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.”
Up 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.
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.
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.
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.
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