“Game of Thrones” returns with relatively tame premiere

After nearly 10 months of feverish anticipation, “Game of Thrones” fans were finally rewarded with the season five premiere episode “The Wars to Come” on Sunday April 12. What the episode lacked in grandiose action and violence—don’t worry, it’s still there, just low by “GoT” standards—it certainly made up for in suspense and dynamic character exploration.

From the beginning to the end, “The Wars to Come” kept me engrossed. I thought it was an interesting decision to open with a flashback scene rather than starting with any one of the plotlines left hanging in suspense after the season four finale. The choice, however, was a tactful one, revealing that the witch young Cersei Lannister visited not only prophesied her rise to Queen, but her replacement by a younger, more beautiful woman. Since there are currently two gorgeous, strong women––Margaery Tyrell and Daenerys Targaryen—vying for the Iron Throne—I think there’s a probable, glorious chance that one of them may be able to finally knock Cersei out on her ass.

Cut to King’s Landing in present time. After Tywin Lannister’s funeral, I was not expecting an apology from Cersei’s cousin ex-lover Lancel for poisoning the wine of her deceased ex-husband Robert Baratheon. Cersei plays dumb, but the girl clearly knew what was up. Lancel’s newfound involvement with the fanatical religious cult the Sparrows also made me very anxious to see what kind of role this shady group—and Lancel himself—will play in King’s Landing.

Off on the island of Pentos, we finally get to see Tyrion Lannister and Varys. I gave Varys brownie points when he declared that he wants Tyrion’s help to get Dany on the Iron Throne. Varys cited that Tyrion’s compassion and political instincts during his time as Hand of the King are clear indicators of his desire to do good. While the moping Tyrion shrugged this off, his agreement to go meet Dany shows that he truly does want to be able to build a brighter future for the people of Westeros. I think that if the two of them do pair up with her—and if Tyrion lays off the wine a bit—they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Speaking of Dany, the Breaker of Chains has a lot on her plate. The elusive Sons of Harpy rebel group slashed the throat of one of her Unsullied and pressure is being put on her by practically everyone—even heartthrob Daario Naharis—to reopen the fighting pits to appease the citizens of Meereen. Nothing was worse, however, than watching her go to visit the shackled dragons Viserion and Rhaegal and seeing the pain in her eyes as they tried to attack her. Watching her, the Mother of Dragons, losing the connection to those creatures she raised and loved so much was really heartbreaking.

My heart broke again watching the death scene of Wildling leader Mance Raider. I really didn’t want Mance to die; I thought he was a fair and strong ruler of his people. But when the brooding, beautiful bastard Jon Snow was unable to convince Mance to bow to Stannis Baratheon, Stannis ordered to have Mance burned alive. Jon breaking away from the crowd and shooting Mance through the heart to end his suffering was one of the best shots—no pun intended—that I’ve seen in the series to date. Not only did it show Jon’s sense of humanity in contrast with Stannis’ ruthlessness, but it set up the question of how Jon and Stannis may continue to conflict in coming episodes.

“The Wars to Come” may have lacked the guts and gore of, say, “The Red Wedding,” but its captivating plotlines and powerful character interactions kept the intensity at the high level that “GoT” fans have come to expect. I’m both excited and fearful of events to come, as anything can happen in the realm of Westeros.