By Joe Strange
Drunken Dwarf in a box! Blood sucking witches! Gruff northerners talking about burning alive! Dragons!
That’s right folks, Game of Thrones is back, and the first episode in the series focusses on the fallout from the events of the last season as well as the promises of the titular wars to come. Now from here on out, we’re in spoiler territory for all of Game of Thrones so far, so you’ve been warned!
But I’ll warn you again because I’m kind and feeling generous:
BLOODY SPOILERS AHEAD MATE
So, the episode kicks off with a series first; a flash back to a time before the events of the show began, you know way back when that guy, who’s kind of a nice person now, pushed a little boy off a tower, but it’s okay because that boy can see the future now, I think? Doesn’t matter, Bran isn’t here this season, so he and his unworking legs are inconsequential.
Flashback, right, so we see two young girls walking through the forest, we find out that one of these, the blond one, is a young Cersei Lannister, right off the bat Nell Williams does a great Cersei, she’s cold, calculating and kind of a bitch, which is exactly what we’re looking for. Her and her friend find a witch, who Cersei orders to read her future, the witch gets a lot right (because she’s a witch); she’ll marry a King (Robert) who’ll have a lot of kids (his bastards) but she’ll only have 3, all with golden hair (and golden shrouds, implying they’ll all die before they go grey, I imagine) the kicker is that a younger, prettier Queen will be the one to dethrone Cersei, and from here we see exactly why the Lannister despises the young Margaery Tyrell, more on her in a bit.
We then jump to Tywin Lannister’s funeral; shot in the gut by his dwarf son (who’s on the lamb with the eunuch at the end of last season, he didn’t fair too well. Guarding the old man is Jaime Lannister, unlike Joffrey’s funeral there’s no incest sexy times here, no sir, just talk of his legacy, showing weakness and the threat to the Lannister family including their own brother.
Also there’s a slow rendition of the Rains of Castamere playing all the while, clearly Tywin couldn’t resist one last chance to play his favourite song.
Later on we see an interesting scene between Cersei and her cousin Lancel, who was her accomplice in the ‘accident’ that lead to Robert’s death. He’s found religion since he was last seen at the battle of Blackwater, and, while it doesn’t seem like he’s threatening Cersei with his knowledge of her misdemeanour’s, it is a reminder to Cersei of those she’s stepped on to get where she is.
Next up we have Tyrion and Varys, the hottest new power couple in the seven kingdoms. After drinking his way across the narrow sea in a crate, Tyrion is sort of done with… well, everything. This prompts Varys to show some of his cards, to reveal that he was instrumental in the saving of Daenerys from Robert’s rebellion, and in a later scene, to announce that he intends to help her to the iron throne, saying that the seven kingdoms are becoming worse than ever, and that they need a strong, compassionate leader to help save them.
The dialogue between these two is most excellent, the two talented actors make the most of their brilliant characters, with some of Varys’ secrets in the open, he seems less reserved, it also helps that he knows he’s got Tyrion by the short and curlies. This relationship, I think, is really going to be a draw for this season, as they attempt to challenge the status quo of the seven kingdoms.
Speaking of Danaerys and her dragons, we see that the city of Mereen that she conquered, is fighting back. A group called the sons of the Harpy are killing Dany’s unsullied in the streets, and leaving their masks as messages to the new queen, her reign is not welcome here.
She is asked by an advisor to reopen the fighting pits, originally used to pit slaves against slaves, though, once reopened they’d be used only by freemen, but she denies, saying that she does not respect human cock-fighting. But bedtime comes around and Daario tells her the story of his youth, and how the fighting pits led him to her, so they can’t be all that bad. Still opposed to the idea, she visits her 2 captive dragons (Drogon is still MIA), which have grown unruly in their captivity, to the point where a scared Danaerys flees the chamber.
We get a quick visit to the Reach with Littlefinger and Sansa (disguised as Littlefinger’s niece) who have left the heir to the Eyrie with a bannerman while they go off west to do their plotting and scheming. They just miss Brienne, who’s looking for Sansa, arguing with Podrick about the semantics of what is a night. Having her offer of help rejected by Arya in the season finale, she is losing hope in her mission, questioning what her purpose is, considering that all the good leaders are gone and only monsters remain.
We then have a quick Dorne Geography lesson on behalf of Loras Tyrell’s lover, which is interrupted by his sister, who doesn’t seem to be too worried about the threat of Cersei, in fact, she seems pretty relaxed, is she plotting? She’s probably plotting. She’s been spending a lot of time with the Queen of Thorns it seems.
Our final visit in Westeros this week is at the wall, where, after smashing the wildling army last season, Stannis has a pretty big job for Jon Snow; he’s charged with persuading Mance Rayder to bend the knee, and hand his army of freemen to Stannis. Mance, having spent his entire life since the Night’s Watch fighting to be free, and working to unite these people, isn’t so easily persuaded, and things get a little… heated in the final scenes.
In all, a solid return for the series, this season is the one that will surpass the books, so as a book reader I’ll be in the dark come later episodes.
And for those wondering, we’ve not watched the leaked episodes, and neither should you; you’ll only give yourself a longer wait until the next new episode!