HBO’s Game of Thrones is an epic, sprawling tale of power, love, death, sacrifice, family, honor, betrayal, ice zombies, and dragons. It is based on the wildly popular book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin. And unless you live under a very large rock, you’ve definitely heard of it. Well, it has returned for it’s 5th season this year. Set in the mythical land of Westeros, several families vie for power, the Iron Throne, to rule over all others. The path to power is not easily paved. We’ve lived through shock after shock, battle after battle, and the remains of four seasons of power struggles has led to this day.
There are (literally) hundreds of characters to deal with. As an avid fan of the books (and the show), I am continually shocked at how well the showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, have adapted all the material into a short 10-hour-per-season show! It’s quite a feat. Let me try and recap in the quickest way possible for anyone not familiar with the show. Warning: It’s a lot of stuff.
***** SPOILERS BELOW *****
Now, last season, lots of things happened. Reigning King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) was murdered at his wedding. His younger brother, gentle Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) now holds the throne. His mother, Cersei (Lena Headey), is a paranoid mess, especially after her dwarf brother, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), escaped from prison after murdering their father, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), on the toilet. Cersei’s twin brother, a member of the kingsguard, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), let Tyrion escape. Oh, and he’s also his sister’s lover. Yeah. Incest. Deal with it.
There is lots of other stuff going on as well. The Stark family, once the main rivals of the Lannisters, have faced major setbacks after firstborn son, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) was killed along with his mother, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), at the Red Wedding. Plus, sister Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who was forced to marry Tyrion, escaped from King’s Landing, the capital city, with the help of the devious Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen). He’s taken Sansa under his wing and is grooming her in her (now deceased) aunt’s stronghold of the Eyrie. Meanwhile, other Stark sister, Arya (Maisie Williams), has traveled across the Narrow Sea to Braavos.
Their half-brother, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), bastard son of Ned Stark, sits atop the Wall, a gigantic structure in the North built to keep out all things bad: Wildings, White Walkers, Giants, and more. He has just lead the men of the Night’s Watch, who man the wall, against a Wilding attack. They had help from Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), uncle to Joffrey, who is claiming to be the rightful heir to the throne.
And all the meanwhile, we have beautiful Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) ruling the city of Mereen on the continent of Essos. She comes from the royal line of House Targaryen, former rulers of Westeros, and she wants to take back her throne. Oh, and she has dragons. Three of ‘em.
Phew, so, that’s a sad sort of recap. There’s no way to get to it all, but now hopefully if you had no idea what is happening, you have a little understanding.
Now, to get to this episode. It’s easier to break down the goings on by location. So, firstly, we will start with King’s Landing, the capital:
Following patriarch Tywin’s death, Queen Regent Cersei looks more on edge than ever. This season opens with a look back at a young Cersei, who visits a witchy woman named Maggy. Maggy predicts that Cersei would become queen, until a new younger queen took it from her and also that her children would have “golden crowns and golden shrouds.” Ominous. Book readers will note that the show left out another prophecy, but I digress.
Cersei is already weary of Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), who has her eye on young Tommen after her two former marriages both ended in death. Cersei meets with twin brother, Jaime, in the sept. She is not happy with him for letting their younger brother, Tyrion, escape. Later, at their father’s wake, Cersei hits the wine hard, not wanting to hear laments from her (forcibly) betrothed, Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), brother to Margaery.
She also comes across her cousin, Lancel (Eugene Simon), who got a haircut and joined a religious cult since we last saw him. Cersei previously had sex with Lancel and convinced him to poison her late husband, the king, Robert Baratheon (Robert Addy) in Season 1. Cersei, of course, denies everything when Lancel brings it up to her.
Elsewhere, Ser Loras is having naked time with male prostitute, Olyvar. His sister, Margaery, bursts in and doesn’t bat an eyelash. Now that Tywin is dead, Loras probably won’t have to marry Cersei anymore. Is this a good or a bad thing? Yet to be seen.
Across the Narrow Sea, in Pentos, Tyrion is uncrated by Lord Varys, the eunuch who smuggled him out of prison. Tyrion is notably pissed, uncomfortable, and grouchy. He vomits and laments about his life. Varys, however, has other plans and pulls Tyrion into a scheme to go meet Daenerys Targaryen and perhaps install her on the Iron Throne of Westeros. Very interesting indeed. Tyrion and Dany teaming up would be beautiful.
Speaking of Daenerys, she is making changes in the former slave city of Mereen. She rules hard with her army of Unsullied. Crumbling down former statues of old gods and spending naked time with her man, Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman). He tells her of his rise to power and comments that “A dragon queen with no dragons is not a queen.” This prompts Dany to visit her two dragons, Rhaegal and Viserion, in the vault she chained them in. They are not happy with her and basically try and roast her alive. She is scared and worried. She also gets a visit from advisor Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry), who tries to tell her to open up the fighting pits to appease the city. She refuses. This also comes after one of her castrated soldiers, White Rat, is murdered in a brothel by a group called the Sons of the Harpy. They are against her rule and continually try to undermine her.
Back in Westeros, outside of the Eyrie, Sansa Stark, disguised as Alayne, sits with Petyr Baelish, watching her wimpy cousin, Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli), try and fight. Apparently, Sansa and Petyr are headed for the road, leaving Robin behind at a local lord’s house, and heading towards who knows where. They funnily enough pass by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), who were just arguing over the fact that they lost Arya and haven’t found Sansa. So close, yet so far.
Lastly, up at The Wall: Jon Snow teaches young Olly (Brenock O’Connor) how to fight. I guess he forgives him for shooting an arrow through Ygritte’s heart last season. They are interrupted by Melisandre (Carice van Houten), looking all mysterious and sex-starved. She takes Jon to see King Stannis and his hand, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham). Along the way, she eyes Jon and asks if he is a virgin. Nice to meet you too! Stannis tells Jon he wants Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds), leader of the recently captured Wildings, to bend the knee to him. Because then he’ll take the Wildings as soldiers and storm Winterfell to take it back from House Bolton (the House that betrayed/killed Jon’s half-brother). Jon is given the task to convince Mance.
Jon tries to convince Mance, but he is a hard man and refuses. So, Stannis and Melisandre are going to burn him to death, in front of everyone. Yay! Everyone watches as Mance struggles and burns. Jon can take no more and mercy kills Mance with an arrow to the heart. Always the good guy, Jon! Certainly gonna piss off Stannis now. Also, this is different from the book. But the show is something different!
We end on that sad, depressing note. Mance was often a polarizing, if not often seen character on the show. He went out with his honor and his pride. But the season is just getting started. We didn’t even get a chance to go to Dorne or see what Arya is up to. I am ready for great things though. The season is taking off at whiplash speed and we are all going to be left in it’s wake.
What did you guys think of the episode? Who else is waiting for the day Tyrion hopefully meets Daenerys! Let me know in the comments below!
New episodes of Game of Thrones air on Sunday at 9/8c on HBO.