TV Show Review

TV Review: GAME OF THRONES: Season 5, Episode 1: The Wars to Come [HBO]

TV Review: GAME OF THRONES: Season 5, Episode 1: The Wars to Come [HBO]

HBO‘s Game of Thrones The Wars to Come TV Show Review. Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 1: The Wars to Come marks the return of this phenomenal series. After an excruciatingly long wait, Game of Thrones is back to thrill audiences with another ten episodes of what may be the show’s most unpredictable season yet. For the first time in the series run, it appears that the stage is set for the show to diverge from the events in the books. The trailers for season five have already shown big departures from the novels and if Game of Thrones capricious history is any indication, the biggest shocks are yet to come. As season five kicks off, we know that even the characters that readers of the books assumed were safe can die and people’s actions in the books are far less certain to carry over to the television series.

Surprise number one came in the very first moment of the episode when the series broke from tradition and offered viewers a flashback. Game of Thrones characters usually reveal their back-stories through intricate monologues. It was quite a change of pace to see the show go back in time to sneak a peek at a young Cersei (Lena Headey). For a Fantasy world, Game of Thrones takes a fairly grounded approach to magic and mysticism. Most of the people of Westeros view magic as nothing more than the subject of fables that old wives use to keep children in line. The Game of Thrones world’s dubious views of magic make Cersei’s interpretation of the prophecy intriguing because they could easily be disregarded. It makes sense that since so few people believe in magic, Cersei could dismiss the witch’s predictions as rubbish while the witch’s foreboding predictions could still carry enough weight to plant the seeds of doubt that would eventually take root in her mind.

Flashing back to the revelation of the prophecy gives us a captivating insight into one of the shows most despised characters. Game of Thrones is such an engaging series because of the way that it paints both its heroes and villains in shades of grey. We see honorable characters act less than heroic and villains undertaking acts of valor. Understanding that Cersei has lived her life in the looming shadow of the prophecy doesn’t automatically make her a sympathetic character but it does allow us to see why she is so conniving and manipulative. For several seasons, we assumed that Cersei was simply greedy, selfish and power hungry when all her treachery and manipulation were rooted in fear. Cersei uses duplicity to fortify herself and her children from what she believes is their impending demise.

Due to Game of Thrones sprawling cast of characters and locations, there are too many plot threads to catch up on in the first episode back. Going into the episode we knew that Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead Wright) journey to the three eyed crow won’t be revisited in season five, so unless the show’s producers fibbed, we shouldn’t expect to see him back anytime soon. The Wars to Come also bypassed a visit to the city of Dorne which was quite a surprise as the fallout from the death of Prince Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) will have a huge impact on the events of season five. The most disappointing omission from the show’s return was that we didn’t have a chance to catch up with Arya (Maisie Williams) on her trip to Bravos. With so much going on in Game of Thrones vast world, something important is always going to get left out of each episode and The Wars to Come felt like the show was whetting our appetite with quick looks at most of the cast before the series begins to offer more focused stories in the upcoming episodes.

Even though The Wars to Come gave us mostly brief looks at the series cast of misfits and marauders, in true Game of Thrones fashion, these short scenes were integral to the arc of the fifth season.

In King’s Landing, Cersei is dealing with the death of her father, Tywin (Charles Dance). Cersei, consumed by rage is being dangerously short sighted with her single minded desire for vengeance.  A very level headed Jamie (Nikolaj Costor-Waldau) tries to warn Cersei of the imminent danger they must face. Jamie poinst out to Cersei that Tywin’s death created a power vacuum, and the Lannister’s enemies will surely descend upon them during their moment of weakness.

In the spirit of Arya and The Hound (Rory Mcann) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Jamie, Varys (Conleth Hill) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) are Game of Thrones latest odd couple. Tyrion, haggard and emotionally beaten is now a refugee who can never step foot in his former kingdom. While hiding in Pentos, Tyrion wants nothing more than to bury himself in drink. Varys attempts to galvanize the apathetic Tyrion into working for “the good of the realm” by joining with Daenerys Targaryan (Emilia Clarke) and reclaiming Westeros.

Brienne is clearly frustrated by her failure to uphold her oath and she  begins taking it out on poor Podric (Daniel Portman). Brienne is one of the most honorable characters on the show and it looks as though Game of Thrones corrosive world is finally eating away at her noble disposition.

Last season, Daenery’s arc felt stagnant. Daenery’s spent most of her screen time in the same place, dealing with the fallout from the cities that she liberated. Daenery’s is young and possesses little firsthand experience as a leader. Many of her well intentioned actions lead to dire outcomes and instead of reclaiming Westeros she is stuck managing the ever mounting affairs of Mereen and Yunkai. To make matters worse, there are usurpers, and religious zealots testing the resolve of their new ruler. Now that Daenerys has shackled Rhaegal and Viserion and lost Drogon, her enemies perceive her as less of a threat. We would expect that a meeting between Tyrion and Daenerys is where the show is headed as the move would be in the best interest of both characters, but we know what Game of Thrones thinks often does to our expectations.

The main focus of The Wars to Come was Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) tribulations on the wall as he dealt with Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and the fallout from the wildling invasion. Stannis’s stick in the mud demeanour is a symptom of his black and white way of viewing the world. Although Stannis comes across as the show’s biggest stick in the mud, he is in fact an honorable man. Stannis respects Jon’s insight regarding the impending threat to the north. However, each man clearly has their own agenda. Jon’s main priority is to defend the realm from the threat beyond the wall (leading to many seeing him as a wildling sympathizer) while Stannis is hellbent on claiming the crown that he believes is rightfully his.

If the first four seasons of Game of Thrones expansive tale was an open palm, the show is finally beginning to close into a tight fist. Tyrion is now a fugitive and on a path to join Daenerys as she reclaims Westeros. Jon and Stannis have joined forces on the front lines of the incursion of the wildling and the whites, leaving us to wonder if they will hold firm and defend the realm or reclaim the north from Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton)? As enjoyable as it was to see the shows’s loose plot threads finally begin to intertwine into a knot, the first episode back did too much jumping around between stories to truly be engaging. In the end, we have a serviceable episode of Game of Thrones which feels very much like a decent appetizer before a mouth watering main course.


Mance Rayder’s (Ciaran Hinds) death is yet another reminder of what this show does to men who do not deviate from their ideals. As honorable as it was for Mance to not bend a knee, joining Stannis and Jon was his people’s best hope for survival against the whites.

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About the author

Victor Stiff

Born and raised in Toronto, Victor has spent the past decade using his love and knowledge of the city to highlight and promote significant cultural events such as TIFF, The IIIFA awards, and the Anokhi Gala. He is an avid reader of Sci-fi and Horror and constantly sits through indie film marathons in rabid anticipation of the genre’s next great film auteurs. He also contributes sci-fi and fantasy movie reviews to

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