Game Of Thrones Season 5 Episode 1 Recap: The Wars To Come

Game of Thrones is back. It's the show's fifth season, and yesterday's episode was the first after almost a year of waiting. It's a triumphant return, but what actually happened -- and what's going to happen in the weeks to come?

Warning: Spoilers within!

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In yesterday's show, we were reintroduced to a swathe of characters and a bunch of different storylines, many of which seem to be operating entirely independently of each other. There's no doubt that in the episodes to come we'll see major characters meet each other, but for now the intercontinental Game of Thrones cast is planning rather than warring.

The Wars To Come opens with a flashback -- a moment from Queen Regent Cersei Lannister's past where she receives a particularly gloomy peek into the future courtesy of a blood-tasting woods witch. There's talk of her burying her family in gold shrouds, and we're jolted back intro the present to see her mourning crossbow bolt-riddled Tywin (Charles Dance's name is still in the opening credits, by the way).

Jamie gets a bit part in looking glum, and the Lannister party continues with the shorn-headed return of Lancel, Cersei's short-term underaged incestual squeeze turned hardline religious repentant monk. Everyone wants a piece of the action, including scheming queen-to-be Margaery Tyrell. It's looking like Cersei will have her work cut out for her in keeping any vestiges of power -- for herself and for King Tommen -- with her father in his grave.

And that brings us across the Narrow Sea to Pentos, to the grand mansion of Illyrio Mopatis where Varys the Spider unceremoniously dumps fan favourite Tyrion -- in a drunken, bearded, shitty mess -- out of a crate and back into the real world. A bit of dialogue later, we learn that he and Varys are going to head over to Meereen and visit Daenerys, to petition her to move her massed forces and Targaryen name back to Westeros and re-take the Iron Throne.

In Meereen, Daenerys got her request for this week's CGI budget approved, and decided to rip down the Golden Harpy on top of the city's largest pyramid -- a symbolic gesture kicking out the old guys and very much putting her in the position of ruler. She has issues of her own, though -- the Sons of the Harpy, an elusive group of killers with loads of money to spend on throwaway golden masks, are offing her Unsullied soldiers. At least she has her chiselled-buttock man candy Daario on the side.

Up at the Wall, Jon Snow is having a tough time dealing with grumpy-ass Stannis. The rightful king of Westeros is preparing to take back the north from notorious Stark-killer Roose Bolton, holed up in Winterfell, and he needs the wildling forces on his side. That means talking to Mance Rayder, faux-King Beyond The Wall, to try and convince him to kneel. Mistake -- Mance is an ex-Night's Watchman, and fled into wildling land so he wouldn't have to bow down. Stannis' plan doesn't come off, and the episode closes with flame-happy Melisandre putting Mance to death by fire on a big ol' pyre -- but not before Jon shoots him through the heart with a well-timed arrow. Jon frowns.

The Wars To Come makes it clear in its title that this episode was never going to be full of action and high-brow political intrigue. It's all about the preparing and the planning and the battles to come in the second half of the series. I wouldn't be surprised if show-watchers were a little disappointed after the massive set-pieces of the last episodes of Season 4, and that's understandable, but at the same time I have no doubt that future episodes will be even more epic than those.

The next couple of episodes, I think, will be more of the same. There's no huge disruptive battles on the horizon, no major character deaths that are being obviously foreshadowed. At least it is absolutely gorgeously shot, though; you can't dispute the fact that Game Of Thrones is the best-looking show on TV at the moment. Obvious character omissions in this week's episode -- there's absolutely zero trace of Arya in The Wars To Come, and no Bran either. (There are no Starks bar Sansa, actually, come to think of it -- anyone remember where little Rickon is?)

Any guesses as to what they might be doing?

Note: Please, no spoilers for future episodes (if you've watched them) or spoilers from the books in the comments below!

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