Tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones started off with prophecy and ended in flames, making the season premiere unpredictable even for an ASOIAF fan!
Read our book reader’s recap shortly to see what we thought of the episode, and stop in to share your opinions on “The Wars to Come” in the comments section below!
Spoiler Note: This post is for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section will contain spoilers! If you haven’t read the books yet, please check out our non-book-reader recap. Thanks!
“Everyone wants to know their future…until they know their future.” Maggy the Frog
The long-ranging repercussions of Tywin Lannister’s death were felt around Westeros in tonight’s season premiere of Game of Thrones. The Lannister patriarch may have been nothing more than a corpse in “The Wars to Come” but he was as dominant as ever, his presence hanging over his children still. From King’s Landing to the Wall, the death of Tywin forces reactions and irrevocably alters the status quo on Game of Thrones.
The premiere begins with a move that while audacious for Game of Thrones feels very respectful of the show’s roots in A Song of Ice and Fire. At long last, there’s a flashback sequence, this one fleshing out Cersei’s motivations and showing her as a young teen (played by Nell Williams in a stellar performance). The witch Maggy the Frog (Jodhi May) prophesizes that Cersei will be queen until a younger, more beautiful one takes her place, and that her children will also have crowns- and golden shrouds to match. Suddenly, Cersei’s behavior towards women like Margaery and Sansa makes more sense.
Back in the present time, the trek to Tywin’s funeral leads Cersei to cross Margaery’s path and it’s clear who the prime candidate is to cast Cersei down from her regal perch. In the great sept where they mourn, Jaime realizes that their father’s passing has made them vulnerable, but Cersei is too busy blaming Tyrion for their predicament. Speaking of Tyrion, he makes a spectacular debut in Pentos, spilling out of a box courtesy of his savior/restroom attendant Varys. The journey has been hard on Tyrion, but it’s obviously not the trip that’s broken him- it’s the weight of having murdered his father and his lover Shae.
Further east in Meereen, a Harpy, the idol of the locals, is torn down from atop a pyramid, making a grand statement and more enemies for the Targaryen camp. One of Dany’s Unsullied, White Rat, is murdered by a prostitute while he lies with her chastely, proving that it isn’t just the nobility of Meereen who resent Dany’s presence. Mossador, a former slave she freed, tries to explain the situation to Daenerys, but she doesn’t yet understand the nuances of this city she has conquered.
Back in Westeros, election politics are increasing tensions around Castle Black and the Wall, with Alliser Thorne a strong contender to be the next Lord Commander. This doesn’t bode well for Gilly and Sam, who look on as Jon and Olly spar. Melisandre flirts with Jon Snow as they go to meet Stannis, which makes you wonder just what the Red Woman saw in the flames last season when she gazed at the Bastard of Winterfell.
Stannis is more forthright- he asks for Jon’s help in securing the wildlings to help him march on Winterfell and take down the Boltons. He needs Jon to help persuade Mance Rayder to kneel so his people will go with Stannis, but the King-Beyond-the-Wall is no kneeler, even with the tempting offer of land and freedom for his people.
Littlefinger and Sansa continue their journey out of the Vale, leaving Robin Arryn behind at the keep of the Royces. Baelish makes it clear he’s taking Sansa somewhere he thinks Cersei can never get her hands on Sansa.
On the road very nearby, Brienne is downtrodden after being rejected soundly by Arya in the season 4 finale. Podrick is more optimistic (as usual) but Brienne is distraught that she is once again a soldier without someone to follow, and is not even really a knight.
The funeral festivities for Tywin continues with Loras reminding us all of how very awkward it is trying to say nice things about someone you don’t like very much even after they’re dead. The lurking Lancel does his best to make Cersei uncomfortable about their past indiscretions with each other. The young knight has taken up with a religious movement called the Sparrows, his father Kevan explains- yet another repercussion of Tywin’s death, as the Sparrows would never have flooded King’s Landing while Tywin Lannister lived.
Blissfully unaware of the grimness elsewhere, Loras and Olyvar dally until Margaery interrupts. She cautions Loras to be more careful about his actions, despite his thought that people in King’s Landing don’t care about his actions and are aware of his sexuality.
Back in Pentos, Varys reveals his plan to Tyrion finally- he is sending him onward to Meereen to join Daenerys Targaryen, the only person strong enough and worthy to rule with the right name and backing to do it. Tyrion is uncertain, having lost all his interest in the game of thrones, but it’s plain he has nowhere else to go, and now he has only one decision to make: is the world worth fighting for?
In Meereen, Hizdahr zo Loraq and Daario Naharis return successful from their Yunkai mission, and suggesting a compromise: they wish for the fighting pits to be reopened. The pits were closed as they used to be filled with slaves, and Dany is reluctant to reopen the pits now. Later, engaging in pillow talk, Daario shares his personal story of rising from a life of poverty and slavery by becoming a pit fighter. The world is not so black and white as Daenerys sees it sometimes, and she still has a lot to learn about Meereenese society.
After opening up more with Daario, she admits she can’t handle her dragons anymore- her power isn’t in her control anymore. Making one last attempt with Viserion and Rhaegal in the cellars beneath her pyramid, Daenerys is frightened by her now-huge dragons snapping and flaring at her. The dragons have indeed grown beyond her mothering.
Jon makes one last attempt with Mance Rayder, but he is unwilling to kneel. He denies Jon’s accusations of pride, and makes it clear that he sees this as enlisting his people in a foreigner’s war, if he did encourage the wildlings to ride for Stannis. And he won’t do that, even if it costs him his life.
Mance accepts his death sentence on the pyre in the courtyard.
“I wish you good fortune in the wars to come,” he tells Stannis, and there is some measure of respect between the men.
Melisandre lights the pyre, and the flames begin to scorch him.
Jon takes action and takes the execution into his own hands. Mance was a man of the Night’s Watch; it makes sense that his death should be handled by one. Jon fires an arrow into Mance’s chest as the flames are burning him, and he cuts his his agony short.
The Flashback: I loved the mini-Cersei and the flashback altogether. I need more flashbacks and memories now, this just whetted my appetite.
Pentos and the locations: Absolutely gorgeous! GoT continues to be a feast for the eyes.
Actors! Yes I’m stating the obvious: The cast is in top form, and it’s wonderful to see Stephen Dillane going toe to toe with Ciaran Hinds. Even little moments like seeing Tara Fitzgerald watching the fire. I mean, damn this cast is great.
Hmmm, not so sure about…
A missing quote: When Missandei asks Grey Worm why White Rat went to the brothel, why didn’t he answer her with his quote from A Dance with Dragons when a similar question is posed to him? A book-reader quibble perhaps, but it’s a great line, and I would’ve loved to hear Grey Worm discuss it with Missandei, given their relationship. It seems like a bizarre line to leave out.
Tick-tock: After last year’s rollicking season premiere, I was hoping for something similar this season that would establish the new stories while not dragging. This episode did move at a slow pace with thoughtful scenes. It was good, but the pacing crawled occasionally.