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Game of Thrones

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Episode 1 - The Wars to Come

16 April 2015

Synopsis: Cersei muses over the future during Tywin's funeral. Lancel returns having found religion. Tyrion arrives in Pentos in depression. Little Finger takes Sansa away from the Vale. Brienne tries to push Pod away. Dany welcomes Daario home but struggles over mutiny, fighting pits and her dragons. Stannis offers Mance freedom if he will fight for him. He won't but Jon kills him before he can burn at the stake.

The Good: Last year I complained that the opening hour felt like too much of a recap. Although this was similarly calm I felt it was more necessary. The cast has grown and dispersed ever further around the world so it was good to reestablish the situation.

However I don't have a huge amount to say. It was competent and logical stuff across the board. Varys and Tyrion heading to meet Dany is a hopeful thought but I'm sure there will be complications along the way. Her learning curve as a ruler keeps getting steeper. Jon Snow is really stepping up as a man and a leader but you just know Melissandre can smell the royal blood in his veins. Sansa seems to be growing smarter as she tries to decipher Little Finger's agenda. Stannis remains a potential source of vengeance (on the Boltons and Freys) even if his religious fanaticism is going to lead to suffering.

The Bad: Nothing yet.

The Unknown: Wouldn't there be a less damaging way to pull down that statue?

Lancel's new religious feelings was probably the most surprising moment of the episode. Seeing someone renew their faith is a nice reflection of the horrible civil wars that traverse the land. However as soon as he reminded Cersei of his role in Robert's death I wrote in my notes "You're a dead man." Sadly I wrote something similar when Margaery said "Perhaps" at Loras' assesment of her prospects with Cersei now that Tywin is gone (though I suppose the Witch's prophecy says otherwise). I can only assume that bad things are coming to King's Landing now that Cersei has no check on her power. The first flashback (I think) we've had was an interesting choice. To begin the season on the tragedy of her existence hints that her downfall could be coming.

I was interested in Varys' line "Perhaps we've grown so used to horror, we assume there's no other way." I don't know if that was trying to be meta. With a coalition of reasonable people surrounding Daenerys and Jon Snow being noble at the Wall, it would seem like the show is leading us to believe goodness can still emerge in this world. But I've been burnt too many times by thoughts like that. So I wait to see if Grey Worm and Missandei are only growing close so that their deaths will be sad. Or if poor Shireen is to be sacrificed or if the Tyrells are to butchered or Theon is to be further mutilated.

Best Moment: Mance's execution generated the only real emotion of the episode as the horror of the climbing flames gripped those watching.

Conclusion: A solid start to the season but I wait to see what it will become.

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  • Oh, and I still don't like Daario 2.0! He's meant to be a hardened, battle-grizzled, amoral pit fighter, like Bronn with less sardonic perspective. Instead, he looks like he's on a gap year abroad, and always comes across like he's about to sing a guitar ballad about social iniquities to Daenerys. Worst casting in the show.

    Posted by David F, 16/04/2015 3:22pm (4 years ago)

  • There's an interesting character counterpoint with how Jojen at such a young age (wise beyond his years) accepted his fate for the greater good (having full knowledge of it) while aging Cersei is selfishly determined to fight and deny her fate; trying to shun prophecy (the witch) and cover her immorality by shunning religion (interactions with Lancel).

    Posted by Fluids, 16/04/2015 2:24pm (4 years ago)

  • Hello Robin, welcome back!

    I also like seeing Jon Snow and Stannis put together. It's a good illustration of how good drama isn't always about putting two completely different people together, but instead about putting too only slightly differing people together, and teasing out those dividing lines. Jon and Stannis both feel like outcasts from their family, they both try to do 'the right thing' by the realm and their people, and they're both quite unbending, Jon slightly less so. They also both like redheaded women :)

    I thought the Mance burning-alive scene was very effective, and was the best illustration of Vary's quote about peoples' Horror at the World numbing them to the potential for change. I also agree with other commentators that this was definitely intended to strike home with viewers and critics of the show. As I watched Mance start to burn, I was horrified, but couldn't turn away, and in a way, wanted the spectacle to continue. After all, Game of Thrones is spectacularly horrible sometimes, that's part of its impact, and, to be honest, appeal. I have felt that way ever since Viserys' Golden Crown back in Season 1. Jon's mercy killing in a sense was meant to shame the voyeuristic audience, I believe, or, at least, jolt them into noticing their own expectations at play. I think this is even more emphasised by choosing a method we have seen before. We saw Mirri Maz Duur the witch burned alive by Danerys' in Season 1, and we saw Mellisandre burn people alive in Season 3. This is literally a Horror that we cannot imagine a better way out of. Until Jon does it for us, even staring us nearly straight in the camera before he walks away and the episode cuts to black. My favourite Jon moment so far, as both a character and a narrative agent.

    I like seeing Kings Landing in turmoil. I still wish we would get more small council/throneroom scenes though, I remember complaining about this last year. I don't necessarily need one every episode but I like seeing the business of the realm being done, and the sniping for position in larger group scenes, rather than the usual one-on-one stuff. It helps ground the show, and our understanding of Westeros. Small gripe.

    Loads of other stuff to mull over, most intriguingly, where are Sansa and Littlefinger going, heading West? A few possibilities suggest themselves, few of them good, for Sansa at least....

    Plus, I hope we don't have to wait too long before Tyrion meets Daenerys. I was hoping the first episode would end with him being drunkenly rolled out of his travel box before her throne and courtiers, like a gender-swapped (and less glamorous) version of Cleopatra being revealed to Julius Caesar wrapped in a carpet. In fact, I hope that's still how they meet... if they do :)

    Viewer score: 68 / 100

    Posted by David F, 16/04/2015 2:22pm (4 years ago)

  • I thought again about the Witches prophecy to Cersei. 'You'll be queen. For a time. Then comes another, younger, more beautiful, to cast you own and take all you hold dear.'

    That could easily be Dany just as well as Margaery. Perhaps Cersei doesn't see Dany as much of a threat than Margaery because she's in Slaver's Bay and she also doesn't know how Dany actually looks. This goes well with your observation Robin about Ser Loras' assessment of his sister with Cersei. Cersei may try to be the witches prophecy by killing Margaery somehow and then Dany will still end up conquering Westeros and Cersei will fall. Just a thought. It's there in the narrative, however that could easily be a twist as well.

    Posted by Fluids, 15/04/2015 1:41pm (4 years ago)

  • Good points so far. Watch the spoilers though please Beric.

    Viewer score: 55 / 100

    Posted by Trench , 15/04/2015 11:07am (4 years ago)

  • At first I wasn't sure why exactly the flashback to young Cersei was necessary in the story because it didn't really tell us anything we don't already know. But then, it does explain a little more why Cersei has always been worried about her children's safety and especially why she is so fixated on Margaery who she has obviously decided is the young queen taking away her throne. This seems to have made her ignorant to the threat other people pose and of course the question with prophecies is always, do you make them true by acting in a certain way in order to avoid them? I'm curious to see where this is going.

    I still have the image of Stannis standing by his big table, moping for episode after episode imprinted in my mind, so the sight of him outside, taking action, somehow seeming much younger and more lively is still a welcome change to me. I also think his offer to the wildlings was a good one but Mance's reason to decline it makes a lot of sense, too.

    I like the scene with Brienne and Pod, it makes me sad to see her so defeated. The irony of Sansa driving past them just as they're talking about her is a little too on the nose, but we've had so many near misses now, especially with the Stark children, that it doesn't bother me much anymore.

    I think putting Dany and Daario together works really well, because, in addition to Daario's butt, we get to see a different side of Dany, when she doesn't have to be queen and is able to show more emotions and explain her reasons and Daario is in the position to argue with her.

    Locking the dragons up was the right decision but Dany could have at least visited them? What did they eat? Now it also seems rather short-sighted because she is going to need the dragons eventually for whatever reason. So what was she expecting if she let them out then after locking them up for so long? I also don't know if I missed something here or if they didn't mention the timeline but I have no idea how much time has passed and how long the dragons have been in there which is a little problem for me.

    They also totally got me with the scene in the beginning, first being surprised that the unsullied went to the brothel and wondering what they were going to do, then thinking, aw this is nice, until of course it wasn't. Yup, welcome back, Game of Thrones.

    Posted by Mareike, 14/04/2015 12:52pm (4 years ago)

  • If we follow the witch's prophecy in this episode it looks like Myrcella and Tommen aren't going to last very long will they? It also appears from this prophecy that the Tyrells will take over for the Lannister's as the most powerful House in Westeros. Since the Lannister's are in serious debt it looks like they wield the power already in a lot of ways. Then again, if Lady Olenna is somehow connected to Joffrey's death that could be a nice twist eh?

    Posted by Fluids, 13/04/2015 10:30pm (4 years ago)

  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Thoughts:

    • I think the narrative demands that Stannis have an army and the Wildlings are certainly a very convenient source for that and Winterfell is the most logical close target. Stannis knew it would resonate with Jon Snow and he is someone the Wildlings will listen to.
    • I guess Stannis’ ultimate plans and strategy for the Crown (starting with the North) comes down to how many Wildlings will obey his orders and bend the knee to him. He needs more forces then he currently has to do anything.
    • I would be very surprised if all 100K Wildlings follow him all the way through with Stannis’ plans. They may agree to follow Stannis at first; however someone like Tormund may see an opportunity to lead the Wildlings himself at a certain point. I see him possibly trying to escape into the area North of the Wall with a group of Wildlings. That being said, the area North of the Wall has proven to be a *real estate fiasco* with its threat of the White Walkers. There is also the cultural change the Wildlings would have to endure living side by side the people in the other Kingdoms; farming permanent tracts of land boasting titles in some cases. I don’t think certain groups are adaptable at all. Somehow I don’t see the Thenns (cannibals) easily obeying Stannis or the way of living of anyone in the Five Kingdoms, so there is bound to be some tribes that will go back North of the Wall.
    • I am unclear about the how much the marriage plans between the Lannisters and Tyrells will work out since Tywin is dead. Does Ser Loras still intend to marry Cersei after Margaery marries Tommen? Cersei knows about the financial hardships the Lannisters and the Crown have so those plans seem to be the most logical way for the kingdom to continue. The wildcard though is Cersei. Will she make the same sound judgements her father made or is she just hell bent on finding Tyrion first to exact revenge for the deaths of Tywin and Joffrey?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Good:

    • The cold opening was pleasantly disorienting. I didn’t figure out one of the girls was Cersei until the witch said ‘The king will have 20 children and you will have three.’
    • White Rat’s slaughter in the brothel by one of the Sons of the Harpy (Gold mask). It seemed like all he wanted was companionship and he was willing to pay for it. That actually had more impact on me than Mance Raydar’s burning at the stake. Dany also direly needs more enemy’s closer to her than Westeros to keep my attention on her storylines.
    • Tyrion’s disillusionment seems well placed. He has no homeland anymore; little family; no titles; no money. The narrative sort of demands he ends up in Dany’s court along with Varys, so Vary's plans weren't surprising and will be very interesting. Wherever Tyrion and Varys goes I want to be, so that should make the Slaver's bay scenes sizzle.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Bad:

    • Mance’s defiance to bending the knee to Stannis did make sense. However, his execution just didn’t have any emotional impact for me. His defiance to bending the knee to Stannis did make sense. Perhaps it was the way it was shot. They should have had more close-ups of him suffering mixed with reaction close-up shots. There were too many long and medium shots that didn’t capture enough emotion. Could it have been the editing as well? Hard to say.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Unknown:

    • How many in number are the Sons of Harpy? Who was the one with the gold mask?
    • Will Varys and Tyrion end up doing service for Dany?
    • Who will end up being Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch? Jon Snow or Ser Alliser?
    • What is Brienne’s next move? Is she heading North?
    • Where is Little Finger going with Sansa? I suspect it’s the Wall or even North of the Wall.
    • Will Tormund and the rest of the Wildlings bend the knee to Stannis?
    • Will Tommen still marry Margaery Tyrell?
    • Will Ser Loras marry Cersei after Margaery marries Tommen?
    • Will Cersei make the same sound judgements her father made to save the finances of the crown or is she just hell bent on finding Tyrion first to exact revenge for the deaths of Tywin and Joffrey?

    Viewer score: 63 / 100

    Posted by Fluids, 13/04/2015 5:03pm (4 years ago)

  • Oh I forgot: we had another near miss between Sansa and Brienne, which once again bespeaks the irony. It's also nice to see Brienne doubt herself and it ties into the bleakness of the world she lives in and as a woman she has it even harder.

    By the way, Sweetrobin can't fight for shit. But where is Littlefinger taking the new and obviously improved Sansa? I like the fact that she's observing him getting the note, her noticing that they are not going where he said they'd go and also that she is apprehensive of other people that work for them.

    I also like that we were in Pentos with Varys because it sheds a bit of light on Illyrio who helped arrange Dany's marriage to Khal Drogo in the first episode of season 1 and who was talking with Varys in the dungeons later in season 1, being observed by Arya.

    Oh by the way, Loras, worst eulogy ever.

    I like that we didn't get everyone, which allowed for the extended scene at the Wall at the end of the episode. I know you wished the show could have more episodes each year so everyone could get more time but having recently seen how much the producers work on the show (literally 50 weeks a year with several hundred people working in different places of the world) I am surprised how coherent the show is at this stage.

    Then, as a reader of the books, I have to say this is the first season where we might move beyond published material and in certain cases it makes sense. I also want to say that we won't be getting Bran, Meera and Hodor this year, partly because we reched the end of his published material in episode 10 of season 4). So far I can say I hve no problems with the changes, partly becuse the pace of books 4 and 5 are slower nd less eventful than book 3 (think the calm after the storm in preparation for a new storm) but the show may or may nt change that. It certainly feels a lot faster than the books and some plots have already changed significantly but I will not say which ones. But that means we might be on more equal footing this year, which I applaud because getting legitimately surprised is what I enjoy about the show, too and so consider me legitimately excited for the season.

    Posted by Beric, 13/04/2015 7:38am (4 years ago)

  • What a great start to the season. We got our first creepy flashback and I enjoyed young Cersei immensely here. I believe the flashback is here for 2 reasons, one of which is self-evident: it explains Cersei's paranoia regarding Margaery that we hve seen since season 3 and the other one is linked to the POV structure of the book but that's all I'll say. I'm curious if Cersei has used up all of her questions in this scene or whether we will see a second part to that flashback at some point?

    I hope you are happy to see Dany deal with some real consequences. She says she's a queen but no politicin but in actuality she's not much of either. Free people choosing to fight in pits is their own choice so we have a moral limit to Dany. I get her point about the pits but still, it's an individual choice that others can make if they want. Be that as it may, we all told you to be patient and now we can maybe say that this is the most allegorical part of the story, with issues like cultural relativism and imperialism in the balance.The Sons of the Hrpy are also suitaby creepy and it is a natural consequence of Dany's way. She says she ended slavery but people who have lived in a slave society and who consider it essential to their economy are naturally going to fight any change, if necessary through underhanded methods. I also think we need to thank Hizdar Zo Loraq for helping her despite the awkwardness. And it is true that Dany has never been more vulnerable and her relation to her dragons seems to tie back to her own identity because so far she's always called herself the Mother of Dragons but without them she has not accomplished anything and she has to reconcile that fact.

    I also think the Greyworm/Missandei relation sheds a light on a fact people forget: people do yearn for genuine affection and the Unsullied are taken as babies from their mothers so when White Rat wanted a lullaby from a prostitute it is clear why he went there but Greyworm might ot want to admit to Missandei that that's what it was. People DO care for other people but it's their world that is so uncaring, which is what I know you occasionally have a problem with, Robin.

    Tyrion and Varys have some great debates and it seems like Varys is a Targaryen loyalist? I mean it makes sense since he has mentioned Danaerys to Tyrion in season 2 before and he also talked about her in season 4 in a council meeting in episode 6. He spied on her for Robert but he was in contact with Jorah so maybe he alerted him regarding the plot to poison her but then he also told Robert about Rhaego so is he sincere here when he says he does everything for the seven kingdoms? It also seems like Tyrion is going to be a lot less fun to hang around but that was bound to happen. You put something in a box and when it comes out it's different than before: a very cynical, nihilistic Tyrion is progression for him as a character , it's just not what I think you would like to see, Robin, seeing as you think Tyrion to be the best character on the show but that directly leads us to my counter-argument: Jon Snow.

    Boy, the Wall was just on fire tonight (heh), in more than one way. Brind two grumpy characters together and two less eventful storylines together and you get magic. Stannis and Jon butting heads seems like it has great potential for the future and Stannis is the only one who will save the North and cares about the Night's Watch, even though he makes tough demands. We also got a reminder that Ser Alliser Thorne was just ACTING commander so there needs be an election methinks but Jon is liked by many and disliked by many because of his relationship with the wildlings, which is both an asset and a disadvantage, as he gets access to Mance Rayder but is unable to sway people with a grudge against wildlings and this should probably be Jon's season.

    Speaking of Mance Rayder, it also once again comes back to the freedom of individual choice vs the feudal system and Mance is a true idealist who will die a martyr for what he believes because the alternative alwys was: death or whatever the White Walkers have in store and so bending the knee to someone and following someone who is only leader because of their blood is not a viable solution, a fact Varys recognized hundreds of miles away when talking about earning your leadership. Melisandre seemed interested in king's blood since the beginning (see Gendry in season 3 and from what we can see Shireen is at the Wall too, closing her eyes in terror as her mother watches the sacrifice with glee) and now she got to sacrifice one. Jon stepped up as a legitimate force for justice and mercy here and it will be interesting to see where this goes in his relation with Stannis. So, yes, Robin there ARE legitimately good people and a force for good and decency in the show but as Tyrion said, those people are mostly not the ones in power because they would most likely not step on the powerless to get there. In any case the focus has shifted slightly away from King's Landing because as the show moves toward its climax in season 7 (or possibly 8?) the distraction that is the game of thrones will need to make way for the story that matters.

    If Stannis manages to defeat the Boltons that would also serve up some revenge for the Red Wedding so let's hope he succeeds.

    The religious angle has to be mentioned too, as Lord Kevan Lannister (Tywin's brother who we sawin seasons 1 and 2) brings his son Lancel to Tywin's funeral (which was a big and somewhat deserved guilt trip for Jaime by the way). We haven't seen Lancel since the Blackwater and for good reason. He's become born-again it seems and so far the faith of the Seven has not had much influence in the story beyind the religious imagery of Catelyn's good luck charms, the coronations and the religious imagery of the seven-pointed star being shut out from the hall at the Red Wedding. So far the Lord of Light R'hllor has been the most important religion we have witnessed but when people wish for better days they turn to religion and Lancel obviously wishes for absolution here and the Faith is the closest to an analogy of catholicism in the show. Here's to hoping the show will explore the reigion because it is a big driving force for people just in general. Also, Cersei seems to not wnt to acknowledge Robert's murder by proxy here...

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Beric, 13/04/2015 7:01am (4 years ago)

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