Praise the old gods and the new -- "Game of Thrones" returned Sunday night for its fifth season, kicking off with an opening episode that flitted back and forth across the Seven Kingdoms and laid out our favorite characters, like chess pieces, for what's ahead.
Here, we'll break down the biggest moments from "The Wars to Come," from that first-ever flashback to the fiery moments at the end. (Warning: Spoilers, obviously, from this point on)
1. That opening scene
Let's start at the beginning -- not only because it's this season's opening scene, but because of what that scene means for the series. Two girls walk through some creepy woods, one dark-haired and apprehensive about what they're doing and the other fair-haired and, well, kind of bratty.
They enter a spooky hut, where a woman tries to shoo them away. The blonde girl refuses, and issues a demand: "I know you're a witch and you can see the future -- tell me mine."
"Everyone wants to know their future -- until they know their future," the woman warns. The girl insists, cuts her finger so the woman can taste her blood (ick) and then is told she can ask three questions.
First, the girl says she's been promised to the prince and asks if they'll marry. No, she's told...but, she'll wed the king.
Question No. 2 -- so she'll be queen, then? "You'll be queen...for a time," the witch replies ominously. "Then comes another. Younger. More beautiful to cast you down and take all you hold dear."
The girl tries her third question. Will she and the king have any children? Not together, she's told. "The king will have 20 children, and you'll have three," the woman tells the girl, adding, "Gold will be their crowns, gold their shrouds." Then there's an evil witchy laugh as we cut to...
Present-day Cersei Lannister, about to enter the tomb where her dead father lies in state. The whole previous scene was a flashback (the first-ever to be used on the HBO series) and the blonde girl was a young Cersei learning her fate. It's also worth noting who she passes in the line of mourners waiting to pay their respects -- Margaery Tyrell, who's poised become that new, younger queen Cersei was warned about as a girl.
2. Tyrion in Pentos
If you spent an entire sea voyage stuffed in a crate, you probably wouldn't be pleased about it either. A bearded Tyrion, successfully smuggled out of King's Landing (with the help big brother Jaimie and Varys) after murdering Shae and Tywin, emerges at an estate in the city of Pentos. And he's not happy. And he's also drunk, was drunk the whole trip and is content to continue being drunk, evidenced by his swigging and puking wine on what looked like a perfectly good floor.
3. "Who said anything about him?"
Varys has plans for Tyrion that don't involve being inebriated -- Westeros needs to be saved from itself, he argues, and Tyrion can help do just that. "A drunken dwarf will never save the seven kingdoms," he scoffs, but Varys believes men with talent, like Tyrion (who, the eunuch points out, shares his father's instincts for politics but also has compassion), will "have parts to play in the war to come."
Varys wants a peaceful, prosperous Westeros, and needs the right ruler to make that happen: Someone stronger than Tommen but gentler than Stannis Baratheon, with the right family name to rally everyone together...
Tyrion is skeptical. "Good luck finding him," he scoffs.
But then Varys drops the proverbial mic: "Who said anything about him?" That gets his attention, and Varys makes him an offer: "You can stay here and drink yourself to death, or you can ride with me to Meereen, meet Daenerys Targaryen and decide if the world is worth fighting for."
Tyrion considers his options, but it looks like he's in: "Can I drink myself to death from the road to Meereen?"
4. Trouble brews for Dany in Meereen
Speaking of Meereen, all isn't well with the subjects ruled by our Mother of Dragons. One of her unsullied soldiers is murdered (in brutal, throat-cutting-while-in-the-arms-of-a-prostitute fashion) by a member of a group called the Sons of the Harpy, who left a gold mask behind as a calling card. Dany orders the soldier be buried with full honors, sending a pointed message to the perpetrators.
That's not the only trouble she's come across on her throne. The Yunkai people she conquered want her to give them some concessions, namely allow the fighting pits she abolished to be reopened. Dany says she has no need for politics (she's a queen, people!) and refuses, but it's clear her hold over her subjects isn't so secure.
Later, Daario Naharis tells her she needs to show her power -- she's the Mother of Dragons, but her dragons are chained away out of sight. A hesitant Dany admits she doesn't want another child's burnt bones brought to her feat, and that she hasn't seen her third dragon, Drogon, in weeks. Still, she goes to the crypt at night to see her other two "children"...and let's just say the welcome she gets isn't a happy one. They snap and breathe fire at her, and she runs out in horror.
5. Enter the Sparrows
During a gathering in tribute to dearly departed Tywin, Cersei is approached by her cousin Lancel (remember him?), dressed in a shroud with his long hair now cut short. His father explains he's joined a religious group calling themselves Sparrows ("bloody fanatics," he tells Cersei, adding they never would have come to King's Landing when Tywin was alive, but now...).
She finds Lancel later in a quiet corner, and he tells her he seeks her forgiveness -- he tempted her into "unnatural relations," he says. And then, he adds, there was that little matter with the king...that boar hunt, his wine...
Cersei, poker face intact, says she doesn't know what he's talking about. But Lancel says he's found peace in the light of the Seven and she can too, stressing that they can dole out mercy -- or justice. Yikes.
6. Mance Rayder vs. Stannis Barathon at Castle Black
Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, sits in a Castle Black prison where he's visited by Jon Snow. Mance has been given an ultimatum: Bend the knee to Stannis and have the wildlings join his army, or be put to death. Despite Jon's protests, Mance has made up his mind to refuse - all the free folk tribes followed him because they respected him, he argues, and if he surrenders then that respect will be lost.
How will they do it? "They'll burn you alive," Jon tells him. "Hard way to go," he acknowledges, and he doesn't want to be remembered that way, but it's better than betraying his people. Jon tries to convince him to change his mind, but it's no use -- he's led in front of a gathered crowd to a pyre and, after wishing Stannis good fortune in the wars to come, is changed to a post atop a wooden pyre.
Melisandre, torch in hand, gives a speech about choosing light or darkness, telling the wildlings that Mance is their "king of lies" and warns this is what happens to those who side with him. She lights the wood, and things get hot and painful looking very quickly. Jon finally can't take it and steps away, and just when you think you can't watch anymore either, an arrow comes shooting from out of the frame, piercing his heart and killing him just as the flames begin to consume him. The camera pans and we see it's Jon Snow who fired it, giving his onetime captor an easier death.
-While escorting Jon Snow to a meeting with Stannis, Melissandre asks if he's a virgin. When he admits he isn't, her reaction is, "Good." Is she plotting something involving him?
-A black cloak-clad Sansa and Littlefinger leave the Eyrie together by carriage. Where are they going? "To a land so far from here even Cersei Lannister can find you."
-Brienne of Tarth is totally dejected following her fight with the Hound and losing Arya Stark, and wants to cut Podrick loose. He tells her that even though Arya didn't want her protection, Sansa is still out there and she still might, but that doesn't cheer her up at all.
-Lord Robin gets sword-fighting lessons, and is terrible at it. Who's surprised? No one? Thought so.
Tell us: What did you think of the "Game of Thrones" season premiere?
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