Saturday, April 25, 2015

Game of Thrones 5.01: "The Wars to Come"

“I don’t believe in saviors. I believe that men of talent have a part to play in the war to come.”

“The Wars to Come” provided pretty much exactly what I would expect from a “Game of Thrones” season premiere. We checked in at least briefly with almost all of the many regular characters (I think Arya’s reintroduction is saved for the next episode, but the rest of the gang was all here), and some more extended sequences set up the major plotlines for the season. Also, we ended the episode with a gruesome, shocking death. Although, come to think of it, that last one isn’t particular to just season premieres. Gruesome, shocking deaths happen quite often in the world of “Game of Thrones!” I am very intrigued to see where this season goes, plot-wise. Faithful MTVP readers (are there any of you out there?) should know that I choose to watch the television show ahead of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” books. I have seen every episode of the first four seasons of “Game of Thrones,” but I have only read the first two books thus far. So this is very firmly a “no book spoilers, damnit!” zone. I really, really don’t want a repeat of the finding out about the Red Wedding two years early incident around here!

The episode opens with a flashback to Cersei’s childhood. Cersei and another girl are walking through some pretty sinister woods, at Cersei’s insistence, of course. They find a witch in a cave who has a reputation as a fortune teller. The fortune teller tells Cersei she will be Queen for a time, but someone younger and prettier will replace her. The whole thing was a little “Snow White” now that I think about it. I wonder if Cersei will try to poison Margaery Tyrell, who is nothing if not persistent in her campaign to be Queen. We then move forward into the present day, where preparations are underway in King’s Landing for Tywin Lannister’s funeral. Cersei and Jaime have some alone time in the Sept with Tywin’s body before the official memorial, and they talk about the circumstances of Tywin’s death. Cersei wants to know if Jaime set Tyrion free, since it’s pretty clear that Tyrion killed Tywin. Jaime doesn’t say much, but it’s clear that he did.

Tyrion, for his part, has been spending a lot of time recently in a crate, escaping from Westeros. Tyrion manages to bust himself out of the crate when it has arrived in a very lush, warm location. I’m sure to Tyrion’s chagrin, he is greeted by Varys when he emerges. They are in Pentos, on the same estate where Daenerys and Viserys were staying at the beginning of season one. They talk a bit about the future of Westeros, but Tyrion doesn’t seem to care much. His experiences over the past few years have robbed him of any hope for the future. Varys supported Viserys and the restoration of the Targaryen family to the Iron Throne back in the day, so it’s not exactly a shock when he asks for Tyrion’s help in trying to bring Daenerys to Westeros. Tyrion hesitates at first, but eventually he agrees, because why the heck not at this point. The two men are going to travel to Meereen, where Daenerys is still trying to rule.

I used to think that Daenerys would be a good choice for the iron throne myself, but if her experience in Meereen is any indication, she still has a lot to learn about governance. In this episode, we see that resistance to Dany’s rule in Meereen has intensified. Some of the Unsullied have been frequenting brothels (mostly for companionship, since they’re eunuchs and all), and one of them is killed doing so by somebody in a creepy mask. When she hears about it, Daenerys wants to give this particular Unsullied a hero’s burial to send a message to the people of Meereen. When Daenerys is holding court, she receives a request to re-open the fighting pits. The person making the requests argues that it’s a part of the local culture. Dany is repulsed by the idea because she associates it with slaves being forced to fight slaves. When they’re post-coital, Daario tries to put the fighting pits in a bit more perspective. He fought himself as a younger man, and it’s part of what made him who he is today. He thinks Dany should re-open the pits, although she still doesn’t love the idea. He also suggests that she try to regain control of her dragos, because that would impress her subjects. Dany visits her dragons in the cave where she imprisoned them, and they seem more agitated than ever. Dany is, understandably, devastated. I’m rooting for her to get her act together.

We also briefly check in on Littlefinger, Sansa, and young Robin. Robin is being left with Lord Royce, ostensibly for training so he’s not an embarrassment to the Eeyrie. It doesn’t seem to be going well, but Sansa and Littlefinger leave him there. Not too far away, Brienne and Podrick are arguing about what to do next. Podrick wants to help Brienne find Sansa, but Brienne wants to fly solo. I don’t think Pod is going to give up that easily, though. A caravan of horses and carriages whizzes by where Brienne and Pod are arguing, and said caravan is transporting none other than Littlefinger and Sansa. Littlefinger plans to take himself and Sansa far, far away. Brienne’s window for rescuing Sansa has just seriously narrowed, it’s just too bad she doesn’t realize it yet.

It wouldn’t be an episode of “Game of Thrones” without some King’s landing intrigue. Interestingly, we get to find out what happened to poor, hapless Cousin Lancel, Cersei’s other favorite incest partner. Apparently he has joined a religious order that worships the Seven called the Sparrows. The resulting haircut is rather striking. Cersei talks to him, and he says he’ll pray for her. She doesn’t seem to appreciate that very much. We also get a scene where Lorcas Tyrell and Olyvar, who works for Littlefinger, are post-coital dreaming of traveling to somewhere nice like Dorne. An irate Margaery interrupts them because Lorcas is making them late to dinner. After Olyvar leaves, Margaery and Lorcas have an interesting conversation about how if Lorcas doesn’t marry Cersei, Margaery will be trapped in King’s Landing with her. Margaery answers, “perhaps,” and I wonder what nefarious trick she has up her sleeve.

Finally, we pay a visit north of the Wall. Stannis summons Jon Snow for a conversation. The would-be King wants Jon’s help in getting Mance Rayder’s loyalty. He wants the Wildlings to join his army, because he thinks that would make him unstoppable in his quest for the Iron Throne. Jon delivers Stannis’ offer to Mance, but Mance isn’t having it. Jon tries flattery, reminding Mance what a feat he accomplished in uniting all the Wildling tribes. Mace thinks, however, that swearing fealty to Stannis would destroy everything he has worked for. He values freedom more than anything else, including his own life. Stannis said he would burn Mance if he didn’t swear fealty, and in an especially gruesome scene to finish out the episode, he makes good on that promise.

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