So this is what we all wait 9 months for.
Tywin is dead, the Hound probably is as well. Arya and Tyrion and Varys have all left Westeros and Stannis has set up camp in the cold, cold north. Cersei, Margaery and Jaime are left in the castle with plenty of drama on the horizon as the Lannister Clan is looking a little thin.
Episode 1 does a few neat things that show that the books, though they are diverging, are still at the heart of the show.
Brienne, licking her wounds from last season’s season final battle with the Hound (Geez it’s been 9 months shouldn’t you be better by now?) is mere meters away from her quarry, Sansa Stark, as she passes by with Littlefinger in the back of a wagon.
The books often leave subtle clues that main characters are close to crossing paths, with the Inn at the Crossroads being one example.
For Sansa and Littlefinger, well it’s time to be moving on. Things are a little less creepy between these two (well, he’s always a bit creepy) and the Aerie air seems to have done Littlefinger in particular some good. His weird voice is more Irish now, and a lot easier to understand.
Jon Snow’s all about forgiveness
We find Jon helping the new blood learn to fight, including the kid who killed his wild(ling) lover. But even though he’s Nights Watch through and through, Jon seemingly can’t wait to convince Mance Rayder to take the knee at Stannis’ request.
Maybe it’s cause he thinks it’s the resolution that most benefits the Night’s Watch, or that he feels he owes Mance a solution, but there is just a whiff of “Yes Daddy” towards Stannis, something the gaunt little gremlin has a way of bringing out of people.
As an aside, Ser Davos climbs down from whatever leading role he may have aspired to become Stannis pageboy yet again.
Anyway Jon trys to reason with Mance and almost gets through but Mance doesn’t want to bend the knee, even if it means burning to death.
Melisandre reinvigorates her Mrs Robinson act on Jon before setting fire to Mance. Jon, ever the dour ‘good dude’, puts an arrow through Mance’s heart before the worst of the flames get to him.
Still, putting an arrow through Mance is what Jon wanted all along.
Gilly and Sam provide a bit of entertainment and foreshadow the upcoming election for who will be the next Lord of the Nights Watch.
Danerys + Tyrion
After travelling across the narrow sea in a box Tyrion vomits red wine (I thought it was blood, I wish it was blood) all over Illyrio’s Mon-patio (He must have popped down the shop for some plums or something, cause he’s missing from the scene). We are reminded of Danerys, firstly because her and Viserys started their journey here and secondly cause Varys, in his subtle but not subtle way says “Tyrion, mate. Listen. You’re a good guy who did some bad things. I don’t believe in heroes but you have skills and maybe you can help the person who I think could be the hero, oops I do believe in heroes sorry, but you’re not one.”
And then Tyrion is like “Good luck finding that dude”
And Varys is like “Actually is dudette.”
And then Tyrion surprises us all by ending the scene with a quip.
Of course Danerys, like most totalitarian dictators, seems way cooler in stories than in RL. When we do catch up with blondie she’s still stressing about the child that died cause of her dragons and some other stuff about there not being peace in Meereen.
Fans of the books know of the Meereenese Knot, the name given to the problems that Martin had resolving this arc. This looks set to continue. After toppling the Harpy statue from the pyramid one of the Unsullied goes to the red light district to be comforted, only to find his throat slit by the ‘Sons of the Harpy’
Dany’s advisor suggests she reopen the fighting pits. Khaleesi says no but then some guy she’s sleeping with says “Hey I used to be a pit fighter. I made a lot of money for my master and got to win my freedom and now I’m here with you.”
Ok forgetting this is the worst example of cause and effect ever, At this point Dany probably should have looked at his naked, scarless body and called him a liar. Instead she is like “That’s still kinda sucky”
The whole thing is resolved, like most pillow talk, by changing the subject. Which is now Dany’s dragons. If she can’t control her dragons, she won’t stay queen.
At the deeper metaphorical level Danys dragons are her own demons. Learn to conquer the maddness inside and she can conquer Meereen. It’s a great story element, but Dany is increasingly looking like a dictator who rules by name. She’s good because her enemies are all so viciously evil. In a world of so many ‘gray’ characters it is telling that she is only pitted against despicable baddies with no redeeming qualities.
Still, she does have dragons
Cersei’s moving on and moving up
The season opens with a young Cersei wandering through the woods with her friend, off to see the fortune teller. Her fortune is bleak, but this is the first time we’ve seen Cersei’s memory and parrallels the book timelines where Cersei’s POV comes to the fore.
Up until now we’ve only known Cersei as a psychotic, incestual, power hungry madwoman. When we learn more we find that she is in fact a pyschotic, incestual, power hungry madwoman… who really loves her children.
Dead spooky eyed Tywin has changed Cersei. Gone are the pledges of love to Jaime. Instead all she has is a couple of cold burns for her ‘man of action’.
HBO has taken note that there’s been plenty of dat ass and almost no boycheek.
Episode 1 goes a short way to reedeming this by showing at least two asses. (If you don’t count Stannis, who’s an ass from any angle)
“Men of Talent have a part to play in the war to come.”– Varys being a misogynist.
“I’m not well suited to work” – Tyrion being ableist
“Perhaps we’ve grown so used to horror we assume there is no other way” – Varys, after watching too much Pretty Little Liars.
“Fuck my pride” – Mance, being Mance
“Are you a virgin?” – Melisandre