The game has changed. Following the season 5 finale Sunday night, HBO’s colossal hit series Game of Thrones has now either gone past or diverged from every major plot in the books on which it’s based. That means that two things will now fundamentally change the way people enjoy the series: Show watchers are safe from book spoilers, and book readers are just as much in the dark about the story as everyone else.
In fact, now it’s the book readers who find themselves on edge. Some have speculated that the show is actually previewing certain plots that will appear in the next of George R.R. Martin’s books, The Winds of Winter (whenever that comes out, possibly sometime in 2016).
It’s a weird and somewhat unprecedented phenomenon for a TV series to run concurrently with the books from which it’s drawing stories. The show premiered in 2011, and the fifth book in Martin’s series, A Dance with Dragons, came out that same year. But since then, the HBO show has rattled off five seasons before Martin could publish another book.
The show has already deviated from the books with some very important plot lines. But it stayed fairly true to the books for many others, and those are now officially caught up with the source material. Martin has told the show’s producers, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, where he intends to take the story—thus, ironically, the HBO series could actually get there before the books do.
Otherwise, no one has any idea what happens next. The producers will now have to come up with more of their own stories than ever before. Many have argued that’s a good thing for the show, as some of the show’s greatest moments have come when it’s altered something from the books.
Here is where all of the show’s major characters are left, headed into season 6. Stop reading if you haven’t seen the finale!
- Daenerys Targaryen: Drogon the dragon rescues her while the Sons of the Harpy attack at the fighting pits. The two then fly off together, apparently to the Dothraki Sea, where Khaleesi is surrounded by a horde of Dothraki riders.
- Stannis Baratheon: Karma comes quick for Stannis after he submits to the Lord of the Light (via manipulative priestess Melisandre) and burns his own daughter alive. Half his men desert him, his wife kills herself, and his army gets whooped by Bolton’s forces outside of Winterfell. Stannis is the only one of his men to survive the battle, but Brienne soon appears seeking vengeance for the murder of his brother Renly, who she was sworn to protect. Brienne swings a blade toward Stannis before we cut away, unsure of his fate.
- Cersei Lannister: Cersei is imprisoned by the Faith Militant, the ultra-religious group she herself put in power. She’s forced to confess acts of adultery and incest (though still denies having a relationship with her brother Jaime) and walk naked through King’s Landing as commoners hurl insults and vegetables at her. We expect retaliation in a major way come season six.
- Tyrion Lannister: Tyrion quickly finds himself in Daenerys’s good graces, already a trusted advisor only days after arriving in Mereen. But when Daario and Ser Jorah run off to find her, Tyrion is essentially left the keys to the city, as he’s the only one with any governing experience.
- Jaime Lannister: Jamie and Bronn travel to Dorne to bring Myrcella, Jamie’s “niece” who’s really his daughter, back to King’s Landing at Cersei’s request. It looks like everything goes according to plan, but as their ship sets sail to return, Myrcella’s nose begins to bleed. She was poisoned by Ellaria Sand, who’s still out for revenge on the Lannisters for the death of her lover Oberyn Martell.
- Sansa Stark: Sansa lights a candle in the high tower of Winterfell to signal for help, but Brienne doesn’t see it. With nowhere else to turn, and fearing more sexual abuse by the utterly detestable psychopath Ramsay Bolton, she and Reek (the artist formerly known as Theon, who is acting more Theon-like as of late) jump from the top of Winterfell toward a snow bank. We assume they’ll survive, but it was a rather high jump.
- Arya Stark: Arya crosses one name off her kill list as she gouges the eyes out of Ser Meryn Trant, the man who apparently killed Syrio Forel, her former fighting teacher and all around cool dude. But this upsets Jaqen H’ghar, the assassin training her to become one of the “Faceless Men,” because she was not yet ready to kill. Following some weird Many-Faced God trickery, it appears as though Arya goes blind as punishment.
- Bran Stark: Bran did not appear at all this season, so he’s presumably still where we left him at the end of season 4: Meeting with the mysterious Three-Eyed Raven, who promises Bran that he will soon fly.
- Hodor: Hodor.
- Jon Snow: Dead?! Jon is stabbed, in succession, by members of his own Night’s Watch, for canoodling with the wildlings. Young Olly—Jon’s protege—delivers what looks like the fatal blow. But, in what’s hopefully not a coincidence, Melisandre arrives at The Wall just before this, leading many book readers to theorize that she will resurrect Jon, who may or may not actually be of Targaryen blood, and thus the actual heir to the Iron Throne. Kit Harrington, who plays Jon, swears that the character is really dead. We sincerely hope he’s lying.