The finale of Game of Thrones Season 4 came at the end of a rather troubling season in general, with the writers making some really questionable departures from the source material and the directors being a bit too convinced of their own infallibility with respect to the final product. Still, as such things go, the finale wasn’t all that bad and it ended on a fairly positive note for many of the arcs that it touched, such as where Arya ends up after she disposes off of The Hound and sets out for herself, or even Tyrion killing his father and Shae both, for betraying hmm in the worst ways possible.
And this all brings us to season 5, which began this past Sunday, and generated an immense amount of controversy from the get go, namely that the first four episodes had been leaked together from sources that HBO had sent them to for review purposes. Hardly generates confidence, that. Either way, the season 5 premiere is of the grim and somber variety. Nothing really happens in this episode other than he viewers getting to touch base with some of the storylines and seeing what consequences past events have wrought on the world of Westeros and beyond. The characters are trying to find their feet once again, and moving forward, things should be… interesting.
For me, the most important thing in this episode was that we got to see a peek at what kind of a child Cersei used to be. We pretty much start off the episode with young Cersei traipsing through some woods, presumably somewhere in her father’s domain, looking for a witch who can tell her what the future holds for her. Some grim tidings are in store for the young queen-to-be and the reason I liked this sequence so much was because we got to see some of her driving motivations on her life. The future she is informed of is very… nebulous and confusing, but if you sift through what she is told, then a lot of what we have seen over the last few years starts to make sense, and even gives more of a context to who she is as a person.
Yes, she is still hopelessly spiteful and wrong-focused, but at least now we can begin to learn more about her. I kind of wish that a scene like this could have been shown much earlier in the series, because while I like this, it kind of comes a bit too late as well. It is basically a responsive measure, so to speak, to make the viewers like her character and see her as more than just the self-centered and bitchy queen she has been to date, albeit with some redeeming qualities.
Once we are done with this little flashback, we move on to King’s Landing itself, where Tywin Lannister’s funeral is being held, and nobles from all across Westeros have arrived to witness how the most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms was laid low, after the fact. And it is here that much of the tone of how Cersei and Jaime is set, as far as I’m concerned, for now she berates him too, for his own part in the death of their father and the escape of Tyrion across the Narrow Sea. The relationship between these two adulterous siblings appears to be more dysfunctional than ever, and it is nice to see Jaime fighting the inner struggles that he is, given that he is the only member of his family to have ever had any respect for Tyrion, in direct contrast to Cersei who only ever loathed the “little monster”.
Fun stuff isn’t it? As much as Games of Thrones has always been about kingdoms fighting kingdoms, it has also been about siblings fighting each other, and the differences in the relationships between the Lannister children has been at the heart of the series’ conflict. It certainly makes for some good drama too.
By far the best moment in the episode though was when are in Meereen with Daenerys, still unsuccessfully consolidating her rule over Yunkai and Meereen and the other places she has “conquered”. Last season I often lamented how terrible her story arc was and how ineffectual as well, with respect to the larger storyline. Instead of consolidating an army to lead across the Narrow Sea and reclaim her denied heritage, she just vacillates for no reason and is content to be the queen of an army of slaves and mercenaries. While that doesn’t change in this episode, and I doubt it will change to any significant degree this season, we see her revisiting another of her big mistakes: locking up her dragons Viserion and Rhaegal when Drogon ended up causing too many problems for her with the people of Meereen and beyond, people that Daenerys wishes to protect.
Well. The reunion between the Mother of Dragons and her children doesn’t work out so well for her, and I liked that. Daenerys has made a ton of mistakes in the last two years, and it is really, really good to see her get a wake up call. As Daario Naharis tells her, a Mother of Dragons without Dragons is…. nothing. If Dany wishes to change the public perception of who she is and wants to retake the initiative from her enemies, then she needs to make a few changes, and bringing her wayward children to heel is one way to do that.
At the Wall however, things aren’t so rosy. Stannis Baratheon and his army may have saved the Night’s Watch from Mancy Rayder’s wildling forces, but things are still pretty tense, and when the “True King” hits upon a single solution to many of his problems in the North, that’s when Jon Snow has to step in and proves that he’s the man for the job. For Stannis wants to deal with the problems in the North, mainly Roose Bolton occupying Winterfell and the wildling armies, by having Mance swear allegiance to him, join his armies and then get the Northern lands as reward with full rights as Westerosi citizens. Well that’s certainly something to think about isn’t it? And here is we see Jon and Mance proves themselves to be the men that they want to be and the men they are. This entire sequence was definitely my favourite of the bunch, by far, because I thought it was the most exciting and most consistent as well in terms of the mood and tension being built up. There’s a really interesting clash of personalities and attitudes at the wall and Castle Black, so moving forward, these characters I’m going to follow very closely to see how things change, whether for good or bad.
The rest of the show deals with some more setup. Mostly we get to see Tyrion and Varys having a discussion somewhere in Pentos, talking about Westeros can be saved from those who currently rule it, and whom Tyrion should support in a bid for power. The answer is pretty obvious really, given both his location and the fact that he’s burned most his bridges back to Westeros. So, that’s another thing that I’m looking forward to develop. The long back-and-forth between the two men was excellent as usual, and I just fall more and more in love with the character of Varys, who always proves how awesome he is in any scene that he is in.
We also spend some time in the Vale with Petyr Baelish and Sansa, who start off by watching the frail Prince Robyn take part in weapons training. Given how much his mother coddled him in his infancy, Robyn is terribly unprepared for the rigors of life as a potential ruler, and it is really weird to see Baelish express some confidence in his abilities to improve. Is he still keeping up the pretense of being a benevolent regent? What really is his plan? Everytime I think I have some of what he is up to figured out, he does something completely unexpected and throws all my understanding into chaos. And Sansa, well, she displayed a rather interesting manipulative streak last season, and this was a rather tame episode for the “new” Sansa.
I guess we shall see how things pan out eventually. But I will say that the premiere is off to a cautious start nonetheless. It doesn’t do anything too explosive or even game-changing in any way. It is one where you can get comfortable with the characters after a year-long gap, and that’s fine. For now.
I wonder what the next week shall bring!