Game Of Thrones S5 E1: Like Mance Rayder, “The Wars To Come” Is A Slow Burner
Game of Thrones is finally back! Halleluiah! Beware — spoilers abound.
The first of ten new episodes of the hit drama is a slow-burner, much like Mance Rayder by the end of it. It’s filled with tidbits that were long teased by HBO and far too many characters, presumably in an effort to remind us all what the residents of Westeros were up to at the end of last season. Consequently, “The Wars To Come” is a jumbled mishmash of many different characters and storylines, which adds little to progress any single plot. It does well to set up the series and create some talking points, but it’s a tad boring at best and frustratingly slow for crazy fans (me).
Nevertheless, some aspects were better than others, so here’s the rundown:
We start the episode with a Cersei flashback. The first thing we learn is that she hasn’t really changed much. The second is that a future-telling witch once told her that she would become Queen before watching her children die and being overthrown by a younger and more beautiful Queen. It’s creepy, and a great way to open the series.
The next clear plot point for Cersei is the return of cousin and former lover Lancel Lannister. Remember Lancel? Since we last saw him he’s shaved his lovely blonde locks off, abandoned all sense of style and joined a cult. I guess that sort of thing happens everywhere. Cersei may scoff, but it’s clear this won’t be the last we hear about the Sparrows. I’m intrigued.
Meanwhile, Loras is getting it on with male prostitute Olyvar. Margaery walks in, rolls her eyes and tells him to hurry up because she wants dinner. Now there’s a girl after my own heart! The ever-wise Margaery tells her brother to be more careful and Loras isn’t particularly bothered. Hello foreshadowing.
Tyrion is now in Pentos, having escaped execution with the help of Jaime and Varys. His scenes with Varys are the best of the episode: intelligent, amusing, and well-paced. As seen in a pre-released teaser, Varys suggests the youngest Lannister lend his talents to the campaign of a certain Ms. Targaryen. And that’s all we get. This is the storyline we want to see more of and the writers damn well know it. It’s rage-inducing.
Within fifteen minutes of the opening episode we have a brothel scene, with an Unsullied paying a whore for a cuddle, which is quite nice UNTIL HE IS BRUTALLY MURDERED BY A CREEPY MASK GUY.
Queen Daenerys is less than thrilled about a murder on her watch. Apparently a masked group of men known as the Sons of Harpy are committing acts of terrorism against her regime. An angry Emilia Clarke is always fantastic, so I can’t wait for those disturbing the peace to feel a little bit of her rage.
Dany also learns that her people would like cockfighting – a practice she banned – to be legalised again. She is about as receptive to this idea as you’d expect. After a rampant lovemaking session with Daario, he tries to reason with her that cock-fighting isn’t all that bad. Their heart-to-heart turns to Dany’s fears for terror in the streets, and Daario gently reminds her about her dragons. She’s still scared that she can’t control her “children,” and she’s later proven right when they attack her during a visit.
It’s wonderful to see Daenerys being both a commanding presence and later expressing vulnerability in the same episode. Her softer side is something that has been lacking since the dismissal of Jorah, and a Queen can’t always have a good time of ruling.
Meanwhile, Stannis gives Jon the unenviable task of trying to make Mance Rayder join his Wildlings to the Baratheon army, but not before an incredibly awkward exchange between Jon and Melissandre. He asks her if she’s warm enough and she asks if he’s a virgin.
Will Rayder agree to join Stannis? Jon says what we’re all thinking, “not likely.” And we thought he knew nothing.
Rayder doesn’t budge on this one, so he gets a very public execution by burning. His being burnt alive makes for very uncomfortable viewing, but thankfully Jon shoots him with a mercy arrow to end his suffering. One can’t help but wonder how the ever-benevolent Stannis will respond to this next episode.
We got a very satisfying scene of Sansa (cleverly disguised as herself but with dark hair and clothing) and Littlefinger watching that little brat Robin struggle in training. Oh, and Brienne’s having a crisis of purpose following Arya’s refusal to join her. These scenes really could have waited until next episode if we’re going to get so little of them.
Be sure to check out our ten points of discussion for the new episode, when hopefully more will happen. Until next time…