Game of Thrones’ fifth season off to a slow, promising star

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By Phil Brown, Reporter

Game of Thrones, as it continues its commanding run through a fifth year, has always been obsessed with impending doom.

Characters seem to make fore-boding monologues every episode, brooding about chaos and war, and the Stark house words became an internet meme: “Winter is coming.”

The show has ever banked on this feeling of impending catastrophe, the promise of unutterable conflict, foreshadowing a larger peril with every individual tragedy. It’s this technique that has drawn in millions of viewers and built the series into a cultural juggernaut. Game of Thrones is undoubtedly a pop-culture dragon, and has drawn monster-like expectations as a result.

In many ways, last year’s fourth season seemed like a bit of a let-down when it came to the bigger picture.

Its individual parts some-times burned brighter than ever before, most notably Oberyn, played with a career-making zest by Pedro Pascal. But when it came to the big-ger picture, the season was uneven.

While the show has been promising an overarching plot for some time, a great event that will draw all the players in, the last season seemed to make things more complicated, and the characters more insulated from each other.

The stories of Bran and Daenerys take place almost completely uninfluenced by the events of the other stories. Where the season leaves off, they are both stranded hundreds of miles from everyone else. The Lannisters of King’s Landing seemed to be completely absorbed in fighting with each other. The lone bright spot when it comes to any sort of overarching plot is that two power players, long insulated from each other, finally join forces: Stannis Baratheon and Jon Snow.

So expectations for season five, which premiered last Sunday, are a bit tempered. We know we will get the same gorgeous production design, the same great acting and the familiar themes of bloodshed, sex and a cataclysmic doom that awaits all. The only question is, will the show finally start to deliver on the last bit?
It certainly delivers on the first in the opening minutes of the new se-ries premiere. Seemingly eager to get the required HBO gratuitous nudity and gore out of the way as soon as possible, the showrunners cleverly stage a murder scene in a brothel: a sequence that’s to be admired for sheer blood-and-sex efficiency.

The rest of the episode is more doom foreshadowing. The episode is entitled “The Wars to Come,” and HBO again outdoes itself in efficiency by making the episode title do double-duty as a synopsis for the entire series. And while it’s a pleasure, as always, to spend time with the well-realized characters in the series, those characters seem lost in their own worlds.

There are two notable exceptions: the plots of Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister.

As mentioned, Stannis, one claimant of the Kingdom of Westeros, has more or less set up shop with Jon Snow and the members of the Night’s Watch. It’s really great to see them interact, and the two worlds of Southron lords and Northern outcasts collide.

Stannis, and Melisandre facing off, verbally and literally, with Jon Snow, Mance Rayder (Cirian Hinds, have been criminally underused in the past. But they do really well in this episode), and the rest of the Night’s Watch, is some-thing we’ve not had in the show, and it’s a welcome addition.

The other development is something you probably don’t want spoiled for you, so turn back if you haven’t caught up. The season five premier catches up with Tyrion Lannister after he killed his father and fled the city of King’s Landing with Varys. Tyrion seems like a completely different character now, untethered to the things that made him sit up straighter and talk wittier than everyone else.

And another bit of development is thrown his way: a connection to Daenerys Targaryen. It seems Tyrion is now on his way to meet the Mother of Dragons, meaning that the most irritating loose end of the last couple of season is finally being tied to something.

The character of Dany has grown stale during her time of doing literally nothing, completely cut off from everyone, and the development of a Lannister, with all the baggage the name brings, coming to her service is huge.

One hopes that the connection will be made soon and that the boat ride to Mereen won’t take the en-tire season. In that case, it would seem the plots and characters, so long isolated, are finally coming
together into some kind of shape. And it’s very exciting to consider what that shape might be.

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