Finally, the bitter winter is over and spring is on the horizon, for Game of Thrones has returned to television for our viewing pleasure. The premiere episode of Season 5 opens with a glimpse into Cersei’s past, as she visits Maggy the Frog in hopes of finding out about her future. Maggy informs her that she will be one day be queen, only to be cast down by one younger and more beautiful, and that Cersei and the king will have no children, but that the king will have twenty while Cersei will bear three children with crowns of gold. Then, we flash forward to Cersei ascending the steps of the Great Sept, where she finds Jaime with the body of their recently-murdered father. The two Lannister siblings discuss their father’s death and what that means for the future of House Lannister.
Meanwhile, Tyrion and Varys have arrived in Pentos at the home of Magister Ilyrio Mopatis. Varys makes the case to Tyrion that the future of Westeros is worth fighting for, and tries to convince Tyrion to accompany him to Mehreen to meet Daenerys, who Varys is convinced will bring peace and prosperity to Westeros.
In Mehreen, Daenerys is under pressure to reopen the fighting pits, which she refuses to do, despite nudging from Daario. To complicate matters further, a group known as the Sons of the Harpy have orchestrated an assassination of one of the Daenerys’s Unsullied.
At the Wall, Jon Snow is approached by Stannis Baratheon with a plan to increase the size of his army. Stannis asks Jon to visit Mance Rayder, who is being held prisoner at the Wall and ask him to bend the knee and swear fealty to Stannis. In exchange, Stannis promises to pardon all Wildlings, as well as give them land to live on and make them official citizens of Westeros. If Mance refuses, as Jon assures Stannis he will, he will be burned alive. I won’t spoil Mance’s response for those of you non-readers out there, since this is basically the climax of the show and I want to leave a little bit of mystery for you.
We also catch up with Littlefinger and Sansa in the Vale, as they are leaving Lord Robin to squire with Lord Royce, who is thoroughly unimpressed with Robin’s skill with a sword and shield. Littlefinger and Sansa then leave the Vale and head west, passing right by Brienne and Podrick as they set up camp. Of course, neither knows that Sansa Stark, who they have both sworn to protect, is passing by because they are busy having a tiresome conversation about whether or not Podrick will accompany Brienne on the next leg of her journey.
Back at King’s Landing, Cersei encounters her cousin and former paramour Lancel at her father’s funeral. Lancel, however, is almost unrecognizable, as he has donned a plain, gray robe and his signature long, golden locks are now brown and close-cropped. Lancel’s father Kevan explains that his son has now become a devout follower of the Seven, and is calling himself a “sparrow.” Later, Lancel confronts Cersei and asks forgiveness for their illicit affair as well as his role in King Robert’s death.
This episode was clearly a season premiere, as it caught up with each character to remind the viewer where they were and what they were doing. Because of the vast breadth of the episode, no single storyline progressed significantly. However, even without much depth of story, the other things that make Game of Thrones special – the masterful acting and breathtaking sets – make the show well worth watching. Peter Dinklage turns in his usual great performance even in the limited glimpses we get of him. Cersei probably gets the most screen time in this episode, which may not make some happy, but Lena Headey plays her so well that it’s hard to be disappointed by it.