GAME OF THRONES – Live-action fantasy-political drama based on the series of novels by George R. R. Martin "A Song of Ice and Fire"; rated TV-MA; airs Sundays on HBO; 60 minutes. Episode 5.1: “The Wars to Come” (Will air April 12, 2015). Directed by Michael Slovis; written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (7 out of 10)

This episode hasn't aired yet, so . . . spoilers. 

In Westeros, sitting on the Iron Throne can be fatal. Robert Baratheon died, passing the throne to his (supposed) son Joffrey. Then Joffrey met his suffocating end at his Purple Wedding. Now sweet, dear Tommen sits upon the throne. How long will he last, even with scheming mother Cersei at his side?

The premiere of Season 5 of HBO’s hit series establishes where the characters we love (and love to hate!) are currently, setting them up for their places on the figurative chessboard.

The episode begins, not with a bang, but with a flashback. We learn that Cersei (Lena Headey) was spoiled and entitled long before she became an ambitious Queen. As a girl, she sought out a witch in a forest, who revealed that her future would be promising but only temporarily. Her children would die, and her Queenship would not last. A bit of foreshadowing? One can hope. In the meantime, she mourns, in her own way, the death of her father Tywin Lannister, murdered by son Tyrion (Peter  Dinklage). The King's Hand's die as often as Kings in Westeros. There should be a warning in the job descriptions.

 

On The Wall, Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) tries to convince Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) to bend the knee, joining their armies to defeat the Lannisters. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) once again finds his loyalties conflicted. He tries so hard to get along with everyone, but it never quite works out. Wasn’t this a bit of a problem with his father, as well? Not everyone plays nicely. When a fiery situation calls for mercy, his arrows are at the ready.

 

No doubt Tyrion is one of the shining stars of the series, and he makes a dramatic entrance as he emerges from a crate after a long sea voyage. The scenes between him and Varys are the best of the episode, as Tyrion drinks and glares at The Spider, who says, “The Seven Kingdoms needs a ruler loved by millions with a powerful army and the right family name.” Varys reveals that they could seek out Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and aid in her quest to take the Iron Throne. But looking at Tyrion's expression, I'd say he's not convinced it's a sound plan. 

 

Speaking of the Dragon Queen, now that she is Queen in Mereen, statues are toppled from ziggurats and citizens bring their charred children before her. Her rebellious teenaged dragons have been bad, and even she can no longer control them. If she can’t rule her own children, how can she rule anyone else?

 

There are also some scenes with Sansa and Littlefinger in a carriage on a journey. If their destination was mentioned, I missed it. It wasn’t the most entertaining segment of the show, and I was probably focused on eating my Junior Mints.

Seeing Sansa did make me realize that Arya hadn’t made an appearance yet. Looks like we’ll have to wait until at least the second episode to see the youngest Stark girl.

And while this season premiere lacks the impact of last year's, when the Viper made his dramatic first appearance (sniffle), it does a great job of catching us up on the many twists and turns that happened at the end of the season finale. And it sets the wheels in motion for what it to come. 

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Tags: Game of Thrones , george r r martin , HBO