Game of Thrones S5:E1 Review: “The Wars to Come”

GoT season 4 brought us to a wonderful finish with the battle at Castle Black followed by Tyrion’s titillating escape. What at the time felt like a very satisfying double homicide has now instilled within us — and the west of Westeros — great fear as to what might happen next. Tommen sits quite awkwardly upon the Iron Throne and Tywin’s death does not bode well for the Lannister clan, something that Cersei and Jaime are painfully aware of early on in this episode. You might remember a scene last season during which Tywin began gently coaching Tommen on how to be king. Tommen might have gone on to be a weak, albeit just king under the guidance of his grandfather. They would have had to continue fending off other usurpers but they might have been alright. Without Tywin, Tommen will surely be manipulated by those at King’s Landing and killed in due time; mainly, he will be manipulated by Margaery and killed by Ser Pounce.

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“The Wars to Come” as an episode proved very Cersei-heavy, even employing a well-cast child actor to play her in a flashback. The episode opened on a haughty little blonde girl romping through the woods with a fearful brown-haired friend. They marched into a witch’s den (hut seems far too generous a word) and the young Cersei demanded to hear her fortune, one that scared her more than anything and claimed she’d see her children as kings but also see them dead. Then it cut to the adult Cersei marching alone up to the sept to see her father’s body. Her and Jaime are more worried about what this means for their safety and power; Tywin was the patriarch of the Lannisters for decades and played a huge role in almost every major conflict in recent history.

The inclusion of Lancel Lannister as a creepy, repentant monk seemed a bit forced. Without the “previously on Game of Thrones” intro, nobody would have remembered him, and his appearance was confusing even with it. In the script, he’s clearly just a tool sent by the writer-gods to force Cersei into maintaining her position of defiance against any form of faith. She would never repent for her past crimes, and as any fan of the books knows, she will pay the price for that later in the season. Lancel is merely here to start Cersei on that forced path towards some semblance of redemption. Jaime was similarly used as a mere prop, just a counterpoint against Cersei’s growing bitterness. On the one hand (HAHA!) his character has been very interesting in recent seasons but on the other hand (haha one hand!), I worry that he might be underutilized moving forward. He did the right thing by freeing Tyrion, even if Tyrion did the wrong thing by killing their father.

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Tyrion, as always, is the hinge upon which this wildly large story swings, but he’s gone from major, central player to a fierce wildcard in the game of thrones. Forever the most noble and interesting character on the show (despite the wine, prostitutes, and fantastic new beard), he’s entering into very unfamiliar territory. Reeling after the murdering of his former lover and father, Tyrion has found no peace in vengeance. Varys is quick to misdirect Tyrion’s drunkenness, something I’m happy was resolved in less than half an episode. It would be a shame to waste Tyrion’s wit and Dinklage’s skill as an actor to leave him all emo like that. Instead, Varys is pointing him in the direction of Daenerys.

The Mother of Dragons has always frustrated me to some extent. She is a great character when showing her more human side, when the writers emphasize her vulnerability rather than strength. Much of the time she is a bit of a self-righteous tyrant pontificating about her own power while trying — and failing — to keep her subjects happy. She talks about the Iron Throne from time to time, but she’ll never make it back before the time she’s 100.

I found it interesting that she had a rendezvous with Daario Naharis in a relationship that is clearly not just a one-time thing. When she talks to him she has an actual conversation rather than proceed to continuously shout angrily about the evils of slavery.

I found myself saying last season when she locked up her two less-rebellious dragons that if she were a truly good ruler she would tame the beasts rather than imprison them. It just shows her immaturity and ineptitude to have her lock away her problem rather than confront it. Daario is absolutely right when he calls her the Mother of Dragons, not of the Unsullied. I think she ought to open the pits and let free men fight. Hell, let free men fight (and feed) dragons. It would make for good entertainment for those in Westeros and in Earth. The bottom line is that she’s trying to do too many things and keep too many people happy when she should focus on who she is rather than what she wants to do. She is the Mother of Dragons and one true queen of Westeros. How about she starts acting like it?

Game of Thrones has always been wonderful with its scene transitions and loves teasing us with near-encounters, and this episode was no different. We saw a glancing hit of a scene from Brienne and the sex-god Podrick in which she grumpily tried to send him away. Brienne seems sore after her fight with the Hound and even more sore that Arya ran away. In true Podrick fashion, he sort of dumbly stuck around and mumbled as their conversation was interrupted by a carriage riding by…that just so happened to be carrying Sansa Stark.

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The suckling little Robin Arryn has always been hilariously creepy, and to see him training to fight was simply sublime. Littlefinger is as conniving as ever, pawning off the little beast on somebody else while he gets to ride off with Sansa into the sunset. I’m curious to see how much will happen with them this season. It’s possible they might get sidelined in favor of the more interesting locations but we will see.

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Pretty much everyone was surprised by the appearance of Stannis at the Wall. The “One True King of Westeros” at the very least seems hellbent on protecting the realm even if he’s at the beck and call of a red witch. I’ve read a lot of talk about redheads being Jon’s “type” so there’s bound to be something going on between Melisandre and Jon at some point this season, implied even more so by her super awkward question on the elevator, “Are you a virgin?” Weary, he simply told her no. His lack of incredulity and curt response convey so much about where Jon is at emotionally right now. He’s exhausted and has lost so much in recent months that he’s just sort of resigned to press onward with his duties. He finds strength in following his duty but he’s also not afraid to go out of his way to do what’s right even when it’s outside the bounds of what he’s told to do.

Jon and Mance have a begrudging sense of respect for one another, despite leading entire armies against one another quite recently. Jon at the very least could understand where the wildling army was coming from and he recognizes that the White Walkers are the real threat. The conversation between Mance and Jon was a pivotal one and spoke volumes: though they do have mutual respect, they don’t truly understand one another. Mance is enticed by honor but values freedom above all else, and Jon is the exact opposite. Jon’s oath to the Night’s Watch was ultimately more important than his romance with Ygritte, something that she could never forgive him for, even if she understood it. Similarly, Mance might understand on some level that bending the knee to Stannis might be for the greater good of his people, but it would undermine everything he had ever fought for. The wildlings might still fight for Stannis, but I’m glad that Mance wouldn’t bend, and even more glad that Jon put him out of his misery before he had to suffer too much.

It bodes well that Jon has a higher sense of morality that is higher than law or oath. I’d say it was quite a kingly way to behave, if you were to ask me.

Lingering Questions/Thoughts:

  • Why no Arya? Does that mean Ep. 2 will be Arya heavy?
  • It’s frustrating that Bran won’t be in this season at all, seeing as we left him at a REALLY interesting spot. Oh well. Hodor.
  • Hodor.
  • It’s really unclear where Sansa & Littlefinger and Brienne & Podrick will all wind up.
  • Stannis wants to liberate Winterfell.
  • Melisandre is intrigued by Jon Snow for some reason. Will she take his blood for something? Will she throw snakes and leeches on him?
  • Who is killing the Unsullied? And why?
  • What exactly can Tyrion even do for Daenerys?
  • What other sorts of flashbacks might we get this season?

What was your favorite scene in last night’s episode? Comment below!

 

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