Everything you need to know about the new season of the HBO fantasy drama

By Monique Jessen
Updated March 20, 2015 09:25 AM
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Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Take the themes of love, power and revenge – stir in two gruesome murders, a prophecy of death and enough sexual innuendo to burn down the whole of Westeros – and there you have the first episode of Game of Thrones season 5 (spoiler alert).

Everyone’s favorite naughty dwarf, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), is safe after killing his dad and his lover and getting smuggled out of Westeros by Varys (Conleth Hill). Varys tries to persuade Tyrion to follow a new leader: “Westeros needs to be saved from itself,” Varys says. He seems to favor the white-haired beauty Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) as a contender for the throne.

But the Mother of Dragons is having a tough time with her “children,” as the dragons remain caged up in an underground basement and one is still on the loose. Further, one of her elite Unsullied warrior-eunuchs gets killed by a gold-mask-wearing assassin, part of a new rebel group, The Harpies.

Will Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) continue their incestuous affair? Unlikely, as we know a new character called Septa is on her way to sort things out between the siblings on behalf of another newbie called High Sparrow (a Pope-like figure), which may mean there will be an interesting theme of religion thrown into the mix this season. But for now, the sibling-lovers are side by side (and bickering) at the funeral of their father, Tywin.

Anyone fond of the Wildlings – look away now, since the leader of the pack, Mance Rayder (Ciarén Hinds), burns to his death at Castle Black, refusing to kneel to the King of the North, Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane). Of course, it’s Melisandre (Carice van Houten), priestess of the Lord of Light (and a pyromaniac witch), who gets to strike the match.

And fans get a rare flashback look at a younger Cersei, who, as a little girl (who is just as obnoxious and rude as her older self), goes wandering in the forest one morning to stumble upon a Hansel-and-Gretel-like cottage. Inside waits a witch who foretells the death of all three of her future children. “Gold will be their crowns, and gold will be their shrouds,” she predicts with a taste of the little girl’s blood.

The first episode of season 5 premiered at the Tower of London on Wednesday night, with the 35-strong cast (seven of whom are new characters) sitting among the audience. Guests and cast members later partied in a marquee on the castle’s historic grounds.

Liam Cunningham, who plays Stannis Baratheon’s right-hand man Davos Seaworth, praised the show’s talented production team. “As it’s being released, they are still working on the later scenes,” he told PEOPLE. “They are complete perfectionists, but they are on a really tight time scale, which is why there are only 10 episodes.”

With the cast filming from July to mid-December last year, the latest installment of the fantasy drama from HBO is going to be one of the darkest yet, says Cunningham. But, as the Irish actor says, “It’s a grown-up show; if you sign up for it then you have to be prepared for the worst.”

Season 5 of Game of Thrones premieres April 12 on HBO.

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