For the first (major) time in five years, "Game of Thrones" book readers no longer have the upper hand. Fans were warned that the new season of "GoT" would deviate heavily from George R.R. Martin's books with unexpected deaths and altered storylines -- and the premiere brought both of those things. We're all going into these upcoming episodes as blind as Maester Aemon, and as Richard Lawson's Vanity Fair review contends, Season 5 is better than ever because of it.
Spoiler alert for Season 5, Episode 1 "The Wars to Come"
Sunday night's premiere kicked off with the first unexpected death of the season. In the episode's final moments, we saw Jon Snow try to persuade Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, to swear allegiance to Stannis as he attempts to take back the North. But the prideful Mance refused, and thus burned at the stake until Jon shot him dead with an arrow.
It was a huge surprise to fans of the books since (spoiler alert) in Book 5, A Dance With Dragons, Mance doesn't actually die. Instead, Melisandre uses her magic to swap the appearances of Mance and Rattleshirt (aka Lord of Bones), so while everyone, including Jon Snow, thinks they saw him die, Mance actually lives in disguise until Melisandre reveals his true identity.
But does this mean Mance will return to the series? Ciaran Hinds, who plays Mance, gave Entertainment Weekly an ambiguous answer. "I imagine that if Mance were to come back, like in the books, he’d come back in a different guise, as a different person," Hinds said. "It wouldn’t involve me, probably."
Since we didn't see Melisandre do any switcheroo magic, and since we haven't seen Rattleshirt since Season 3, it seems unlikely that the show will follow Mance's storyline from the books. But perhaps Rattleshirt (who has been recast and is expected to appear later this season), will take over Mance's role when he heads to Winterfell for a wedding. Then again, will that wedding happen the same way as it does in the books or can we expect that crazy Sansa theory to become a reality?
"Game of Thrones" airs on Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET on HBO.