With a new season of Game of Thrones comes an updated title sequence at the start of “The Wars to Come,” reminding us of all the places we can go in the world of Ice and Fire in Season 5. The dramatic ending of Season 4 left Tywin Lannister dead and his son Tyrion on the run after murdering him. The Stark family remains in disarray with Rickon Stark still missing, Bran Stark far North of the Wall with the mysterious three-eyed raven, Arya Stark on a ship bound for Braavos after the death match between Brienne of Tarth and Sandor Cleganne, and Sansa Stark staying with Petyr Baelish after he murdered her aunt Lysa Arryn. At the Wall, Stannis Baratheon’s army arrived in time to save Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch, but there are still many Free Folk left to challenge the Watch, as well as the problem of the White Walkers. Daenerys Targaryen’s dream of taking back the Seven Kingdoms for House Targaryen has become increasingly distant, as she has begun to lose control of Meereen and her dragons. “The Wars to Come” shows us the aftermath of Season 4, while giving us a glimpse of the path Game of Thrones will take us on during Season 5.
[For the recap, continue reading—but if you want to go straight to the review analysis of this recap, click here.]
In the first scene of “The Wars to Come,” we flashback to Cersei Lannister’s past as a young girl, when she and a friend snuck into the forest to get her fortune told by a seer. It was foretold that she would become a queen, but that a younger and prettier queen would be her undoing. When Cersei asks if she will have children, the witch tells her she will, but that Cersei will outlive them all. Are the arrival of Margaery and the death of Joffrey the early harbingers of this prophecy?
In the present, Jaime Lannister tries to warn his sister that with their father’s death come challenges to their power. Cersei appears too caught up in her grief and arrogance to comprehend his warning. She remains focused on their brother Tyrion as the enemy. She accuses Jaime:
“Tyrion may be a monster, but at least he killed our father on purpose. You killed him by mistake. With stupidity. You’re a man of action, aren’t you? When it occurs to you to do something, you do it. Never mind the consequences. Take a look. Look at the consequences. Here they are.”
At the funeral of her father, Cersei appears in a daze as members of the court awkwardly sing the praises of Tywin. Cersei is surprised to see her cousin Lancel Lannister. Her uncle Kevan Lannister and apologizes to Cersei for Lancel’s appearance, telling her that his son has joined the Sparrows, a growing radical religious sect. Lancel, who had been Cersei’s lover and co-conspirator against her now-dead husband, King Robert Baratheon, later approaches her. He reminds her of their past, apologizing for his actions, which only serves to further annoy Cersei as she realizes she has lost control of this chess piece.
Meanwhile, the youngest of the Lannisters, Tyrion, has arrived in the Free City of Pentos after Varys helped him escape King’s Landing. Tyrion is not happy to have been hidden in a crate during the voyage, but Varys points out that he was risking his own life to help Tyrion and he needed to remain unseen during the voyage. Playing to his compassion, Varys tells Tyrion, “Westeros needs to be saved from itself.”
Tyrion is feeling guilty about killing his father and his former lover Shae, leading him to a state of ongoing inebriation. Despite his empassioned actions, murder is really not Tyrion’s thing. Tyrion asks Varys why he saved him. Varys explains that he believes Tyrion will have a significant part to play in the future of the Seven Kingdoms. Varys suggests they ride to Meereen in order to meet Daenerys Targaryen because he believes she is meant to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion asks if he can drink himself to death along the way. Only Tyrion can make us so sad and happy and the same time. Though, we hope there won’t be a lot of Tyrion getting drunk in Season 5; we saw a lot of that in earlier seasons.
The Sons of the Harpy, an underground resistance group in Meereen, are not happy about Daenerys Targaryen’s quest to free the slaves around Slaver’s Bay. In response they murder one of Daenerys’ Unsullied while he is at a brothel. Daenerys is not having it and wants him buried publicly to send a message.
In a weird and restrained form of flirting, Missandei questions Greyworm about why an unsullied would visit a prostitute. She just can’t leave well enough alone with Greyworm after he rebuffed her advances in Season 4. Telling her that he doesn’t know why one of the unsullied would have done so, he rejects Missandei once more.
The slavers want Daenerys to reopen the fighting pits, where slaves fight each other to the death for the public’s entertainment. It goes against all she believes, but she is getting pressure on all sides, including from her lover Daario Naharis, formerly of the Second Sons.
Daario: “You’ve made thousands of enemies all across the world. As soon as they see weakness, they’ll attack. Show your strength here, now.”
Daenerys: “That’s why I have the Unsullied patrolling the streets.”
Daario: “Anyone with a chest full of gold can buy an army of Unsullied. You’re not the Mother of Unsullied. You’re the Mother of Dragons.”
Daenerys: “I don’t want another child’s bones dropped at my feet. No one’s seen Drogon in weeks. For all I know, he’s flown halfway across the world. I can’t control them anymore.”
Daario: “A dragon queen with no dragons is not a queen.”
She goes to check on her two remaining dragons and her fears are confirmed when she finds out they pretty much hate her now. She did trick them in order to lock them away in an underground dungeon, after all.
Margaery Tyrell must tear her brother, Loras Tyrell, away from his lover Oliver to attend dinner with the King. She is annoyed at his lack of discretion. Loras assumes that his engagement to Cersei will end now that Tywin Lannister is dead, and points out that everyone in King’s Landing already knows. He reminds Margaery that if he doesn’t marry Cersei and take her to Highgarden, then Margaery will be stuck with her in King’s Landing. It appears that Margaery may have other plans for her mother-in-law. Margaery seems to take after her grandmother in the plotting department. Any minute we are expecting to hear her say “Excellent,” à la Mr. Burns. Or maybe even “Release the Hounds.”
House Stark and Baratheon
Sansa Stark and Petyr Baelish are with Lord Yohn Royce at Runestone. Sansa and Petyr make quite the striking couple in their capes. Petyr receives a message that he is careful to keep from Sansa’s prying eyes. Lord Royce has agreed to keep Sansa’s identity a secret to train Robin Arryn while Sansa and Petyr travel. As they leave, Sansa asks Petyr why they are heading west after he told Lord Royce they were going to the Fingers—where are they going? He responds, “To a land so far from here, even Cersei Lannister can’t get her hands on you.” That’s Petyr, always thinking of others … oh wait, that’s not Petyr, that’s someone else. Maybe Brienne.
Brienne is despondent after losing Ayra Stark. Podrick Payne wants to follow, but Brienne does not want to lead. Podrick reminds Brienne of her promise to Lady Stark to find the Stark girls.
Brienne: “I found Arya. She didn’t want my protection.”
Podrick: “Sansa still might.”
Brienne: “Will you shut your mouth? I didn’t ask for your advice. I don’t want anyone following me. I’m not a leader.”
As Brienne feels sorry for herself, Sansa and Petyr ride past them on the road. Now we feel sorry for her too.
Up North, at the Wall, Jon Snow is pushing the Night’s Watch recruits hard. He knows there’s lots o’ danger from North of the Wall that they have yet to face. Jon gets interrupted by the Red Woman, Melisandre, who tells him Stannis Baratheon wants to see him.
Melisandre rides up to the top of the wall with Jon Snow, making for a very uncomfortable ride. Melisandre has poor social skills and seems to make every encounter awkward. Stannis tells Jon he expects Mance Rayder to bow down to him as King in order to live. Stannis wants the Free Folk to join his army so he can take back Winterfell from Roose Bolton. Stannis tells Jon he has until nightfall to convince Mance.
Jon does his best to persuade Free Folk leader Mance Raider to submit to Stannis in order to save himself and his people. Mance does not want his people to fight in Stannis’ war and is willing to burn for it, even though he does not want to be remembered scorched and screaming when he dies. When Jon tells Mance he is making a mistake, he replies. “The freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted.”
Mance is brought before Stannis, where the Men of the Night’s Watch and the captured Free Folk are present. Mance refuses to kneel to Stannis, telling him, “This was my home for many years. I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.” Prior to the pyre being lit, Melisandre makes everything awkward again by giving a speech about true gods versus false gods and Stannis being the one true King. Jon apparently thinks this burning at the stake scene is as awful as we do, because he shoots Mance in the heart with an arrow, allowing death to take Mance and ending his suffering. Not exactly a happy ending, but an act of bravery and compassion by Jon Snow that is likely to appreciated by the Free Folk. It will be much less appreciated by the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and Stannis Baratheon.
“The Wars to Come” Review
“The Wars to Come” focuses on the aftermaths of several events: Tywin’s death, the defeat of the Mance Rayder at the Wall, and Daenerys locking up her dragons. The Seven Kingdoms remain at war, with little end in sight. Though there are lulls between the battles and isolated locations that have been left relatively untouched, Westeros remains a dangerous place.
Power comes in many forms in the world of ice and fire: armies, wealth, influence, magic, and belief. We have seen the intense, but sometimes fleeting, power of magic from Melisandre and Daenerys. House Tyrell and House Lannister have used wealth to control the Seven Kingdoms for some time, while Stannis bargained his future kingdom’s wealth to get financial backing from the Iron Bank of Braavos. Stannis often takes the direct approach to power by attacking his enemies with armies and engaging in battles, but he also understands the importance of connections and influence. Those such as Petyr, Margaery, and Varys use influence as their primary tool and are willing to patiently play the long game in order to achieve their goals. Daenerys is able to inspire people to follow her, though she is currently learning that just having people believe in you as a leader is not enough to govern a city.
Lena Heady as Cersei was compelling to watch as she mourned her father after so recently losing her son. We loved seeing a glimpse of Cersei’s younger self. We learn some interesting tidbits about Cersei’s back story, including that fact she was always an arrogant jerk. She must have been the quintessential Mean Girl back then.
We always enjoy Peter Dinklage because he is a great actor, but also because his character Tyrion adds so much to Game of Thrones. What a dour show it would be without Tyrion’s humor. He lightens the mood and is more relatable than most of the characters. We hope something good happens to him soon. And maybe to poor Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) too.
It was interesting to see Sansa (Sophie Turner) playing the role that Petyr (Aidan Gillen) expects, with her newly brown hair, while also no longer hiding that she is quite clever. Just like Sansa must be, we are eager to learn more about more about Petyr’s mysterious plan.
The Wall is always our favorite storyline, and not just because Kit Harington is so handsome (well, maybe a little). The White Walkers, wights, Children of the Forest, and other mysteries north of the Wall provide the most supernatural elements in Game of Thrones. They create a lot of suspense and frightening moments. The Night’s Watch provides just enough political intrigue while still keeping us engaged through their role in protecting the Seven Kingdoms from what lies beyond the Wall. Normally we find Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Melisandre (Carice van Houten) one of the least interesting storylines in Game of Thrones, but get Stannis involved with the Wall and the Night’s Watch, and somehow it suddenly becomes gripping television. We can’t wait to see how Stannis approaches Jon Snow after the arrow incident.
Game of Thrones is a complicated narrative with many beautiful locations and interesting characters. “The Wars to Come” provided us a bridge into Season 5, giving us a glimpse of where many of the characters have landed. As the season progresses, we are looking forward to spending time all over the map.