Not to go all hipster on you, but it wasn’t that long ago that I could mention A Song of Ice and Fire, and would be still be greeted by a room of blank expressions. That is still, to a degree, true, but if I mention Game of Thrones almost everyone has a theory and opinion.
It’s not, no matter what anyone tells you, a bad thing. Game of Thrones has thoroughly earned its popularity, by being incredibly bold for a mainstream TV show. It has kicked (…and stabbed. And shagged -Ed) its way into common cultural awareness.
My praise for it isn’t unfettered. I think that season three, for instance, dropped the ball on the story, turning into a plodding, dull lead up to the Red Wedding. If nothing else, Game of Thrones needs an urgent direction to its story, rather thank just to kill time.
In the capital Cersei and Jaime mourn their father’s death. In the Vale of Arryn, Littlefinger finds somewhere to stash Lord Robin, and Brienne tries to get rid of Pod. In Mereen, Varys reveals his plans to Tyrion, and invites him on an adventure. And in Mereen, Danaerys’ rule faces a backlash.
So after last season, Twyin Lannister is dead. Cersei is angry at Tyrion, which for once feels understandable, and also with Jaime for setting him free in the first place. Again, not unreasonable. Jaime is a bit more bothered that the loss of their father means that the squabbling nobles will be coming for them.
Cersie is in bitch-sulk mode, though, basically glowering at everyone through the mourning. I can’t tell whether she is overconfident, or oblivious, to the fact that her cousin Lancel is threatening her with revealing their affair, or that he killed the king. Lancel has joined the Sparrows, a strict religious cult, which is bound to reappear later, and his father Kevan (Who is surely the new Lord of Casterly Rock, now that Tywin is dead, Tyrion a fugitive, and Jaime in the Kingsguard? -Ed) seems less than keen.
Tyrion, it seems, has been kept in that crate for the whole journey to Essos. Which he thinks is cruel, but as Varys says, he’s risked a lot. Considering he’s been in a box for such a long time, Tyrion’s depressive, self-destructive streak is surprisingly mild. When Varys tells him about the plan to travel to Danaerys’ aid in Mereen, Tyrion agrees — as long as he can continue to drink himself to death along the way.
In Mereen, things are not going brilliantly for the Mother of Dragons. After bringing down the statue atop the temple, one of the Unsullied is murdered by the Sons of the Harpy. Not everyone, it seems, is thrilled at her liberating conquest. She’s very angry, very keen to bring them to justice, but terrorists and insurgents are hard to smoke out.
The dragons are still chained up in the basement. When Daario Naheris points out that she seems to be losing her edge, she visits them. And they’re…well, they don’t seem to be loving their new accommodation.
We only get a small glimpse of Littlefinger Littlefinger-ing. He’s stashed clearly in complete charge of the Vale now, Robin is being looked one of the Vale lords, who is none to complimentary of Robin’s skills with a sword. Which, to be fair, are awful. Stansa seems a lot bolder with her black hair, actually having a verbal joust with Petyr. Petyr who is taking her somewhere “so far away, Cersei Lannnister will never find [her]“…
And the Wall. The battle is done, and thanks to Stannis’ timely arrival, the Wildling army is defeated. Which is nice, but hasn’t really solved anyone’s problems, has it? Stannis still needs an army, and the Night’s Watch needs a new Lord Commander.
The latter looks, worryingly, likely to be Ser Allaster, who is also running for the grumpiest man in the seventh kingdoms. At least one of those he’s gotten sewn up. Stannis, meanwhile, wants the Wildlings for his army, and hopes that Jon Snow can persuade Mance Rayder to bow to him. In return, all of the Wildlings will be granted citizenship of the seven kingdoms. And Stannis plans to pluck Winterfell from the grasp of the Boltons.
Of course, Jon can’t persuade Mance to bow to anyone. Mance refuses, though he wishes Stannis luck in the wars to come. There’s almost a moment of respect between the two men, as the Lord of Light has the King Beyond the Wall chained to a pyre and set alight. Which, as Mance had remarked, is one of the less fun deaths. Watching the flames lick higher, Jon has an attack of conscience, and puts a merciful arrow in his Wildling friend’s chest. Perhaps that’s earned him some pull with the Wildlings.
This was, for the most part, a scene-setting episode. We have another nine to come, and most of the characters have reached entirely new stages of their journeys. We’ve also stuck by the more pleasant groups of characters this episode, with all the fun of the Greyjoys and Boltons presumably still to come.
It is interesting to see just how much everyone views Tywin’s death as having changed the situation. Jaime predicts more backbiting between nobles at the capital, whereas Stannis sees the time as ripe to liberate the north. They’re almost certainly both right, but for me Tywin never matched the Machiavellian power plays of Varys and Littlefinger.
All in all, it was a positive start to a new season. There’s plenty to look forward to, and it is clear that there is the sense of direction which Thrones needs in order to thrive.
Roll on the mayhem!
- Well done on casting a young Cersei so good that nobody had any doubt, in the opening seconds of the episode, that she was young Cersei.
- That statue toppling method seems less than wise. Symbolic, sure, but still…
- It looks like Margery might finally have decided to fight, rather than flatter, Cersei.
- The opening credits sequence has the flayed man of House Bolton on Winterfell. Unsettling.
- Again with those creepy eye stones!
- The prophecy given to Cersei confused me. I get the marrying the king, not the prince, and the king having 20 children while she has three. And the “gold will be their crowns” thing makes sense, but the “gold shall be their shrouds”? Joffrey didn’t have a shroud, did he?