Game of Thrones Memory Lane 501: The Wars to Come

Young Cersei

We’re in the home stretch now- 10 episodes left in our #GOT50 rewatch, and 10 days until Game of Thrones season 6! We’re hitting the fifth season today, with the premiere “The Wars to Come.” It was a year ago already that we sat down to watch GoT’s first ever flashback and – a twist that shocked even ASOIAF readers- the end of Mance Rayder, played by Ciarán Hinds. Walking us down Memory Lane today, please welcome back Hannah of Game of Owns! –  Sue the Fury

Written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and directed by Michael Slovis (making his series directorial debut), “The Wars to Come” is a well-paced, calculating set-up as we head into the fifth season of Game of Thrones. Arya Stark is notably missing from this episode, while the rest of Westeros’ major players line up and stake their claims in the wars to come.

Season 5 opens with the first flashback scene in Game of Thrones, a young Cersei and her companion exploring the woods of Casterly Rock, looking for Maggy the Frog. They find the witch’s tent, and Cersei gets to ask three questions; we hear prophecies that essentially end up coming true.

She’ll never marry the prince she’s been promised to- but instead she’ll wed the king.

She’ll be queen for a time, but then comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast her down and take all she holds dear.

Cersei won’t have children with the king; he will have 20 of his own. She will have 3: gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds.

It seems obvious that Cersei has long held onto this promise, giving us a clearer picture of what motivates her today. Immediately Margaery Tyrell comes to mind when we think about beautiful women in line to replace Cersei (the next scene cuts to a shot of her face), but this prophecy could also allude to Daenerys Targaryen or even Sansa Stark.


In present day, Cersei and Jaime take a moment alone with their father, who lays in the Great Sept of Baelor as part of his funeral procession. Anyone who isn’t a Lannister is an enemy, Jaime tells her. “What he built is ours.”

But Cersei is quick to remind him that Tyrion, their brother, is the real enemy. He murdered Tywin, and Jaime facilitated it by setting Tyrion free. Sure, Tyrion killed Tywin on purpose, but Jaime killed him by mistake, which infuriates Cersei. “You are a man of action, aren’t you,” she fumes. “When it occurs to you to do something, you do it. Never mind the consequences.” It’s Jaime’s inability to think ahead that Cersei can’t stand, which is funny coming from a woman who is so singularly focused on finding and taking down Tyrion.

One of Cersei’s greatest flaws is her inability to see the bigger picture- to realize, as Jaime explains, that there are so many people aiming to steal away her power. There are many enemies surrounding the Lannister family in King’s Landing, but Cersei’s greatest enemy is herself.


Tyrion, far across the Narrow Sea, has arrived in Pentos worse for the wear. They’re at the home of Illyrio Mopatis, a friend of Varys, and while Tyrion vomits on the carpet, Varys speaks of what Westeros could become. Both Illyrio and Varys have long supported a Targaryen restoration to the Iron Throne, realizing early on that Robert was a terrible king. He has this incredibly optimistic view of the way things could be, and we catch a glimpse of Varys’ motives, and what he’s been working to achieve all along.

In Meereen, we get an innocent and heartbreaking scene where White Rat, one of the Unsullied, visits a brothel simply to be held by a woman as she hums him a lullaby. And because this is Game of Thrones and we can’t feel safe and happy for even a second, one of the Sons of the Harpy comes up behind him and slits his throat.

Understandably, Daenerys is very upset about these cowards in masks. She calls for White Rat to be buried publicly, in the hopes of provoking the men who did this. “Angry snakes lash out. It makes chopping off their heads that much easier.”

virginUp north at the Wall, Jon is helping Olly learn to fight at the Wall, and we learn elections for a new Lord Commander are quickly approaching. Melisandre comes to fetch Jon and bring him to Stannis, who’d like to chat. Looking very uncomfortable as they ride to the top of the wall, Melisandre tells Jon she’s never cold because the Lord of Light burns within her.

What better place to talk about the future of the North than on top of the Wall? Jon joins Stannis and Davos, and Stannis tells Jon about his plan. Doesn’t Jon want to avenge his family and take back Winterfell? Even as a man of the Night’s Watch, Jon can help the cause: convince Mance Rayder to kneel, and bring the wildling army to fight for the North. Mance will kneel, or he burns.


Sansa and Littlefinger are headed west, despite what they told Lord Royce, who is watching over Robin Arryn as he struggles to use a sword. They’re headed to a land so far away, even Cersei can’t get her hands on Sansa. As much as Littlefinger’s motives can’t be trusted, what better place for Sansa to be right now than under his protection? He has a pretty good handle on what’s happening in Westeros, and if anyone can teach Sansa to play the game and play it well, it’s going to be Petyr Baelish.

Brienne and Podrick are wandering through the Vale as well, passing by Sansa without even knowing it. Brienne is upset and frustrated, only wanting to fight for a good lord that she believes in. But, “all the good ones are dead and the rest are monsters.” Brienne is bitter, and can you blame her?

Back in King’s Landing Cersei must suffer through Tywin’s funeral, listening to mourners blab on insincerely, watching Margery dig her claws deeper into Tommen, and wade through crowds of well-wishers. Standing alone at the window, Lancel approaches, now converted to the Sparrows’ version of the Faith. Cersei almost doesn’t recognize him with his shaved head and plain clothes.


Lancel asks for forgiveness, and reminds Cersei of his crimes committed for her. She dismisses him, easily underestimating who he is becoming, and the information that he holds. And sure, Lancel is a fanatic, but he seems to be one of the few people in Westeros who has made peace with themselves, especially compared to Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion.

Elsewhere in the Red Keep, Loras is in bed with Olyvar, the man who runs Littlefinger’s brothel, when Margaery waltzes in, not phased in the slightest. She dismisses Olyvar because Loras is keeping his betrothed waiting. But, Loras points out, with Tywin gone are he and Cersei still promised to each other? Who will force the marriage now? If Loras doesn’t marry Cersei, she won’t be relocated to Highgarden, and will instead stay here in King’s Landing. Margaery doesn’t seem too worried by this fact, believing she can outmatch Cersei.

Tyrion drunk

Back in Pentos, Tyrion asks Varys why he set him free. Varys responds because Jaime asked, but this doesn’t satisfy Tyrion. Why would Varys risk everything to release him? For the Seven Kingdoms, and not Tyrion, Varys explains. Tyrion is a man of talent, a man of compassion and politics. His skill set is well-suited to bring peace and prosperity to Westeros.

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

“I never said you were perfect,” Varys says.

Tyrion will never sit on the Iron Throne, but he could help someone climb the steps. This someone needs to be intimidating but inspiring, have a powerful army and the right family name.

“Good luck finding him,” Tyrion jokes. “Who said anything about him,” Varys responds, and the crowd goes wild.

Tyrion has a choice here: drink to death or ride to Meereen and meet Daenerys Targaryen. Is the world worth fighting for? We’ve spent the last 40 episodes in this series watching Westeros fall into a crumble, but Varys brings a new sense of hope by way of Dany and her cause. It’s also incredibly exciting as Tyrion makes his move to set out and find the Mother of Dragons. So often these storylines feel separate and distinct, but here we’re reminded that the world isn’t quite as big as we sometimes think it is.

Hizdahr all

Speaking of Daenerys, she is approached by Hizdahr zo Loraq, who asks that the fighting pits in Meereen be reopened, and the long standing tradition reinstated. Reopen an arena where slaves fought slaves to death? Dany scoffs at the idea, and says no.

Later that evening, Daario (a product of the fighting pits himself) tells Daenerys that she’s making a mistake. She’s in a situation where she’s forcing the ideals of an outside culture onto an unwilling group of people who are already set in their ways. It’s an idealistic venture, for sure, but Daario understands that while these pursuits are all fine and dandy, it comes down to her and her dragons, and nothing else. The only way she’s going to stay in power is if she shows strength, and her dragons are her true source of power. “You’re not the Mother of Unsullied. You’re the Mother of Dragons.”

No one has seen Drogon in weeks. Daenerys heads down to where Rhaegal and Viserion are chained up. She slowly approaches them, but both are out of her control, blowing fire at her and screeching. Dany is afraid, and needs to start regaining power over her dragons if she hopes to regain control over the people she has conquered.

Jon and Mance

At Castle Black, Jon visits Mance, who already knows what Stannis wants. These three men, Jon, Stannis and Mance, are incredibly stubborn. They disagree on beliefs and ideals that are fundamental to who they are as individuals, which makes for an interesting dynamic and power play.

The King Beyond the Wall respects that Stannis is bold; he could see him as a great ruler on the Iron Throne, but he’ll never bend the knee to him. Jon argues that Mance uniting 90 clans will be for nothing if he doesn’t take this chance to survive again from Stannis. Mance earned the wildlings’ respect, their trust, and he can’t turn back on that. Jon warns him he’ll be burned alive.

“Bad way to go… I’ll be honest with you, I don’t want to die. And burnt to death? I don’t want people to remember me like that; scorched and screaming, but it’s better then betraying everything I believe,” Mance replies.

Mance truly believes Jon is a good man, but if he can’t understand why Mance won’t enlist his people to fight in a foreign war, there’s no use in explaining. Jon thinks Mance is making a huge mistake: how could you die for honor when soon everyone will be killed by white walkers?

“The freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted,” Mance says. It was this desire that moved Mance to leave the Night’s Watch in the first place, to fight for something he actually believed in and make choices on his own. Both he and Jon are fighting for what they see as good and right, creating a scenario where it’s almost impossible for the other to compromise.

Mance stake

Stannis asks Mance to bend the knee one more time before he’s marched to his death. Mance ignores his offer- and wishes him luck in the wars to come.

“Here stands your king of lies,” Melisandre says as the wood surrounding Mance catches fire. Jon hates watching this, and as Mance begins to cry out, Jon shoots him with an arrow and kills him mercifully.

With the elections for the next Lord Commander coming up, to some this is only more evidence that Jon loves wildlings more than he does the honor of the Night’s Watch, something he’s going to have to face as his brothers rally against him.

While there were no epic battles or wild action shots, this season five premiere episode is aptly named, gearing us up and setting the stage for the wars that will eventually come, both political and physical, as key players move to gain power in Westeros.

Introductions: Maggy the Frog, White Rat, Bowen Marsh

Deaths: White Rat of the Unsullied and the King-Beyond-the-Wall, Mance Rayder.

Mance Rayder, Beautiful Death by Robert Ball

mance death

95 responses

Jump to (and Always Support) the Bottom

    1. Horror and slobber.

      Actually quite enjoyed this season opener, Tyrion and Varys discussing the disappointingly substandard toilet facilities was fun.

      Mance’s sorry demise was played out well I thought. Ciaran Hinds played it with a lot of dignity.

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    2. I just watched this a few days ago.

      Such a good premiere 🙂

      Regarding Cersei and the prophecy, I think we are supposed to think it is referring to Margery (just like Cersei thinks it is referring to Margery), but I think its referring to Dany.

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    3. Also, as usual, my man Jon killed it in this episode. And what he did for Mance was just, wow.
      His scenes in this episode – especially with Stannis and Mance, were amazing.

      And this is where I started my theorizing about Jon and his parentage because of Mel’s extreme interest in Jon. I never even thought twice about it before this episode. But then as the season progresses, and by the time we hit episode 4, I figured out R+L=J

      Ahhh I love this season!

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    4. Mihnea,

      Maybe Dany is the second obvious choice. But with where Sansa is now, and Cersei’s current state, I think that Dany will get to Cersei before Sansa does.

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    5. Honestly, Kit Harington just keeps getting better and better every season.

      He’s for sure still in the show and is coming back, too much character build up for him to just kill him off in such a shitty way, especially after Hardhome and all of the R+L=J hints they had every season, including this one.

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    6. Mihnea,

      It must have been nice to see them 🙂

      Before episode 4, I thought okay, who are Jon’s parents? But episode 4 is where the details came (Sansa/LF, Jon and his wall interactions/ Dany and Barisstan). It was genius. I don’t know if its the same in the books (the R+L hints)

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    7. Connor,

      Kit had to play a very hard character.

      Jon is very formal on the outside and rarely let’s people see what he truly thinks.
      But I think he nailed by S3.

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    8. Deesensfan,

      No, those hints in the show aren’t in the books.
      Well Mel does show a interest in him, but doesn’t outright tell him his blood has power.

      I will not tell you the hints in the book, because I have a feeling they may show them, or a version of them in S6.

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    9. Dragonmcmx:
      Liked this one more than two swords.

      Please don’t flay me.

      Same. Probably my favorite premiere.

      Also, I noticed they changed the Wars to Come pic on HBO GO from Cersei to Melisandre.

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    10. Connor:
      Honestly, Kit Harington just keeps getting better and better every season.

      He’s for sure still in the show and is coming back, too much character build up for him to just kill him off in such a shitty way, especially after Hardhome and all of the R+L=J hints they had every season, including this one.

      I agree. You notice his improvement in S3 and especially S4, when he starts taking initiative.

      “He always comes back.” 😛

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    11. OMG … 10 more days!!

      I recently finished my re-watch of seasons 4 and 5 (did 1-2-3 in January) … by watching 2 episodes a night, ten days in a row, and the story really flows nicely.

      I think that people will re-assess season 5 once season 6 is over, as they will see how smoothly the events of one season flows nicely into the next one, and will recognize how season 5 was really the set-up for season 6.

      In this episode, I loved seeing team Dragonstone at the wall, and their interactions with Jon.

      I wonder if we will find out why Melisandre was pleased to learn that Jon isn’t a virgin …

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    12. Pretty meh premiere tbh. You can tell how much Tywin’s absence impacts the show and I think it took a while to recover from it. It’s like having to re-position all the chess pieces on the board, (except it took a while). I’m not sure how I feel about Varys being a Targaryen supporter on the show, because that implies he supported Viserys first over Dany. And Varys wouldn’t be dumb enough to support Viserys’ crazy ass.

      I loved Jon’s scenes at the Wall and seeing him interact with Stannis and Mance. Do we know or suspect why Melisandre is asking about his virginity? lmao

      The part where Jon defies Stannis’ orders and shows mercy to Mance is a very powerful scene. It’s also what convinces me (besides Hardhome) that the Wildlings will bend the knee to him.

      Also, Lil’ Cersei’s casting is great.

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    13. Not one of my favourite episodes.
      A slow opening, I thought.
      Still, Varys was excellent, as was the Mance plot.
      And I do agree with everyone else: season 5 was that gave extra importance to Jon Snow and really made him look as who people now think he is (unless he is really dead, that is).

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    14. Red Viper,

      Probaly because she wanted to sleep with him, and she was glad he had some experience…..

      She wanted to sleep with him because she saw power in him, not because she was attracted by him…But I wouldn’t blame her if she was…

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    15. Flayed Potatoes,

      Varys didn’t seem so bothered by the mad king, he served him well for a long time. Why would he be bothered by Viserys, whom they had since he was little.
      They most likely wanted to rule trough him.

      And then Dany happened. Well not to say Varys didn’t help Dany. He’s the reason she lives, as Tyrion says it.

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    16. Mihnea,

      I’m hoping they address it, especially since you don’t get any idea of what Varys is doing on the show to help Dany in Essos from S2 to S5. We need a scene with Dany and Varys in the future.

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    17. Mihnea:
      Flayed Potatoes,

      I thought it was preaty clear what he did.
      For example. He warned Jorah about the assassin sent to kill Dany.

      That’s season 1. I said season 2 to season 5 (before the season 5 premiere obviously).

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    18. I like this episode more on rewatch. A solid premiere and I can never stop gushing about how gorgeous the set of the Sept is.

      My original thoughts:

      Game of Thrones returns for its fifth season amidst a flurry of anticipation and frenzy as the adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire epic veers further and further away from the source material that gave it life. It’s not necessarily throwing out the books altogether – the major events are still there and so are a decent chance of the narrative overarches from the written page. The journey has just detoured slightly, or in some cases, significantly. The deepest challenge of adaptation the fourth and fifth books, entitled A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, respectively, is that they are sprawling volumes who spiral out beyond cohesion. The two books were intended to be a single tome before they got too big and Martin split them based on character, not chronology and that was a mistake. A Storm of Swords is easily the best of Martin’s five volumes so far – it had a sense of propulsive energy as it bloodily finished off several plot lines and seamlessly integrated new ones to the narrative. The following volumes were elevated by Martin’s beautiful prose, but at several instances it felt as if the subplots were taking over the central narratives. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have pulled off their toughest season yet. The story has been austerely streamlined, retaining a good deal of Martin’s strengths while eschewing those extraneous subplots. The hour is still packed to the brim (we don’t see Arya or Dorne yet), but it works stupendously.

      Each season of Game of Thrones can be deconstructed through a narrative arc. Season 5 appears to be centered around a term known as “casual vacancy”. First introduced to my vocabulary through J. K. Rowling novel of the same name, a casual vacancy describes an empty seat of power that has been unexpectedly left vacant by its former occupant. There’s very much a sense of gaping vacancy in Thrones that is only further evidence of how massive Tywin’s presence truly was. The untimely departure of the Lannister patriarch has thrown open a power vacuum that has already begun to seethe. As a somber Cersei climbs the steps towards the Sept within which the body of her father lies, a long line of Westerosi nobility stands in quiet wait, the Queen Mother is perfectly aware that the lords and ladies to her side are nothing but vultures, ready to circle around and pick off the remains. But Cersei has plenty of other demons surrounding her past, present, and future outside of the nobility. The episode begins with a young Cersei and her friend Malara traversing through a forest and visiting a witch called Maggy the Frog. Cersei, who was just as pleasant as a child as she was an adult, demands to know her future, to which Maggy quickly replies “Everyone wants to know their future until they know their future.” And Cersei’s future looks to be bleak, indeed. She would not marry Prince Rhaegar of the House Targaryen, but she would marry a king. She did, King Robert of the House Baratheon. Her husband would have twenty children, but she would have three. All of her children are Jaime’s. They would all have golden manes – and golden shrouds. Joffrey, blond of hair, is dead. And a younger, more beautiful queen will along to usurp her power. Margaery? Daenerys? Sansa? Cersei’s paranoia was born at this very moment, manifesting itself slowly like a poison that would ensnare that young girl in the forest forever, unless she can cast it down the river.

      The prophecy (while not the complete version found in the books) is a key to understanding the sheer amount of paranoia that Cersei has grown up with and with Joffrey’s death at his own wedding, that paranoia has only increased. And now there’s a vast amount of power right within her grasp. With the throne in her sight, the fear of Margaery, and the Westerosi nobility hungry for more power, Cersei has more than enough for a single person to handle. Yet she hasn’t forgotten about Tyrion, the little monster who is still drawing breath after committing (in her mind) regicide and patricide (truth). That is a war she will never let go of, but the subject of that war is himself in the crux of the deepest existential crisis he’s ever faced. Tyrion is hell bent on drinking his way to death, even as Varys implores that he has a vital task ahead of him. Characters this episode are prepping for the battles that are looming on the horizon, but Varys and Illyrio have been preparing for one since Robert Baratheon seized the throne. The two conspirators have the Targaryen Restoration on their mind, but Tyrion doesn’t seem to care, his mind still stuck in the double murder he committed. “Westeros needs to be saved from itself,” he cautions, sticking with the pragmatic reasoning that defines his character, noting somberly that there are more wars yet to come. He recognizes that despite the impossibility of Tyrion ever sitting on the Iron Throne himself, his intelligence is invaluable. Various describes a monarch that is almost too good to be true and Tyrion scoffs with “Good luck finding him.” “Who said anything about him?” Varys quips sharply in response.

      Daenerys, the quiet subject of Varys’s planning, is herself mired in a complete clusterfuck of a situation. Conquering gave Daenerys a sense of purpose, a sense of propulsive energy that has been sapped since she took up residence in the Great Pyramid of Meereen. Knocking the Golden Harpy down from the top of said pyramid is one thing, but pure symbolism is hardly enough to rule a city. Orthodox institutions like slavery are difficult to break down completely and when a revolutionary ideology arrives to topple them down from their pedestal of power, they more often than not fight back with everything at their disposal to keep that pedestal alive. That fight back has risen in the form of a guerrilla warfare group known as the Sons of the Harpy, who are going around and murdering Unsullied soldiers and Daenerys sympathizers. Their masks are similar to those of the Harpy statue that had been broken into smithereens, but from the look of the narrative, they’re not going to be broken nearly as easily. Daenerys is wary of these fighters, but she is also faced with a proposal to reopen the fighting pits, a suggestion that effectively reinstates a certain type of slavery with a euphemistic title. Those behemoth quandaries, however, pale in front of the massive problem she faces with her dragons. Her two chained children, who are now giant despite the chains, nearly burn her alive. Daenerys isn’t defined by her dragons, but her dragons are a definitive part of who she is. There’s no gaining the Iron Throne without them.

      The crux of the episode takes place in the frigid North as Jon finds himself in the fairly difficult position of trying to broker a compromise between Mance Rayder and Stannis. Stannis wants the wildlings to fight for him in his battles of Westeros, which is a rather rich suggestion of him considering that he just massacred them in the previous episode. If they fight for him and he wins, they will get land and pardons in accompaniment. Mance isn’t having any of it. It’s not his pride that is preventing him from bending the knee to Stannis because fuck his pride. It’s the simple reality that he would be betraying everything he stood for and he would much rather burn. It’s a classic case of a Hobson’s choice, where you’re essentially screwed no matter what, but Mance has a point. He promised his people that they no longer would shed their blood. In all consciousness, how could he look towards the wildlings he had spent his entire life uniting and ask them to sacrifice their lives in a foreign war so another ass can sit on a throne in King’s Landing? He’s seen the wights, the Ones, and the terror of the Far North that is going to descend upon the rest of the continent. That’s the true war to come, no matter who sits on the bloody Iron Throne. There’s a heavy weight of tragedy in this entire sequence, encapsulated by Ciarán Hinds’s finest performance in the role yet. Mance burns at the stake not because he was too selfish to bend the knee, but because he knew that in doing so he would be condemning all of his people to darkness and he had no right to do that. As he’s writhing in pain and about to utter a final scream, Jon releases an arrow, impaling Mance and putting him out of his pain. The two share one final glance of mutual respect before the flames consume the morbid night itself.

      Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

      +The opening scene with Cersei was shot expertly – the feeling of a classic fairly tale going for a tone of full dread was kept intact throughout
      +The practice of laying stones on the eyes of the dead is as creepy as it used to be
      +Cersei’s sharp takedown of Jamie in the Sept of Baelor was oh so satisfying
      +“He loved you more than anyone in this world.”
      +I want a montage of Cersei ignoring people
      +The show manages to get an incredible mileage out of small characters. The sequence with the Unsullied soldier wanting some human contact before having his throat slit was horrifying.
      +The harpy statue being taken down is a direct reference to when the Valyrians defeated the Ghiscari Empire (whose symbol was a harpy) using their dragons, here repeated with Daenerys
      +“Are you a virgin?” Jon, stay away from that, despite your affinity for redheads
      +The tourney at the Vale was a neat little scene, complete with this completely inappropriate line about Robyn: “He fights like a girl with palsy.”
      +Sansa and Petyr Baelish riding right past Brienne and Podrick
      +Loras and Olyver’s sex scene is going to be important in the future
      +Margaery’s ominous “Perhaps” in regards to Cersei is perfectly haunting
      +“The freedom to make my mistakes is all I’ve ever wanted.”
      +The “wars to come” titular connection between Mance and Varys was well-done. Here are two individuals who are able to see long-term

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    19. I much prefer Varys’s plan in the books. Saying he wasn’t bothered by the Mad King is like saying Tywin wasn’t bothered by Joffrey. “Did he manage to survive then?” Yes. “Would he want to repeat the experience?” No.
      I’m not too bothered by the change.

      Show!Varys plan is basically book!Doran’s plan, and since I think the Young Griff plot couldn’t be done justice in TV, the producers would have make do with what they had.

      . But it seems weird to have Varys (who’s always worked to make the realm a better place) say “Robert was a mess, so I decided to make Viserys king”. But it’s not that bad. I also thought many things in Breaking Bad were weird, but I enjoyed the show anyway.

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    20. I think Kit has been getting better also.

      Riding a horse in battle whilst dead…that should earn him an Emmy!

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    21. While this premiere is very calm and slow-pacing, I still liked it. In my opinion, it is better than Valar Dohaeris, The North Remembers and Winter is Coming. (Still, there are 7 episodes of season 5 that I like more).

      But my biggest praise goes to final scene. That scene was so powerful and detailed and Ciaran Hinds’s performance was really good. Because of that, I prefer this version to book version even though Mance is still alive. And because of his amazing performance, I also prefer TV Mance. I always found his book counterpart a bit cartoonish and I could never imagine that man leading the wildlings.

      Side note: It was funny to read the comments. Some people (book readers) simply did not believe that real Mance was burned.

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    22. Tywin of the Hill,

      It’s not about ”justice” it’s about quality, the Griff story is a mess. A badly written one.
      You don’t bring a new ”major” player in book 5 and tell people to care for him.

      It’s clear that he is fake and will die soon anyway.

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    23. Connor:
      Honestly, Kit Harington just keeps getting better and better every season.

      He’s for sure still in the show and is coming back, too much character build up for him to just kill him off in such a shitty way, especially after Hardhome and all of the R+L=J hints they had every season, including this one.

      Roose + Lysa = Jon?????

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    24. Tywin of the Hill,

      I don’t think we fully know Book!Varys motives … vis-a-vis Dany and the other … so many theories out there re him and Illyrio and their motives …

      the Blackfyre and Brightflame theories given the Moqorro prophecy to Tyrion that he saw dragons old and new, true and false, bright and dark, with Tyrion in the middle casting a huge shadow

      I find it interesting the parts of the prophcey they left out … and what they may portend … it seems that more a person tries to avoid a prophecy the more likely they are to come true in unintended ways … therefore the more Cersei thinks Margaery is likely to be the one who comes to take away all she holds dear the more it is likely that that Cersei’s actions make it likely that the real one will be able to do so (whether Dany or Sansa) …

      and then the valonqor … will that be added later … the more Cersei thinks it is Tyrion the more she guarantees that if it is not, the other person will be more likely to put their hands around her white neck … it is implied that she tried to avoid the prophecy by killing Melera as she told Cersei that if they did not talk about them, they wouldn’t come true and part of her prophecy was that her death was in the room … who ended up at the bottom of a well in the books … and that did nothing to stop them

        Quote  Reply

    25. Darkrobin,

      They didn’t add the Valanquar for the same reason they didn’t show Dany’s visions in Qarth, they are spoilers.

      Besides, I will bet my life that it’s

      Jaime who finally kills her

        Quote  Reply

    26. Worthy mention – the scene of the Unsullied tearing down the massive harpy statue from atop the Great Pyramid was amazing. IMO one of the best non-action CGI sequences in the show; the way it crashes and bends as it falls was so real and well done.

        Quote  Reply

    27. JoeSnow,

      YES! And once the statue has crashed and stopped on the ground there is a beautiful perspective shot of 3 Unsullieds standing next to it … The photography has always been impressive on GoT, but it seemed even more impressive in Season 5.

      D&D said that they had not only great directors for season 6, but also great cinematographers, so I can’t wait to see the visuals get even more dazzling!!

        Quote  Reply

    28. Mihnea,

      What happened to your promise not to speak to me?

      Anyway, speak for yourself. I think the Aegon reveal is one of the Martin’s best ideas. I love YG, I love Jon Connington and I love the Stormlands campaign.
      So what if he’s fake and going to die? Jon Snow is fake and Ned was destined to die. The books are a journey, not a destination.

        Quote  Reply

    29. Deesensfan,

      Also, as usual, my man Jon killed it in this episode. And what he did for Mance was just, wow.

      When it became apparent that Shireen would burn, I was hoping and praying that one of those soldiers had a bow and arrow and would give her the same mercy. When I realized it wasn’t happening, I turned it off. Really disappointed about that

      Loved this premier and really enjoyed Varys and Tyrion’s conversations They make such a great team, I imagine we’ll see much more of them together this season

      if somebody on staff could look at my message and tell me what I am doing wrong with spoiler code? Can never get it to work)

        Quote  Reply

    30. Red Viper: The photography has always been impressive in GoT, but it seemed even more impressive in Season 5.

      I would say this of Season 6. 95% of the footage we have gotten so far is from amazing camera angles, with amazing lighting and amazing effects. Every shot so far looks like nothing we have seen before on this show, and I’m pumped!

        Quote  Reply

    31. ash: When it became apparent that Shireen would burn, I was hoping and praying that one of those soldiers had a bow and arrow and would give her the same mercy. When I realized it wasn’t happening, I turned it off. Really disappointed about that

      Hah, I bet my arse that Stannis’ reaction to that happening AGAIN would’ve become a meme that very day 😛

        Quote  Reply

    32. This season wasn’t really the best, but it had its moments. Especially Hardhome, holy crap that was amazing. Not just the White Walkers attacking but everything else in that episode was mint! A taste of Winter, that scene alone made everything else look minuscule.

        Quote  Reply

    33. Dragonmcmx,

      I know … me too … Aside from the incredible story, acting etc., as a photographer myself, I can re-watch episodes over and over just to enjoy the visuals!

      10…..MORE…..DAYS!! SO HYPED!!!

        Quote  Reply

    34. The Wars to Come is to me the perfect example of a “typical” premier episode for Game of Thrones. It’s slow in that there is very little forward movement of the plot, but it still has some great character moments. It’s not a “Two Swords,” but there’s plenty here to keep you interested.

      There are a number of adaptation choices that the producers made in this episode that I applaud. Most prominently is that the death of Mance Rayder was legit, devoid of any of the glamoring that occurs in ADWD. It’s always been confusing to me why GRRM kept Mance around when it appeared to me that his contribution to the story was over. Once he died on the show for good, it allowed for the far more important relationship between Jon and Tormund to develop.

      The other adaptation that caught my attention was the absence of the Valonqar portion of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy. My initial reaction was that it seemed like an odd decision to include only part of the prophecy, but in hindsight it definitely was the right call. The Valonqar part of the prophecy reveals too much about Cersei’s endgame, and although I enjoy the fact that her interpretation of the prophecy and her attempts to forestall it are what make it come true, she doesn’t need more ammunition when it comes to hating Tyrion.

      Plus, without it, her death at the hands of the true Valonqar will be surprising to Unsullied.

        Quote  Reply

    35. I really like “The Wars to Come”. It’s not my favorite season premiere – heading into Season 6, “Two Swords” still holds that title quite comfortably. But especially in retrospect, I appreciate how strongly and confidently this episode got Season 5 rolling. In the aftermath of the world-shaking chaos generated by the end of Season 4, the hour serves as the unofficial beginning for a new act for this story. As such, it’s definitely a set-up episode in the mold of the first three season premieres, but everything feels sharp and purposeful. Maybe it’s just the numerous hints that long-separated characters would finally be moving towards one another, but it was thrilling to watch in the moment – and it still is.

      “The Wars to Come” also features two of my favorite quotes in the entire series – not so much for the entertainment value they provided in the moment, but for what they represent to the series as a whole. The first quote comes when Varys is attempting convince a drunk and despairing Tyrion that there is hope for a better future in the Seven Kingdoms, and that he dreams of a land where the powerful do not prey on the powerless. Still haunted, scarred, and jaded by the worst experience of his life, Tyrion mocks and dismisses the idea, declaring that “The powerful have always preyed on the powerless. That’s how they became powerful in the first place.”

      “Perhaps,” Varys says. “Or perhaps we’ve grown so used to horror, we assume there’s no other way.”

      I love that exchange. More than perhaps any other moment in the series, that line gives me a strange sense of hope for the future of this fictional world (and hell, maybe even ours, though that’s a much taller task). That doesn’t mean I’m under any illusions that Varys has the magic prescription to fulfill his stated ambition. This “other way” will not be easily realized. The path may need to be won with yet more blood and suffering. The Long Night will likely need to fall before the light can finally find a way to shine through.

      Yet I appreciate that at least one master of the game has taken full stock of the board and recognizes that the current way is unsustainable. It gives me confidence that, despite Ramsay’s most famous words (“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention”), the ending that this series is headed for won’t be entirely bleak and unremittingly dark after all.

      Varys has been portrayed as a more genuinely altruistic and selfless character in the show than his counterpart in the novels (suffice it to say I don’t share his alleged faith in YG, or the purity of his intentions in that respect). When this version of the character claims to have the best interests of the realm at heart, I trust him. He’s demonstrated enough skill in playing the game that I have confidence he’ll be able to make progress towards his desired end. He may not survive, but I think he’ll last long enough to see his faith rewarded.

      More than any grand proclamation that Dany has made about breaking the wheel, Varys’s line inspires me to hope that even in the face of a seemingly endless cycle of death and destruction, a few of our beloved characters might find a way to walk that path by the time this story ends. Or, at the very least, it makes me smile. Whether that makes me a sweet summer child who dreams of gingerbread castles and moats of blackberry wine … I guess we’ll see. 😉

        Quote  Reply

    36. mau,

      Why is everyone secretly someone else? Why can’t Daario be a lowborn sellsword from Essos? Why can’t Varys just be a eunuch from the streets of Myr? Why can’t Roose Bolton just be a normal person that is kind of weird instead of an Other-Human hybrid?

        Quote  Reply

    37. Hello everybody,
      Long time lurker, first time poster. R.E. Jon Snow being a virgin. I noticed Mellisandre took Gendry’s virginity before she did her thing with the leeches so I assumed the blood had to come from somebody who was not a virgin. Although this doesn’t apply to Shireen it might be only for males or just me seeing things that aren’t there. She could of got guards to hold Gendry’s down so I assumed the blood must be non – virgin. Maybe Shireens being extra virgin is what messed up Stannis last sacrifice.

      My two cents. Loving the memory lanes and WOW.

        Quote  Reply

    38. Great episode! The young Cersei scene was brilliant, my only compalint is that the prophecy wasn’t impactful at all. In the show what does Cersei do to destroy Maergery, who she believes to be the younger more beautiful queen? Pretty much nothing. She just tries to get Loras arrested and it just so happens that Maergery gets arrested too. I would have loved it if she actually acted on the prophecy by orchestrating a similar conspirancy as the books, trying to pass Maergery off as a manipulative scheming w**re. It would have been more coherent too as we would have known the rationale behind it by means of the prophecy scene. But I understand that it would have taken far more time to pull off in the show, so their decision was reasonable.

        Quote  Reply

    39. Hubo:
      Great episode! The young Cersei scene was brilliant, my only compalint is that the prophecy wasn’t impactful at all. In the show what does Cersei do to destroy Maergery, who she believes to be the younger more beautiful queen? Pretty much nothing. She just tries to get Loras arrested and it just so happens that Maergery gets arrested too. I would have loved it if she actually acted on the prophecy by orchestrating a similar conspirancy as the books, trying to pass Maergery off as a manipulative scheming w**re. It would have been more coherent too as we would have known the rationale behind it by means of the prophecy scene. But I understand that it would have taken far more time to pull off in the show, so their decision was reasonable.

      Considering that Margaery is not a virgin on TV, it would have been very hard to adapt the book story. Also in AFFC, I found book Cersei’s behavior very cartoonish, like she escaped from a fairytale.

        Quote  Reply

    40. Mihnea:

      As a book-reader, those small hints at R+L=J just brought a smile to my face.

      It was one of my favorite elements of last season…those nods to R+L=J…those and

      that moment when Arya is talking about her time as Lana, and how when she said the word “canals,” a cat ran across the screen. 🙂


      How did I miss you figured out R+L=J???
      May I ask a favor of you…would you mind spelling out what you think the “R” and “L” and “J” stand for, and put it under spoiler coding? I, like many others, am so protective of you in your Unsulliedness, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.

        Quote  Reply

    41. Connor,

      Ok, maybe a lot of Unsullied have figured it out, but that’s a huge spoiler for those who haven’t, and that really needs to go under spoiler coding!!!

        Quote  Reply

    42. So , is Mance just a shaggy dog story.
      Way Mance was left in the last novel , it could be.
      On the show Mance was serving a plot purpose , suddenly it like, O, forget Mance!

        Quote  Reply

    43. Maz9791,

      Good point about Melisandre “de-virgining” Gendry before taking his blood via the leeches … hmmmm…

      As for Shireen, maybe it is different for girls …

      We need a Red Woman/Lord of Light Sorcery 101 lesson so we can try these tricks at home!!! Imagine making a smoke monster and having him show up at Thanksgiving dinner!!

        Quote  Reply

    44. Hubo,

      Cersei was obviously aware that Margaery would implicate herself during the inquest. Her plan in the show involves eliminating Marg and Loras both in one fell swoop.

        Quote  Reply

    45. The second line from “The Wars to Come” that I adore accompanies the end of Mance Rayder. Ciarán Hinds absolutely crushes Mance’s final scenes. His last conversation with Jon Snow provided a splendid level of insight into his mindset (and Kit Harington was great in that scene as well – a strong start to his best season yet). When Jon makes one final appeal, stating his belief that the former King Beyond the Wall is making a terrible mistake, Mance doesn’t dispute it. He just offers the young man a smile, sad and small yet resolute, a combination of acceptance and farewell. “The freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted.”

      When I heard that line, I got chills. I knew what it meant, and I knew that the show wouldn’t turn away from the consequences. I was absolutely riveted during Mance’s long walk to the pyre – particularly during the painfully extended sequence after Melisandre set the torch to the wood but before Jon put an arrow in his heart. Mance was proud and dignified. He was defiant, but respectful. And yet, when the fire started to creep up on him, you could tell that he was scared. The looks that he exchanged with Tormund in particular broke my heart. It wasn’t the fate he deserved, but it was a death worthy of a king, and true to his word, he did not kneel.

        Quote  Reply

    46. Dragonmcmx:
      Liked this one more than two swords.

      Please don’t flay me.

      I just rewatched this and I may agree with you. I’ve thought of Two Swords as the superior season premiere for a while, but after rewatching The Wars to Come tonight… I’m not so sure anymore. It’s such a strong opener!

        Quote  Reply

    47. Hubo: She just tries to get Loras arrested and it just so happens that Maergery gets arrested too.

      Not at all. Cersei arranges for Olyvar to be revealed as a witness after Margaery predictably vouches for Loras, thus implicating her as well. Not much of a gamble that she would defend her brother!

        Quote  Reply

    48. Maz9791,

      Hello! Welcome to the Wall!

      Regarding your ideas about Melisandre needing non-virgins for the blood to be good, maybe the difference with Shireen was she was true-born. Both Jon and Gendry were not. I’m really just thinking out loud here, but other than gender, I was thinking, what do Jon and Gendry have in common which does not apply to Shireen, and that would be their legitimacy, or lack thereof.

        Quote  Reply

    49. A great season opener for Season 5 and a great recap again from Hannah.

      I always enjoy the interaction between Tyrion and Varys of which there will more of in Season 6. Varys comment to Tyrion: “Who said anything about HIM” starts the adventure and journey for what they are going to embark on… To seek out Dany.

      I had to laugh at when the crate carrying Tyrion was opened on arrival at Pentos? Tyrion complaining to Varys how uncomfortable it was and having to shit in it and passing it out through the holes. To which Varys replied something like – Well I was the person who had to pick your shit up and throw it overboard 😀

      Also funny was when Tyrion needed a drink after that trip and throwing up on the carpet at Illyrio Mopatis’ residence! These lighthearted scenes I always find enjoyable intertwined in episodes which invariably end in doom and gloom. Mance’s refusal to ‘bend the knee’ and get burnt alive at the stake in this case. At least Jon’s arrow was merciful…

        Quote  Reply

    50. This is my favorite season so far and what a great opening episode. Although S4E01 and S1E01 are still my top 2 this one comes very close. Young Cersei and Maggy were pure gold, far better than Soerensens Karsi in my opinion. Ciaran just showed what a great actor can achieve with a great script and I honestly would like to see more of him in previous seasons. I felt that the Tyrion and Varys scenes in S6 were very eloquent and elegant but somehow a bit forced or maybe too self-satisfied in their eloquence and elegance. But overall a great appetiser!

        Quote  Reply

    51. Jared,

      Been around this site for a long time and I post very infrequently, but I want to tell you how much I appreciate your comments on these Memory Lane posts. Your insight and opinions are excellent and fun to read. Thank you for these, and, of course, thanks to WoW for this excellent site!

        Quote  Reply

    52. Deesensfan,

      I think it’s a double bluff: Cersei believes it’s Margaery and most readers/viewers think it’s Dany, and it’s neither. The book never actually specifies “another queen,” just “another.” I think it could be Sansa or even Brienne (“Brienne the “Beauty”), especially if Jaime ends up leaving Cersei for Brienne’s sake.

        Quote  Reply

    53. Mihnea,

      As would I … and it makes sense given some other comments on the show and in the books …well maybe … except I always second guess myself given some of the warnings about prophecy …. like the quotes in the books about prophecy being like a sword without a hilt or the other allusion … that prophecy can be satisfying and you think you know what is coming and then your expectations are heightened and the prophecy comes back to bite you … or something like that 🙂

      But I’m with you on this one.

        Quote  Reply

    54. Luka Nieto,

      On re-watch I agree. Season 5 both episodes 1 and 2 were much better than given credit for …

      I did find this part of the review slightly ironic (probably intentionally)

      . As much as Littlefinger’s motives can’t be trusted, what better place for Sansa to be right now than under his protection?

        Quote  Reply

    55. Red Viper,

      Which is another reason prophecy can be misleading … one of the issues some book readers have with her death is that she doesn’t have her crown yet … but crown has at least two meanings ….

        Quote  Reply

    56. Lord Parramandas,

      She was until the wedding night with Tommen, was she not? She didn’t consummate the marriage with Renly nor with Joffrey. There is language in one of her discussions with Sansa that you could interpret to mean that she might have some sexual experience, but you are correct, after that “no.” Cersei’s behavior in the books was certainly more over-the-top, but the adultery angle, could have worked … it did for Henry VIII with Anne Boleyn … there was even a singer involved there and other similarities … but it would have taken longer to develop so this was cleaner … even though the charge of bearing false witness to me was more trifling

        Quote  Reply

    57. The heavy cloaks Sansa and Petyr are wearing in these first episodes of Season 5 are one of my favorite costumes on the entire show.

        Quote  Reply

    58. Mihnea,

      Yes Aegon is clearly a


      If anyone doesn’t understand it yet just watch this video from 10:00: This is the truth.

      The Valonqar will be someone else’s younger brother. There’s no way Jaime would go back to King’s Landing. And when Tyrion arrives there, the city will be destroyed by the Lannister + Tyrell + Faith horde.

        Quote  Reply

    59. Tywin of the Hill,

      I enjoy the ride as well.

      I enjoyed it from AGOT to ASOS. I loved Jaime’s story in those books. I loved the Starks story, I loved Dany’s story.

      But then half way trough this ”ride”, someone pulled me down and told me to get into a cheaper and more poorly thought ride and demolished the ”ride” I loved for years.

        Quote  Reply

    60. How did I never realize that Sansa’s & Littlefinger’s clothes are not only made from the same material, but they’re almost identical in design? That is a nice touch.

      I always wondered why Mel asked Jon if he’s a virgin and why she was pleased when he said he wasn’t. I hope it’s answered in S6 but if not I can accept the answers above that she wanted to have sex with an experienced man or that his non-virgin blood is what is needed to make a shadow baby.

      I liked Mance and was surprised that they really killed him off but I agree with the poster who said that Mance’s death cleared the way for Jon & Tormund to become friends & allies. TV-Tormund is one of my favorite secondary characters and I don’t think he would have been as prominent if Mance was still around.

      I’d been looking forward to & getting impatient in seeing Jon finally get to interact with Team Dragonstone and the premiere did not disappoint. That entire dynamic was what made the Wall my favorite storyline of S5.

      I really hope it continues in S6, sans Stannis obviously.

      About Maggy’s pesky prophecy:

      She’ll be queen for a time, but then comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast her down and take all she holds dear.

      I know the Sansa theory has grown in popularity over the years, but I just don’t see it. In my view, Cersei holds dear 2 things: her children and power. Joffery was taken from her by Olenna & LF, Myrcella by Ellaria, and Tommen by Margaery (up to this point). So that’s 2 by the Tyrells and 1 by the Martells. Sansa has zero to do with it.

      As for the power, she hasn’t lost it completely but it is slipping away by various means: the Tyrells and the Faith (that one is her own doing). And whatever power she has left in later seasons will likely be taken by Dany, with Tyrion by her side. Sansa’s story seems to be keeping her in the North. I don’t think anything she does from S6 onward could possibly have any significant effect on Cersei & King’s Landing.

      I rank the premieres thus: S5>S4>S1>S3>S2. Which is how I rank my favorite seasons. I strongly suspect that the S6 premiere will probably blow all the others out of the water. Can’t wait to find out in 10 days!

        Quote  Reply

    61. How have I never noticed before that Maggy the Frog’s prophecy – well, it’s the magic mirror from Snow White, isn’t it? Cersei is Maleficent. Ha!

      And of course it’s pernicious because, as a queen, sooner or later you will be replaced by someone younger, that’s pretty much a given (either, duh, because you’re dead or, in the case of Cersei, male inheritance means you’ll be shunted aside), but the idea has driven Cersei’s paranoia all these years.

      As for their “golden crowns”, I think it could equally refer metaphorically to the blond hair of her children. Recall that the title of the S1 episode “A Golden Crown” not only obviously referenced Khal Drogo’s “gift” to Vaeserys, but it was also the episode where Ned Stark figures out recessive genes.

        Quote  Reply

    62. Connor,

      Does anyone remember way back what ALfie said in regards to what George told him?

      The actor hinted that it would be a Luke Skywalker situation. And what I take from that is either Jon’s father is the adversary, and/or his good friend/romantic interest is his sister. And since Jon has no romantic interest alive right now, is his daddy Roose Bolton or Walder Frey? Lol. Wait, wtf maybe the other bastard, Ramsay, is his brother! Anyways, what do you think? I had forgotten this little detail till now.

      None of this lines up with what we are pretty sure is the deal (you know, those acronyms) but it does bring back the inkling I had for awhile regarding the possibility of

      the Mad King Aerys

      being Jon’s real daddy.

        Quote  Reply

    63. Ygritte,

      One of my interpretations of the “Luke Skywalker situation” was that

      Dany could be Jon’s sister (R + L = J + D)

        Quote  Reply

    64. Flayed Potatoes,
      “Do we know or suspect why Melisandre is asking about his virginity? ”

      It came out of left field when she said “good.” I’m guessing she might have thought it would make him easier to seduce, or she was just toying with him..or maybe there’s a R’holler rule of no shadow babies born of pure seed… every god has to have a code lol.

        Quote  Reply

    65. In the season premiere, Cersei ascends the steps to the sept, dressed in a fine gown and sneering at the common folk. In the season finale, she descends, naked and derided by the crowd. Brilliant.

        Quote  Reply

    66. Lovin GOO Hannahs work great write up had to re watch this episode off the back of reading this – noticed that the season begins with cersei ascending the steps to baelors Sept and then the season ends with a very different cersei descending the same steps – wonderful juxtaposition from D&D hadn’t noticed before #journey

        Quote  Reply

    67. I was freaking out to get our first real flashback scene, Young Cersei!!!! And the actress Nell Williams really nailed it 100%

        Quote  Reply

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