Throughout the countless interviews that showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff have done in the lead up to the fifth season of Game of Thrones, the idea that this season will see worlds collide has been a repeat-offender. Each season of Thrones has brought new forces and factions into the mix – expanding the playing field. The Wars To Come breaks from this tradition, and the major plotlines of the show have never felt closer as a result.
Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 1, ‘The Wars To Come’ Review
Warning – Spoilers Ahead
Though lacking in symbolic punch compared to Season 4’s prologue, the episodes’ flashback scene gave some nice insight into the history and motivations of Cersei Lannister in a way that we haven’t really seen before. This season is shaping up to be pretty Cersei-heavy and understanding how the knowledge of her future has shaped the actions of her past.
The immediate aftermath of Tywin Lannister’s death was front and centre this week – and fair enough, his passing leaves the Lannister’s in a precarious position – they’ve never been stronger but are, at the same time, more vulnerable than ever. It was interesting to see the interactions between Jaime and Cersei during Tywin’s vigil – particularly his confession-through-omission, which was an interesting change from the source material.
We also got our first look at the religiously-reformed Lancel Lannister. It’s been a good season or so since we last saw Lancel but his dialogue exchange with Cersei was a delight – playing out like a battle between the world’s sharpest blade and its flattest rock. Book readers obviously know where this plotline is going but it’s worth noting that Lancel’s knowledge of Cersei’s past indiscretions and newfound-piousness is a dangerous combination that could put the both of them in a very delicate position.
The Wars To Come also spent some time touching on the impacts that Tywin’s death will have on the Tyrells. Loras may be off the hook when it comes to marrying Cersei but the family may have a net loss on their hands if it means Cersei has free reign in Kings Landing.
The Wars To Come gave us a nice look at the emerging partnership between Sansa and Littlefinger. Now on more-honest-but-no-less-dangerous terms, the pair palmed the young Lord Robin off to one of his vessels (their reaction to the lord in questions less-than-flattering comments about Robin’s swordsmanship was golden) before setting themselves to work on their next scheme and reminding us that Sansa is no longer a pawn but an equal to Baelish when it comes to their power plays. Given its rapid acceleration compared to the books, it’s hard to tell where this is going but it’s damn exciting to watch.
The episode also jumped across the Narrow Sea to check in on a worse-for-wear Tyrion Lannister. Peter Dinklage nails Tyrion’s disillusionment and emerging alcoholism here – though I can’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see Roger Allam return as Illyrio Mopatis.
Given the inconsistent screentime spent on Mereen last season, it was nice to see the episode devote a chunk of its runtime to Dany’s plot. The Sons of Harpy make a very visually-memorable debut and their emergence looks set to escalate the trouble Dany’s rule has faced thus far. I also enjoyed seeing Hizdahr zo Loraq and Daario return to the city. It did a good job of letting us see the impacts of Danys’ conquest from outside her monolithic throneroom.
The other locale that got quite a bit of screentime this week was Castle Black. In the aftermath of Stannis’ arrival in the North, Jon is tasked with convincing Mance Rayder to bend the knee. It was delightful to see Jon share a scene with characters like Melisandre and Stannis and I hope to see more of this as the season goes on. However, as a book reader, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed we didn’t get more scenes out of Mance before his execution but it did serve as a nice note for The Wars To Come to end on that certainly adds to the show’s “nobody is safe” reputation.
The Wars To Come was a nice-but-not-exceptional opener for this season of Thrones. By design, it did a great job of dealing with the aftermath left by The Children but didn’t do a whole lot in terms of demonstrating why this fans should be excited about this coming season. Season 2’s premiere put Stannis Baratheon front and centre. Season 4 couldn’t wait to give us a glimpse of The Red Viper. The introduction of new characters is an essential part of shaking up the playing field – and this week’s episode fell short.
The Wars To Come felt like an episode intended to set, rather than shake, things up. Hopefully this characteristic is one that bodes well for next week’s episode but in the meantime, The Wars To Come is an episode that lives up the series’ high level of quality but hardly tries to trump it’s past glories.