There are few certainties in the bleak world of Game of Thrones one of which being that violence and brutality are inevitable.
As the HBO fantasy series opens it’s fifth season with the appropraitely titled “The Wars To Come,” the show seems to take a short breather while still reminding us that things are far from settled in Westeros. Indeed, the premiere is preoccupied with portents and omens, from the opening flashback to a young Cercei sloshing her way through a muddy forest with a reluctant friend in tow, to hear her future from a witch. After a few drops of blood from the posturing teen, Cercei’s entitled ideas of her life to come are dashed. We flash forward to teh adult Cercei, en route to Tywin’s viewing and funeral, with a bit more understanding of the character’s motives, even if it doesn’t bring any sympathy alongside it. SHe’s struggling to fight the future that’s coming for her no matter how much gold or swords or cunning she can throw at it.
Jamie correctly interprets Tywin’s death as a sign that he and his sister/lover must rally the Lannister crew and protect what they have. He tells her that the throngs of sympathizers are only here to confirm the death of the Lannister patriarch, the former “force to be reckoned with,” before they make moves they wouldn’t have dared before. But Cercei’s too blind to see it, too hung up on ridding her world of Tyrion to take notice of the real danger crouching at their door.
Dany has her own threats to deal with after her “freeing” of Mereen. Masked assassins calling themselves “SOns of the Harpies,” have stepped up the violence, slitting the throats of Unsullied soldiers. She’s fielding requests to reopen tournaments where slaves fight to the death. No one seems to want her freedom or rule, and she still keeps two of her dragons in chains. Her grasp on the city may be the one most likely to fail.
On the Wall, Jon’s busy training the surviving wildlings to become members of the Night’s Watch, but no one seems to trust them much. Between the antagonizing Lord Commander and Stannis’ desire to enlist them in his army, Jon’s stuck between a rock and his vows to play no part in these matters. Stannis intends to retake Winterfell, but needs to beef up his army, provided of course that good ol’ Mance kneel to him and recognize Stannis as the true king. Still, Jon tries to save Mance’s life, but the King Beyond The Wall simply refuses to bow, leaving Jon to be the only one brave enough to elicit mercy.
The big draw this hour was Tyrion’s unboxing and his scenes with Varys. As the pair plotted their next move, (“who said anything about him?”), they traded quips and ideas back and forth with what felt like little to no pretense. Watching this relationship develop is surely going to be one of the high points of this new season.
Overall, “The Wars To Come” served as a refreshingly low key primer for the show. Trading the show’s trademark action for a more subdued approach allowed us to check in with all the major players and remind us just where they stand and what they’re wanting this season. It’s rewarding for longtime fans of the show and a decent place for newcomers to check in, although I always recommend starting from the beginning with a show like thisone. THe season five opener reminds us all that there can be calm moments in Westeros, but they never last. There are tough times brewing and wars to come.
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