WARNING: BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD
I'm totally one of those nerds who always pays attention to the opening sequence. I love to notice the little changes, and I find the entire thing beautiful anyway. This week, the opening sequence featured King's Landing, the Eyrie, Winterfell (was it my imagination, or did it look less damaged than usual?), The Wall, Pentos, and Meereen.
In The Past
The episode begins with the long-awaited flashback to Cersei's childhood trip to visit Maggy the Frog, a fortune teller in Lannisport. Cersei and an unnamed friend (in the book, she went with two friends, Jeyne Farman and Melara Hetherspoon, though Jeyne had run away frightened pretty much immediately, so I'm assuming the friend is supposed to be Melara) are tromping through the woods on the way to Maggy's hut. Upon entering, Cersei is displeased to find that Maggy is not as terrifying-looking as she had heard. Maggy doesn't want to tell her fortune, but Cersei, bratty as ever, threatens to have her eyes gouged out if she doesn't do it. Maggy says she needs a taste of Cersei's blood, so Cersei cuts her thumb and Maggy sucks the blood from it (which was a little weird, mostly because it just seemed oversexualized). Maggy agrees that Cersei can ask three questions.
Believing she is betrothed to Prince Rhaegar, she asks when she will marry the prince. Maggy tells her that she won't wed a prince, but will wed a king. She then asks if she will be queen, and Maggy notes that she will, but that one day a younger, more beautiful queen will replace her. Finally, she asks if she and the king will have children. Maggy tells her they will not, but the king will have twenty and she will have three (which Cersei finds extremely confusing); her children will have gold crowns and gold shrouds.
The flashback pretty much ends there, and that was a little disappointing to me. It is possible that I just missed it, but I did not hear any mention of the valonqar. Additionally, in the books, Melara wants her fortune told as well; Maggy prophesies that Melara will die that night, and she ends up falling down a well (a widely believed theory is that Cersei pushed her). Obviously they can't leave in every single detail of the books (though I wish they could), but I was a little bummed that they left it out.
In King's Landing
Once Cersei stops daydreaming about meeting Maggy, we see that she is in a carriage on her way to the sept for Tywin's funeral. The stairs to the sept are lined with people, including Margaery, who Cersei eyes disdainfully. Cersei insists on time alone with the body before the public comes in. Jaime is already in the sept, guarding Tywin's body. Speaking of Tywin's body, something terrifying is going on with his eyes -- either they've been propped open crazily, or they've been painted onto his eyelids (in a slightly unnatural shade of green). It's all just very odd looking. Jaime is concerned that with Tywin dead, the Lannisters' enemies will come after them. Cersei is just annoyed with Jaime and his long-held affection for Tyrion, who is even higher on Cersei's shit list than Margaery at this point.
Later at the Red Keep, Cersei barely recognizes her cousin Lancel, who has come to give her his condolences. Kevan apologizes for Lancel's appearance; his shorn hair and simple robe mark him as a member of The Sparrows, a fanatic religious group. Lancel later finds Cersei alone and asks for her forgiveness for having led her into darkness through their incestuous relationship and for helping her to kill Robert; she pretends she doesn't know what he's talking about. He tells her he's found peace in the Seven, and that he'll pray for Tywin's soul, which Cersei finds laughable. All I could think was that Tywin was such a raging douchecanoe that having a little extra prayer for his soul certainly couldn't hurt anything.
Later that evening, Loras is in bed with Olyver the prostitute, who remarks that Loras's scar looks like Dorne (because nothing gets you in the mood quite like a geography lesson, am I right?). Margaery comes in like it's no big deal and tells Olyver to scram. She implores Loras to be more discreet, but he insists that there's no need since everyone in King's Landing knows everything about everyone else. Margaery reminds him that he can't keep his intended waiting, but Loras says that with Tywin dead, there's no one to force her to marry him, so he can go home to Highgarden while Margaery will be stuck in King's Landing with Cersei. Margaery seems to have another plan in mind (devious Margaery is by far the best Margaery).
Tyrion has had to complete the journey to Pentos in a crate, much to his chagrin; Varys gives zero craps. Varys informs him that they are at the home of his old friend Illyrio Mopatis (aka the guy who gave Dany the dragon eggs), who he met back when they were part of a group to get the Targaryens back on the throne. Tyrion wants nothing to do with Westeros. Vomit happens.
Tyrion has decided to drink himself to death, which annoys Varys to no end since he thinks that with his political savvy and compassion, Tyrion has a part to play in the future of Westeros. He explains that he wants Tyrion to come to Meereen with him to meet Daenerys. Varys and Tyrion are very sarcastic and quippy with one another; I wonder if they're being set up to be this season's Arya and The Hound.
The Harpy is removed from the top of the pyramid, and it looks pretty cool coming down (also, it's a lot bigger than it seemed at the top of the pyramid). An Unsullied goes to a prostitute to cuddle, which apparently happens often; she gets him relaxed enough to close his eyes by rubbing his head and humming a song, and a masked Son of the Harpy slits his throat.
Dany is distressed to hear the news, but decides to risk the further anger of The Sons of The Harpy by telling Grey Worm to have the him buried with honor at the Temple of the Graces. Missandei asks Grey Worm why the Unsullied would go to a brothel (which I find slightly ridiculous -- Missandei is a smart girl, and it's not a stretch to think that a man might want to feel comfort even if he doesn't have balls); the question upsets him, so he says he doesn't know the answer and leaves.
When Hizdahr and Daario return from Yunkai, Hizdahr says that Yunkai wants to reopen the fighting pits, which Daenerys refuses since she finds it barbaric. That night after a romp in the hay, Daario tells her that he thinks she should reopen the fighting pits, as they made him the man he is now. We also get to learn a little about Daario's backstory: his prostitute mother sold him when he was a child in order to buy booze, and that's how he ended up in the pits. He tells her that he is the only one who is fully honest with her because everyone else fears the repercussions of angering her, and that he thinks she needs to use the dragons to make a power play. Dany is afraid she can't control them, but he makes her feel crappy by asking what a dragon queen without dragons is. She goes to Rhaegal and Viserion, but when she calls their names, they get upset, breathe fire, and snap at her. Frightened, she runs out. But really, can you blame them? Their mother locked them away alone in a dark room and stopped coming to see them. It would be weird if they didn't react angrily.
In The Vale
Littlefinger is leaving Sweetrobin, who is abysmal at swordplay, in the care of Lord Royce, supposedly to head toward the Fingers with Sansa. Nearby, Pod is trying to help Brienne plot their next move, but disheartened after Arya spurned her protection, Brienne no longer wants to continue and doesn't care what Pod does. She has given up hope of finding Sansa, who is actually in the carriage that passes them. Sansa asks Littlefinger where they're going, since they're heading west, which is NOT the direction the Fingers are in, and he says he's taking her somewhere Cersei can't get her. Littlefinger is a creep, but I still can't help but find him attractive.
At The Wall
Sam tries to impress Gilly, who is worried that Ser Alliser will become Lord Commander and send the Wildlings away. He tells her where she goes, he goes (AWWWWW!), but she reminds him that if he leaves, he'll be executed. Melisandre comes to summon John on behalf of Stannis, and the shot of the elevator going up is really cool to look at. In the elevator, it is totally obvious that Jon doesn't trust Melisandre. Ever the gentleman, however, he asks if she is cold, so she has him feel how warm her skin is. Noticing his discomfort at touching her, she asks if she is a virgin (which is a wildly inappropriate question); she is overly pleased to learn that he is not. Stannis wants to go after Roose Bolton, and he wants the Wildlings to help him. He tries to guilt Jon into giving him the Wildlings by reminding him of how much he would love to avenge Robb's death. Davos notes that the men seem to feel that Jon cares about the Wildlings too much. When Jon tells Stannis that he won't have much luck getting the Wildlings to serve him, Stannis tells Jon that if he doesn't convince Mance Rayder to bend the knee by nightfall, Mance will be killed.
Jon goes in to see Mance, who already knows what Stannis wants. Mance has a lot of respect for Stannis, and thinks he'll probably be the best king in a century, but he won't serve him. Jon reminds him that he's spent his life uniting the Wildling clans for their own protection, and asks if their survival is worth more than his pride. Mance insists that they only follow him because they respect him, and they'll lose that respect if he bends the knee (and therefore won't follow his lead). He wants to know how they're going to die, and is visibly distressed at the thought of being burned alive; despite this, he thinks that a horrible death is still better than betraying his beliefs. Mance tells Jon that he's a "good lad", but if he doesn't understand why he doesn't want to drag his people into someone else's war, there's no point in explaining it.
Later that night, Mance is brought out in chains. Stannis promises Mercy if he bends the knee, but he won't. He wishes Stannis good luck in the wars to come. Mance is then shackled to the post on a pyre (Queen Selyse looks a little too happy about it, if you ask me), and Melisandre starts talking about choices and the fate of those that choose the darkness before lighting the pyre. As the flames grow higher, Mance and Tormund make eye contact. Jon storms off angrily. Gilly buries her head in Sam, which gives him a good excuse to test the limits of the Night's Watch-imposed friend zone. Shireen can't bring herself to watch; Tormund looks like he's about to cry. Before Mance can have his embarrassing, charred-and-screaming death, he is hit with an arrow in the heart, which we learn was loosed by Jon.
All in all, I thought this was a great season opener. It all moved really quickly, which I liked; it definitely didn't feel like an hour had passed. This season is going to diverge from the books a bit, and I am interested to see how it does. I'm also interested in seeing if and how some of the more prevalent fan theories play out this season. I feel really sorry for Brienne, and I hope she gets her groove back soon.