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Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 1, ‘The Wars to Come’: Upheaval Reigns

Review: 'Game of Thrones' Season 5 Episode 1, 'The Wars to Come': Upheaval Reigns

READ MORE: Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 May Falter at Times, But Is Undeniably Human

Post-“Game” Analysis

Season 5 of HBO’s epic fantasy series “Game of Thrones” opened in flux, with Tywin Lannister dead, Tyrion on the run, the Wildlings conquered at The Wall and a raven-haired Sansa on the road with Littlefinger. There was a lot of “previously on” catch up that had to be accomplished during this first episode of the season, which is understandable given how complicated this series can sometimes get. With more new characters being added this season, the complications will only continue, making previous violent quells of the cast seem almost understandable… almost.

Like most episodes of “Game of Thrones,” there wasn’t one main story line to follow during this premiere episode. Most characters were in movement, with only dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen attempting to stay put and make something of her rule. Perhaps with so much of Westeros on the move or in transition, it would be a perfect time for her to attempt a takeover? After all, things don’t look so great for Cersei and Jaime’s tense relationship; Cersei blames him for their father’s death. Though thankfully we didn’t get a repeat of Season 4’s questionably shot “sex scene” by their father’s funeral bed. Up at The Wall, Jon Snow dealt with the arrival of Stannis and the aftermath of the Wildling attack. Still as mopey as ever, Jon Snow sulked even more when he was tasked with getting Mance Rayder to bend the knee to Stannis, or he’d burn. Clearly Stannis doesn’t understand the words “Free Folk.” Notably absent this episode was fan-favorite Arya, who when last we saw her was headed out across the sea to start a new life.

After a pretty wild close to Season 4, this premiere felt relatively tame, which can be good or bad. Much like other complicated series, it’s helpful to have a recap episode at the beginning to remember where everyone’s at. With that said, we hope that the action and intrigue pick up quickly going forward.

Most Poised to Take the Throne?

With two of her would-be-king husbands now dead, any royal should be wary of marrying Margaery Tyrell. Yet she’s maintained her flirtatious position with young King Tommen, and continues to plot to ensure her place on the throne. At this time of upheaval in King’s Landing, she’s the only one who seems to still be paying attention. Do her suggestions to her brother Loras, that he be more discreet in his homosexuality, hint at some kind of religious crackdown? Lannister cousin Lancel has already joined a monk-like order, meaning religion might be making more of an appearance this season. Meanwhile, up north, Jon Snow’s mercy killing of Mance Rayder puts him in a promising position to earn the respect of both the Wildlings and his brothers in black.

Why, Show, Why!?!

Darth Sansa and Littlefinger riding by Brienne and Podrick on the road has got to be the most yelling-with-fists-in-the-air moment of the season premiere. After finding (and being rejected by) Arya at the end of Season 4, Brienne’s next goal is Sansa, but our brave, female knight is definitely down in the dumps, and with her quest getting a bit more pathetic, we fear for her life

Great Moments in Feminism

How many times does Queen Daenerys Targaryen have to tell these people that she’s not reopening the fighting pits? A few, it seems. After conquering Astapor and Yunkai, Dany has made camp in Meereen, hoping to establish her authority in Slaver’s Bay before moving on to Westeros. But, as we saw at the end of Season 4, Dany’s dragons have been misbehaving, and she had two of them locked up. Though she’s taken hold of three cities (and taken hold of a lover in Daario Naharis), Dany’s rule is challenged when one of her Unsullied is murdered by a group called the Sons of the Harpy. These dudes just can’t let a woman have power huh? I tend to agree with Daario, let those dragons loose.

Most Magical Moment

The series premiered its first-ever flashback scene right at the top of this episode, showing a young Cersei and her timid friend visiting a psychic witch. Cersei requested that the seer to tell her her future, asking when she’ll wed the prince (Rhaegar Targaryen), if she’ll be queen and how many children they will have. Naturally, the seer’s responses come with confusion: Cersei won’t wed the prince, she’ll wed the king. She’ll be queen for a time, until a younger, more beautiful queen comes along (Daenerys? Margaery?). And the even more ominous, “The king will have 20 children, you will have three. Gold will be their crowns and gold their shrouds.” Which leads us to believe that, after Joffrey, both of her other children will be crowned, and also killed. It’s interesting that the show chose to present the scene this way; it’s never shied away from having characters tell stories from the past before, rather than revisiting them as they are happening. But the use of the flashback might be a hint at what’s to come for Cersei this season. 

For the Book Nerds (May Contain Spoilers From “A Song of Ice And Fire”)

Readers of the novels will note that there’s more to this prophecy — the seer continues: “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Valonqar in Valyrian means “little brother.” While many would immediately point to Tyrion as the little brother that brings about Cersei’s death, there are a few others who fit the description. Stannis, who fancies himself King of Westeros, is Robert’s little brother. Edmure Tully, younger brother of Catelyn Stark, could come hunting for revenge. Let’s not forget that Jaime is technically younger than Cersei as well. Could he turn on her? Either way, it doesn’t look good for Cersei.

Wit of the Week

If anyone can go toe-to-toe with Tyrion on witty retorts, it’s Varys, the spider. Now that Varys has smuggled Tyrion across the sea to Pentos we get: “Do you know what it’s like to stuff your shit through one of those air holes?” followed by, “No, I only know what it’s like to pick up your shit and throw it overboard.” If these two end up spending a good amount of the season together it’s going to be so, so entertaining. 

Who’s The God of Tits and Wine?

During our Season 5 reviews, we’ll use this section to declare not who’s most poised to rule, or acts most nobly, but who generally came out on top — either through some hedonistic element or an accidental winning moment. For the premiere, that crown goes to Tyrion for his champion boot and rally of his post-“fucking-crate” wine indulgence.

It Is Known

In general, we’re looking at a lot of changes this season. Viewers started this journey way back in Season 1 with Starks and Lannisters who are no longer alive. Many book fans were taken aback when they started reading “A Feast for Crows,” Martin’s fourth in the series, noting that the novel mostly features a whole new set of characters.

Appropriately, showrunners aren’t going that route, smartly opting to blend simultaneous storylines from both books four and five, “A Dance with Dragons.” But that doesn’t negate the fact that audiences are going to be seeing a lot of new faces this season, which could potentially lead to show abandonment, or renewed devotion. Fans of “Lost” were anxious to see what was going on with the Others, but grimaced at the Tailies. New characters, once an intriguing facet, became a crutch for “Heroes.” And everyone knows what happens when a new Doctor hits “Doctor Who.”

That said, HBO is also cutting a lot as well; book fan favorite Arianne Martell, and a Greyjoy plot on the Iron Islands, aren’t making it to the series at all. But even without them, there are still about 47,000 characters to keep track of in this series. How the show introduces the new ones is key, and as we head to Dorne in next week’s episode, we’re watching with anticipation. 

Grade: B+

READ MORE: Kill this Character, Kill the Show: Who ‘Game of Thrones’ Needs Most

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