Strong female characters lead fifth season of ‘Thrones’

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Women are on the move as the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” commences.

Not that they were ever all that static. Ever since Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) birthed three dragons at the end of the opening season, the show’s female characters — well, those who’ve managed to survive — have been picking up momentum.

Wait — birthed three dragons? Yes, that’s just one of the problems involved in writing about “Thrones.”

Much of the time the show — which is actually about power, political intrigue, treachery and human longing — sounds like it’s joined at the hip with some silly hobbit fantasy. Factor in the show’s complexity — there are 27 featured characters spread over an imaginary globe, pursuing heaven knows how many storylines — and discussing, much less watching, the show becomes a challenge.

But millions of people do indeed watch, and they will likely find this season as mesmerizing as previous seasons. The butchery, perversions, sudden pivots and unexpected deaths that jolt the many stories running side by side are all back. As with the first season, in which the show’s seeming lead character ended up beheaded, “Thrones” exults in the unexpected.

Now, about those women. The icy Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) has always been a major player, but with the death of her father and eldest son, she now finds herself pitted in the most superficially polite way against her future daughter-in-law, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), who will become the true Queen of King’s Landing.

Meanwhile the Stark girls — Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) — are off on far-flung expeditions. Spunky Arya is set on joining a sect of shape-shifting assassins so she can get on with killing the many, many people who’ve done her wrong.

Such attitude from Arya is expected. The big turn in this season comes from the previously painfully docile Sansa who, under the guidance of the somehow simultaneously snake-like and benevolent Lord Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen), begins contemplating the joys of vengeance, as well.

Then there’s the giantess warrior Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), apparently indestructible, but unable to catch a break. She keeps pledging herself to noble causes that go sour. Her current cause is protecting Sansa, although Sansa’s unaware of this.

And, of course, Queen Daenerys and her now fully-grown dragons. They’re not getting along. Which isn’t even her biggest problem. That would be the inevitable tensions boiling between the slaves she just freed and their former owners. Turns out ruling a society is no fun at all.

All this without even mentioning the Red Witch (Carice van Houten). She’s still pretty much the Red Witch. And you don’t want to cross her.

Show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are getting more brave about diverging from the novels of “Thrones” author George R.R. Martin in ways major and minor, but there aren’t any interruptions in the flow. Some stories are taking a back seat — four episodes in there’s still no sign of the Bran/Hodor contingent — but none of them seem to be coming to an end.

Of course, as anyone who’s read the novels knows, there is no end. The crazy, vicious, power-fueled world of “Thrones” just keeps going on, just as our own crazy, vicious, power-fueled world does.

True, we don’t have dragons, but then they don’t have reality TV. We all have our burdens to bear. It’s just that on “Game of Thrones” those burdens are so delicious to watch.

“Game of Thrones”


9 p.m. Sunday