”I believe men of talent have a part to play in the war to come.”
“The Wars to Come.” The fifth season premiere of Game of Thrones couldn’t have had a more fitting title. The excellent episode didn’t spend much time reorienting the viewer; instead, each and every thread concentrated on the future--almost a siren call for the inevitable and oft-discussed end. It’s like “The Wars to Come” wanted to ensure viewers that events are taking shape and that the series isn’t rudderless and sprawling like the books from which they are adapted. Don’t get me wrong, I love George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire but A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons are not the most focused works and the HBO show seems determined not to share the same fate. Hell, even the fantasy series’ first ever flashback was all consumed by the events to come.
”Everyone wants to know their future till they know their future.”
Speaking of the flashback, I like how it was the very first scene of the new season, immediately giving us something we’ve never seen on Game of Thrones before, as well as setting up the episode’s obsession with the future, not to mention how it is shaped by the events of the past. Credit to director Michael Slovis for somehow making the scene feel out of time but not out of place. I wonder how much of Cersei’s life has been determined by those prophetic words? You can see why she’s often giving Margaery the side-eye, a look we see in the very next shot. This series is so well put together.
The rest of the scenes in King’s Landing are equally focused on the future, with the Lannister twins discuss how to remain a powerful dynasty now that their father has passed while the Tyrell siblings plot and scheme to increase their standing and possibly rid themselves of their prickly bride-to-be/mother-in-law. Oh, and there was also that bit with Lancel as a Sparrow offering to save Cersei’s soul. Although, it kind of sounded a lot like a threat. And does he remind anyone else of Jared on Silicon Valley? Anyway, with this new religious movement in the capitol, it’s probably best that people act as pious as possible. Not something any of the characters are particularly good at.
”The future is shit. Just like the past.” *BARF*
The sequences in Pentos opened with a little visual flair by having our first look at the city across the Narrow Sea be through a hole in a box. A hole we soon found out was used for Tyrion to discard of his feces. He wasn’t the only one who had it rough though, Varys was the one who had to pick up the poop and toss it overboard. Why am I describing this exchange in such detail? Cause it was so damn enjoyable! These two make a terrific pair and the show was wise to keep them together.
I think Tyrion barfing right after delivering one of his better witticisms may be my new favorite moment on Game of Thrones. And does the Dinklage ever look haggard? He’s always a standout amongst standouts. After the two call each other by all their worst nicknames, the Spider lets the Imp in on his and Illyrio’s plan to put Daenerys on the Iron Throne. Tyrion doesn’t agree to stop drinking but he does agree to go to Meereen and see what all the fuss is about. Plotlines are potentially colliding!
”As soon as they see weakness, they’ll attack. Show your strength here and now.”
The first scene in Meereen was exceptionally smart storytelling, because Benioff and Weiss were able to kill two birds with one stone. Not only did they introduce a new threat in the Sons of the Harpy - did anyone else see that throat slice coming once Slovis pushed into a close up? - but also advance the romance between Missandei and Grey Worm. Why would the unsullied visit the city’s brothels? Because even castrated men want some form of intimacy. That relationship blossoming just makes me worried for both of them.
Hizdar returns from Yunkai with hopes that Dany will start acting more like a politician than a ruler and start making a few concessions for the sake of a peaceful future. The first request is for the reopening of the fighting pits, but the Queen does not want those she recently freed to be forced to fight for the entertainment of others. That is, until Daario informs her of his fond memories of the pits and his gladiatorial rise to freedom. Something tells me fighting pits are in Yunkai and Meereen’s future. That should be exciting. Now, if only the mother of dragons could get her kids to behave.
”I make no promises.”
A lot of the threads addressed the future by explicitly asking, “where are we headed?” Both storylines in the Vale have one character ask this of another, first with Pod and Brienne then Sansa and Littlefinger. Of course, it’s also funny that Pod is pleading with Brienne to continue their journey to find Sansa when the eldest Stark daughter is riding by them at that very moment in a carriage. Another one of those classic Game of Thrones missed connections.
While Brienne is at an all-time low, Sansa seems to be thriving under Littlefinger’s tutelage. She’s asking the right questions and, like a sponge, quietly soaking up all of Lord Baelish’s tricks. Littlefinger still didn’t answer all her questions though - he only said where they weren’t going, not where they were. So where are they going? Poor Robin. It’s hard to feel sorry for the boy because, well, he’s a little monster, but he looked so pathetic swinging that sword.
”And they’ll sing songs about you. ‘He’d rather burn than kneel, the great hero.’ Until winter comes. And the white walkers come for us all and there’s no one left to sing.”
And finally, what would a Game of Thrones premiere be without the death of a major character? At least Mance got to go at the service of making Jon look as badass as possible. I mean, what a way to end the episode. A shot to the heart and he peaces out. You can actually see “I’ve have enough of this shit” in eyes. A great moment for his character. It’s also nice to see that he doesn’t hold a grudge against the kid who killed Ygritte. Hitting him repeatedly during training probably helps.
As far as why Mance was burned, well, Melisandre likes burning kings and he rejected Stannis’ ultimatum, either bend the knee or burn. Despite Jon’s best efforts to convince him to kneel, the King Beyond the Wall just couldn’t accept those terms and went to his death with honor. And, like I said, a little help from Jon. I don’t think that’s going to go over well with anyone in Stannis’ camp and I’m particularly interested in seeing how Melisandre handles it since she seems quite taken with the Bastard of Winterfell.
”I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.”
Game of Thrones continues with Episode 2, “The House of Black and White,” next Sunday at 9:00 p.m. ET on HBO. Based on the "Song of Ice and Fire" novels by George R.R. Martin, the series was adapted for TV by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.