Game of Thrones is back, people. Season 5's opener is all about kings, queens, and everything in betweens.
Here's the drill. This recap will (obviously) cover spoilers through Season 4 of [Game of Thrones](movie:817617) and this episode. Don't read this until you've watched the episode for yourself.
I have read the books, but I won't be sharing ANY book spoilers here unless they're tagged (in which you case, you have to click to unveil them in case you're that curious. None of them will be that major).
Let's get started!
Outside Casterly Rock
I love how Season 5 opens with two elements the show has never done before. First, we experience a flashback, which is unheard of for the show. Second, the setting is near Casterly Rock, home to the Lannisters.
Young Cersei (who looks remarkably like Joffrey! Well done, casting crew) is sneaking in the woods with a friend who...(minor book spoiler)
...is presumably dead in the books. She's not important, though. She just wanted to marry Jaime but died instead.
Cersei is searching for a witch named Maggy, who can predict the future. It should surprise no one that Cersei was as intolerable as a child as she is now, and the witch sort of adds to this by telling Cersei something that makes her behavior over the last few seasons make way more sense.
Basically, the witch tells her that she'll become queen, but only until a younger, more beautiful queen "casts her down" (that's a harsher word than "take over" or "replace her") and takes away everything she holds dear. Are you starting to realize why Cersei is so paranoid over Margaery?
The worst part is that Cersei has good reason to believe Maggy, since her other bizarre prediction about Robert having 20 children while Cersei having three played out exactly as foretold.
Weirdly, the show left out a HUGE part of the prediction from the books, which informs even more of Cersei's behavior. Warning, this is a bigger spoiler than the last one...(medium book spoiler)
The witch tells Cersei that she'll be strangled to death by a volanqar. This is valyrian for "little brother," though it's never specified whose little brother Maggy is referring to. It could be Jaime, Tommen, or even Edmure Tully for all we know. Cersei is convinced it's Tyrion.
I quickly want to point out that it's very telling that show is starting Season 5 with a flashback and a new location (sort of). They're setting a tone for this season that screams "familiar, but totally new stuff is happening."
Tywin Lannister is dead, which means everyone is in town to make sure he's really gone (according to Jaime, and I believe him). The scene opens with Cersei being escorted by Ser Meryn Trant to the sept, where Tywin's body rests.
We see Margaery there with her handmaidens, and my head canon is that the girl to her right is actually Mira Forrester, a playable character (and Margaery's handmaiden) in the excellent Telltale game for the show.
After blowing off the High Septon, Cersei enters the sept to be with Jaime alone. I know. These two being alone near a dead body is usually the prelude to something incredibly disturbing, but instead, the siblings just fight. Pretty normal.
Jaime is worried about their enemies taking power away from the Lannisters (just like his father). Cersei is preoccupied with finding Tyrion and making Jaime feel guilty for letting him go (also like Tywin).
I'm honestly curious how the show will portray Jaime and Cersei's relationship going forward. In ended on a pretty high note last season (as high as incest can go, I suppose) when Cersei resolved to make their love public, even admitting it to Tywin. Now, she couldn't care less about a kingsguard who couldn't protect his own father.
Later in the episode, the mourners join to pay their respects to Tywin. Oddly, Loras Tyrell goes on an epic speech about how much respect he had for the lion. It seemed genuine, which is believable since Tywin Lannister is such an iconic figure in Westeros. But Loras may have also harbored respect for Tywin due to his allegiance with the Tyrells to avenge Renly Baratheon's death by foiling Stannis Baratheon at Battle of Blackwater.
Things get pretty weird (and certainly off-book) when Lancel Lannister shows up looking like he took a long, long nap. Guy looks well-rested and clean-shaven. Kevan Lannister (Tywin's brother and Lancel's father) is also there, which is a great thing. I was worried the show wouldn't give him the role he deserves in this story.
Weirdly, Lancel pretty much confesses all of his crimes to the one person who knows them already. When she denies them like a normal psychopath would, he just spouts his newfound beliefs. If I were Cersei, I'd be plotting. Really, I'd always be plotting, forever.
And that's it for the Lannister side of King's Landing. The last scene the show covers actually corners the Tyrells, which makes me pretty glad. We never get in their heads during the books, so it's good fun to know more about what makes Margaery and Loras tick.
In this case, Olyvar is certainly finding out what makes Loras tick. In case you forgot, Olyvar took over Littlefinger's brothel back in Season 3. He also served as an informant for Littlefinger. He manipulated Loras into telling him about his arranged marriage with Sansa, which gave Littlefinger enough time to foil it and get Tywin to marry Sansa off to Tyrion.
Weirdly, Loras either doesn't know Olyvar did all this, or he doesn't care. Because they seem to be having more than just a fling at this point. Margaery barges in and complains there's nothing in the fridge. Siblings, am I right?
Seriously, though, she just wants food. They have an illuminating conversation, especially when it comes to how Margaery wants to deal with Cersei now having no reason to follow through with her marriage to Loras. That of course means Margaery has to keep treading water around the most psychotic woman in Westeros. Her mother-in-law.
It's hard to spoil anything Tyrion-related, since the show is deviating quite a bit from the books. To the point, where I'm pretty sure they're willing to do anything to shake things up a bit for the guy.
Tyrion is fresh off the boat and in Pentos, which isn't a new location. Way back in Season 1, this is where we first saw Daenerys and Viserys being housed by Illyrio.
This time, Illyrio is nowhere to be found. His role in the books has been replaced by Varys, who....(very minor book spoiler)
...disappears for almost all of the last book. We don't know where he is for the most part.
Tyrion and Varys exchange pleasantries (if that's what you want to call it) and pretty much spend their time in this episode discussing what to do next. There's a subtle undercurrent of what's dominating Tyrion's new, darker personality.
Namely, he seems to hate his name. Killing his father means he can't be called a "lord" anymore, and being on the run makes his identity dangerous. Varys calls him several names, regardless.
But in the end, Varys tells him he's no coward. Which is nicely complemented by my favorite line of dialogue from this episode:
Varys finally elaborates more on what he "wants" when explaining why he helped Tyrion. Every time someone asks him, he simply says "what's best for the realm." Now, he's telling Tyrion he wants what is best for the seven kingdoms, and he's held on to Tyrion because he believes the dwarf is the key to a bigger scheme.
We also learn that Varys has been working with Illyrio and other Targaryen sympathizers. I have several spoilery theories for who those people are, but it's all pure speculation, even if you have read the books.
Going into this episode, I was also very curious why Varys considers Tyrion an important instrument in his plan to restore the seven kingdoms. He explains it pretty logically here, claiming that Tyrion has the instincts of his father combined with compassion.
Really, that combination is what makes many of us GoT fans so enamored with Tyrion's character, which is certainly suffering right now from recent events.
The real plan, of course, is for Varys and Tyrion to travel to Mereen, where they can help Daenerys reclaim the Iron Throne. I can't stress enough that this is way, way off-book. And I'm loving it.
Dany has been in Mereen for nearly a full season, and to no one's surprise, everything there still sucks. And now, fittingly, a faction of murderous traditionalists called the Sons of the Harpy are causing trouble.
Not even Unsullied looking to cuddle are safe! Those monsters.
First, though, I should point out the symbolism in how the pyramid's top was toppled, only to be followed by an Unsullied named White Rat getting his throat cut during his smoke break.
The pyramid in general symbolizes Dany's determination to make this place her own (with dragons underneath it!) She wants to make her rule, and the effects of her rule, in Mereen permanent. But nothing she does seems to work. Like at all.
A maybe-important-later slave named Mossador joins Dany and the queensquard gang (we miss you Jorah), who are deliberating just what to do about the Harpy. As usual, Dany ignores everything everyone tells her.
There was another weird moment between Grey Worm and Missandei, whose budding romance started up not too long back in Season 4. After seeing what the Unsullied was doing with his cuddle buddy, however, I don't think the show is trying to say that Grey Worm wants the same thing with Missandei.
Especially since he can't seem to come up with a reason for why White Rat would go to the brothel. It doesn't register.
Later, we see Daenerys appraoched yet again by Hizdar zo Loraq. I prefer how the books handle this whole deal, but basically: Hizdar wants to reopen the fighting pits, but Daenerys does the opposite of anything you tell her. It would be easy to hack the system if people realized this.
Hizdar argues that slaves want to fight in the pits (gladiator style) as free men. And the people want it because it's tradition. But, you guessed it, Dany hates their traditions. Have you seen the pyramid, Loraq?
Without missing a beat, the scene cuts to Dany in bed with Daario Naharis, who actually takes Hizdar's side in the dilemma. This is funny since...(major book spoiler)
...Daario will eventually hate Hizdar with a passion, and for good reason.
Daario is fond of the fighting pits because they earned him his freedom and prowess in combat. Keep in mind that fighters in the pit are masters of many styles of combat in the GoT world.
It's been a while since Dany checked in with her dragons. She says Drogon (the big awesome one) has been missing for weeks, while Rhaegal and Viserion have been chained up under the pyramid for quite some time.
So...Dany decides to check in on them.
Not too much is happening outside the Eyrie, aside from Robin finally getting a sword put in his hand.
Lord Royce, the master-at-arms, is teaching Robin how to fight while Littlefinger and Sansa (still masquerading as Alayne to some) venture off on their own.
This isn't a big spoiler, since it's revealed in the trailer, but I'll still "hide" where they're obviously going:
They note Robin's age as 13 in this episode, which means at least 4 years have passed since Episode 1 of the first season. It wasn't until many months into Season 1 that we met Robin, who was 10 at the time. Combine the change from both years, and you're at around 4 years, which means it's also been over 20 years since Robert's Rebellion.
Sansa and Littlefinger's paths ironically pass Brienne and Podrick by. Brienne has clearly healed from her fight with the Hound, who is still presumed dead.
But now she wants to separate from Pod, claiming he'll be fine since no one knows what he looks like. Remember, he can't go back to King's Landing since he was Tyrion's squire and refused to sell him out.
I didn't like these scenes at all, to be honest. I get why Brienne is suddenly so agitated and unlikable. She failed in her mission to secure Arya, right when she was at her fingertips. But if I were here, I'd keep all the friends I can at a time like this.
Ah, the Wall. So, what's been going on since Stannis showed up with an army and captured Mance Rayder? Clearly, not much yet.
Jon Snow is training a slightly grown Olly with the sword. Keep in mind that this is the same kid who killed Ygritte (Jon's lover) just two episodes ago. Though in the kid's defense, she did murder his family.
Sam is getting pretty braggy about killing one Thenn during that last battle (wait, how much time has passed?) along with a whitewalker. Whatever, Sam, you haven't killed a wight.
He brings up that Alliser Thorne (AKA the person at the wall GRRM makes sure we hate at all times) is running against Denys Mallister for Lord Commander. This has been a long time coming since Lord Commander Mormont was murdered all the way back in Season 3. They've been busy.
Melisandre greets Jon Snow and escorts him up the wall to see Stannis and Davos. Of course, she does her usually weird creepiness routine, first by proving her blood is warm and then by asking Jon if he's a virgin. Everything's on the up and up.
Why would is it a good thing that he's been with a woman? Why didn't she know this from the flames? Why does everything she say have to be riddled with subtext? These are questions I don't expect answered until Season 10.
Interestingly, she introduces Jon to Stannis as "The bastard of Winterfell." I bet that's supposed to be important and strategic. Jon, Stannis, and Davos discuss several things they already know, including Roose Bolton's taking of Winterfell.
Last season, it was implied that the Boltons (along with Reek) were headed there. Now Stannis has to lead a deadly campaign for the north, and he doesn't have the men. So, why not wildlings?
The problem, of course, is Mance Rayder. Stannis claims he wants Rayder to bend the knee, and he event expects Jon to try and convince him. Personally, I think Stannis knew all along that Mance wouldn't do it. And it's good for Stannis to have him out of the way. There's only room for one leader, and they choose strength over titles.
So Jon tries to convince Mance that he needs to bend the knee to Stannis because that will save his people. But does even Jon believe that's what is really going on here? Mance clearly understands that Stannis will use the wildlings no matter what he does, so he'd rather have their respect than be a prisoner.
The episode ends with Mance being set to the flame in typical Lord of Light fashion. But Jon kills him before the flames do by shooting him with an arrow.
Some might think this is an example of Jon's compassion and mercy, but I think it's something different. Mance was once a crow, and he should be executed by the Warden of the North. To Jon, there is no true Warden now that Ned and Robb Stark are dead. That means it's up to him to kill a brother who broke his vows, not Stannis.
I enjoyed this episode, but it felt a bit short. It got a lot of things going, but I'm not feeling the anticipation yet. I'm sure that will change as everything escalates over the next few episodes.
Hope you enjoyed this recap! We'll see you back here next week, and remember...