If it's April, it must be time for a new season of Game of Thrones. Don't worry, even though the first four episodes reportedly leaked online yesterday, our weekly discussions here on Art Attack will be spoiler-free as always.
Season Five is when show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss finally caught up with George R.R. Martin's oft-delayed series. Therefore, the series be going even more off-book than in previous seasons. It's almost as if B&W were preparing for this all long, before the show's runaway success and Martin's own tardiness allowed them to make bolder moves.
And why wouldn't they? It's been four years since A Dance with Dragons, and the sixth book in the series, The Winds of Winter, is still at least a year away (and that's being charitable). Excised plots and characters haven't really hurt the narrative to this point, so why not go a whole season without future tree elemental Bran and the tiresome Ironborn (more like Ironbored, am I right?)?
Last night's debut, "The Wars to Come," didn't waste much time, introducing a new location and kickstarting some potentially interesting plotlines. There were also more than a few ominous portents about uncertain futures, which can be read both as literal (in the narrative sense) and metaphorical (in the not-so-subtle dig at the author sense).
Locations (* = new): Kings Landing, The Eyrie, Winterfell (now sporting the Flayed Man of House Bolton), The Wall, Pentos* (or maybe we saw it back in Season 1), Meereen
Ser(s) Not Appearing In This Episode: Arya Stark, Theon "Reek" Greyjoy, Ramsay Bolton.
We start off with young (preteen) Cersei visiting a witch of sorts, who accurately predicts her marriage to a king (Robert), that he would have 20 kids and she would have three, and that all three of hers would die. CUT TO adult Cersei (Lena Headey) visiting the recently deceased Lord Tywin in state (those eye stones they put on the corpses always freak me out). She and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) share a moment (not like last time, thankfully). Basically, she's pissed he freed Tyrion, indirectly causing daddy's death.
Good thing they showed so much of Lancel (Eugene Simon) in the previews, because if they relied on our lousy 21st century attention spans, Twitter would be lighting up asking who the bald kid was. As it turns out, Lancel is all grown up and atoning for his aunt boning and regicide (well, technically the boar killed Robert, give the kid an assist) by joining the religious order of the Sparrows, a sort of militant religious faction. Those are always fun.
Speaking of little brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), he and Varys (Conleth Hill) have finally made it to sunny Pentos. Varys lays out the history of his and Illyrio Mopatis' alliance to resist the "disaster that was Robert Baratheon." Tyrion seems more in the mood to continue drinking, so let's give him a minute. He did kill his dad, after all.
Once Tyrion gets cleaned up, Varys continues his mission to recruit the Imp to the cause. What cause, exactly? Why, Daenerys Targaryen.
Trouble is, things are less than rosy over Meereen way. Daenerys is dealing with a group calling itself the Sons of the Harpy, a resistance group that's taken to murdering Unsullied (poor White Rat...he just wanted to be *held*). MIssandei (Nathalie Emmanuel, last seen jiggling in Furious 7) asks Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) why a guy with no ... junk would be in a brothel. Grey Worm doesn't know. They sound like a married couple: "Why was your buddy in a whorehouse?" "I'm not on trial here!"
She's also being lobbied to reopen the fighting pits in Yunkai. Daario (Michiel Huisman) recommends she do so, recalling his own history growing up in the pits. Talk soon turns to the dragons, and Daenerys soon realizes being the "Mother of Dragons" means dealing with that pesky adolescent period as well. Drogon has apparently run away from home, while Viserion and Rhaegal are hanging out in the basement lighting things on fire. Sounds about right.
Up on the Wall (man, we're bouncing around a lot), Jon Snow (Kit Harington) listens amiably as King Stannis (Stephen Dillane) promises to mount Roose Bolton's head on a pike as payment for murdering Robb Stark. However, Jon balks at the would-be King's idea to use the Wildlings to make this happen. I mean, it's a good deal: fight for Stannis and you get 40 acres and a aurochs (or whatever) south of the Wall. Jon tells him Mance (Ciarán Hinds) won't go for it. And he's right.
And thus endeth the reign of the King Beyond the Wall. Let the record show, being burned alive is a pretty shit way to buy it. Jon agrees, and puts an arrow in Mance before he gets too cooked. Stannis and Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) likely won't be too please by this.
At the Eyrie, Lord Baelish (Aidan Gillen) has shoved off young Lord Robert on Lord Royce, local nobleman. He's joined by Dark Sansa (Sophie Turner), and they're apparently traveling to a land so far away even Cersei can't find her. Assuming Cersei even is trying to find her. Will we be seeing Sansa in Dorne? Better bring the sunscreen.
Nearby, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Pod (Daniel Portman) are trying to figure out how to proceed. Their presence is brief enough to make you wonder why they bothered.
Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer) busts in on bro Loras (Finn Jones) and one of his boy toys in a scene that's merely a salacious intro into what sounds like the beginning of a plot to get Cersei out of the picture. With Tywin gone, the marriage between her and Loras is dead in the water, and Margaery -- now betrothed to young Tommen -- appears to be suggesting a more permanent solution.
Stuff That Will Piss Off Book Purists: I have a feeling this whole season will piss off book purists, but to start with: the woman in the flashback sequence (Maggy the Frog) also predicted Cersei would be killed by the valonquar (Valyrian for "little brother"), so make of that what you will; the Varys & Tyrion road show apparently means we won't be seeing Penny or (maybe) "Young Griff;" just in case it wasn't obvious from the intro, Bran will be MIA all season; time will tell if Yarra and the Ironborn make an appearance somewhere down the line.
Next Week: Sand Snakes! Arya! Drogon!