Since tonight’s Game of Thrones premiere wandered all about the lands of Westeros and Essos, I’ve tried to keep our recap reined in by focusing on the events that occurred in specific locations. If only I had a detailed world map to help me keep track of everything…
Tonight’s opening scene flashes back to a young Cersei Lannister and her brunette friend (Melara Hetherspoon, for the curious among you) visiting a reputed witch in order to glimpse a vision of her future. Cersei gets to ask Maggy the Woods Witch three questions, the answers to which are not very pleasing but prove rather prophetic in hindsight. It’s this moment in her childhood that she thinks on as Cersei climbs the long steps to pay her respects to her deceased father in the Great Sept of Baelor. Jamie waits for her there and warns her of the enemies surrounding them from all sides, but the only monster she’s interested in defeating is Tyrion. Cersei also lays the blame of their father’s death squarely at Jamie’s feet. No love lost between the siblings this time around.
As Cersei mourns, numerous lickspittles and ambitious well-wishes try to earn her favor, but she pays them no mind. The only one who gives her pause is her cousin Lancel Lannister, who is re-introduced to viewers as one of the Sparrows, a cult made up of the common and poor folk who aren’t too happy with the reigning religious leadership. He asks for her forgiveness for tempting her into incest, and for “fixing” Robert Baratheon’s wine during his last boar hunt. (Good times, right cuz?)
Elsewhere in the castle, Margaery Tyrell stumbles into Loras’ bedchamber while he’s with his new lover, Oliver. Loras seems to think that they’re trapped in King’s Landing with Cersei, but his sister is not quite so convinced. Methinks she has some plans of her own.
Essos – Pentos
Varys, who still appears rather conspicuous with his baby-smooth bald head and freshly powdered skin, frees a rough-looking Tyrion from his shipping crate at long last. Varys laments the long line of mistakes made with the aim of restoring order to Westeros, though Tyrion thinks only of drowning his guilt with wine. I quite enjoy the ‘Tyrion and Varys Show’ on the basis of their conversational skills alone, but let’s hope they move beyond drinking, conversing, and taking in the seaside view at Illyrio’s palace. For his part, Varys is nudging Tyrion towards helping a rightful and just ruler taking the Iron Throne, and from his point of view, that ruler is Daenerys Targaryen.
Essos – Mereen
While a massive golden statue of a harpy is pulled down from atop a pyramid by Daenerys’ Unsullied, her eunuch soldiers enjoy the particular talents provided by the city’s prostitutes … until the Sons of the Harpy begin assassinating them. Daenerys plans to bury her executed soldier publicly, angering the opposing slaver families and drawing them out of the shadows. Meanwhile, Missandei questions Grey Worm about why his fellow Unsullied would be frequenting the city’s brothels at all.
Danerys also entertains the notion of re-opening the fighting pits to entertain the civilians of Mereen with gladiatorial combat. Encouraging her in this effort is the Mother of Dragons’ lover, Daario Naharis. Though she controls the Unsullied, she worries about the loss of control of her dragons, especially the wayward Drogon. In order to reclaim her title, she enters the tomb where Viserion and Rhaegal were imprisoned by her last season. Not a great idea, considering that the dragons are huge, fire-breathing, and really pissed off. (Great seasonal reveal of arguably the most popular creatures in the series.)
Robin Arryn trains at swordfighting (quite poorly) as Sansa Stark, Littlefinger, and Lord Royce look on. Peter Baelish receives a letter (Dark wings, dark words.), which he considers as he and Sansa leave Robin in the capable hands of the swordsmen. In their carriage, Baelish reveals to Sansa that he’s taking her far away so that Cersei Lannister will never lay a hand on her.
On the Road
As Baelish’s caravan trods by, Podrick and Brienne watch them pass. The duo continues their quest charged to them by Jamie in the previous season, though not without grumbling from Brienne. Pod is as bemused as ever, but his good-hearted nature provides a nice counterpoint to Brienne’s moodiness. Something tells me these two will get into trouble before long.
Castle Black – The Wall
Tonight’s most interesting storytelling occurs far to the North. Jon Snow trains a young recruit (Olly, the archer who felled Ygritte) at the martial art of the sword and shield. Sam and Gilly hang out at a picnic table with the baby while everyone else is training, working, or rebuilding the defenses. Melisandre descends from The Wall to retrieve Jon and escort him back up (in an awkward elevator ride) to talk with Stannis Baratheon and Davos Seaworth. Stannis informs Jon – and reminds viewers – that the Boltons rule the roost at Winterfell. The Baratheon heir plans to retake the North and wants the Wildlings as his allies; he hopes that Jon’s sympathy for the people will help sway them to his cause. Stannis will pardon the Wildlings and grant them land if Mance Rayder will bend the knee and swear loyalty to him; good luck convincing him to do that, Jon Snow.
Jon plays to Rayder’s pride, reminding him of his successful unification of the Wildling tribes, but it’s not Rayder’s pride that earned him the place of their leader; it was their respect. In Mance’s mind, to bend the knee to Stannis would lose that respect and betray his followers, so he’d rather face burning to death despite his fear. Jon agrees that to burn rather than to kneel would be an honorable decision, but would amount to little once the White Walkers descend upon the land.
Stannis gives Mance the opportunity to kneel and live, but the Wildling leader declines, offering him good fortune in the coming wars. The gathered Wildlings and men of the Night’s Watch look on (along with Shireen Baratheon and her mother, Selyse) as Melisandre sets a torch to the King of Lies. The fire is slow to build and slow to burn, proving too terrible for Jon and Gilly to watch. Jon, for his part, reappears to put Mance out of his misery with an arrow to the heart. I’m sure the Lord of Light and his red-headed priestess won’t be upset at being deprived of their kingly sacrifice, right?
As far as Game of Thrones episodes go, “The Wars to Come” wasn’t anything special, but rather a perfunctory reminder of where we left off last season, and where things stand at the outset of season five. A decent starting point, but fans should expect much more out of the coming episodes.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Cersei: “I’ve been promised to the Prince; when will we marry?” Witch: “You’ll never wed the Prince, you’ll wed the King.” Cersei: “But I will be Queen?” Witch: “Oh yes, you’ll be Queen. For a time. Then comes another, younger, more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear.” Cersei: “Will the King and I have children?” Witch: “The King will have 20 children; you will have three. Gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds.”
I feel like perhaps there was a bit of the Witch’s prophecy that was left out…
Tywin’s painted eyes of death were damn creepy.
Nice touch on “The Rains of Castamere” refrain during Jamie and Cersei’s conversation.
Tyrion: “The future is shit, just like the past.” ::vomit:: Puke and rally, Tyrion. Puke and rally.
Baelish: “Lord Arryn will never be a great warrior.” Royce: “Great warrior? He swings a sword like a girl with palsy.”
Nudity Count: two topless women; one shirtless Unsullied; a full-frontal prostitute; almost fully nude Loras Tyrell and his lover, Oliver; and a naked Daario. Pretty restrained, but it’s early yet.