Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Games of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 1: The Wars to Come

And lo, a million people around the world joined together humming this ridiculously awesome opening music!

Yes, Game of Thrones is back!

And let’s start with a flashback to an insufferable child Cersei consulting a witch about her future e- who gives accurate and disconcerting predictions of her future and her kids. Honestly why would anyone in Westeros want to know their future “blood blood death more blood, death, gratuitous breast shot, blood blood death”.

Kings Landing

She doesn’t look much happier in the present and exchanges ongoing hostile looks with Margaery. It’s Tywin’s funeral (after Tyrion killed him last season. Jaime, sympathetic and more reality based, is worried that without Tywin there’s a positive queue of people ready to tear the Lannisters into itty bitty pieces and take all their gold. Cersei, in fairly bitter fashion is fixated on Tyrion as the enemy and angry at Jaime for letting him go particularly rubbing in that Jaime was Tywin’s favourite (as both a son and not a little person).

Cersei has to put up with lots of condolences she doesn’t especially welcome - and an appearance from Lancel who has radically altered – joining a fanatical religious order known as the Sparrows and dressing very simply. He wants to apologise to Cersei for being so wanton and tempting her… and for murdering the King. Yeah that sounds riskily like a confession – Cersei may have to murder this one

We actually see Loras in bed with his spy-lover Olyver and they even kiss – where you can actually see it! (Though it has to be noted they managed to keep space between those bodies, that back arch had to hurt) Alas, Margaery interrupts them, pushes Olyver out and demands Loras be discreet (he’s in his own room behind a closed door – exactly how much more discreet can he be?). Loras thinks his forced wedding to Cersei is off – but Margaery is still plotting

The kingdom should fear Margeary plotting


Tyrion has escaped, in a crate and with the help of Varys, to Pentos. He complains about how uncomfortable it was and Varys is epic in how little he cares. Varys also reveals some of his own past (yes, revelations from Varys!) he, Ilyrio and others were hoping to restore the Targaryens to the throne because Robert was such an utterly terrible king – something he now acknowledges as a mistake. He talks nobly about saving Westeros from itself. While Tyrion drinks and reflects on fratricide and whether he even counts as a lord any more (while also acknowledging how killing a prostitute is meaningless to someone of his station). He’s really not ready to join Varys on his crusade.

Poor Varys, absolutely no-one gives a damn about the country but him. He continues to try and recruit Tyrion and, as you would expect, these two throw some awesome lines at each other

“Any fool with a bit of luck can find himself born into power.”
“The powerful have always preyed on the powerless, that’s how they became powerful.”

Varys talks about needing a monarch with a large army, the right family name, gentler than Stannis but stronger than Tommen who will be able to intimidate the lords. And he’s not thinking about a man. He wants them both to go to Daenerys.


The Unsullied remove the monuments of the old lords of Meereen (and we get our first breasts of the season a full 13 minutes into the episode). One of the Unsullied goes to a prostitute and pays her to basically cuddle him. Which she does – until she and a sinister masked fellow slit his throat

This is reported to Daenerys, the sinister masked fellows are the Sons of the Harpy. She insists on burying the man with full honours in a temple which is bound to inflame the Sons.

Missendei visits Grey Worm to try to delicately enquired why the Unsullied, any of the Unsullied, would want to visit a brothel given they are eunuchs. Grey Worm claims ignorance.

Daenerys also gets a report back from Yunkai that has ceased it’s rebellion in exchange for… concessions

“Politics is the art of compromise.”
“I’m not a politician. I’m a queen.”

They want to open the fighting pits – with free men fighting, not slaves. The pit fighters apparently want this. Daenerys is vehemently opposed and will not “respect the tradition of human cock fighting”.

She rants about this to a naked Daario that night and he speaks in defence of the pits and the advantages they brought him. He also tells her she needs her dragons – a dragon queen with no dragons isn’t a queen.

She goes to her two imprisoned dragons – they’re huge, angry and vicious. Completely out of her control

The Wall

Time to introduce everyone again, John the Pouty is training and being inspiring, Sam and Gillie are to one side with Sam being a bit cowardly (Gillie focused on trying to stay) and wet and Alliser is running around being awful.

Stannis and Mellisandre are still at the Wall having saved it from the Wildling invasion (Mellisandre notes that she may be in a freezing climate but the Arcane Powers of R’hllor mean she can get necked anywhere. She also inquires about John’s virginity just in case she was in a scene without sexual issues of some kind arising). In between random praise for John from Davos, Stannis pledges to free Winterfell and the North from the Boltons – and he wants to rally the Wildlings to do it. And it’s John’s job to convince Mance to accept this – or burn.

John tries to convince Mance, demanding he save his people rather than rely on pride – but Mance doesn’t think he can lead the united Wildlings if he bends knee to a southern king. It’s also not his people’s war. This show adds yet another awesome line with Mance’s “the freedom to make my own mistakes is all I ever wanted.”

Mance is taken to the pyre and refuses to kneel. Mance burns – until John shoots him with an arrow, killing him quickly.

The Vale

Without Lyssa, his mother, Robin is not being as sheltered and protected as he was before – and is being taught how to use a sword for the first time. Petyr (and Sansa) are dumping Robin off with one of the Vale Lords, Lord Royce.

Brienne is pretty maudlin and angry in the face of Pod’s boundless optimism. She has a good line – she always wanted to fight for a lord she believed in and now “the good lords are dead and the rest are monsters” which pretty much sums up the state of Westeros at this point.

They watch as Sansa and Petyr go past in a wagon with Petyr being much more overt with his plotting and Sansa being much more curious about it.

I do like to see the ongoing complexity of Daenerys learning what it means to rule. Sure she’s conquered several cities, but can she hold them? Can she protect her people against knives in the shadows? She can free the slaves but can she provide for them when they’re free? If a pit fighting slave has spent his whole life training and working as a pit fighter, how does he continue when Daenerys closes the pits? That’s not to say the pits have to keep open – but nor can she wave her magic wand and make it all perfect when she institutes changes without following up on those changes.

There was a lot of awesome lines that also reflected the politics of the world – and in general at this point. Brienne pretty much summed it up, most of the overt fighting has finished compared to the war torn previous seasons – and nearly everyone is dead. But those still left alive and in the game aren’t necessarily the ones anyone wants to be backing.

I also think the episode did a great job of giving the sense of foreboding. Round 1 is done – round 2 is beginning.

It says a lot about the depiction of nudity and sex on this series that I was surprised the show waited a full 13 minutes before showing naked breasts – and shocked that same-sex love actually included something as “explicit” as two men kissing (a show that has shown full-frontal nudity of men and women and lots of explicit sex shouldn’t have me SURPRISED by two men kissing. And this is the thing – on any other show this would be damn impressive, but this is a show that is so explicit that the double standard is blatant). That probably sums up sexuality on this show: women’s naked bodies used as wall paper, explicit straight sexuality shoe-horned in, often violently, everywhere, just about every man visiting prostitutes and same-sex love kept carefully shadowy. Underscored by Margaery dropping in to tell us it’s all going too far.