The new season begins with an episode laying ground for the rest of the season. The showrunners give us an overlay of where every character is. As plotlines that had remained distinct of each other begin to collide, the first episode sets pace for the rest of the season.
While the series has usually relied on dialogues to make revelations from the past, with this episode the show uses flashback for the first time. We see Cersei, as a young girl, wander into the woods with her friend to meet with a witch. As she demands to know her future, the witch’s prediction that she will be queen only ‘for a time’ explains where Cersei’s insecurities stem from. It also explains why she keeps a close watch on Margaery Tyrell.
However, from what seems to brewing in Pentos and Mereen, the ‘younger and more beautiful’ queen Cersei needs to watch out for could very well be Danaerys.
In Mereen, change is afoot and so is rebellion. As Danaerys seeks to establish rule over Slavers Bay, one of the soldiers from her army of Unsullied is murdered by men in gold masks, the Sons of Harpy. Last season saw Danaerys banish her counsel Ser Jorah Mormont. As she navigates the politics of ruling a kingdom, her one piece of advice comes from Daario Naharis (their dalliance continues), who urges Danaerys to bring her dragons out into the open again. While Drogon remains missing, Rhaegal and Viserion have been chained in the catacombs. Not surprisingly, they are are less than happy to see her and remain out of Danaerys’ control.
In Pentos, having escaped from Westeros, Varys and Tyrion finally reach their first stop. Disillusioned by his father’s betrayal and rejection, his trial and the murder of his father and his lover at his hands, Tyrion is happy to drink himself to death. Except, Vayrs ‘the spider’ has other plans. In past episodes, Varys has mentioned that his schemes and intrigues are all in service of the realm. Now he persuades Tyrion to join the “Targaryen restoration”, a plan meant to save Westeros by having the Iron Throne occupied by a just ruler. The house they are staying just happens to belong to Illyrio Mopatis. We last saw Illyrio in season 1 when he harboured the Targaryens for a year and arranged for Danaerys to marry Khal Drogo. It would seem that the ‘restoration’ has been a long time in the making. It would be interesting to know who else is part of the plan and whether they all share Varys’ concern for the realm.
Nevertheless, with Danaerys in a precarious position with her rule and her dragons, a meeting with Tyrion and Varys could open up possibilities for her.
In King’s Landing, with the death of Tywin Lannister the Iron Throne becomes vulnerable once again. After getting back together at the end of season 4, incestous twins Cersie and Jaime are at odds again, with death of their father and with Jaime having been the one to have set Tyrion free. The Lannister twins spare us another rape-y scene in the sept. But, another concern for Cersei pops up in the form of cousin Lancel. Lancel who, among other things, aided Cersei in the death of the King Robert Baratheon, has now joined the religious order of the Sparrows. Lancel’s transformed countenance and his mention of the conspiracy in the death of Robert Baratheon, seems to forebode the rise of the religious order in the political landscape of Westeros.
At the Wall, with his win in the Battle of Castle Black, Stannis wants to enlist the wildlings to fight for him and take control of Winterfell. For this, the king of the wildlings, Mance Rayder, must bend the knee. Stannis and Melisandre enlist Jon Snow to convince Mance to pledge allegiance to him. Mance’s refusal to comply gives us the first death of the season. The conversation between Jon and Stannis reveals Jon’s sympathies for the wildlings. Having been outcast himself and been in love with a wildling, this is expected. Jon doesn’t manage to convince Mance, but he does manage cut short his slow and painful death burning at the stake. The action may put Jon in a position to lead the wildlings. But, lead them where?
Meanwhile, with Arya refusing her protection, Brienne is despondent and without a cause to fight for. She, however, looks likely to cross paths with Sansa soon as they are both near the Eyrie. Sansa has taken a turn for the dark quite literally, with a dark wardrobe and even darker hair. As she embarks on a journey with Petyr ‘The Littlefinger’ Baelish to place where ‘even-Cersei-can’t-reach-her’, Sansa is far from the scared and meek young girl we have come to know. With Baelish by her side, Sansa seems to be on the road learning the ways of politics and weaving her own webs of intrigue.
Even as the episode rounds up characters and where they are, we don’t see anything of the Boltons and Theon Greyjoy who have taken up residence in Winterfell nor do we hear any news of the Twin Towers or the Iron Islands.
But it is the absence of Arya Stark that is most conspicuous. When we last saw her, Arya has procured a passage to Braavos. (Valar Morghulis!) Hopefully, the second episode will tell us where her journey has taken her.
While Season 4 ended with introducing us to the Children of the Forest and Bran Stark finally meeting three-eyed Raven, this season will see no progress to that particular plotline.
But what Season 5 will sorely miss is the presence of Tywin Lannister. Tywin and Mance were two characters with the ability to carry out actions that could affect the future of Westeros in a decisive manner. Without them, the ‘game’ opens up to the smaller players. This should make for an interesting season and, of course, lots of bloodshed.