This review contains spoilers
The premier episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones not only creates the foundations for the coming series, it gives it something that has been somewhat lacking; a sense of direction. As it stands, it has the potential to be one of the strongest seasons so far.
Episode one begins in a flashback, as a young but equally malicious Cersei hears her prophecy, giving us a glimpse into the coming rivalry that will most likely play out between Margaery and herself this season. We then jump right back to where Season Four left off. King’s Landing is shaken by the death of Twyin, and Tyrion is making his escape. Here we are treated to one of the most creative shots so far in the show – a montage of Tryion’s journey to Pentos from the perspective of his crate.
Sansa has without a doubt made one of the most impressive transformations recently: her appearance is now terrifyingly mature, yet it is clear she remains caught within Littlefinger’s designs. The unlikely pairing of Brienne and Podd helps them become two of the most sympathetic characters remaining, their mission now to track Sansa ever northwards.
Over in Mereen we are introduced to early signs of instability as we witness a politically motivated murder. Daenerys fights to control her power, putting her faith in the justice system, although her decisions are proving to be unpopular as ever.
A major strength of Game of Thrones has always been the wealth of strong characters it has at its disposal. Even greater is when these characters are pushed into new interactions for the first time. A great deal of the episode is dedicated to the meeting between Stannis and Jon, and on top of this we are given the promise of Tyrion meeting Daenerys.
The strongest point of the episode comes from the conversations between Stannis and Jon. Stannis wants more soldiers, but not from the Night’s Watch. He tasks Jon with winning over the support of Mance, who will otherwise face execution by being burned alive. We get an extremely human portrait of Mance – his line “Oh I am afraid, no shame in that” really sticks in the mind. Despite all of this, in true Game of Thrones fashion the episode ends in fire.
Episode two finally reunites us with Arya as she arrives in Braavos, seeking out the illusive Jaqen H’ghar at the House of Black and White (it is hard to imagine a more physical representation of her current moral ambiguity). Frustratingly, she is refused entry, throwing away her coin in rage.
Line of the week: I loved my brother… and you made him very happy. For that, you will always have a place in my heart. But we do not mutilate little girls for vengeance. Not here. Not while I rule. -Doran Martell
Jaime’s storyline is revealed: he must seek out his ‘niece’ Mycella, who is in danger, and retrieve her from Dorne. In relation to this, we are introduced to the Martell family. There are those who wish to seek revenge over Oberyn’s death and then there is Doran Martell (Oberyn’s brother), who is refreshingly level-headed considering the situation, and shows great promise for the coming season.
The remainder of the episode plays out in two diametrically opposed positions. The first is Jon and his rise to a position of power and control, the second is Daenerys as she spirals out of control and desperately attempts to grasp at power. Jon is once again our reluctant hero. He echoes Ned Stark’s humility and sense of honour when he refuses a deal from Stannis to restore his house name and rule in the north. Jon can simply never leave the Night’s Watch with his current moral code. Instead, Sam nominates Jon to be commander of the Watch and he is narrowly voted in. Jon is finally where he has wanted to be, but not all are pleased with the outcome. On the other hand, Daenerys attempts to keep order when the Son of Harpy is murdered before a fair trail can be given. Mossador, the culprit, is sentenced to death and riots break out in Mereen. Daenerys has never appeared to be so out of touch with her people.
These first two episodes have delivered exciting character relations and have promised even greater things to come, I can only hope the rest of the season lives up to the quality standards of the season openers.