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‘Game of Thrones’ season opener is a game changer

| Wednesday, April 15, 2015

GameofThrones_WEBEMILY DANAHER | The Observer

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the “Game of Thrones” season five premiere.

One day prior to the highly anticipated season five premiere of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the first five episodes were leaked online, which amounts to half of the season itself. In an unusual exercise of self-control, this writer has refrained from watching any episode beyond the premiere.

The premiere opens with an incredible but necessary two-minute-and 13-second long recap, covering the complex storylines of each key figure from the previous season, which would probably take the whole of this article to delineate. Instead, the focus will be on the themes prevalent in the episode.

The first half of the episode focuses thematically on the isolation of several characters. Darker lighting consistently accentuates the idea of isolation, whether it is Cersei and Jamie Lannister standing around the body of their father, the perspective of Tyrion Lannister within a crate as he arrives in Pentos, the grey atmosphere of life at the Wall, Petyr Baelish and Sansa Stark (currently known as Elaine) entering self-imposed isolation or the dim lighting surrounding Daenerys Targaryen as she is depicted within the pyramid in Meereen.

Falling outs abound, building up the sense of tension within each of the narratives. Cersei and Jamie are on the outs because of his “stupidity,” from Cersei’s persepective. Tyrion and Varys argue about their current state and the point of saving Westeros. Jon Snow and Stannis are in conflict regarding Mance Raider bending the knee. The confrontation is heightened by the fact that they are physically isolated from the men of the Night’s Watch and the Free People, standing on top of The Wall. Daenerys also faces opposition to her humanitarian move of shutting down “human cock-fighting.” The tension seems to rise to the point where the narratives can no longer be quite so self-contained, and so in the second half of the episode, some of the narratives begin to bleed together.

After four seasons of following the various story lines in “Game of Thrones,” there are hints that these separate webs of stories within Westeros and those outside will finally collide. At Tywin’s funeral, the issue of intruding religions enters the capital. At The Wall, the storylines of the Free People and the Knight’s Watch begin to intertwine. In Pentos, Tyrion agrees to go with Varys in an attempt to assist Daenerys Targaryen. With these story lines beginning to interact, there is a sense that the expansive nature of the series will become more closely tied together throughout this season.

Cersei’s disdain for her father and the entire ceremony cuts Ser Loras’s platitudes like a knife. For all her flaws, Cersei certainly does not put up with disingenuous people. Generally, she takes a glass of wine to slack her thirst as she dismisses her haters. Yet, she is not able to so easily dismiss Lancel, who appears as a “religious fanatic” of the Light of the Seven.

Meanwhile, Melisandre, also known as the Red Woman, demonstrates religious tension at The Wall. She essentially draws a line in the sand, ordering the Free People to follow Stannis Baratheon. The example of Mance Raider is used as the example of what happens to dissenters. The effect is negated when Jon Snow shoots an arrow through Mance’s heart before Mance has the chance to scream. Here, Jon Snow is finally seen taking action for himself, moving morally and literally onto the high ground. In this scene, there is a great deal of interacting storylines: the war for the Iron Throne, represented by Stannis’s presence, the threat from beyond The Wall, represented by the Free People’s presence and the issue of defending The Wall, represented by the location.

Perhaps the most compelling pair interacting story lines does not technically take place in this episode, but the anticipation of the interaction is enough. The idea of Tyrion and Daenerys meeting is certainly the climax of the episode. Finally, the Mother of Dragons may be able to take back Westeros. She is “someone stronger than Tommen, but gentler than Stannis. A monarch that can intimidate the high lords but inspire the people. A ruler loved by millions with a powerful army and the right family name.”

Overall, the episode is incredibly engaging, and as per usual, it leaves the viewer wanting more and wondering how that could possibly have been an entire hour. The interconnecting story lines create a new perspective of the world in “Game of Thrones,” and they are a complete a game-changer in terms of how the series has been focused thus far — particularly with the eventual interaction between Tyrion and Daenerys’ story lines. While this episode won’t leave you anywhere near as emotionally drained as “The Red Wedding,” it certainly leaves you wanting more and perhaps thinking about finding those leaked episodes somewhere.

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