Before we begin – Yes, there are TV spoilers ahead (not books, I will not spoil things that have happened “in the book but not the show”). I will not celebrate every twist and turn, but if we are going to talk about what we like, we have to discuss the great scenes. Stop reading if you do not like spoilers. You have been warned!
Can we just begin with a little celebration? It’s back!
Yes, the day everyone has been waiting for: Game of Thrones is back! Tonight we got to watch the first episode of season five: “The Wars to Come.” It has been almost a year since we caught up with our friends in Westeros, and the fifth season of the show got started off with a “Good to see you.”
Hear me out. I love Game of Thrones. I wholeheartedly believe it is the best show on television, so when I review it, I will be pitting it against other Game of Thrones episodes. Pretty much any episode of the show is better than most episodes of any other show. So, when I say that this week’s Game of Thrones did not really enthrall me, keep in mind that I would love sitting in a room with Bronn for an hour without talking.
Our episode began with a seriously big flashback: we got to see (partially) why Cersei is such a paranoid individual. When Cersei was a child, not only was she just as charming a person as she is now, but she also snuck out to a blood witch to demand her future told. She learned some traumatizing things for an entitled child to hear; much to her chagrin and her fortune teller’s joy. This scene, along with the following Lannister scenes, reminded us that Cersei is losing her grip. She is constantly striking out at shadows; some in the form of Tyrion, and others in the form of the “enemies” that she has conjured up in the other power players of King’s Landing.
Besides Cersei, we also got to catch up with lots of other Westeros power players. Two of the most important, however, have been pulled across the Narrow Sea to Essos. The first is another Lannister, Tyrion.
Tyrion Lannister has somehow escaped sure death once again and found himself smuggled away from King’s Landing by the Spider, Varys.
The two dialogue scenes between Varys and Tyrion were, of course, enjoyable to witness. These actors, Peter Dinklage and Conleth Hill, have some of the most magnetic personalities on the entire show. In fact, Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister stole the entire episode with a non-verbal line; his vomiting of the chugged cup of red wine seemed so real and received, by far, the best pop of the night from our viewing group. However, other than Varys guiding Tyrion towards Daenerys, we did not get much forward momentum in that plotline. Other than the fact that Varys is probably misdirecting his friend Tyrion, as misdirection seems to be his only common maneuver.
Speaking of Daenerys, or favorite Khaleesi finally got a chance to rule without her guardian angel/bear Jorah Mormont. And we have yet to figure out if she knows how to do it. Dani continues to lead her adopted people forward, but she also continues to be opposed at every turn. Her advisors continue to give her advice that does not work. Her dragons continue to not cooperate. And she seems, like the last few seasons, exasperated that she is not claiming her victory easily. Ultimately, Daenerys still seems like she has bit off more than she can chew. She keeps chewing that horse heart, but she needs to be looking forward to the horse heart that is the Iron Throne. Maybe Tyrion and Varys can help her take it? Or maybe Tyrion will suffer liver failure on the way to meet her?
Tonight’s episode really hinged on two things. The first is this: what is life in Westeros like after Tywin Lannister? Nearly every location that we visited in “The Wars to Come” mentioned Tywin’s death, and the fact of the matter is that Westeros has changed dramatically with him dead. Cersei and Jamie especially had a conversation and were concerned with “what happens now?” All the brains of the Lannisters (in Tywin and Tyrion) are now gone, but the house still controls all the power in the land. It seems impossible for them to maintain their hold on power with the status quo, but Cersei and Jamie (and Lancel, and Kevan, and…) have surprised us before.
The other big story to visit is the Wall. Here, we got to see the clashing ideologies of Jon Snow, Stannis Baratheon, and Mance Rayder. Jon Snow wants to save everyone, Mance wants his people to save their pride, and Stannis wants to win. The issue with Game of Thrones is that, usually, the person who values winning above all else does, in fact, win. Stannis demands that Mance bend the knee and allow his people to fight for Stannis. Naturally, Mance refuses. And here, we got the great scene of “The Wars to Come”: Mance getting burned to appease Stannis’s pet witch, Melisandre.
This scene was difficult to watch, in a different way than most of the other graphic scenes in Game of Thrones are. Most of the time, the violence in this show is fast and extremely violent.
The sacrifice of Mance Rayder was drawn out and powerful to witness. Mance was given multiple opportunities to escape his fate, and he refused. Watching him try to keep a straight face and not cry out, even as the fire started to envelop him, was tough to witness. And watching the faces of those who knew him (Tormund Giantsbane, Jon Snow, Gilly) as he suffered an extremely painful death, made his burning seem much more powerful. However, we will have to see if Jon Snow ending his suffering before the fire can claim him comes back to hurt our Night’s Watch hero.
Overall, “The Wars to Come” was a solid “Welcome back” to Westeros. However, a few things held it back. The burning of Mance, a character who has not had much screen time on the show, did not have the emotional punch of most season openers. The kingdom of Dorne, which is going to be a huge player this season (as the casting and prior season indicated), was not seen at all. Finally, a few important characters were omitted, such as Arya Stark, Bran Stark, and Ramsay Snow, which will most likely be caught up with in the next episode (except for Bran, who will supposedly not appear at all this season.)
What did you think of the premiere? How did they handle the fallout from last season? How mad were you that we did not get to see Arya? Let us know in the comments below!