television -> Game of Thrones fifth season premiere recap/ review

Game of Thrones fifth season premiere recap/ review

The Wars to Come


Recaps, obviously, contain SPOILERS of series and their source material.

After hitting a series-high in terms of excitement and shock in its fourth season, “Game of Thrones” returned with a slow burn to begin the fifth.  Director Michael Slovis (“Breaking Bad,” “Elementary”) doesn’t open with terrifying white walkers or the symbolic dismantling of the Stark family sword.  Instead, two adolescent girls walking through a forest serve as the camera’s subject.  One girl begs the other to turn back because the forest frightens her.  The girl ahead, blonde in a red dress, demands they continue.  They fall upon a boggy sod house in the shadows and freely enter without seeking permission.  A woman sits in a chair, seemingly passed out from an evening of at least drinking.  The worried girl begs her friend to turn back yet again and the woman suggests the demanding, blonde girl listen to her friend.  However, the persistent girl insists the woman do as she commands because this is her father’s land—her land—and she can have one’s eyes gouged on a whim.  The girls identify the woman as the witch for whom they’ve searched.  The threatening girl makes the woman tell her fortune— the future.  The woman sucks blood out of the girl’s finger (this smell like Mirri Maz Duur’s season one blood magic to anybody?) and informs her that she will not marry the prince as her father promised.  However, the girl will marry a king.  She will birth three children and her husband, the king, will sire twenty.  Eventually, a prettier, younger queen shall replace her as the queen.  The witch cackles loudly, startling the little girl who can finally hear her terrified friend call her name. “Cersei!”

After the first flashback on “Game of Thrones,Slovis stays with Cersei as the subject; however, we leap forward to Tywin Lannister’s funeral.  Cersei (Lena Headey) and Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) ascend the stairs to Baelor with Lords and Ladies of Westeros looking on from each side of each and every step. She joins Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) inside the sept where the maesters arranged Tywin’s (Charles Dance) dead body while the instrumental tune for “The Reins of Castamere” slowly plays over the somber scene.  Jaime expresses extreme concern to his sister about their father’s death in regards to the Lannister’s power. Cersei blames Tyrion for the family’s undoing, chiding Jaime yet again for ever loving his brother. This scene really established nothing new except for the predictable event of Tywin’s funeral. Otherwise, we’ve heard this exchange more than a few times.  The transitional time skip with a well-established character conveniently lent itself here as did mention of their brother—the subject of the next scene. A POV shot through a hole in crate turns into Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) rolling out on to dry land for the first time in a long time. Varys (Conleth Hill) greets him, welcoming his travelling companion to Illyrio Mopatis’ Pentoshi mansion after their voyage across the narrow sea together.


The camera’s gaze turns to Meereen, where the Unsullied tear the golden harpy down off the top of the pyramid.  A member of the Unsullied visits a brothel where a prostitute greets him.  She takes him back to her quarters, disrobes, and asks him if he’d like his “usual.”  He agrees and she spoons him in bed, singing, until a hand reaches into frame and slits the soldier’s throat. The camera reveals an assassin in a golden mask standing with the prostitute. It looks Daenerys has made yet another enemy.  The next scene keeps the momentum in Meereen as Ser Barristan (Ian McElhinney) describes the latest shocking crime to the Queen. As the queen and her council disperse, Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) troubles Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) as to why an Unsullied would even bother with a prostitute.  Grey Worm can’t reconcile the thought—answering the question Daenerys posed Missandei last season.

We then jump to the Wall, where Jon (Kit Harrington) trains Olly in the art of sword combat.  When the exercise finishes, Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) accompanies Jon on an elevator ride to the top. “Are you a virgin?” she shamelessly asks him. “No.” “Good.”  This bizarre exchange spills into a meeting with King Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and Hand Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) on top of the Wall.  Stannis tells Jon that he has until nightfall to convince Mance Rayder, the captive King Beyond-the-Wall, to bend the knee or they will make an example of him by burning him alive as an offering to R’hllor.


In the Vale of Arryn, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) look on with Lord Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart) at Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli) training helplessly and hilariously with sword and shield. His father’s son, he is not.  They leave the young Lord Arryn to train as Lord Royce’s ward.  One more Arryn afterthought out of sight on Littlefinger’s ascent up his chaotic latter.  Nearby, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) haven’t seen a good day since Arya Stark (who doesn’t appear in “The Wars to Come”) slipped through their fingers during Brienne’s epic showdown with the Hound.  Despite her harsh words to ditch Podrick, he stays on as her squire without a place to otherwise turn.  As Brienne continues wiping her blade, a horse-drawn carriage stumbles by in the distance.  The carriage’s cargo consists of Sansa Stark and Littlefinger on their way to a marriage as Lord Baelish explains.

At the reception for Tywin’s funeral, Cersei survives a droll offer of condolences from her betrothed, Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones). She quickly dismisses him in favor of a blast from the past.  Her cousin and former lover, Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon) confronts her and asks for her forgiveness.  His father, Kevan, intercepts Cersei and apologizes for the recent religious transformation within his son. Lancel and Cersei later meet up where he apologizes for their unnatural relationship and for his hand in the death of Robert Baratheon in the first season. Cersei looks unfazed as the camera jumps to her betrothed in the buff with his lover, Littlefinger’s employee, Olyvar.  Margaery (Natalie Dormer) interrupts them because Loras’ absence keeps King Tommen waiting, and one should never make a king wait.

Tyrion has nothing but complaints to discuss while Varys eagerly leaps into “Spider” mode and lays out his plan for Tyrion. The former Master of Whispers explains he and Illyrio belong to a society devoted to restoring a Targaryen heir to the Iron Throne after noticing how disastrous Robert Baratheon’s reign would end.  The scene ends with Varys giving Tyrion a choice—he can drink himself to death in Pentos or accompany his rescuer to Meereen for an audience with Daenerys Targaryen. This was quite the far cry from author George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice & Fire” anthology where Tyrion’s only hope of crossing the Khaleesi’s path would be through characters not established in the television series—Young Griff, Old Griff, and the Golden Company.  Tyrion reserves the right to drink on the road to Meereen, as he would.

Naturally, Slovis takes the viewer to Meereen where Hizdahr zo Loraq and Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) update the queen on their victory in Yunkai.  The Yunkai’i would agree to the Mother of Dragons’ terms if she reopens the fighting pits, a suggestion she quickly dismisses.  Later that evening, Daario suggests to Daenerys that she reconsider opening the fighting pits in perhaps the strangest bit of post-coital pillow talk “Game of Thrones” had to offer.  He describes his storied career inside the fighting pits and that locking her dragons away was a serious slight of her own power.  The scene ends with Daario suggesting that a queen of dragons without dragons is not a queen. The next scene follows the Mother of Dragons visiting Viserion and Rhaegal.  They skip a warm welcome and head right on for a scorching one.


At the Wall, Jon confronts Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) about bending the knee to King Stannis.  Jon accuses Mance of pride and fear, but Mance can’t get Jon to understand that he doesn’t want his people fighting a southern lord’s war. He doesn’t want to die, but will if he must to get his point across. They leave with a mutual respect, but no further understanding. That evening, Mance wishes Stannis the best of luck in his endeavors, yet doesn’t bend the knee.  The Baratheon soldiers tie Mance to the pyre as Melisandre begins her sacrificial/ R’hllor/ Lord of Light spiel.  She sets the offering on fire.  As Mance begins to scream, an arrow flies through a top floor and into his heart, killing him. The camera turns up, revealing Jon as the merciful archer to conclude.

Arya was sorely missed.  Her inclusion in last season’s premiere made for an exciting conclusion.  The first four episodes leaked online for the newest season of “Game of Thrones” just hours before the season premiere, and while it’s too early to assess the damage, needless to say the show has survived this far as the most-pirated program of the year for three years in a row.  Most settings featured a character worried about coming wars, but the predictability of the fifth season premiere of one of the most shocking programs in television history left much more surprise to be desired. Jon putting Mance out of his misery is hardly Arya and the Hound fighting a squad of Lannister soldiers over chickens in an inn. It hardly felt like any wars were coming with a lack of urgency among the major players.


Keywords: Game of Thrones, recap, review, The Wars to Come, HBO
small logo