The Wars to Come by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Warning: Major Spoilers!
The opening to this episode is a first for the series – a flashback to Cersei’s youth, where she asks a witch to show her future. The witch tells young Cersei (Nell Williams) she will indeed become queen, only to be disposed by one younger and more beautiful. This clearly sets up what is going to be one of this season’s major plot points; the powerplay between Cersei and Margaery Tyrell as they struggle to exert control over the young King Tommen. As Jaime remarks, with Tywin gone their position is vulnerable, with the surviving Lannisters far from united. Kevan and Lancel Lannister make returns after several seasons absence, but it’s clear the family isn’t the powerhouse it once was.
This episode focuses on the major powers capable of winning the Iron Throne and how they stand after the events of the final episodes last season: The Lannisters and Tyrells in King’s Landing, Stannis in the North, Daenerys (still!) in Meereen, Varys and Tyrion in Pentos and Littlefinger and Sansa in the Vale.
Tyrion’s feeling the effects of last season’s finale, full of self-pity and disillusioned with his fate, it’s clear his character’s in a dark place this season. Varys finally reveals his hand after 4 seasons of hints and whispers – he’s wanted Daenerys on the throne the whole time. This suggests we will be following the books and bringing Dany and Tyrion’s storylines together late-season or next season – i personally can’t wait, as Daenerys story in Meereen badly needs a shot in the arm – it’s not bad, but it isn’t as interesting as other plotlines.
The best part of this week’s episode was the interactions between Jon Snow, Stannis and Mance Rayder. Given the books imminent storylines and his prominence in this episode i wouldn’t be surprised if Jon Snow is the main protagonist of this season (arguably each season has one central character who gets a lot of development and screentime – i’d argue Eddard in 1, Tyrion in 2, Daenerys in 3 and Jaime in 4 are more prominent than others in each season). Here Jon is offered a choice by Stannis – to remain a man of the Night’s Watch or be released from his vow and made Jon Stark, heir to Winterfell. Stannis wants this so the North will rally behind him and he can kick the Boltons out of Winterfell before marching south to King’s Landing. Jon is torn over his loyalty to the watch and his desire to avenge Robb, but faces another test: Stannis is planning to execute Mance Rayder if he doesn’t command the wildlings to fight for Stannis. Mance refuses to bend the knee as he doesn’t want to lose the respect of his people or let them die for Stannis’ cause, so Stannis lets Meliasandre burn Mance at the stake – this clearly disturbs the Wildlings, Night’s Watch and Stannis’ daughter (not to mention the audience). However Jon can’t abide watching Mance suffer and mercy kills him with an arrow. It’s a well constructed scene – Jon leaves it so late you actually think Mance will get burnt alive – which even by Game of Thrones standards is brutal.
Overall a solid start to the season (and probably the best opening episode in a GOT season) which sets the stage for season 5 while still being entertaining in it’s own right. Game of Thrones is back and it’s as good as ever!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Next Time: Arya arrives at the House of Black and White, Brienne and Pod find Sansa and Littlefinger and Cersei and Jamie receive a threatening message from House Martell…