One of the things that makes Game Of Thrones stand out among the array of pretenders to its crown is that it’s never afraid to do things differently – even when that involves something as simple as beginning with its first flashback scene, involving a young girl who is instantly recognisable as Cersei Lannister.
Beyond the witch she goes to visit making accurate predictions about her future, it seems a curious way to introduce things, although saying that, we’re sure it’ll come back to haunt her at some point. Things usually do.
While Season Four was one of new beginnings, Season Five sees the cast left picking up the pieces in the wake of last year’s finale. Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are left wondering what to do after the death of Tywin; Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill), having fled across the Narrow Sea, are pondering their next movie; Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) faces the challenges of rule; Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) continue their life-sized game of chess; Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman) wander around a bit, and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) tries to persuade Mance (Ciaran Hinds) to do the right thing.
Just from the above paragraph you can see the job that awaits Game Of Thrones in the coming season. Said cast members barely have time for a scene or two each, and that’s not including the absentees – there’s no room for Arya (Maisie Williams) in Braavos; Theon (Alfie Allen) and Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) at Winterfell, the newbies in Dorne, or anyone else we’ve forgotten to mention – this season is going to be the show’s biggest challenge yet with regards finding a balance.
Still, it does what a decent opening episode should do: establish motives, aims and plots. As we’ve seen so far in Game Of Thrones, however, nothing ever goes quite to plan, so part of the attraction will be in watching these plans fail to unfurl.
One strand we didn’t expect to see wither out quite so quickly, however, was that of Mance Rayder. The King Beyond The Wall who was built up since early on in the first year, he’s done little beyond fail miserably, and seeing him burn makes you wonder exactly what the point of him was. At least Jon lets him bow out with a bit of dignity.
The only real disappointment is that in a show famed for its shocking moments and witty one-liners, there aren’t exactly a great many in this episode. Aside from Melisandre (Carice van Houten) eyeing up Jon like a piece of meat, and Robin Arryn (Lino Faciolo) get the kind of beating many will have been wishing on him ever since he first shouted “Make the bad man fly!”, there’s precious little that stands out here.
With (most) of the scene setting out of the way, hopefully there will be more of this in the following week. In short, it’s a solid enough opener, but Game Of Thrones can do a lot better than ‘solid’.