Game of Thrones 5×1 Review: The Wars to Come
It’s finally that time – Game of Thrones is back on the air! And the opening credits of “The Wars to Come” certainly brought up a few interesting things: the Eyrie was featured, Winterfell is no longer burning, and Pentos was back.
These definitely shed quite a bit of light on what was to come in the episode; even if you haven’t read the books, I think it was pretty easy – for anyone who has seen the season five trailers, at least – to put two and two together.
However, I must say that I was surprised when “The Wars to Come” opened with a long-awaited flashback – specifically, a very young Cersei visiting a witch and hearing about her future. It was almost disconcerting how amusing bratty young Cersei was, and it certainly made me wonder whether she was displaying courage…or merely pride.
The Cersei flashback faded into Cersei’s present as she approached the sept to visit Tywin’s body, and this was the first of many well-executed transitions in “The Wars to Come”. The scene between her and Jaime just reiterated Cersei’s attitude from the flashback, but after what happened over Joffrey’s body in season four, I can’t help but feel that said attitude is more than a little bit deserved. And she’s right about a few things, too – Jaime acts without thinking, and he was the only child Tywin really expected anything from. Lena Headey does a great job of portraying Cersei’s sane moments, but she hasn’t yet had a chance to do justice to the truly crazy ones. Hopefully she will at some point this season, no?
The show pretty quickly introduced the Varys and Tyrion storyline after that. Despite being different from the story I know via the books, it’s one of those changes that I completely understand. Keeping Varys and Tyrion together makes sense – both in terms of character stories and because it’s simply entertaining. Varys actually sounded earnest when he told Tyrion, “Westeros needs to be saved from itself” – and Tyrion’s response that “The future is shit, just like the past” was pretty much perfect.
Meanwhile in Meereen, the fall of the harpy seemed a bit anticlimactic, but I was surprised when from there they jumped right into the Unsullied laying with whores (for comfort alone)…and losing their lives in the process (at least sometimes). That was a pretty heart-wrenching moment, and later, when Missandei asked Grey Worm about it, I think the writers threw away the perfect chance to explain why the Unsullied would be laying with whores.
On the other hand, the writers are being pretty straightforward about what’s going on up at The Wall – which is actually kind of refreshing compared to the constant scheming and plotting happening everywhere else on this show. Alliser is still a jerk, Sam and Gilly are still sweet, and I definitely got a bit of a chuckle when Melisandre asked Jon Snow if he was a virgin. It was also great that Stannis got right down to business in regards to admitting that he wanted Mance to bend the knee and the wildlings to help him take back the North – but it also seemed that they were rushing things when Stannis only gave Jon until nightfall to convince Mance to capitulate.
Unfortunately, not all of this episode was graced with fitting transitions. There was quite a bit of jumping back and forth, and while I understand what they were trying to do by showing Sansa and Littlefinger leaving Sweetrobin with Lord Royce, followed by Pod and Brienne, and then Sansa and Littlefinger again…it was more frustrating than anything. I found it difficult to watch them just leave Robin after bringing the actor/character back last season, and then Brienne’s attitude toward Podrick was frustrating to say the least. On top of that, seeing that once again Brienne was so close to a Stark girl was such a tease – and not in a good way. We already experienced this once last season!
Speaking of things we’ve already experienced that I never want to see again, I’m still not happy at how easily Loras has apparently forgotten Renly. Everything about that scene overshadowed Loras trying to talk to Cersei about Tywin’s death, Kevan’s appearance, and the fact that Lancel is now a “Sparrow”…at least for me. However, Margaery interrupting her brother like it was no big deal was at least amusing…and when Loras mentioned that Margaery was stuck with Cersei as her mother-in-law, and Margaery’s response was merely, “Perhaps”, I certainly got some chills.
From there the episode jumped back to Varys and Tyrion, and most of this scene had already been aired in the season five trailers. Thankfully there was an easy segue into Meereen, though again that story line felt rushed. They are already arguing to reopen the fighting pits, and although Dany refused, it seems pretty obvious to me that she’s fighting a losing battle – especially as she has lost Drogon and can’t control Viserion and Rhaegal.
I do think that going from Meereen to the Wall was a bit jarring. I’d almost expected that the show would drag out Jon having to convince Mance to bend the knee, but clearly that wasn’t the case – they jumped right into burning Mance alive, and I was definitely relieved when Jon shot him rather than watch him suffer.
Overall, I was a bit underwhelmed by “The Wars to Come”. It seemed more like a second episode than a premiere, but I’m hoping that they were just using it to move pieces into place for what will hopefully be a more lively second episode.
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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