It’s finally here! Season five of my equal favourite television show of all time is finally here! Again this year I’ll be recapping each episode of season five of Game of Thrones for your enjoyment and for my own personal need to rant and rave after watching certain scenes.
Warning: spoilers! A lot of them.
This episode, titled “The Wars To Come”, may as well have arisen out of the imaginations of the showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, henceforth referred to as D&D. It contained the least amount of actual book content probably out of the whole show, apart from the skeleton slash decaying husk of the story of the book. But in a way I’m okay with that. I’ve come to terms (through rewatching season four again) that the books and the show should be kept at least one hundred yards away from one another in the most emotionally destroying restraining order I’ve ever experienced. Anyway, onwards to the recap/review! I still have no idea how I’m structuring these posts by the way, wish me luck, it’s all a work in progress.
Lannisters: Cersei, Jaime
We begin the episode with an interesting flashback – a young Cersei Lannister seeks out the witch Maggy the Frog to find out what is in store for her future. Maggy delivers a prophecy to Cersei – that she will marry the king, that she will be queen until another more beautiful queen comes along to cast her down, and that the king will have 20 children however she will only have three with crowns and shrouds of gold. As a booklover this scene was infuriating because it chopped out a very interesting aspect of the prophecy that they’re probably going to edit out. But as a show-watcher, I loved this scene and thought the actress for young Cersei was perfect, with the right amount of arrogance and vulnerability.
We then see that Cersei is remembering the prophecy as she’s going to visit her dead father Lord Tywin Lannister, killed by Tyrion at the end of last season by crossbow. Cersei requests a moment alone with her dead father even though hundreds of other people have to wait, typical Cersei. She meets Jaime as he is guarding his father’s dead body. The two talk of their legacy as Lannisters and that the house Tywin built is now shaky and insecure as he has passed away. Jaime fears their being torn apart. This is an interesting juxtaposition to their self-assured natures of prior seasons. The Lannisters have never been as vulnerable as they are this season, given that their patriarch and backbone is now dead.
Later, during what appears to be a wake-type situation for Tywin, Cersei drinks amongst a crowd of sycophants. Loras attempts to be nice to Cersei but she isn’t having it. She sees Margaery and her son, King Tommen, being vaguely physically affectionate and the painful look on her face says it all. Then, her cousin Lancel Lannister approaches – he looks different, older, with shorn hair and wearing dirty rags. It is explained that he has joined a fanatical and fundamentalist sect of the Faith of the Seven, the dominant religion in Westeros; the sect is called the Sparrows. Cersei has a moment alone and Lancel approaches again, asking her forgiveness for leading her into the darkness in season one where they a) slept together when Jaime was away, and b) conspired to kill Robert Baratheon (aka Big Bobby B), and succeeded in doing so when he was out hunting boar. Lancel admits these to her and she reacts coldly, almost not reacting at all and giving him the satisfaction of it. She says she doesn’t know what he is talking about. Lancel says he has found peace, and that the gods dole out mercy and justice for all.
This scene begins one of my favourite storylines of the entire book series. I love Cersei in the books because she is amazingly horrible, and it’s around this time that we get to learn more about her and understand her world from her perspective. The interaction between Cersei and the Sparrows is fascinating and I can’t wait to see more. Lena Headey is, as always, perfect as Cersei.
Tyrion Lannister & Lord Varys in Pentos
A cool sequence from Tyrion’s perspective introduces his story arc for this season, as he looks out of the peephole in his crate that has shipped him from King’s Landing in Westeros, across the Narrow Sea to Pentos. We see interesting glimpses of Pentos as Tyrion is taken from the ship, across the city to the palace of Illyrio Mopatis, a wealthy merchant. Tyrion is released from his crate to find that Varys has been staying with him the whole time. Varys informs Tyrion that the shaky political situation in Westeros has worsened and that he wants to do something about it. Tyrion is not so sure and says that “the future is shit just like the past”. Tyrion pulls a boss move and drinks until he vomits, and then he starts drinking again. Everyone’s done that at least once before.
Later in the episode, Varys reveals himself to Tyrion as a secret Targaryen loyalist, wanting something more for Westeros. Varys says that he set Tyrion free because Jaime asked him to, knowing that this was at great personal cost; however, Varys has always served the Realm, and that cost is worth it if it means benefiting the Seven Kingdoms. Varys informs Tyrion that he may have a role to play in the forming of a better new world for everyone in the Seven Kingdoms, and naturally Tyrion just wants to drink more wine. Varys says he wants peace and prosperity, “a land where the powerful do not prey on the powerless”. He says that he wants to take Tyrion to meet with Daenerys Targaryen in order to ascertain whether she really is the leader that Westeros needs. Tyrion decides to go with Varys, but only if he can drink himself silly on the way. What a boss!
This literally could not be any more different to the book. In the book, Varys sticks around in King’s Landing, and Tyrion goes on a crazy adventure and meets about a million new characters. I suppose D&D are streamlining everything to make sure that this story can end before making twenty six seasons.
Yet again, Peter Dinklage is kicking goals this season and he’s only been in it for maybe ten minutes maximum. His dry humour is still funny and his sense of desperation feels a lot more authentic compared to last season’s over-acting extravaganza. I also really love the actor for Varys, Conleth Hill. He has his own type of dry humour that works well in conjunction with Dinklage’s. So I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more from them both.
Daenerys Targaryen & Meereen
Symbolically, a golden harpy statue falls down from the top of a pyramid in Meereen. We see an Unsullied warrior named White Rat go to a brothel to be spooned and sung to by a prostitute in a tender moment, only to have his throat cut open by a mysterious masked man. Barristan Selmy, Daenerys’ warrior comrade, tells us that the mask is that of the Sons of the Harpy, an underground resistance in Meereen to Daenerys’ rule. We learn that this uprising has been brewing for a time and that they are starting to show their face. Then there is more Grey Worm/Missandei borderline romance storyline, a sidestep to the main action that I will always find pointless.
Later, Daario Naharis and Hizdahr zo Loraq have returned to Meereen from Yunkai, a political peacemaking trip that was more or less a success. Daenerys is informed by Hizdahr that the Yunkai people want to re-open their slave fighting pits, which she says she will not allow. Hizdahr pleads with Daenerys to show the Yunkai people that she respects their culture and wishes by reopening the pits, however she still does not agree as the concepts of slaves fighting one another for money for the masters is deplorable to her. This scene was shot beautifully, with gorgeous shadows, light and smoke.
Then, surprise! A post-coital chat between Daenerys and Daario reveals that Daario was once a slave who found success, fame and riches in the fighting pits of Yunkai. Without fighting there, we learn, Daario wouldn’t have become the all-around great guy that he is today. His skill as a fighter that now defends Daenerys’ honour wouldn’t have been honed unless he went to fight in the pits. Daenerys is now forced to consider her decision about not reopening the fighting pits. Further, Daario suggests that Daenerys should show her power through her dragons as people are beginning to doubt her as a ruler. Daenerys admits that Drogon, the biggest dragon, is missing and that she can’t control the other two. Daario poses a very interesting question here – is a dragon queen without dragons really a queen at all? This scene contained some of the most amazing strategically hidden nudity I’ve seen this side of Austin Powers. Seriously, it was hilarious.
Daenerys pays a visit to Rhaegal and Viserion in the dungeons of Meereen. Unfortunately, both dragons attack their mother and shoot fire at her. They have both grown much bigger compared to when we saw them last, and they seem to have become wild, and find their mother unrecognisable. Or maybe they are angry because she locked them up in a dungeon for an unforeseeable amount of time, it really could be either one. Daenerys appears to be having a crisis, and Daario may have been right; a queen that has based her power and legend status around having control of dragons, is not able to control them. What kind of power does she have now? Without her dragons, what really is her value?
Jon Snow, the Nights Watch, & Stannis Baratheon
At the Wall, Jon Snow is training young Olly to become a better fighter. Sam and Gilly are hanging out too and Sam is casually bragging about killing both a White Walker and a Thenn. Gilly feels threatened by the creepiness of Alliser Thorne and Sam promises to stay with her no matter what. Melisandre takes Jon to the top of the Wall to have a chat with Stannis Baratheon (One True King of Westeros), and on the way up, asks him if he is a virgin. When he says no, she seems quite happy. I wonder what that’s about? At the top of the Wall, Stannis tells Jon that he wants the wildlings to fight with his army to sort out the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, however that Jon must convince Mance Rayder that this is a good idea. Stannis says he will pardon the wildlings and give them citizenship and land if they do so. Stannis says that Mance will have to bend the knee or burn. Jon is tasked with the responsibility of making sure that Mance says yes to Stannis’ proposal.
Jon goes to meet with Mance who basically says a big fat no to Stannis. Mance says that he respects Stannis for what he wants, but as one of the free folk he will not serve anyone, and he will not have the wildlings fight and die for any king in a foreigner’s war. Jon tells Mance that he will be burnt alive as a result of refusing Stannis, which Mance admits is “a bad way to go”. Still, Mance says he would rather burn than kneel, and in a touching moment says “The freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted”. Ciaran Hinds is great in this scene as Mance Rayder. I loved him in Rome and I wish we had more to see of him this season. Maybe we will see more of him though, you never know what D&D have up their sleeve.
And true to his word, Stannis then burns Mance Rayder alive. He is tied to the stake but refuses to bend the knee to Stannis, however wishes him luck in the wars to come (hint: the title of the episode). Melisandre gives a speech about good and evil, light and dark, and following the true king (Stannis) instead of the king of lies (Mance). Mance burns alive on the pyre, but Jon slips away. As Mance is burning, Jon fires an arrow into his heart, giving him the mercy of a swift death. The end of the episode!!! What an end. But there’s more of this recap/review to go because I have structured it in a strange manner.
D&D continue to seem pretty hellbent on portraying Stannis as an iron-willed robot, with a borderline villainous vibe about his determination to have Mance burned at the stake. I wish they would give him the same amount of layers as there are in the books. It seems too black and white in the show. I still love Stannis though. I’m interested to see how the rest of his arc pans out this season.
Other people: Sansa, Littlefinger, Brienne, Podrick, Loras
In dotpoint form until their stories become more significant.
- Sansa and Littlefinger continue to be a creepy duo. They watch Robyn Arryn get dominated whilst fighting. Littlefinger says Robin might not be a fighter, but he has a good name, and that’s essentially what counts.
- Lord Royce delivers the biggest zing of the episode regarding Robin’s swordfighting skill: “He swings a sword like a girl with palsy”. Ouch.
- Brienne and Podrick are in the countryside discussing where to go. Brienne tries to get Podrick to leave by telling him she’s not a leader, but Pod is loyal and he will stick by her. They reaffirm to the audience that Brienne is still looking for the Stark girls as per her promise to Catelyn Stark before her untimely death in season three.
- Sansa and Littlefinger are riding off into the sunset in a carriage together and only just miss Brienne and Podrick. They have told Lord Royce that they’re heading in a different direction and Sansa muses on how little Littlefinger must trust him. They’re heading somewhere interesting – maybe the brief musical cue can give us a clue as to where that might be?
- Loras and his prostitute boyfriend Oliver are hanging out in bed together at some point during the episode as well. This scene served to a) provide sexposition about Dorne to remind us that we should be paying attention to it, and b) remind us that Loras is gay. Also that Margaery knows about it and doesn’t care.
- Loras states that as Tywin is now dead, no one can make him marry Cersei, and that he doesn’t care if people know he’s interested in men. But he also says that maybe Margaery may want Loras and Cersei to marry, as Cersei would have to move away from King’s Landing with her new husband and would therefore be away from Margaery. This introduces an interesting dilemma for Margaery and I’m interested to see where the show takes it.
Thoughts and feelings
When I first watched this episode, I felt that the ending was a bit of a letdown and I complained that nothing much happened in it. But upon reflection, “The Wars To Come” was a good episode to start with because it provided the exposition that non-fanatical watchers desperately needed. This was a solid episode with some good set up for the rest of the season – I say that whilst keeping in mind the fact that the showrunners seem to be doing whatever the heck they want with this beast of a series, so I don’t exactly know what’s planned for the rest of the season given that they seem to be ignoring the equivalent book’s story thus far. Still, I’m up for surprises if they continue to be as watchable and engaging as this. A well-shot, well-directed, gorgeous-looking episode, that makes me wish the next episode was here already.
P.S. Did anyone else see that during the opening credits, the animation of Winterfell has been rebuilt and now has the House Bolton sigil on it? Isn’t that a kick in the teeth. It’s almost more depressing than seeing Winterfell ruined and in smoke before every episode.
P.P.S. I just realised that, compared with prior seasons, I have no idea what the ‘big event’ of episode nine is going to be. Either I’ve completely forgotten the contents of the book (entirely possible), or I can’t pick because D&D have been so creative with the story so far. What a dilemma.
What did you think of the episode? If you need to debrief and vent your feelings, feel free to do so in the comments below!