Before jumping into tonight’s episode recap, I’d like to take a moment to address a recent internet topic regarding the future of Game of Thrones (other than the leak of episodes). The big reveal that the content of the show will surpass the books and end before the books are even published is really no surprise. George R.R. Martin already took a long time to write the five books currently published, and he’s been busy with fame and such, so the progress on Winds of Winter has slowed to a light breeze. What I take issue with, as a devoted reader and viewer, is this sudden hate toward the show runners for trimming the overall story created by Martin.
The world of Game of Thrones is already so large that all the story lines cannot be contained within one single episode. To add more threads and stories threatens the viewability of the show. The show creators and Martin have worked together and the series in both the books and the show is heading toward the same conclusion.
However, now that the source material has caught up to where we are in the show – interpretation and adaptation are more in the hands of the show runners. Not that I don’t like reading hundreds of pages about Tyrion’s guilt as he drifts through the ruins of a fallen empire, but I’d much rather see his connection to Daenerys come to fruition. Reading purists are upset about some trimming along Arianne’s storyline in Dorne, Aegon, Quentyn, and the Iron Islanders. I’m not. Streamline. Trim the fat. Press ahead and bring the best of the story to the screen. Connect these characters and these storylines and build toward the epic conclusion, the crescendo to The Song of Ice and Fire.
King’s Landing Upheaval
Tonight’s premiere for season five picked up in an unexpected spot: the past. Cersei Lannister effectively proved that she has always been a bitch, even as a child. As a book reader, I am familiar with the prophecy delivered to Cersei from the Woods Witch. She was told she would not wed the Prince, Rhaegar, she would wed the King, who we all know turned out to be Robert. She is told of her golden crowned children with their golden shrouds and the many bastards of her husband. Then she is told that she will be Queen, but only until a younger and more beautiful Queen takes her place – enter hate for Margery Tyrell. What wasn’t included in the fortune was that Cersei was also told she would be killed by the valonqar. Valonqar translates to “younger brother” – enter further reason for her to hate and fear Tyrion. I’ve reached my own conclusion that the writers chose not to include this aspect of the books because the show has already established the depth of Cersei’s hate for Tyrion. However, what I think is important about this detail so knowingly left out of the show is that Jaime Lannister is also her younger brother. She is the elder twin.
But enough about that and all the speculation; here’s what happened in King’s Landing…not much. Tywin is dead, and while I feel the show takes an impact from the lack of the force of his character, it very much leaves things up in the air for the Lannisters. The Tyrell’s are poised to take greater power now that Tywin is gone and Cersei is not going to go gently into the planned betrothal to Loras Tyrell. She wants to stay in King’s Landing and claw for her waning power.
The rest of the Lannister House is pretty much the third string quarterbacks of the family. But we were introduced to something interesting, something new, and something that may come back to bite Cersei in the ass: Lancel Lannister. He’s part of a new religious fundamentalist group called The Sparrows, and he knows a lot about the sins of Cersei Lannister. Basically, King’s Landing is still reeling from the death of Tywin Lannister and the disappearance of Tyrion. The balance of power has been thrown off and I’m sure we will soon see the gloves come off in the wars to come.
Vacation in Pentos
As if Tyrion needed another reason to bury himself in the dregs of wine. He has committed patricide. He also murdered the woman he loved, strangled so poetically with Lannister gold. Tyrion has lost all sense of purpose and motivation. He found his true nature while playing the game of thrones and now he thinks that Westeros is lost to him forever. Or is it? I’m glad that Varys has stayed with Tyrion on his journey into exile. In the books, the two part ways after the initial escape, but I like that we get to hear more from Varys. Because, after two weeks of binge watching four seasons of this show, I have come to see Varys and Littlefinger as the master weavers of the webs of power in Westeros. I believe that Varys has the good of the realm in his intentions.
Varys believes that Daenerys Targaryen is the leader the realm needs in order to heal, to flourish – to survive the winter that is at their back door. The Targaryens are the conquerors that first united the seven kingdoms with their dragons and their blood magic, and it would seem that possibility exists again. Varys wants Tyrion to meet Dany, to meet her and decide if there is still something worth living for, if there is still a part for him to play in the game.
Mother of Dragons?
Dany is still in Meereen where an uprising has begun against her reign by a group called The Sons of the Harpy. The Harpy is the giant figure defaced from the great pyramid. It’s clear that while Dany holds the city, she is having a difficult go of ruling it. Her soldiers are being killed and her appointed ambassador to Yunkai, Hizdahr zo Loraq, is asking for political concessions to keep the local culture alive. This is where I think Dany falters in her reign. She has just sent three cities into chaos by demanding a change to their social structure, and left all of them but Meereen to figure things out for themselves in the aftermath of her “liberation.” Because we live in a reality still familiar with invasion and conquering and political upheaval – we can recognize that cities left with no structure will fall into chaos or even more corrupt systems will arise in their place.
Meanwhile, she brings the sell-sword back into her bed and he is the only one willing to tell her the truths that are hard to hear. This was where she and Jorah Mormont struck a good balance. He was a good advisor; yes, he betrayed her in the beginning, but then he pledged his life to her and challenged her with hard truths. Now he is gone, and Khaleesi is not faring well. Some may not agree with this assessment, and I have prepared my refutation.
At the end of season four, Dany chained her two obedient dragons in the catacombs of Meereen. Symbolically, she has chained her inner dragon, she has chained that fire that gave her the momentum to move, to conquer, and to keep moving, but now she is stalled. Her power is halted in Meereen where The Sons of the Harpy want her dead and her source of power, her dragons, her children, are chained up beneath the city she is struggling to rule.
Drogon is still on the loose, he has denied her control, her chains and any attempt to keep him from being what he is: a dragon. When Dany goes to see Viserion and Rhaegal she gets a rude awakening. Her dragons have grown and they are pissed. We don’t know if they recognize her or not, but if they do they are letting her know that she made a bad decision when she chose to chain them.
I felt for her though, when she escaped the catacombs and leaned against the rock. She is the last dragon. She has no idea how to control her dragons or what to do now that she has no power over them. Too bad she’s not a Warg like, uh, Brandon Stark (and if the show was faithful to the book – Jon Snow is a Warg as well, and so is Arya). If Dany were a Warg, she could control them. Dany is not in a good position in Meereen and she is a long ways from Westeros. Let’s hope that Tyrion sobers up and conjures up another scheme that can get Dany to where she really needs to be…The Wall.
Yes, this is where Daenerys needs to be, on the back of one of her dragons to defeat with fire what is rising with the winter that is coming. We’ve all seen the army of white walkers and we know that dragon glass and fire are the only things that can defeat them. So my hope is that now these connections are being made: Stannis coming to the aide of the Night’s Watch, and Varys and Tyrion heading to Daenerys that things will begin to move into position for the wars that are coming.
Until then, some crazy things are happening at The Wall. Jon Snow is in an odd position; with the ranks of leadership within the Night’s Watch in tatters, he seems to be adrift in terms of purpose. Now, with the arrival of Stannis and the Red Woman, Jon is being used as some kind of ambassador for the Wildling cause. He understands their need for protection, but he knows that Mance Rayder is a prideful man highly unlikely to kneel to Stannis Baratheon and commit the free folk to a war they have no reason to fight. Stannis’ priorities are all about taking back the North, and gaining access to the Iron Throne, but he is missing the essential and immediate threat of what marches on The Wall along with the winds of winter and the endless night.
I feel like I’ve been hard on Kit Harrington in his portrayal of Jon Snow, but after re-watching the entire series, I actually feel a lot better about his performance. Jon Snow in the show will never be the character he is in the books, but I feel like he is coming more into his own power. Oh, and Jon Snow has power. I don’t know why the show creators have chosen to cut out the fact that Jon is a Warg, but it adds to his force, also the highly theorized parentage of Jon Snow as the offspring of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen make him even more powerful. So in the show, they are exemplifying his power in other ways.
Jon’s already become an asset to Stannis as Ned Stark’s bastard. Ned Stark was the only one that supported Stannis’ claim to the Iron Throne. Jon is also well educated and knows the politics at Castle Blackl, as well as the wildling ways. Jon knows that the wildlings need safety behind The Wall, but can’t get Mance to work with him to bring the two sides together. So it will be up to Jon Snow to bring the free folk into the realm of safety behind The Wall. Also, Jon just up and he shot an arrow into the Mance Rayder to let the man die with dignity in the face of Stannis, the Red Woman, and his superior officers. He is a lone wolf. Big things are going to happen at The Wall, because the ultimate battle between good and evil is going to take place there, thousands of miles from King’s Landing.
- Lord Robin of the Vale is basically useless at everything
- Littlefinger and Sansa are shaping up to be the gothic duo of destruction
- Pod and Brienne – give them purpose or give them no screen time
Overall, I thought this was a successful premiere, but it was mostly an episode used for story building. That’s fine, but now that we are moving into territory that is solely in the hands of the show’s writers and creators – the story better be good. There was a good deal of character development for Jon Snow, Cersei, and Dany, but I missed Arya and will be looking forward to catching up with her next week. I’ll still read the books, because there is so much more happening and so many other characters and story lines I am wondering about, but I want this show to succeed. I want to see how the Song of Ice and Fire ends.
Amanda Lowery lives, writes and studies in Baltimore where she is held hostage by potholes, stray cats and rats that make her watch way too much TV and rhyme unnecessarily. You can find her book reviews and pop culture thoughts at amandasthinkingoutloud.blogspot.com.