The Wars to Come is a fitting title for the first episode of Game of Thrones season five, as it sets up the conflicts that many of the main characters will face over the course of the next nine episodes, and provides an insight into these characters’ mind-sets following the events of season four.
The episode itself is exactly what you would expect from a premiere for such a complex television show; the majority of its run time is spent setting the foundations of the story to come, and a clear effort is made to remind the audience of the events of seasons past. There’s an excessive amount of exposition hidden within the nooks and crannies of the episode, something which I did find jarring, but the way that the writers handled this was very admirable. For example, the writers use Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey) to remind the audience of Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) escape at the end of last season, in order to display the changes in their relationship after their father’s death and reveal the motivations that will drive these characters in upcoming episodes.
Because this episode is setting up the story for the rest of the season, it lives and dies on whether or not that tale seems promising. As the episode progresses it’s clear that the promise is there and that Game of Thrones will be as intriguing as ever, as Varys (Conleth Hill) reveals his plans for Tyrion and Stannis (Stephen Dillane) makes his presence known at The Wall.
The stakes have never been so high and the characters seem to be moving towards the end of their development. The first four seasons of this series have taken the characters on a multitude of journeys, both literally and figuratively, and these journeys have clearly shaped who the characters are. For example, when the series began Jaime was a cocky warrior willing to push a young child out of a window for self-preservation, whereas now he’s a man who will jump into a bear pit in order to save a woman he barely knows.
As this season opens it feels as though the characters don’t have a long way to go in terms of their personalities; they are who they are and what’s left will focus less on character study and more on the narrative. The questions we have to ask aren’t about motives or intentions anymore, they’re about how the characters will impact the future of Westeros given what we already know about them. How will Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) honour and mercy serve him while Stannis is at The Wall? How will Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) hate of slavery impact her attempts to rule at Meereen and ultimately take the Iron Throne? These are the things that we tune in to find out, and this episode offers just enough to get us all excited going forward.
The biggest problem I had with the episode was the insignificance of Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) scene. The problem was that we learnt nothing new; at the end of the previous season it was clear that Sansa and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) would be leaving The Vale, but we didn’t know exactly where they’d be going. At the end of this episode we’re in the same position, so Sansa’s appearance felt more like a tease than a meaningful minute of television.
The Wars to Come was an enjoyable first glimpse of Game of Thrones season five. It didn’t offer as much excitement as it perhaps could’ve done, because there wasn’t a major twist to thrust the season into life, but it put the pieces in place for the future and left me desperate to see episode two.