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Published on April 14th, 2015 | by Bean

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 1 “The Wars To Come”

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Welcome back Westeros for Game Of Thrones Season 5! It feels like every minute of the last ten months has been spent in suspended animation, awaiting your return…We left you in turmoil, with heroes, villains and everyone in between thrown to the four winds, but with a new resolution blossoming in the hearts of the Stark children, the Lannisters in disarray, the Baratheons taking the fight to the Wall and Daenerys floundering and missing a dragon across the narrow sea.

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Opening on a determined trudge through a murky forest, the smug surety of this child is a touch chilling. Oh, that’ll be young Cersei then. The way she exerts her will over those around her with bored promises of violence is already in evidence, but her demands are countered by the witches price; she looks unsettled as the filthy woman sucks her blood to tell her fortune.

To begin to comprehend in your formative years the fleeting nature of your dominance, the potential impermanence of your fair looks, to be told of your future children, “Gold will be there crowns, gold their shrouds”; these lessons Cersei took to her cold heart then and still lives by the paranoia born in her that day. I was left wondering, ‘What was her third question?’

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As the adult Cersei approaches Tywin’s funeral her demeanour is as imperious as ever. Now is the time to win over those she doesn’t trust, but she never learned how to even pretend to be gracious or how to truly play the game. Jaime shows an unusually accurate appraisal of their situation; that their tenuous link to power grows thinner with every moment, and his paranoia is backed up by the real likelihood that they have no powerful allies.

His account is instantly discarded; Cersei’s monomania regarding Tyrion remains her sole raison d’etre, and rather than heed her brother/lover’s warning, she blames him for their father’s death. Hardly one to accuse others of not understanding consequences, given the later semi-revelation of cousin Lancel’s part in Robert Baratheon’s downfall. There is little Jaime can say in his defence, but his choice was one of love.

Where that decision to free Tyrion has left the youngest Lannister is crawling out a fetid crate in the   courtyard of the merchant Illyrio Mopatis in Pentos.  And there is more shit-flinging to be had, though this time of the visceral kind; how long was their journey?! Tyrion cuts a pathetic, if not tragic, figure as he reaches for the bottle, barely cognisant at first of the extreme gesture Varys has made by renouncing his position in King’s Landing and playing his true hand as a backer for the Targaryen claim to the throne. The self-pitying old soak approach is perhaps to be expected after all he has experienced, but let us hope that Varys’ powers of persuasion can have an effect soon. Tyrion in his cups is an ill sight.

In Meereen, despite epic displays of power such as toppling the city’s golden winged effigy, Daenerys is failing to manifest the authority she wields. With so many titles, she must wear many hats, and it seems she is too busy with the politics to get to grips with her majesty. With The Sons of the Harpy (catchy band name?) assassinating her Unsullied soldiers, it falls to Daario Naharis to remind her she is the Mother of Dragons. Her choice to incarcerate Viserion and Rhaegal was necessary, but it appears she has made no progress finding Drogon and hasn’t visited her imprisoned children since. They are understandably pissed. And fiery.

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The Wall is now housing ‘King’ Stannis and his entourage; the Red Witch Melissandre wastes no time in getting touchy feely with Jon Snow, who is apparently put off by her enquiries as to his virginity or lack thereof. Stannis plans to take back the North, and wishes to employ the help of the WIldlings in his advance South. His plan to have Snow convince Mance Rayder to bend the knee is a smart move, but he once again shows his steely disposition by countering that Mance will burn if he doesn’t yield.

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At the Vale, Robin Arryn is proving himself a pitiful warrior, and his ‘great name’ may not be enough to make up for many failings as a young lord. We spend just enough time with Sansa and Littlefinger to see them pass by a sulking Brienne as they leave on their mysterious journey West. Lady Brienne continues to attempt to extricate herself from the honourable Poddrick’s gift of service, and were she not so glum she might have thought to investigate the passing company, but no, such meetings must be held off a little longer, and Sansa must make her way with the devil she knows. I hope and pray she has a plan.

Margaery Tyrell is playing her hand just as close to her chest, still seemingly courting young King Tommen, though her comment to brother Loris that ‘perhaps’ Cersei may yet become her mother-in-law from hell is impenetrable. Her long game is shrouded for now, but we can certainly count on her to be actively plotting, choosing her path, rather than allow herself to be buffeted this way and that. Loris considers himself free of the marriage to the Queen regent, but who know at this stage? I miss the firm hand of Diana Rigg’s feisty grandma Tyrell in proceedings, though her presence can be felt in the machinations of Margaery.

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There is much ‘perhaps’ in “The Wars To Come’’; as it peers into the land’s murky future, there is a distinct feeling that everything is up for grabs now that the old boys network is breaking down. Varys’ argument that Westeros requires a leader ‘stronger than Tommen but gentler than Stannis’ is well stated, and is a wise appeal to the sense of justice that remains the kernel of Tyrion’s spirit, regardless how tattered his recent actions have left his soul.

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And so the power forms in new circles, where it has been latent but growing for four seasons. Jon Snow proves his mettle and his heart at episode close, as Mance chooses to burn rather than bend. As Stannis stands by while his emissary (puppet-master) lights the bonfire under Rayder’s feet, and the assembled crowd look away or get their jollies, Jon takes action, sending the Wildling leader to his maker with swift mercy. If any one gesture could earn him the respect of his former compatriots, it was this, and it isn’t even cynically done. He is his father’s son, and as Stannis refuses to be the man who ‘serves the sentence and swings the sword’, Jon proves that compassion is a more honest and effective marshalling force than any amount of force and command ever can be.

Review by Nina Clark

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Bean

Director at Nina Clark Music / The Musical Walkabout at Nina Clark Music
Bean is the family nickname of Nina Clark, singer, songwriter and professional musician. Nina's many nerdly passions, aside from music, include Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and all things Whedon. (re. GoT, she has NOT read the books, so please be cool - no spoilers!)
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