GAME OF THRONES Season 5 Episode 1 Review, “The Wars to Come”
This review is from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read the books so I have almost no idea if any changes have been made. The guy who used to tell me that doesn’t go to school with me anymore. Also, Spoilers Are Coming.
WELCOME BACK, WESTEROS!!
In what must be the most anticipated television return of the year (its only competition being The Walking Dead, but I will always give the edge of King’s Landing over Sad Georgia), Game of Thrones has returned to our television screens, to fill our hearts and minds with the loving glow of Wildlings being burned alive. It was a hell of a return and I want to get to it as quickly as possible. But first, some housekeeping…
After reviewing the show for its entire third season, I lost some steam during the fourth season after an episode containing an act so heinous it nearly broke me. But I think I’m finally ready to return to talking about Westeros. Kevin Lanigan the person and feminist considers Jamie Lannister’s actions on Cersei at their son’s funeral to absolutely be rape, but for the sake of the show (and the character arc of our golden boy Jamie) I will consider it the weirdest consensual sex I have ever seen. This is how they intended it, no matter how poorly it was executed, so that’s how I will look at it.
Now, down to business! Many of you know how these reviews work: I will review every storyline in the episode individually and crown a winner at the very end. Now, without further ado…
Bran’d This Week (Those Who Couldn’t Be Bothered To Join Us)
–Bran, the category’s namesake, was nowhere to be found. I’ve heard word that he will not be joining us all season. Good.
–Arya is the most significant character absent from this premiere episode. Almost everyone got at least a little bit of playtime in this base-touching debut episode, but someone is always left out of these sorts of festivities. It’s just sad when it’s Arya.
–Ser Jorah Mormont. Who the hell knows when that dude’s going to show up?
–Bronn. It’s likely he’ll pop up on the show soon, even if it is just as a severed head in Cersei’s campaign to eliminate all of Tyrion’s allies.
–The Brothers Without Banners. I understand that they are not significant characters, and will likely not show up in a major capacity for some time, but I will miss them every day until they return.
–The Hound. In all likelihood, my sweet The Hound is dead at the bottom of that cliff from whence he fell. But he, along with Tywin Lannister, was one of the two characters offed in last year’s finale that I feared would negatively impact my enjoyment of the show with their absence. This has yet to be proven true, but I still hold out hope that Clegane managed to limp himself to a cleric or a vet or something. This will be his last appearance in the category. I deal in absolutes.
Tyrion’s Unboxing Video
Varys is very good at finding people in boxes.
After Tyrion’s Bonkers Campaign of Destruction that ended with the death of both his father and his lover by his own hand, the beautiful, glorious, blessed Lord Varys fled Tyrion across the sea to Dorn, the former dwelling of everyone’s dearly departed Red Viper. Though I will miss Tyrion’s role in King’s Landing (The King’s Landing activities in Season 3 are to me the best the show has ever been), and his repeated interplay with Littlefinger, Varys, and Bronn, I will accept just Tyrion and Varys if that’s all I can get. I’m not greedy. Just keep these two together for a while and I’ll be the happiest clam in the Crab Shack.
Though there wasn’t much to chew on this week in this particular plotline, I love that this is being set up as the Season of Collisions, where character combinations you never knew you wanted will be slammed together to the complete joy of everyone. You keep on being you, Game of Thrones.
Brienne is Not a Knight
Brienne, your begrudging acceptance of Podrick is imminent and you know it.
Daenerys Can Smell What the Rock is Cooking
Daenerys Targaryan has a lot on her plate. She has a ragtag group of advisors, translators, slaves, and Unsullied at her command, all giving her conflicting ideas on what it is she should do. One of her dragons is on the loose. She can’t control the two that she has. The masked Immortals from 300 are walking around killing her people. And on top of all that, her sexy fighty guy Daario is telling her she needs to reopen the Fighting Pits. Because The People like Fighting Pits. It’s the wide, wide world of wrestling, Danny, and you’re part of it.
Just keep biding your time and learning that ruling a city of the formerly oppressed isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Eventually Tryion will be there to be your best friend and everyone will be happy.
And I just cannot emphasize enough that Grey Worm is one or two good episodes away from being an all-time great. He and Varys will certainly have some things in common to talk about.*
*It’s their genitals.
LITTLEFINGER and Sansa Do the Jane Austen Thing
Every time these two make an appearance on the show, I am tempted to give them the top slot. Yes, I am absolutely devoted to LITTLEFINGER and everything that he says, does, wants, or will be. There is no character I want to see dodge every opportunity at death more than this sleazy, underhanded weasel. He is Game of Thrones condensed down to a science. He is beautiful.
But there is also Sansa, who has exploded as of a late from her former identity as a restricted seedling to a blossoming, terrible, poisonous carnation of royal terror. The Dark Queen look is one that she wears well, and will likely serve her well in the terrible things to come.
Family Matters, starring Cersei Lannister
It is in this section of the episode that Game of Thrones’ tragic flaw again rears its ugly head. On any other show, this episode could have been a killer, stunning character study of Cersei Lannister, long one of the most intriguing and compelling characters on the show. We could have gotten in deep and really seen what makes her tick. But because of Game of Thrones’ branching, Magnolia-like structure no one locale of characters can ever get their episode in the sun unless it’s a season’s ninth episode and it’s time for a battle. That same structure does allow for a sprawling show with an incredibly diverse cast of characters who go on all sorts of adventures together, but it is limited in that sprawl.
Every show has its share of recurring errors. Community often feels the need to go for broad pop culture parody over more diverse territory. Hannibal occasionally goes too far with its corporeal elegance. All three shows are tremendously boosted by all of these elements as well, and they’re what set them apart from the pack, but almost everything has its drawback. But King’s Landing is a rolling pot of turmoil that boils over all too often. We’ll have plenty of time for Cersei and Margaery to go at odds and for Jamie to be winningly handsome. All that, and whatever the hell the Sparrows are, in due time.
TONIGHT’S WINNER: The Night’s Watch Has a Bonfire
There was a time, not so long ago, where I never would have given the Night’s Watch the top slot of an episode. Their snowy misanthropy has never been precisely up my ally, and the constant warning of vague threats from beyond The Wall just never had the gravity that they needed to in order to make Night’s Watch lunchroom politics all that interesting. (Kit Harrington’s tendency to act and talk right from the beard never really helped either).
But Stannish Baratheon and company have arrived to save this storyline and make me instantly interested in everything that is going on. Neither the Night’s Watch nor Stannis and his Ilk ever worked perfectly on their own, but together there seems to be an electricity at the wall that has always been lacking.
There is some elegant-as-all-hell storytelling at play here. As the audience walks in, the power dynamics have already been established. Stannis has taken control, and neither the Night’s Watch nor the Wildlings have the manpower to do anything about it. Perhaps they could emerge triumphant if they banded together, but we can all guess how that sort of thing might turn out. But (and I cannot stress this enough) STANNIS HAS MELISANDRE ON HIS SIDE WHO HAS VERY REAL MAGIC THAT GIVES HER ACTUAL SUPERNATURAL POWERS. THERE IS AT LEAST SOME LEGITIMACY TO ALL OF THIS MAGIC BUSINESS.
But I really love how this storyline this week was about taking a stand. Mance took a stand in not signing up with either of these groups of people of which he is no fan. Jon Snow took a stand in mercy-killing Mance as be burned on the stake. Both of these former allies have come too far to let a bully like Stannis Baratheon tell them how to live, no matter how much power he holds. They’re going to need that tenacity whenever the White Walker decide to drop in for a potluck.
Episode Grade: B+