‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 1 Recap – “The Wars to Come”

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 1 Recap
Peter Dinklage in ‘Game of Thrones’ season 5 episode 1 (Photo by Macall B. Polay / Courtesy of HBO)

We’re back! Back to the Seven Kingdoms. Back for season five of Game of Thrones, the best show on television. (It is known). Back to face the fallout from all of the dastardly deeds and perilous plots of season four. It’s time to play the “Game of Thrones”!

Oh how I’ve missed that theme song! The opening strains always send frissons of excitement down my spine and I fairly dance around my apartment while trying not to miss anything new in the opening credits with that magnificent ever-changing and growing game board.

Proving that we consumers of quality television are a masochistic lot, becoming invested in, if not obsessed with, characters and plots that are doled out in such small increments then made to sit and wait for interminable lengths of time for more. It’s been 10 months since we left Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) hightailing it out of town by stowing away on a ship heading somewhere across the Narrow Sea, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) walking away from the Aerie while Arya (who was this close to reconnecting with her sister) sails off to Braavos, after leaving the Hound for dead (really? As a fan of Rory McCann, I’m hoping, nay betting, the answer is no. Did you see him die? No, you did not.).

Dany (Emilia Clarke) and the teenage dragons (cool band name) are still in Mereen, two of the latter locked in their room for doing what dragons do, the third, Drogon, having flown the coop.

The gloomy Stannis (Stephen Dillane), the Red Witch still in tow, has just arrived at the Wall to save Jon Snow (who still knows nothing) from the clutches of Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) and the Wildlings. Meanwhile, Bran has finally Hodored to his destination, his life saved by flame-throwing pixies who work for a mysterious old man who is going to keep him busy for at least the next season (because we already know he’s not in this new one).

That’s nowhere near everyone, but this show has six thousand regular cast members. Of course, we lost a few by the end of the last season. Let’s all take a moment of silence to remember Tywin Lannister, Oberyn Martell, Jojen Reed, Shae, Ygritte and of course, King Joffrey the Psychopath.

I trust none of the above was a spoiler. If you’re unfamiliar with this show, 1. Where have you been? 2. Get thee back to season one and catch up. You can’t jump in here and expect to know half of what’s going on. (Example, Arya was able to secure herself not only passage to Braavos, but a private cabin on the boat with a coin she got from Jaqen H’ghar in Season two. “Valor Marghulis”.)

So, it begins. What does season five have in store for us? Apparently this is the season that takes the fork in the road away from the novels of G.R.R. Martin to begin to forge its own path. I confess I have not read the books so I not only won’t know the difference, but I won’t feel like I’ve been betrayed if they go too far afield. (Similar to my Outlander experience – although I have read the book, I’m not one of those ready to burn anyone in effigy if Ron Moore and company leave out a word of Diana Gabaldon’s prose here or insert a comma there. I can accept that a TV show, just like a film would be, is a separate medium from the book. But I digress – you’ll get used to it.)

****Here Be Spoilers****

We open with muddy feet. Who are these two girls? Who’s Blondie’s father? Oh! It’s little Cersei (already a sharp-tongued, entitled brat) and she’s dragged a friend through the woods to a fortune-teller who sounds a lot like the mirror on the wall in Snow White when she tells Cersei that she won’t be Queen or the fairest of them all for long. “You’ll be queen for a time, then comes another younger, more beautiful…”

Cut to Dad’s funeral, and who must the adult Cersei (Lena Headey) walk past but Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). The prophecy!

We get a nice shot of those creepy stones with eyes painted on them that cover the dead Tywin’s actual eyes. She’s still ranting about Tyrion being responsible for her father’s and son’s deaths and making Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) feel guilty for having set him free. While Cersei has no feeling for her father (other than hatred), she fears what’s going to happen to her now that he’s dead. Of course that manifests as rage. Me thinks that watching the Lannisters squirm, Cersei in particular, is going to be a high point of this season. I do hope there’s some form of comeuppance on the horizon. But I won’t hold my breath.

Moving on – Tyrion and Varys have landed. Tyrion emerges from his box with a stiff spine and a pretty well-groomed beard, considering. Varys says they are at the home of a colleague, who, like him, belonged to a group that saw Robert Baratheon “as a disaster” and tried to bring about the restoration of Targaryen rule. “Thus began a chain of mistakes that have led us both here,” he says.

On to Mereen where one of the Unsullied is getting pretty damn sullied – his throat is cut by a masked avenger, unhappy with Khaleesi’s rule. Missandei asks Grey Worm why an Unsullied would want to visit a brothel. Grey Worm says he doesn’t know, but I suspect that’s something of a lie. Of course, Missandei is asking because she wants to know if there is something that a woman can do to give pleasure to someone like the Unsullied, Grey Worm in particular.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 1 Recap
Ciaran Hinds (Photo by Helen Sloan/ HBO)

At the wall, training continues and Samwell (John Bradley) is still worried about Gilly and the baby. Maester Alliser keeps giving them the stink eye because they’re Wildlings, among other things. Melisandre takes Jon up to the top of the wall to see Stannis, where she calls him Jon Stark, then “the Bastard of Winterfell,” but not before giving Jon the obvious creeps in that elevator. Stannis promises Jon that he will take back the North and mount Roose Bolton’s head on a pike, but wants Jon to convince Mance Rayder to “bend the knee” to him by nightfall or he’ll kill him too.

Sansa and Littlefinger are with Lord Royce watching Robin Arryn training with a sword when Littlefinger gets word of Tywin’s death. He doesn’t say anything, but the next thing we know, he and Sansa are in a carriage heading where “even Cersei Lannister can’t get her hands on” her.

Podrick is still with a disheartened Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), trying to convince her she needs him. Brienne is lamenting her failure to get Arya to come with her, unaware that Sansa is passing with a few hundred yards of where she’s sitting.

Back to the funeral where Cersei can’t even pretend to be interested while Loras Tyrell tries to offer his intended bride some half-hearted words of condolence, then runs into her former lover and lapdog, Cousin Lancel who has beefed up (so that he looks like a man and not a teenaged girl) and become a monk of sorts…a “sparrow”. In his newfound religious zeal, Lancel thinks he tempted Cersei into their “unnatural” relationship. HA! As if he could have engineered that or anything that Cersei didn’t want. He also reminds her of his part in the death of her husband, the late King Robert Baratheon. Like that isn’t a portent of something to come!

Loras has found a new playmate. His sister Margaery walks in on them and as she makes herself comfortable, I get the feeling she wants to watch. Margaery is still trying to get Loras and Cersei married.

Tyrion wants to know why Varys saved him. After revealing that it was Jaime’s idea, Varys tells Tyrion that he has his father’s instinct for politics, but also has compassion and he still has a part to play. “The Seven Kingdoms need someone stronger than Tomman” and “gentler than Stannis.” Someone with a “powerful army and the right family name.”
When Tyrion wishes him good luck finding him, Varys replies, “Who said anything about him?” Since Varys has just admitted being a Targaryen sympathizer, of course he means Daenerys. Varys wants Tyrion to go to Mereen with him to meet Dany. Good. It feels like she’s been on the other side of the world by herself (sort of) forever. These people need to converge already!

Speaking of Dany, during pillow talk and wine, Daario Naharis, who obviously has her ear, among other things, tells her, “The Queen of Dragons with no dragons is not a Queen.” Dany goes to visit her children. It does not go well.

Back at the wall, Jon is unable to convince Mance to save himself. His final words wish Stannis well in the wars to come. The episode ends with Mance tied to a stake being burned alive, as a warning to those who “choose the dark side,” according to Melisandre, while his army watches. But, like Natty Bumpo in The Last of the Mohicans, Jon Snow shoots him in the heart to put him out of his misery. (Farewell Ciaran Hinds! The first casualty of season five.) I’m sure Stannis the Serious will have something to say about that.

A few choice lines from Game of Thrones season five episode one:

“As soon as they see the stones on his eyes, they’ll set to work on tearing us apart…” – Jaime Lannister

“Westeros needs to be saved from itself.” – Lord Varys

“The future is shit, just like the past.” – Tyrion Lannister

“The Lord’s fire is lit within me, Jon Snow…are you a virgin?” (He answers, “No.”) “Good.” – Melisandre

“I killed my lover with my bare hands. I shot my father with a crossbow.” – Tyrion

“I never said you were perfect.” – Varys

By the grace of the old gods and the new, I’ll be back next week with a recap of S5E2. Bring on the Prince of Dorne and the Sand Snakes!

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