Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Article originally written for Seat42F.

Season five of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES begins with the various characters worried about “The Wars to Come.” Those with serious power in Westeros are now almost all dead, and the ones left behind fight for seats they are not worthy of holding. Across the sea, a new ruler struggles to find her own bearings, but some help is on the way that may just get her over the hump, if she can trust it.

The last sentence in the introduction paragraph refers, of course, to Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). Unlike the rest of the both their families, these two have been the reasonable, strong fighters, who overcome the odds to succeed, and actually care about the people under them. Either would make a wise, just leader, but together, they could be unstoppable.

Tyrion starts “The Wars to Come” in a box, secreted across the sea by Varys (Conleth Hill), now also on the run. Varys believes Tyrion is the type of leader that the Seven Kingdoms need, and wants to introduce him to Daenerys. But they are still a long way away from her yet, and lots can happen on a journey. One thing I’ve learned about GAME OF THRONES is that plans made much in advance rarely come to fruition.

Daenerys could really use the assistance about now. Having spent four seasons rising in power, she has stalled in her current land. Apart from her dragons, whose trust she has lost, her closest advisor sent away, and the nobility she displaced rebelling against her, she is not doing well. Fans love Daenerys and know she can be a good queen, but Daenerys isn’t yet ready for the challenge peace brings. She can wage campaigns and battles fine enough, but like many in history, she has a hard time adapting in the aftermath of war.

Tyrion has proven himself capable in both situations, so hopefully they find and help one another.

Back in King’s Landing, a conflict is brewing between Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). Both seek to control Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), the current boy on the Iron Throne. Cersei is starting at a disadvantage, though. Drunk and sick with anger and grief over the loss of her father and her brother, Jaime’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), betrayal at setting free Tyrion, she is not thinking clearly. It seems that a prophecy she is told as a little girl in the opening scene of “The Wars to Come” may very well come true, since Margaery doesn’t seem hampered by either thing. But I can’t help but think neither of these women are going to matter in the end, not strong enough to hold two kingdoms, let alone seven.

Lastly, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is having a hard time of it up on The Wall. Caught between Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds), both stubborn men, he tries to broker a compromise that lets both walk away. That fails, and Stannis publically executes Mance. Rather than watch a great leader he respects suffer, Jon puts Mance out of his misery with an arrow through the heart.

Will Stannis let Jon’s actions stand? Technically Stannis has no control over the Night’s Watch, an independent body that Jon is a part of. But when has the exact rule of law ever stopped Stannis? He is a bitter man with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. Surely, he cannot be happy at all with Jon’s decision. Stannis thinks he knows the type of man Jon is, but “The Wars to Come” proves that not to be the case. Stannis and Jon are not going to be friends.

As usual in GAME OF THRONES, there are more than three threads in “The Wars to Come.” I only choose these three, though, because they seem the most important, and the ones likely to have the biggest effect on the next few hours. It’s a very full show with a lot going on, beautifully balanced. It serves these grand stories well, while giving us meaningful bits with Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and others. It may actually be hard to predict which of those minor moments will be important later. Thankfully, the show has done a fine enough job defining the characters and situations that it is no longer hard to follow along in this complex web, and if they do matter, many will remember them.

GAME OF THRONES airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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