Thursday, April 16, 2015

RECAP: Game of Thrones 5x01 - Remember the Consequences


Back by popular demand, it's the Game of Thrones recap! Yay! And before you guys start clenching up in preparation for another ten weeks of me screaming about horrible rape narratives and how much I hate this show, just know that I burned a lavender relaxation candle, drank some tea, and I am ready to talk about the show in a calm, sensible manner. As long as there aren't any more freaking rape scenes, that is.

But yes, we are once again recapping Game of Thrones and, if the poll gives me any indication, you definitely want me recapping Orphan Black. So I'll tackle that too.* And therefore I will be ceasing the Strange Empire recaps for a bit because that's a lot of recapping, you know?

Anyway, all of this is lame housekeeping stuff. Let's get to the good. Game of Thrones is back! What happened this week?

This week was all about reaping the consequences of your choices. So for all of our beloved characters, that means looking at the direct aftermath of what they did at the end of last season. We got a peek into six of the main storylines and saw how they're dealing, rolling with the punches, and, in some cases, dealing out yet more punches. It's a very violent show, isn't it?

The show starts off with a flashback to Cersei as a child. Granted, we don't know it's her at first, but it quickly becomes clear. The scene is that of her fateful meeting with the witch who told her the future. The witch told Cersei that she would marry a king and be queen - for a time. Then she would be replaced by another queen, younger and prettier. Her children would have golden crowns, then golden shrouds. In other words, Cersei's known for a long time that her life would not be a happy one, and all of this crap is just confirming that for her.

By "this crap", I'm referring to last season's death of her eldest son, Joffrey, and the more recent death of her father, Tywin. Nobility from all of the seven kingdoms have gathered in King's Landing to mourn the loss of Cersei's father, and she can feel them all breathing down her neck, bringing her prophecy ever closer to truth.

So she lashes out. She pushes away Jaime, rightfully pointing out that it's his fault their father is dead. After all, if he hadn't freed Tyrion, Tyrion wouldn't have been able to kill their father. And she lashes out at all the people around her, convinced that the nobility are there to sniff out her weaknesses and destroy her family. The thing is, she's probably not wrong.

But the most interesting part of all here is her encounter with Lancel, her cousin, the young man who she was sleeping with in season one and who was so instrumental in getting rid of Robert. Lancel has become very religious recently, joining a new religious order called the "Sparrows". His father is ashamed, but Lancel doesn't care. He's right with his gods, and he wants Cersei to be right with them too. 

He's a living embodiment of all the things Cersei has done wrong in her life, and we have to wonder if he'll really be living for much longer. On the other hand, he was wonderfully foreboding. We should keep him around just for that.

On the other side of the King's Landing coin we have Loras and Margaery, the loving siblings about to seize the ultimate political control. With Margaery set to marry King Tommen, and Loras thankfully out of having to wed Cersei, the twins have everything going for them. Except for how much Cersei can screw it all up for them. So while Loras has been reveling in his new freedom and finding a rather hilarious new boyfriend, Margaery has been plotting. We don't know what it is yet, but she's got a plan to take Cersei down. I might be starting to...feel bad? For Cersei? Clearly I am ill and need medical help.

Speaking of people who make Cersei unhappy, Tyrion is still alive and if not happy, at least kicking. He and Varys have finished their boat journey, which we are told was terrible for both of them, and are now in some political ally's house. Resting up and figuring out what to do next. Tyrion is content to just drink himself to death, but Varys isn't. As always, he is the man who wants what's best for Westeros, even when no one else does. And Varys thinks Tyrion could be very useful in the days to come.

But not as a king. As an advisor, a politician, that kind of thing. Varys wants a ruler who can rally an army, sway nobles, and speak to the common people. As Tyrion says, "Good luck finding him." But Varys has the absolute best retort to that:

"Whoever said anything about him?" Or something like that. Point is, Varys isn't looking for a man. He's looking across the narrow sea at someone else. Daenerys Targaryen.

Daenerys has set up shop in Mereen, if you recall, and this season opener sees her battling the tension headache that comes from trying to actually rule the people you've conquered. There's trouble in Mereen. A group of vigilantes who call themselves the Sons of the Harpy. They don't like her foreign politics and they don't like her Unsullied. So now she has to patrol the streets. Meanwhile, in Junkai (one of the other cities she conquered), the people ask for the fighting pits to be reopened. And while Daenerys is horrified, as Daario points out, that could just be cultural differences.

Where do cultural differences end and where does justice begin? It's a difficult question, and an apt one for Daenerys to be figuring out. If and when she becomes the queen of Westeros (let's not pretend anyone else has a better shot at saving the world), she's going to need to know how to rule. And while she's awesome at conquering, she's horrible at ruling. For now.

Daario does make another unsettling point, though. Daenerys has said herself that she's not a politician. Actually, she says it super awesomely: "I'm not a politician, I'm a queen." But queens must rule with power, and Daenerys' power is largely predicated on her dragons. With one dragon missing and the other two chained up because she can't control them, where is her power? Where is her right to rule?

So Daenerys goes to see her dragons at the end of the episode, and they do not react well. They nearly bathe her with fire, and Daenerys, despite once proudly proclaiming that "Fire cannot kill a Dragon," runs in fear. She's in way over her head now, and the only way out is to keep going.

Speaking of looking for a way out, we also get a peek over to see how Sansa and Petyr are doing, now that they're in command of the Eyrie. And what they're doing is ditching Robin, the Eyrie's rightful lord and a seriously weird little kid. They fob him off on one of the local lords and then tell said lord they're going to go hole up somewhere safe. 

Then, once they're gone, Petyr has them travel in the exact opposite direction. Because he's paranoid and a little crazy. But, again, practical. He doesn't trust anyone, and he shouldn't. Sansa doesn't appear to trust him, but she is doing a good job at keeping him on her side, which is impressive. Ah, the rise of Dark Sansa. I've been looking forward to this.

And we also get a moment of cruel irony when, just as Brienne and Podrick are feeling the depths of despair that Brienne couldn't fulfill her promise to Catelyn Stark, Sansa rumbles past them in a carriage, none of them the wiser. Gah.

Brienne, speaking of, is trying to White Fang Podrick. She thinks he should go now, since she has no need of a squire. She's not a knight, so what use is a squire? Clearly Brienne is having a momentary lapse in confidence and her assurance that she is awesome in every way. Probably because Arya rejected her at the end of last season, and since Brienne is a very externally motivated person, she no longer has a reason to strive on.

But I have confidence she'll recover.

Finally, the last big storyline of the episode: Jon and the wildlings and Stannis and Melisandre at the Wall. It's a rather uncomfortable situation up there, with everyone vying for power and position, no one entirely sure who's supposed to be in charge, and everything gone wonky. Jon gets a lot of responsibility because the younger members of the Night's Watch respect the hell out of him, while the Wildlings can at least appreciate how good he is at fighting.

Stannis and Melisandre, however, are off in their own little corner, plotting intrigues. They need an army, see, to go roost the Boltons from the North and take back Winterfell. The men of the Night's Watch are sworn to stay and protect the Wall, but the wildlings aren't. And since the wildlings want shelter and land and a place to live in peace, Stannis is prepared to offer all of that if they will fight for him.

So Jon, because he has to, brings this proposition to Mance Rayder, the "King Beyond the Wall" who now languishes in captivity. Mance is pretty cool, to be honest, but he and Jon don't see eye to eye. Jon thinks he should bow to Stannis and let his people earn a place here, while Mance maintains that he cannot do that. He cannot betray his beliefs and his people like that.

And, actually, I think Mance makes a really good point with that. He insists that his people follow him because they respect him. If he were to take a knee to Stannis, they would no longer respect him, and they would not follow him or Stannis. But if Stannis kills him, which is the only other option, then his people just might respect Stannis and then they will follow Stannis.

Jon doesn't grasp any of this, but I think that's what's going on in Mance's head. And, in the end, that's what he does. He does not yield, he does not kneel, and he lets Stannis and Melisandre burn him alive. 

Until. Jon intervenes at the last moment, when the flames are licking at Mance's feet and he's starting to scream. Jon shoots an arrow into his heart and makes the pain stop, and there's a long moment of Stannis and Jon just looking at each other. It's a clear challenge for authority, and a sign that Jon's not anybody's messenger boy anymore. He's a genuine contender for Lord of the Night's Watch, and a power in his own right. Stannis better respect.

So, like I said above, this week was all about consequences. Specifically, the consequences of getting and keeping power. Which is basically the theme of the whole show, so I guess we could call this "back to basics."

Cersei even gets to state the theme in the first few minutes of the episode. "Remember the consequences," she says to Jaime, reminding him of how terrible he is at plotting his actions in advance. And she gestures to the body of their dead father, saying, "Here they are." 

It's stark, bleak, and exactly what we can expect from an episode of Game of Thrones. A little slow, perhaps, but it did set up the major conflicts and players of this season. Presumably next week we'll get to see Arya the murder child setting up shop in Braavos, and we do still need to check in on Theon/Reek and a few other storylines, but this basically covers it. What did you guys think? 

I'll admit that I've missed the stunning majesty of Dany's throneroom burns.
*We actually might be getting a guest blogger to recap Hannibal too. Fingers crossed!

2 comments:

  1. Varys isn't. As always, he is the man who wants what's best for Westeros, even when no one else does.

    Maybe Varys should be king.

    They nearly bathe her with fire, and Daenerys, despite once proudly proclaiming that "Fire cannot kill a Dragon," runs in fear.

    Fire might not be able to; big teeth on the other hand...

    (Of course maybe she's doubting her status as a Dragon in the face of losing one dragon and imprisoning the others).

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    1. I'm not sure Varys would like being king. He does seem to prefer pulling the strings from the shadows. Besides, as we learned in 5x04, being king doesn't mean much if you don't have a power behind the throne...

      I think it's more the latter, but yeah, teeth are kind of a problem.

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