Revelations, flashbacks, and death by fire: Game of Thrones sure knows how to kick a season off with style!
HBO's epic fantasy drama returned for its fifth season on Sunday, April 12, and wasted no time getting deep into the backdoor dealings and political intrigues of Westeros. The motivations of one enigmatic character were finally revealed in this episode, plus a peek into the past of another. Read on to find out what happened in "The Wars to Come."
Into the Woods
The first scene of this season features two teenage girls we've never seen before -- but a smug glare and obvious daddy issues identify the blonde one immediately as a young Cersei Lannister. The girls enter a creepy cottage, one inhabited by a witch who can supposedly see the future. The witch tells Cersei that she can ask three questions, but warns her that she won't like the answers, which foretell Cersei's brief tenure as queen, followed by her fall from power and favor.
And her children? "Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds," says the witch.
In other words, Tommen and Myrcella should be watching their royal behinds right about now, lest they meet the same early demise as big brother Joffrey. And it also explains why present-day Cersei (Lena Headey) is very, very paranoid about what will become of their family now that Tywin Lannister is no more.
Other Intrigues at Court
Tywin's murder might be bad news for the Lannister clan, but it's welcome news for Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), who assumes that his betrothal to Cersei is now as cold and dead as the man who arranged it. He takes the opportunity to recommence flagrant, naked canoodling with his brothel-managing boyfriend, despite Margaery's suggestions that discretion might be in order. (It's good advice, but here's hoping he doesn't take it for at least another few episodes, because the boyfriend has an immaculately photogenic butt.)
Also of note: There's a new wrinkle in the fabric of society at King's Landing in the form of a group of religious fanatics known as the Sparrows. Among them is Cersei's cousin and erstwhile lover Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon), who seems to have found religion but also seriously lost touch with reality.
Meanwhile, a Eunuch Walks Into a Whorehouse...
No, this isn't the start of a bawdy Westerosian joke; it's the start of some serious trouble for Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), as one of her Unsullied is brutally murdered by a mercenary group called the Sons of the Harpy. She's also having problems with the lords back in Yunkai, who want to reopen the fighting pits where slaves used to battle, gladiator-style, to the death. Daenerys bristles at the suggestion that it would be good politics to allow the fights (“I'm not a politician, I'm a queen,” she retorts), but after Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) points out that he himself parlayed his youth in the pits into a robust career as a mercenary, she seems to be reconsidering.
Also under consideration: last season's decision to lock the dragons down in the catacombs. Unfortunately, as their “mother” discovers, it looks like the dragons took that decision extremely personally. Will Daenerys be forced to leave her fire-breathing kids in dragon timeout forever? Or is this just a phase? Do dragons go through puberty?
Elsewhere in Westeros
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) emerges in the premiere looking rather the worse for wear, having weathered an extraordinarily crappy journey out of King's Landing hidden in wooden crate. (The crate was not equipped with a toilet. You can fill in the blanks.) Now that he's out of the box, all he wants to do is drink heavily and make morose remarks about being so done with everything, but Varys has other ideas. In fact, Varys wants Tyrion's help installing a new, righteous ruler on the Iron Throne. And who might he be?
Nuh-uh, Varys says. Not he. She. And with that, the series-long mystery of Varys' true loyalty has been solved: He's on Team Daenerys! (Probably because their names rhyme so nicely.)
Violence at the Wall
Finally, we head North, where Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is still trying to convince Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) and his Wildling army to take up arms under his command. Jon Snow takes up the cause, too -- knowing that Mance will be executed otherwise. But much as Jon Snow (Kit Harington) doesn't want Mance to be burned alive, and much as Mance doesn't particularly want to die screaming and on fire, either, he'd also rather go up in flames than go down on one knee for Stannis Baratheon.
And with that decision made, it's buh-bye, Mance Rayder. But it's not the screaming, fiery death that he feared (or that Stannis wanted); before that can happen, Jon Snow dispatches the condemned man with an arrow to the heart. It's a merciful end for Mance, but judging by the look on Stannis' face, Jon Snow's troubles have only just begun.