Recap: ‘Game of Thrones’ S5E1 “The Wars to Come”
From contributing writer Stephanie Brandhuber
If you’ve recently found yourself desperately lacking in violence, backstabbing, breasts, dragons, and, well, more breasts, then fear not for Game of Thrones is back with Season 5 after what seemed like an interminable wait. But, like with all good things in life, the first episode of the new season has proven that it was definitely worth the wait and the new season’s opener wasted no time in delving us straight back into the convoluted and thrilling action upon which Season 4 left us dangerously hanging. Like with any ongoing series of this type, this first episode of the new season was dedicated to reminding us of what had happened in the last few episodes of the previous season, as well as naturally building on the multitude of interwoven plot lines that we were left scratching our heads over for the past year.
None of us could forget Season 4’s jaw-dropping events in Westeros where the Lannisters were dying left, right and centre. King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), our favourite person we loved to hate, was poisoned at his own wedding to Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), who was accused of Joffrey’s murder, was on the run from King’s Landing after killing not only his father Tywin (Charles Dance) but also his former lover Shae (Sibel Kekilli) (who, to make things worse was found sleeping with Tywin). The Starks were pretty much everywhere on the map, separated and thinking each other dead, and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), mother of dragons, was busy building up an army and doing her best to rule in Meereen. Meanwhile, the attack at the Wall saw Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) swooping in to rescue the Night’s watch from the wildlings and now attempting to assert his dominance there.
What this season opener did perfectly was delve us straight into enigma and questioning with an opening scene of two young girls walking through a darkened forest. While at first we are left wondering if these were two new characters, it soon becomes clear that the bossy, blonde child is none other than a young Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and that what we’re watching is a flashback of a seminal moment in the queen’s life. Child Cersei has gone into the woods looking for a fortune-telling witch, and, upon finding her, asks what the future holds for her. The witch tells the child that she will one day be queen, but will be dethroned by a younger, more beautiful woman who we can only assume is in reference to Margaery Tyrell. When Cersei shakes herself from her perturbing childhood memory, we see that she is on her way to her father Tywin’s funeral, and, confronting her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) about letting Tyrion escape from King’s Landing after murdering Tywin, coldly discusses with him the fact that, without their father, the Lannisters were in danger of losing their grip on the throne.
Meanwhile, Tyrion, having been forced to travel in a crate across the Narrow Sea in order to escape King’s Landing, arrives bearded and weary in Pentos along with the still dubious Varys (Conleth Hill). The scene between Tyrion and Varys is filled with dry humour, and we get a little too much information about how Tyrion relieved himself whilst travelling in the crate for such a long journey. Released from the crate, Tyrion proceeds to try and “drink himself to death” as he reflects on the whirlwind of chaos and misery from which he has been forced to flee. Varys and Tyrion, both now fugitives, strike up a cautious friendship and Varys pushes Tyrion to accompany him to find Daenerys to join forces with her in order to help her gain a place on the throne.
As for the mother of dragons herself, she is still instilling her rule on Meereen and is facing both the conflict of what to do with her now out-of-control dragons that have been locked up for an indeterminate amount of time (with one dragon still missing and nowhere to be found), and the fact that the Sons of the Harpy are murdering her unsullied soldiers. Dany gets closer and more intimate with Daario (Michiel Huisman), who tells her about his enslaved childhood and his support for the fighting pits that Dany shut down but that the people of Meereen want back, saying that he owes his strength and freedom to these pits.
The real action, however, is seen to be taking place at the Wall where Stannis Baratheon, now having saved the Night’s Watch from the wildlings’ attack, employs Jon Snow (Kit Harington) to convince the King-Beyond-The-Wall Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) to submit to his ruling and allow the wildlings to fight for him against Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton). Stannis’ ultimatum is bend the knee or die, but Mance refuses to bow down to the last of the Baratheon brothers, even though Stannis is offering the wildlings eventual freedom and safety South of the Wall if Mance were to yield his army. Refusing to do so, Mance is burned at the stake in an excruciating scene of pain and suffering as the tongues of fire lash at his body. Jon Snow, however, in a moment of mercy and compassion, takes up his bow and arrow and swiftly puts Mance out of his misery so as not to endure being burnt alive.
Although not the most action-packed of episodes, this first episode of Season 5 showed that both the acting and writing were as on point as ever, and this opener has definitely set us up for what is sure to be an intense season full of plot twists and surprises. This episode touched on almost every main plot line, with small bursts of screen time also being paid to Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen), and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman), reassuring us that they’re still around, without giving too much away yet. That being said, numerous questions have still remained unattended to and several plot lines have somehow been overlooked in this first episode: no mention was made of the White Walkers, nor did we get any information on Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and the Three-eyed raven. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), too, was visibly absent from this first episode, and we can only hope and expect that more attention will be paid to her plot line development in the next few episodes to come. Although we get a quick glimpse of Littlefinger with Sansa, it still remains unclear what Petyr Baelish has planned for next, nor for that matter what Varys’ ultimate intentions are either.
With so many different plot lines going on at once, it’s unsurprising that not every single one of them got equal amounts of attention in this first episode, but it was still enough to whet our appetite for events to come. With ramped up CGI and special effects and a good, solid first episode, Season 5 is looking to be the most impressive and entertaining instalment of Game of Thrones yet.(4 / 5)
(Photos copyright: HBO)