‘The future is shit, just like the past’ says our favourite imp before throwing up his wine all over his host’s lovely outdoor patio. So begins Season 5 of Game of Thrones. And yes, the world has gone to shit, but that’s a pretty constant state in Westeros. With Tywin dead, there is absolutely no political stability in the seven kingdoms. I mean, when Stannis has the most power in the kingdoms, then you know things have gone sour. But there’s still hope. After all, Tyrion takes another swig. Death by wine is a long, slow process and before he dies he may be able to influence a changing of the tides.
Segue to Daenerys (or ‘blonde lady’ according to Mum). Now for a lady who claims not to be a politician she certainly spent a lot of time last season dealing with menial political matters that could surely be handled by Barristan. There is more of that this season. Now I understand the reasoning behind seeing all this petty politicking; we’re seeing Daenerys’ rule and ethics being challenged. We’re seeing whether ruling based on morality is pragmatic in a practical context. Should she be the queen or does a more effective leader compromise and do what has to be done, regardless of morality. I understand the need to test her resolve and question her leadership but my God, she didn’t do anything of interest last year. I don’t expect her to ride around on her dragon smiting anyone who looks at her funny, but I’m tired of seeing her sitting on a throne fielding enquiries from the townspeople.
This is why I was unreasonably excited when the unsullied’s throat was slit by an extra from the Eye’s Wide Shut orgy. It may not lead to anything but at least the show was pretending to build upon what happened last year rather than remain static.
The effects of Tywin’s death cast a grand pall over the King’s Landing scenes, not only from a story point of view, but with Tywin, Tyrion, Varys, Sansa and Baelish gone – and no Olenna in this episode – there is almost no one interesting left in King’s Landing. KL used to be the one place we could cross to and it would never be dull – the sun would be shining, the residents would be scheming, throw in a glitzy wedding or two and it’s a party. Now all we’re left with is funerals, the shell of Cersai and creepy barefoot Lannisters.
Thank god for Margaery who alone is managing to keep the intrigue afloat (and deliver the sass). Our Margy is always cunning but rarely sinister. However there was something in her ‘perhaps’ response to Loras that indicated that she still has a few dirty tricks up her sleeve.
As I hinted at above, one of the longest running thematic concerns for the show is ‘what makes a good leader’. Baelish believes it’s trusting no one and punishing trangressors, Stannis believes in brute force (and the occasional demon ghost baby who solely exists to ensure Westeros never has a queer King), while Brienne and Pod know only that they are not made to be leaders. This question of what makes a good leader is front and centre in the episode’s best scene when Jon Snow and Mance Rayder discuss the latter’s fate. There’s a fantastic tension surrounding his fate: not because we expect Mance to kneel, we know him well enough to know that he wouldn’t, but because we as an audience want him to. Perhaps that is what makes a good leader. The good ones are not the ones to outwit and outlast, they are the one that live short lives (RIP Eddard Stark) because they never compromise, not even in the face of certain death.
Jon knows that Mance would never kneel and Jon knows that an honourable man like Mance shouldn’t kneel, but he tries to talk him out of it all the same because Jon believes that he is a fine leader who should be kept around. But if he compromises is he still a fine leader? It’s a deftly written scene and that both Ciaran hinds and Kit Harington underplay beautifully.
Game of Thrones season openers are rarely barnstormers and ‘The Wars to Come’ is no exception. But while it failed to excite me greatly about the season ahead, it provided enough clues to indicate that this will be a season of great change. I just hope it doesn’t take until midway through the the season for that change to come. But as ever, Game of Thrones is all about the long game and I will be there until I die from alcohol poisoning.
- Cersai flashback: This was a very strange time to try to deepen Cersai’s character, but I’m curious to see more of little Cersai. Adult Cersai has been very one-note ever since Joffrey died and I hope she grows this season #askingformiracles.
- Quick check in with one of my favourite pairings: Brienne and Pod. But all we worked out is that they have no real idea what either of them are doing anymore.
- ‘I never said you were perfect’. Biggest laugh line of the night courtesy of Varys.
- Lots of man buns in this episode. By which I mean arses, not the hideous hairstyle.
- Ciaran Hinds has done some great work developing Mance with such little screen time. This was a fitting exit for him.
Overall Rating: 7 crate holes for imp shit out of 10