loyalty. When Brienne asks him if he has any last words, he says resignedly, "Go on, do your duty," and she kills him. Meanwhile, Sansa and Theon escape Winterfell by jumping off the castle wall into the snow, but that's the last we see of them.
-- Jamie, Bronn and Cersei's daughter Myrcella and her fiance Trystane Martell get ready to leave Dorne and go back to King's Landing. Before Myrcella gets on the boat, Ellaria Sand, the paramour of the late Prince Oberyn Martell, kisses her goodbye very forcefully. On the boat, Jamie is about to confess that he's actually her father, not her uncle, but Myrcella says she knows, and she's glad. They hug, but then she drops dead: turns out Ellaria had poisoned her with that kiss.
-- Arya steals a face from the collection at the House of Black and White and uses it to slip into the chambers of Ser Meryn Trant, the man who killed her swordmaster, Syrio Forel, and pose as a prostitute. She removes her face and stabs him in a gruesome fashion, makes sure he knows who she is, and then cuts his throat. When she returns, she's in big trouble: Jaqen and The Waif confront her and tell her Trant's life wasn't hers to take and now someone else must die. Jaqen pulls out a bottle of poison, but instead of making Arya drink it, he drinks it, and falls down dead. Arya starts crying, but then Jaqen reappears behind her. Turns out the guy she thought was Jaqen was actually masquerading under numerous faces, and Arya rips them away, one by one, until she sees her own face staring back at her. The sight causes her to go blind.
In Mereen, Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei stay behind to rule while Daario and Jorah go off in search of Daenerys, last seen flying away on Drogon. Dany, many miles away, tries to get Drogon to fly her home, but he's wounded and won't budge. When she goes off to look for food, she's suddenly surrounded by hundreds of Dothraki riders, and that's where we leave her. Varys reappears and tells Tyrion he'll help him keep things under control in Mereen.
Finally, in King's Landing, Cersei decides to confess to the High Sparrow, but all she confesses is to sleeping with her cousin, Lancel – she denies having children with her brother. The High Sparrow tells her she can go back home and see her son, King Tommen, after her "atonement." The evil nuns chop off all her hair, and then she's made to walk, stark naked, through the streets of the town as one of the nuns says "Shame" over and over again, and the angry hordes call her names and pelt her with filth. She keeps it together until she arrives at the Red Keep, where she starts crying.
At the gates, Cersei is met by Maester Qyburn, who introduces her to the newest member of the Kingsguard: the reanimated Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane, who we all thought had died after being poisoned by Oberyn's spear. Qyburn tells Cersei that Clegane has taken a vow of silence until all her enemies are defeated.
The "Game of Thrones" TV series has now pretty much caught up, plot-wise, to George RR Martin's books. What's in store for Season 6? Not even book readers know now.