Game of Thrones is back! The Season 5 premiere covered a lot of ground (and characters), and should set up what might be the most unusual season of the show to date.
Full episode spoilers follow!
Obviously, the big cloud hanging over almost every scene is the fallout from last season's finale: Tywin is dead. Long live...whom?
Despite not having been king, it's clear that his power, influence, and terror were far-reaching. The quieter tone of the episode lets the show explore the "what happens now" with most of the main players, and it helps set the stage for an "anyone's game" fight for his place in the Seven Kingdoms.
The opening flashback with a young Cersei receiving a very accurate—and dark—prophecy was a new technique for the show, but it's one I wouldn't mind seeing them use a few more times in the coming episodes. We don't need to reach LOST levels of flashback, but some sparing usage could be helpful in further developing some characters' back stories. We got the setup of Margery threatening Cersei's reign last season, but there are multiple scenes in this episode that cement this as a key plot point for the season. Cersei is often at her most cutthroat when she's cornered, so I look forward to the brewing rivalry between her and the always-cunning Margaery.
Jamie is relegated to a very minor role in this episode, allowing Cersei to get in a few good lashes about his part in their father's death and Tyrion's escape. I would have liked to have seen him stand up to his sister (and his brother) more, but it remains to be seen where his loyalties now lie.
Tyrion, of course, has fled with Varys to Pentos, and I'm very excited about the fact that we get these two characters together for the foreseeable future. They have an excellent chemistry, and it's high time we get to see them in a setting that isn't King's Landing. Patricide, even for Tyrion who hated his father, is not a burden lightly worn, and we see him at a new low. However, the potential team-up with Daenerys is what really has me excited.
The typically-unstoppable Mother of Dragons has hit some snags: Drogon is missing, the other dragons are chained up and pissed off, and a rebellion is brewing in Meereen. She needs an advisor, and Tyrion needs a new purpose in life. Add Varys and Ser Barriston into the mix, and you start to get a pretty powerful team that could unseat the Lannister rule over Westeros. The only thing is whether Dany would be open to Tyrion's help; I suspect we may get some excellent mileage out of these two trying to come to terms.
Sansa gets a few minutes of screen time with Littlefinger, but I'm still unclear where they're going with her character. I'm so curious to see if her marriage with Tyrion ever becomes something real. Despite the current boatload of obstacles between them, it's a fascinating pairing that I hope gets explored further in the show.
A few of our favorite Starks, Arya and Bran, are absent from the episode, although the show has already confirmed that Bran won't feature into this season (annoying but quite intriguing). We do get a quick scene with Brienne and Podrick, but I'm quite curious to see how Arya's path develops from here—and if/how Brienne factors into it. Arya has spent so long trying to survive and get revenge, but it's interesting to consider whether she will eventually make a play for loftier goals. I'm not sure I see her trying to sit on the Iron Throne, but she certainly has a larger part to play in the future of Westeros, especially with her battle-hardened disposition.
Jon Snow and Mance Rayder's story on The Wall, though, does give us a minor update on Winterfell, still under control of Roose Bolton, but it's clear that they're mainly using this to set up some conflict with Stannis. There will surely be some fallout from Jon mercy-killing Mance, but Stannis will definitely need the ever-popular Jon to rally any support from the Wildlings or the Night's Watch.
Despite lacking any explosive fight scenes or action set pieces, this premiere packed a significant number of developments and laid the foundation for what should be a very interesting season. Some major chess pieces have been knocked down, and I'll be eager to see how the board resets through the rest of season five.