Tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones was a great start to the new season. It doesn’t exactly kick-off with a bang and it doesn’t particularly end with a bang but it was a thoroughly gripping episode nonetheless. We’ve been told to expect a host of new characters this season so it was surprising there weren’t any new faces, but this, I feel, was probably a good move at this stage. However, there were a lot of jumps between the characters we do have, with the show reverting to the classic Game of Thrones switcheroo formula (which stood out a little bit after the more streamlined narratives that formed the last few episodes of Season 4).
Despite this, the fact that they have kept to the characters we know means that the show did an excellent job of picking up on each of the storylines we’re already familiar with whilst enticing us with the possibilities of where each one of these characters might well be heading. Just when things couldn’t look bleaker for Tyrion, he now has a purpose (even if it is a drunken “Why the hell not?” kinda purpose); Jamie and Cersei will either be torn apart or they’ll come together to face-off against what could very well be the whole of King’s Landing; Khaleesi might have to go back on all she stands for if she wants to prove her strength to her people and good-old Jon Snow has shown us exactly what he thinks about all this Lord of Light hoo-hah. In short, we know exactly where we are with each character; it’s a comfortable position to be in and this is a solid strategy for the first episode of the series – leave the mystery for when the narrative has had time to develop.
As for the bad points of the show, hmm, there was maybe a somewhat random scene with Lancel Lanister (who’s had a complete makeover for the show, it seems, along with a personality change and about 10 kilos of extra muscle put onto him), not quite sure where they’re going with this particular thread but it seems they’re making efforts to get us closer to Cersei’s motivations regarding Tywin and Tyrion. This is paralleled by a flashback scene at the beginning of the episode – a scene which leaves out a critical piece of information that was given in the book. With regards to this, I think the Cersei storyline could very well develop in both interesting and unexpected directions in the TV show.
So, OK, I might be guilty of turning that bad point into a good one there but still, it’s yet to be seen what they’ll do with Cersei’s storyline and whether they’ll pull it off. One thing I was a little disappointed in this episode, however, was the dialogue between Tyrion and Varys – though this might just be me nitpicking. It was good, I’m not denying that, I just can’t help thinking it could have been better. We’ll have to wait and see how things develop between these two. The whole Tyrion/Varys thing is one of the biggest changes from the books this season as Varys effectively disappears at this point in the books only to reappear right near the end. I think it was an inspired choice sending him along for the ride with Tyion as what use is Tyrion’s witty banter if he hasn’t got another great mind to banter with? All I can say though is that I was really looking forward to the dialogues between these two and although they got a couple of titters out of me this episode – that was about it. Having said this, Tyrion is obviously at a low point at this part of the tale and the book really did milk this for quite awhile. I get the feeling that the series is going to tone down this side of Tyrrion, giving us just enough of Melancholy Lannister to be realistic yet, at the same time, I get the impression we’ll soon be seeing Peter Dinklage doing what he does best – stealing the show. So yes, I guess that’s another bad point turned good.
It seems then that I really am fully sold on this episode. Ultimately, it does exactly what an opening episode in a latter season should do – it takes us back into the narrative whilst providing a strong focal point as to where things might be heading and this, in-turn builds up anticipation and excitement – emotions which subsequent episodes will either play on mercilessly or squander hopelessly. Let’s wait and see!