TV Recap: Game of Thrones, ‘The Wars to Come’

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The Wars to Come Plot Summary:

With Tywin (Charles Dance) now laying dead in a sept, the Seven Kingdoms are at a crossroads. Varys (Conleth Hill) has brought Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) to Pentos on his mission to restore Targaryen rule, while Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is busy uniting her own region. At The Wall, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is getting his own army together, and hopes Jon Snow (Kit Harington) can help with their new “friends.” With other parties gearing up in the shadows, who will come out on top when the dust settles?

Photo Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO
Photo Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO

Westeros is back once again! It’s been nearly a year since Game of Thrones closed off another season, and the months in between were filled with a lot of news. Namely, that Season 5 will officially reach the end of the current books and George R.R. Martin will not finish Book 6 until maybe next year. Fans are now divided on their opinions of this show. The really dedicated book readers are upset, mainly because they refuse to have the show spoil what should be the original stories. People who only watch the show essentially couldn’t care less. As someone who’s now caught up on the books, I have no issue with the program jumping ahead. It still means that I get to explore Westeros every year. Plus, if “The Wars to Come” is any indication, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss can easily balance previously established content with new material.

To be perfectly clear, not a lot about this premiere is outrageously different from the books. We have yet to reach that point. As for the changes to what “should” be happening at this time, they’re all for the better. A change I really enjoy is Varys accompanying Tyrion across the Narrow Sea to Essos. Conleth Hill has really changed Varys into a very compelling character, and his partnership with Tyrion can only bring good things. It’s also nice to have Varys completely lay out his allegiance early so the air is clear. He is, and always has been, a devout supporter of the Targaryen family. This gives their story a clear direction for this season too as they march to Mereen, which sadly some arcs don’t have right now.

Photo Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO
Photo Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO

Jon’s story continues to benefit from having Stannis make camp at Castle Black. Even though I’ve always been a fan of the Night’s Watch story (really can’t wait for more White Walkers), it’s complete disconnect from everything else can make it an uncomfortable outlier. Even Dany has the promise of her reaching the Seven Kingdoms, whenever that may be. Stannis bringing Jon into this overall fold is nice, and it allows the Stark bastard to stretch his muscles at “the game.” His first act is trying to negotiate a surrender from Mance (Ciarán Hinds), but the man refuses to bend his knee because he’s fought much to long for his freedom. This gives us one of the premiere’s more intense shots: Mance slowly burning and succumbing to his fear. Jon rightfully kills Mance with an arrow before he starts screaming, which is a defiant act you can bet won’t go unnoticed by Stannis and Melisandre (Carice Van Houten).

I wish more was done with King’s Landing, to be honest. The great Tywin Lannister was reduced to a corpse thanks to his son, and yet the full weight of this event wasn’t really felt where it should have been heaviest. When Cersei (Lena Headey) walked up the sept and met Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) by their father’s corpse, the intensity of the situation is very transparent. Jaime even flat out says the Lannisters are all targets now that their powerful father is dead. Yet as the arc continues, most of the impact of Tywin’s death is quickly forgotten. Even the Tyrells, who should be using this to their advantage, are reduced to Loras (Finn Jones) talking about how lazy he’s allowed to be now. At least Lancel (Eugene Simon) came back as a Sparrow, clearly establishing what will be the threat in that region.

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

That sequence of a young Cersei meeting Maggy the Frog (Jodhi May) was great too, opening the season with something legitimately different. The actress who played the young Cersei did a solid job with her performance, successfully giving us a taste of what this power hungry monarch was like as a child. Maggy’s predictions were telling though. Most have proven to be extremely spot on, and you can bet Cersei will fight as hard as she can to prevent it all from coming true.

Dany’s story was solid for the most part, as it usually is when a new season premieres. The mood in Mereen is established right in the beginning with a massive Harpy being torn down by the Unsullied. Then one of the Unsullied is killed in a brothel by the Sons of the Harpy. It’s a brutal death that completely puts all of Dany’s leadership into jeopardy. To make matters worse, the city of Yunkai wants to open its slave fighting pits again. In an instant, everything Dany has fought for is crumbling around her. It would be a true testament to her leadership to get out of this one on top. If she can’t lead a few cities, how can she guide a whole country? The small dragon focus didn’t serve any story purpose though. It was just there to prove that locking up wild beasts that breathe fire isn’t the best idea, and for a few cool dragon shots

Not everything featured in “The Wars to Come” was part of this massive tapestry though. We had, at best, drop-ins on Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman), and Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillan). Brienne and Pod was nothing important as all we learned was that the two plan to keep tracking Sansa. Little did they know, Sansa travelled right by them flying the Arryn banner. The books don’t feature any of these moments so this was mostly new territory here. I definitely preferred Sansa’s because, not only is Robin getting training finally, she’s now learning what it means to have power. It’s still cool to watch Sansa finally take control of her life.

Photo Courtesy: HBO
Photo Courtesy: HBO

“The Wars to Come” wasn’t the most exciting episode. It contained some action but it was mostly kept to discussions that set this season’s plots into motion. Some clearly established where they plan to go over the next ten episodes, like Tyrion, Jon, Dany, and Cersei to an extent. Others primarily served to give certain characters screentime, like Brienne and Sansa, the latter of which is moving forward with completely new material not yet tapped in the books. I’m pretty excited for this new material too. I just want Book 6 to hurry up and come out already. Seeing as we have no idea when Martin will finish this novel, watching it unfold on screen is a more than worthy alternative.

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights on HBO.

Rating: 8.5/10


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Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.
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