Game of Thrones returns after the always painfully long break, with the much-anticipated fifth season preparing to grace the HBO airwaves tonight. Much like previous years, the Season 5 premiere The Wars to Come is an episode that takes a moment for the show to catch its breath and reconnect the audience with the characters, establishing where they ended up in the always tumultuous Game of Thrones finales.
Not surprisingly, the highlights of the episode are the scenes involving Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) after their escape from King’s Landing following the murder of Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) in last season’s finale. Both actors are superb (especially together) and their growing alliance is being set up as an aspect of the show that should be captivating to watch this season.
Meanwhile, the other surviving Lannisters are still reeling from the loss of their father and Cersei (Lena Headey) is beyond pissed at Tyrion (so what else is new?), even though she doesn’t know for sure he was the killer. Once again poor Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is the voice of reason, and the interplay between the two siblings is as maddening and as mesmerizing as ever. Cersei is quickly moving up the list of characters I want to see dead, now that Joffrey has left this plain.
As you can tell so far in the review, this season of Game of Thrones isn’t breaking the mold in regards to show’s love of character pairing. There are great, quieter character moments all throughout the episode, including Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) and Sansa (Sophie Turner), whose relationship is touching with a side of creepy. It’s fun to see Littlefinger mentoring Sansa about the cruel world of Westeros politics and these scenes are written particularly well.
But really, what all viewers want to know is: be there dragons? Spoiler: Yes, here there be. We do get some quality time with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her not-so-little monsters. She’s doing her best to rule her new kingdom, but is having some issues with the morality and politics of her new role and Ser Jorah (Iain Glenn) is not around to offer guidance, since she foolishly sent him away.
The Wars to Come brings up some very interesting ideas around the difficulties raising and controlling dragons that I’m glad they addressed. Daenerys needs to get her groove back with her beasts, or she could see all that power she gained slide right through her fingers. While I love the dragons, I have to admit Daenerys as a character is getting less likable by the minute and this episode highlights her more annoying characteristics.
Lastly, the other major element of The Wars to Come revolves around the cheery men of The Night’s Watch over at the Wall. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is given some tough consequences to deal with after the victory over the Wildlings in the previous season. Again, there is almost zero action in this entire episode, but what Snow is forced to deal with between the increasingly dick-ish Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and the king beyond the wall, Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds), is very gripping material. Harington rises to the gloomy occasion and puts in a strong performance in the episode.
The Wars to Come is an excellent, slow-paced and character-oriented return for Game of Thrones. The episode is devoid of almost any action, but does a tremendous job of providing great individual moments for the characters that it chooses to focus on, and sets up of a very promising Season 5. The Wars to Come doesn’t shake up the Game of Thrones formula, but when you have such great actors and stories to tell on a great show, why should they?
Game of Thrones Season 5 premieres on Sunday, April 12th at 9pm ET, on HBO.