HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 1: “The Wars to Come”

The nights have been dark and full of terror these long, cold months without Game of Thrones. Today was the first truly sunny day of spring here in the Northeastern kingdoms and millions of people were still eager to run home to their TVs or brand new HBO Now subscriptions. Or they had already downloaded the first four episodes in this weekend’s big screener leak and were out enjoying some well-earned fresh air. Either way, we are back in the world of hungry dragons, old prophecies, drunken Imps and Stannis being Stannis (i.e. colder than a wight’s arse.)

Spoilers for the episode ahead. Spoilers for George R. R. Martin’s published novels are fair game in the article and the comments, so read at your own peril. Please avoid or white out references to advance chapters from The Winds of Winter, however, for those who aren’t reading ahead!

When last we saw Tywin “His Legacy is a Lie” Lannister, he was dying on the toilet thanks to Tyrion’s well-aimed arrows. He’s not looking much better in death—those stones on the eyes creep me right out. There’s definitely something the TV show can’t get across as well as the books and that’s thankfully smell. I really remember Cersei’s fury at the crappy embalming job her father got, the scent of corruption just one last indignity for this formerly fearful lion. Here, on the show, I think we only get a little taste of Cersei’s grief as she remembers a past trauma of her girlhood.

That we open on Cersei’s visit to Helena Bonham Carter a creepy witch seems to telegraph what we’ve known since Cersei first set eyes on Margaery Tyrell’s beatific smirk: Cersei is threatened in every way by a younger, more beautiful new queen.

The wars to come are encroaching on Westeros from many fronts.

Cersei’s war is always with… everyone not Cersei. Of course her biggest enemy this season is herself. Free from the rule of her father, Cersei can make important decisions. But will she make good ones as she frets over Margaery honing in on her one remaining son, her fighting with Jaime, and the usual political turmoil in King’s Landing?

Probably not.

As for Jaime? After what he did to Cersei in front of Joffrey’s corpse, I guess he should be thankful his sister’s just giving him a giant guilt trip for his hand (yuck, yuck) in Tyrion’s escape.

Tyrion is also big on the guilt and self-pity. It’s understandable, he did murder his father (sorry not sorry) and Shae, which hurt worse. After however many days at sea, in a crate, with no entertainment or proper toilet, he’s absolutely allowed his whine and wine. And more wine. And more. Damn, dude, slow down on the wine.

Tyrion is so depressed, he makes Dolorous Edd look the end of a Zoloft commercial.

Not content to let just the menfolk feel really crappy, Dany is feeling the blame for the pissed off Sons of the Harpy who are slaying her Unsullied. “I’m not a politician. I’m a queen,” she declares. That and her “I’m the Mother of Dragons” is her answer to everything. It’s true, but that only works so long as a) her people are not basically living under martial law and b) she can control all three of her dragons.

You know Dany’s behaving unwisely when Daario seems smart by comparison.

In the Eyrie, Lady Brienne was basically all about feeling sorry for herself about everything from her failure to get Arya to travel to with her, to having no lords to declare service to, to not being a real knight, to not being Pod’s mom, yadda yadda. It’s quite a downer. I hope we’re not in for a whole season of this because Brienne’s extreme loyalty is one of her best features. I’m glad she didn’t find out that she just missed Sansa on the road.

Sansa and her new goth look—doesn’t everyone know she’s a Stark, can’t she dye her hair back?—is getting schooled in the art of Littlefinger being not terribly covert with tiny scrolls. She’s also seeming less assertive than last season as she doesn’t question Littlefinger deeply about where he’s taking her. Sansa is her father’s daughter alright.

Over at the Wall, things are still literally and figuratively frosty as Jon Snow tries to reason with Mance Rayder with regards to Stannis. This is the cool Jon Snow I loved in the books. What a scene that was. Mance made a case for what his pride is worth and Jon makes his argument in favor of keeping the wildlings strong. Between Jon doing the rebellious but merciful thing and killing Mance before Stannis’ flames could and Melisandre staring at the young crow like a giant fried turkey leg, Jon is in a tough spot.

And with Mance likely really, really dead, the Wildings will not be allied to Stannis and his One God happily. Can Jon be the leader everyone needs?

All in all, tonight was more of an epilogue to last season than coming out of the gate in a new direction. That’s fine, but I’ll be grateful for next episode’s much-missed Arya scenes and our first glimpse of Dorne.

Final thoughts and great lines:

  • The “Previously on” start to the show was pretty brutal: poison death, squishy death, dragonfire death, stabby death… aw, pour one out for late King Robert, whore death, toilet death. That was emotionally exhausting.
  • Varys: “I only know what it’s like to pick up your shit and throw it overboard.” That’s… not just a metaphor. Gross.
  • For a brief second I got horribly worried that they recast Grey Worm and no one told me and he got himself murdered in a brothel. R.I.P., White Rat. We hardly knew ye and your very sad mommy issues.
  • I’m glad we’ll get another season of Grey Worm and Missandei working on their awkward romance. No, really. I just like these actors and any additional scenes with them. It’s like the love story Rakharo and Irri never got to have.
  • Lancel Lannister looks much less ridiculous without that Prince Valium wig. Only now he’s found religion, making him probably the only person on this show who’s made peace with his guilt.
  • Ser Loras: still has good taste in men, still not shy in front of his sister. We know this because he got his first sexposition scene. If you could focus on what the very handsome, naked blonde men were saying, we got a very meaningful geography lesson about Dorne.
  • Other best line of the night: Margaery’s “Perhaps.”

Next week: No one misses scenes with Theon. No one at all.

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.


Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing. Send her a raven through Twitter.

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