Game of Thrones kicked off its fifth season by doing something it had never done before – showing a flashback. “Wars to Come” did a wonderful job of setting the table for our season-long feast, moving characters around and readying everyone for the plots that will unfold over the next nine episodes.
The aptly titled premiere showed us how quickly a war’s outlook can change. In King’s Landing, Tywin’s death has left a clear target on the backs of the remaining Lannisters. In Meereen, the now unemployed slavers are fighting back against Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), leaving bodies in their wake. And up at the Wall, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) believes the recently vanquished wildlings are the soldiers he needs to retake the North. Together, the Lannisters, Stannis, and Daenerys serve as the three pillars in which the war for the Iron Throne is supported, but some of the game’s best players lurk in the shadows. Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) have descended from the Vale and deposited Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli) with Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart), and are now free to continue their plotting while making sure to stay far away from Cersei (Lena Headey). Also avoiding Cersei are Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill), who may have just reached Pentos but have their sights set on reaching Meereen. Finally, Loras (Finn Jones) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) also sought refuge from Cersei, though not out of fear, as Margaery’s ominous use of “perhaps” makes me wonder what she has planned for her mother-in-law.
The one character not shying away from Cersei is Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon), who hasn’t been seen since the Battle of the Blackwater. More on Lancel, and what he represents in a bit. But now, let’s get to the rankings!
Riser of the Week: Cersei Lannister
What makes the Song of Ice and Fire books so compelling is how richly layered they are with history. George R. R. Martin not only created a believable world for his epic tale, he also constructed a vivid history that only grows deeper as the story progresses. Unfortunately, as a television series, Game of Thrones simply cannot devote enough time on-screen to these histories. Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss foresaw the potential problem of getting bogged down in backstory, and as a result, they understandably decided to nix all of the flashbacks from the books. Until now.
Season 5 opens with a flashback to Cersei’s childhood, where not only is it clear that her curtness has been with her since birth, but also that she’s paranoid for a reason. Young Cersei (Nell Williams) seeks out Maggy the Frog (Jodhi May), a fortune teller living on the outskirts of Lannisport and demands to know if she’ll ever be queen. Maggy provides more information than anticipated, telling Young Cersei that she will indeed be queen, but her time will be cut short by someone younger and more beautiful. Also, Cersei will have three children, but her king will have 16 – a clear reference to Robert Baratheon’s bastards and Cersei’s insest-born children. It’s important to note that it is this childhood interaction that fuels Cersei’s paranoia, and with Margaery’s presence, she can’t help but see the new queen as the younger, more beautiful girl who will replace her. By law, Cersei is the most powerful person in Westeros right now, at least until Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) comes of ruling age. Cersei has been dealt the most potent hand possible, but how she plays the cards will determine if she stays at the top.
Honorable Mention: Margaery Tyrell, for clearly taking after her grandmother.
Faller of the Week: Mance Rayder
As Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) tells Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds), vanity is an awfully dumb thing to die for. Stannis has presented Mance with a simple option: kneel, surrender, and live, or refuse, burn, and die. Jon Snow mistakes Mance’s refusal to kneel as vanity, but for the ex-King Beyond the Wall, it’s about much more than that. Mance spent his life kneeling to various people, and when he fled north of the Wall and rose to power, he made sure no one ever felt like they had to kneel to him. But Stannis is a man of tradition, and a refusal to bend the knee is a direct reflection of rebellion. Stannis also isn’t the type of man to give out second chances, so when Mance declines to kneel, he’s immediately escorted to the pyre and burned. I’m sad to see Mance go, as I think he was a perfect leader of the masses, and he would have made a great asset for Stannis and his war effort. But we’ll never know what would have happened had Mance knelt. All we’ll know is that regardless of how resolute you are, being burned alive will bring anyone to their knees.
Honorable Mention: Daenerys, for being on the brink of losing control of Meereen.
Backstory of the Week: The Other Lannisters: Lancel and Kevan
Younger siblings around the world can relate to Kevan Lannister (Ian Gelder) – the younger brother of Tywin and uncle to Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Cersei, and Tyrion. We last saw Kevan back in Season 2 when Tywin was still managing the war effort from inside Harrenhal, where he served on Tywin’s war council. However, when Tywin marched south to King’s Landing to save the city during the Battle of the Blackwater, Kevan returned to Casterly Rock to oversee the Lannister’s home.
Similarly, Kevan’s son, Lancel, hasn’t been seen since Season 2 as well. Lancel has received more screen time than his father, due to his role as Cersei’s pawn and Jaime-replacement in Season 1. Lancel was King Robert’s personal squire, where his main job was to keep Robert’s wine glass permanently full. Cersei had Lancel go above and beyond in this duty during the hunting trip that would end up taking Robert’s life. Lancel purposely made sure that Robert was drunk during the hunt, increasing the likelihood that the king would suffer a deadly injury. Lancel also maintained a sexual relationship with Cersei while Jaime was being held captive by Robb Stark. During the Battle of the Blackwater, Lancel fought surprisingly well, but he ultimately sustained injuries that led to him returning home to Casterly Rock to recover.
With Tywin’s death, Kevan and Lancel return to King’s Landing to pay their respects. Cersei is not happy to see them, but for different reasons. Kevan, despite his second billing in the Lannister family, is no pushover, and it’s entirely possible he falls into the role Tywin played in setting up countless hurdles for Cersei to jump (such as marrying Loras Tyrell). Lancel, on the other hand, represents a low-point for Cersei – a point when she was weakest. Cersei’s sexual relationship with Lancel could land her in serious trouble with the courts, and to make matters worse, Jaime doesn’t know about the relationship. Being that Jaime is Cersei’s one true ally left, the last thing she needs is for a wall to be erected between them.
Item of the Week: The Gold Masks of the Sons of the Harpy
When Daenerys stormed into Meereen and abolished slavery, she made many enemies. People who had been insanely wealthy were relegated to average overnight, and their servants were suddenly equals. As we glimpsed last season, this didn’t sit well with Meereen’s people, and as a result, a rebel group has formed: the Sons of the Harpy. We first glimpse their viciousness early on when White Rat (Marcos James), an Unsullied warrior that initially had me worried that Grey Worm had been recast, had his throat slit while visiting a brothel in search of human companionship. The killer was a gold-masked member of the Sons of the Harpy, and should they continue to exist in Meereen, Daenerys's reign will be a bloody one. Needless to say, it will always be impossible for Daenerys to please everyone. But her ban on slavery stems from a good place, and should be commended, but it’s becoming clearer every episode that Daenerys needs to put some slack into the leash, and I’m in agreement with Daario (Michiel Huisman) in that the perfect place to start would be the fighting pits. In a clear homage to Rome’s gladiatorial pits, bloodlust is best satisfied by organized carnage. Opening the pits would allow Daenerys to prove to Meereen that she’s a firm but fair ruler.
- I will never get used to those creepy painted rocks that are placed over the eyes of the deceased.
- “He swings a sword like a girl with palsy.” Thank you for that much needed laugh, Lord Royce.
- First Oberyn, now Loras. That Olyvar (Will Tudor) sure does know how to make important friends.
- Hey Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), you might want to listen to Pod (Daniel Portman), especially considering Sansa just literally rode right past you.
- Seeing the Bolton sigil raised above Winterfell in the opening credits makes me angry.
Welcome back to Game of Thrones. Our wait might have been long, and the night may have been filled with terror, but for the next ten weeks, let’s sit back, relax, and watch as everyone tries to climb chaos’s ladder.
Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.
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