Review of Game of Thrones Season 5 episodes 1 and 2 (Spoilers)
After months of waiting, the new season of the hit TV series “Game of Thrones” has returned, this year perhaps deviating from the books the most than has ever been done up to now.
Please be warned that the following article contains lots of spoilers, so if you want to be surprised about what happens, please skip this article.
As someone who has only started reading the books, I’m not one to comment on these deviations, but rather how the shows stand up themselves thus far as the standalone pieces of art that they are with or without the presence of the stories in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series.
Episode one opens with a flashback of Cersei Lannister when she and a friend encountered a fortune-teller. The point of the encounter seems to be that Cersei knew of Robert Barathion’s bastard children and that she discovered at an early age that she would indeed become queen.
After the flashback, the scene cuts to Cersei as an adult paying her final respects to her father along with her brother Jaime. Cersei tells Jamie that she’s still pissed at him for letting Tyrion go and that while he killed Tywin, she can at least respect him in that he did it intentionally, whereas Jaime’s blame lies in his foolishness. Cersei being Cersei, though, she still wants her brother dead for killing Tywin, whereas Jaime is more worried about outsiders who are going to try to get a piece of them now that their patriarch has died.
This internal conflict continues into episode two, as well, but before we get to that, we watch as Varys releases him from the box he holed up in at the end of Season 4. Varys and Tyrion are now in Pentos. Tyrion asks Varys why he, a man who has no loyalty to anyone, least of all him, let Tyrion out of captivity and followed him across the narrow sea.
Varys explains that he’s ready for peace, and he believes that Tyrion can help achieve that piece among the warring kingdoms by throwing his support to Daneryis Targerian.
After that the camera cuts to a Harpy being torn from atop the Giant Pyramid of Meereen, followed by one of the unsullied soldiers wandering off to see a prostitute.
This whole interaction, which ends with the unsullied being killed by three men wearing golden masks, is the event that leads to Deneryis turning from a beloved ruler into a hated one later on in episode two.
Finally, the action heats up in Castle Black where King Stannis asks Jon Snow to recruit the wildlings to fight for his army. To do so, he’s ordered to request that Mance Rayder bend a knee to Stannis and order his people to fight in Stannis’ war to overtake the north.
Snow meets with Rayder and tells him that he must bend his knee to Stannis or be killed by being burned to death.
Rayder says he’d rather die than serve Stannis, to which Snow says “You’re making a huge mistake.” Rayder, however, responds with “All I’ve ever wanted was the freedom to make my own mistakes.”
The episode ends with Rayder being burned at the stake in front of all of his fellow wildlings. Snow appears to be disheartened by the turn events and leaves the scene, only to reappear in a balcony when he shoots an arrow through Rayder’s chest, thereby allowing him to die with some dignity.
Season 5 starts with all the hallmarks that have come to define Game of Thrones thus far, interpersonal drama, violence, full frontal nudity and rich character development.
While there aren’t a whole lot of big developments to speak of, perhaps other than the death of Rayder, there are things happening that are setting up bigger events in future episodes.
The real main critique with this episode has to be the dull opening. Cersei sees a fortune-teller and cuts her own finger, finds out something that’ somewhat inane at this point. It’s not until we get to Daneryis’s storyline before anything interesting really even happens.
But, be that as it may, the episode does end on a high note with the death of Rayder. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy who was choosing his morals over his own life. How many times has any of us been in a similar situation and chose to figuratively “bend our knees” instead of taking the high road, which would likely mean impending doom?
I’d say most of us have one something like that in our lives, so to see a man refusing to bow to the man he would never come to accept as his king, even though he has no disrespect for Stannis, is an interesting dynamic. It also begs questions such as what happens to the wildlings now that Rayder is dead? Will there be another Wildling king named despite Stannis’ demands that they accept him as the “one true king?”
It was easily the most interesting plotline in the first episode and it looks to continue to be as we progress into season 5.
The second episode starts with Arya arriving in Braavos on the ship belonging to Ternesio Terys, whom vowed to help Arya after she showed him the coin and uttered the phrase “Valar Morghulis,” instructions that were given to her by Jaquen H’ghar way back in season 2.
Arya has trouble getting in to see the mysterious folks behind the black and white door after a man tells her that there is nobody by the name of the person she’s looking for who lives there. After a brief struggle in which she sleeps outside the door reciting the names of the people she’s set on killing (who at this point are: Ilyn, Meryn, Queen Cersei, Dunsen and Raff the Sweetling.)
She then throws the coin in the water when she realizes that she’s not going to get into the doors. After nearly being assaulted by a group of teen thugs, whom she fends off with her sword, the mysterious man behind the door appears and further scares off the boys. He invites her back to the door and in an instance his face changes to reveal that he is indeed Jaquen.
There’s lots of questions that are remaining with Arya’s storyline, the first of which are what is she doing there? She’s obviously still after blood, but how is she planning on getting to these people?
Arya’s sister Sansa, now holding rein with Petyr Baelish up on the Vale, has a brief encounter with Brienne of Tarth, who discovers her in a random tavern as Sansa and Littlefinger are headed somewhere, where precisely I can’t recall.
Tarth tells Sansa she’s sworn to dying mother to protect her, to which Sansa replies that Tarth was sworn to protect Renly Barathian, who was killed, her brother Robb, also now dead, and Lady Catelyn, who was killed as well. Sansa also mentions that she remembers seeing Brienne bowing at the feet of Joffrey before he was killed at his wedding.
Brienne tells Sansa that she didn’t want to be there anymore than she did and that she did not kill Renly, it was a shadow with the face of Stannis, to which both Sansa and Littlefinger cannot believe and tell her that her services are not wanted.
These interactions, while interesting, are not all that dramatic or impactful, not nearly as much as what happens to Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryn.
We’ll look into what happens to Dany, first.
Dany orders the unsullied to start looking for the men in the golden mask who killed the soldier who was visiting the prostitute, a question that goes unanswered as to why the unsullied have been visiting prostitutes to begin with but we’re shown at the time of his death that he’s there to be held and sung to.
As one of the unsullied and Daario Naharis (now Dany’s main squeeze) are looking for the men, Daario somehow has the initiative to bust through a wall in a random house with his hand to discover one of the men in the gold masks, along with the mask and some other items.
Daario brings the man back to Dany and they start to argue, together with the rest of the Ruling Council of Meereen about what to do with him.
After some back and forth, they decide to give him a fair trial for his crimes. However, while he is awaiting his trial, one of the slaves kills the man before that can happen.
Once Dany discovers this, she sentences this man to death. In what has to be one of, if not the most dramatic scene of the season so far, Dany watches as this man is executed in front of the people of Meereen, which is a mixture of masters and ex-slaves. The former slaves beg for his mercy, but Dany orders Daario to execute him for his crime of murder. Immediately afterward, the crowd starts hissing and booing Dany, despite the fact that she was the one who ordered their freedom.
Her story has gotten much more complicated now that she’s in Meereen because it seems as if all of the good she was trying to do by freeing the slaves and restoring a lawful rein, has backfired on her.
At the end of the episode, one of her dragons that was missing up until now, Drogon, returns to it’s mother. It’s a chilling scene because it shows that no matter what anyone thinks of her, she’s still the mother of dragons and has the ability to command them almost at will, at times, even though there are times where she’s just as powerless against them as anyone else is.
Finally, we get back to Jon Snow.
Snow is seen speaking with Stannis about what transpired with Mance Rayder and how displeased Stannis was with Jon about his mercy killing of him while he was being burned alive. (Which sounds like such a horrible thing to be upset about, but in the context of the story it strangely makes sense from Stannis’ point of view.)
Anyhow, Stannis says that he still wants the wildlings on his side, but Jon says that’s probably not going to happen because they’re not going to fight for anyone but their own kind. Stannis then says he wants Jon’s help in taking the north, to which Jon says he’s taken a vow to serve at Castle Black and he will not break that vow. Stannis tells him that he’s more useful to him as a Stark than as a soldier at Castle Black and will gladly remove Jon’s bastard title and formally make him Jon Stark.
Jon then leaves, and he’s seen telling Sam about this proposition and how he’ll likely refuse it because, as he told Stannis, he’s not going to break his vow.
Then, all of the men at the castle are in a hall voting the new commander, whom Allister Thorne is expected to be named to the spot in a two-way race between he and another less-accomplished man of the Night’s Watch.
However at the last minute Sam nominates Jon, despite Jon’s insistence that he doesn’t. Despite this, Sam makes a convincing case for Jon and the votes are cast.
The vote ends up being a tie between Thorne and Snow, with the man in charge of taking the votes, casting the final vote for Snow.
So, Jon Snow is the new commander of Castle Black and that’s that.
The second episode had a bit more action in it than the first, although it’s still been a slow burn as far as dramatic things happening. It’s good to have Game of Thrones back on the air and in a way it’s nice to start off a bit slow for those of us who haven’t read the books and might need a little time to re-acquaint ourselves with all of the newer characters.
I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next and how this season continues to unfold.