It was a tiring habit for the ever-burgeoning legion of Game of Thrones fans in India to wake up early Monday morning to rev up their torrents (Who watches HBO anyway?). The anticipation and excitement was always tremulous enough to have you get late for college, or work for that matter. However, as much of us have learned, the first four episodes have ‘leaked.’ That said however, in the interest of the many who worked so hard to put the show on screen, reviews for episodes of Game of Thrones shall follow only after their telecast on television.
*BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD*
“I wish you good fortune in the wars to come”
Apart from one small yet, shockingly brutal scene of violence, there is little gore in the premiere episode of Game of Thrones Season 5. It is, in many ways, in sharp contrast to the savagery of its last two episodes ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ and ‘The Children.’ And yet, in many other ways it is also a prelude, a beginning to the more savage wars to come.
And yet, for a war dominated and ruled by men, it would seem that the onus has quietly shifted into the hands of women (Femi-Nazis rise!). The episode begins with an effective flashback, a tale that precipitated all of Cersei’s pride and attitude towards all, especially Tyrion (Now officially a kinslayer), Margery (with her manicured nails and all) and even her brother/lover Jaime. Now, I seriously want more of Cersei with a wine goblet. She’s more fun to watch with it than without, which goes the same for her sibling (But hey, Tyrion is awesome. And so is Jaime *grudging respect*). Fingers crossed, we’ll see a catfight on our hands (A track never fully realized in the books).
Even Sansa in the Eyrie seems to be slowly readying herself to channel Lady Stoneheart as she, and Lord Littlefinger attempt to avenge the dead and perhaps, take back the North. Very well, but that is small consolation for us book fans.
Across the Narrow Sea, the Queen Mother’s brother is having an equally horrid time with sobriety as he finally gets to free himself from the confines of the crate going all the way to Pentos (although, long after he had relieved himself within it). The fact that Varys has practically recruited a less-than-sober Imp for Dany’s cause is of course, false advertising (Now that the Young Griff storyline is dead), because apparently Dany has taken the title ‘Mhysa’ too seriously. This, even as she wages a dangerous shadow war against the Sons of the Harpy who wear rather trendy and Lady Gaga-ish masks with of course a dagger to wield. Speaking of daggers, they remain well hidden but ready to strike in the wools and sheepskins of the Wildlings and the Night’s Watch alike as Stannis and Jon Snow remain on the Wall. And the pace with which things are moving, we may have a Caesar on our hands.
The most important and essentially, the best element of the TV series is that it allows most of its characters, even the minor ones to develop and add layers to their persona. This keeps it in good stead and way ahead than the characters in the books because not every character in the books is a POV character. Because of the fact that the show has allowed even the minor actors of even minor characters a fair amount of screen time, it is almost intimate when you share and bask in their victories and losses. This is why there is an added amount of weight attached to moments that are completely out of the book, thereby adding that extra layer of persona to the character. It was because of this producers’ trick that audiences actually cared for Oberyn in Season 4, up until his mind-blowing *pun intended* death because the Red Viper was never fully-fleshed in the books but, merely an instrument of chaos.
The acting, as always is consistently brilliant. From Peter Dinklage to Kit Harington, everyone is in top form. Even the relatively smaller characters, played by Stephen Dillane (Stannis) and Natalie Dormer (Margery) find themselves moments to shine, which is a credit to them considering that their TV personas are more the producers’ creations than Martin’s. Although, I was pretty annoyed with the actor who played Hizdahr Zo loraq (soon to-be Dany’s husband, at least in the books). He does look and talk like a wimp (as in the books), but there’s something very littlefinger-y about him. Also, I didn’t understand why Ser Barristen Selmy felt the need to snicker at Dany’s rebuttals to Hizdahr (Old man laughing at innocuous statements. Is he on Xanax?)
It is at best speculation as to where the story of Westeros (And the Narrow Sea) goes from here. True, the TV series has made some long strides against the course which the books had taken, with characters driven by different plans and different motivations. There are also quite a few character heads rolling about in the editing department back at HBO. No Young Griff, No Lady Stoneheart, not yet anyways. No Quentyn Martell (dull boy who is best used as a barbeque) or Greyjoy politics too (Did anyone really, seriously care?). Then, there is the Sansa arc, which I think will be the most interesting to watch because it literally throws the books out of the moon door (And somewhere, book-buffs will finally have their anticipation tested). With Littlefinger and Sansa heading away from the Eyrie (To the North, I imagine), one must wonder whether she’s finally going ‘home.’ Fingers crossed that sooner or later, Sansa becomes the bride, an instrument of chaos straight out of Tarantino’s films.
In the tradition of Game of Thrones season premieres, the episode remained scattered, flitting between characters so that all are caught up with them. Sadly, not all of them. No Arya in the premiere (Which is another way of saying no Maisie Williams), nor were any of the Boltons or Reek (Thank the Gods) to be seen. Surprisingly, no Sand Snakes and Dorne to be seen as well, which even though undermines the hype created around their addition to the show, clearly reflects that the producers really do have some major storylines in the pipelines that need their own time in the sun (Although I’d rather have seen them than having see Brienne and Podrick bicker. I mean seriously, they bicker like kids fighting over a television remote). The episode may have disappointed many who expected bigger paybacks and shocking twists, but no. Not yet, anyways because when you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. (A moment of silence for Ned Stark, please). And the way to play it is to set things in motion and let the knights and pawns take their places on the chessboard of Westeros.
Simply stated, the episode was a great start to the Season. Politics, intrigue, violence and yes, nudity return with a vengeance in a season that promises loads. A return to a world where honour is often repaid by betrayal and where evil often befalls those you care about. Which is why you cheer, rather grudgingly when Jon Snow fires a quarrel at Mance Rayder’s heart (Damn you Jon Snow! I really wanted to see that Deserter burn into the cold air. Wow, I have a lot in common with Melisandre), because that’s the kind of savage moral logic the people in Westeros live in. And that’s what makes the show the best in its genre, and probably the best on Television (The Americans, you listening?) .
Reviews for the subsequent episodes will follow soon. Until then, Hodor!