This will probably be a shorter review; the season openers are generally more for recapping and setting the scene than anything else. The much-anticipated fifth season begins with two young girls hiking through the woods in search of a woods-witch to divine their futures. It is obvious from their brief exchange that there is a distinct hierarchy between the two "friends" as one is reluctant and afraid while the alpha forces her onwards. Upon encountering the witch the alpha again ignores her friend's pleas and demands the prophet look into her future. Throughout the show dark magics such as these have required sacrifice, the greater the sacrifice the more potent the effect. Only a drop of blood is given so all the child gets are cryptic forewarnings and partial truths. The imperious little girl will one day become queen, before she is replaced by someone younger and more beautiful; she will have three children all of golden-crowns, while the king would have twenty. As the witch performs her stereotypical cackle the scene is revealed to be the first of the series' flashbacks and, surprising no one, the contemptuous little girl is Cersei Lannister.
The adult Cersei arrives at her father's funeral and still employs an air of casual indifference to all those she deems inferior (i.e. Everybody). The queen regent spends a few moments alone with Jaime and her father’s body, while the kingdom waits outside to "make sure he's really dead" Cersei and Jaime bicker over the circumstances of Tywin's death and Jaime's inadvertent hand in it. Despite Jaime insisting they have other enemies Cersei is intent on finding Tyrion, Cersei has never been quick to forgive, and Jaime helping Tyrion escape is a profound betrayal. Later, during the ceremony Cersei is bored with all the well-wishers and false friends, she grabs her obligatory glass of wine and exits the Sept, only to come across the newly reformed Lancel. I know most people don’t remember Lancel Lannister, he was pretty forgettable and looks completely different now, but he does still hold many of Cersei’s deepest secrets. Lancel’s new-found piety comes complete with dirty rags, a new hair cut, and a need to atone for the evil he took part in, namely sleeping with Cersei and conspiring to commit regicide with her… Even if Cersei laughs this off initially she knows how devastating these revelations could be, especially without her father’s protection.
In Pentos Tyrion and Varys discuss the handling of Tyrion’s fecal matter on their journey. This is probably the lowest we’ve seen Tyrion; even when he was taken as Catelyn’s prisoner and then locked away at the Eyrie he always seemed to have some sort of plan. When he was injured on the Blackwater and his father took credit for the victory and took over as hand Tyrion was mad. At this point Tyrion seems to have truly given up. Tyrion was accused of murdering his nephew, set free by the only family member who was on his side, Tyrion then killed the woman he loved for sleeping with his father, whom he also killed, and then ran away from a family and kingdom, which hated him but also gave his life the only modicum of meaning he had ever found… so you’ll forgive him if he needs a stiff drink once in a while. Later once Tyrion has recovered some of his strength Varys reveals his plans to Tyrion, there is no suitable ruler in the seven kingdoms and, he thinks, Daenerys is their only hope. While not a lot happens here this scene is just a taste of what’s to come, Varys and Tyrion is a winning combination and I can’t wait to see more from them.
Across about half of Essos the city of Meereen, under Daenerys’ control, is destroying all monuments to the Great Masters and their dominance. While the golden harpies are brought down and the common-folk celebrate, there is a secret group of loyalists plotting beneath the surface. One of the Unsullied is murdered in a brothel and a sinister group called the “Sons of the Harpy” claims responsibility. Dany makes arrangements to draw her enemy out, though this doesn’t really seem like much of a plan. While vestiges of Meereen’s past challenge her rule, a nobleman suggests a relic of Yunkai’s former empire be reinstated. The fighting pits would entertain the masses and this time the contests would be fought by volunteers rather than slaves, while Dany is initially against the proposition Daario sexes her into considering it. If Spartacus has taught us anything it’s that gladiator fights make for captivating TV.
At the wall Jon is interrupted during training and brought to Stannis, who outlines his plans and Jon’s role within them. Ever the tactician Stannis sees the virtue of turning the Wildling army to his cause; unfortunately his pride and honour require that Mance bend the knee first, so Jon is charged with bringing Mance Rayder to heel and enlisting the Wildlings into Stannis’ army. Mance is as woefully proud and stubborn as his captor and despite Jon’s best efforts Mance Rayder chooses martyrdom, by fire no less, a bad way to go. Mance is one of the regrettable victims of Game of Thrones’ character abundance and time limitations; his relationship with Jon was never fully fleshed out and that makes his death somewhat less effective. While we understand what he’s doing and the motivations behind that, it’s hard to care about losing him as much having spent so little time with him. At least Jon has the decency to put him out of his misery before being roasted alive.
A little disappointed with “The Wars to Come”, while it recapped and checked in with most characters nicely it was difficult to see it for anything more than that. Hopefully this episode is the pot warming up before it comes to a boil later in the season. Still plenty of interesting stuff, just not quite the calibre I was hoping for. We’ll catch up with Arya next episode and her story was the biggest question mark at the end of last season, lets hope next week’s “The House of Black and White” can deliver a more rewarding installment.