It was relatively low key return for The World’s Biggest Show, with most of the main strands picked up where they were left off last year (with the notable exception of Arya, who is presumably still on a boat on her way to Braavos).
The usual opening episode moments of annoying exposition (did Cersei really wait until their father’s funeral to challenge Jamie about whether he released Tyrion?) was offset with generous helpings of the usual: nudity (male and female, for once), violence (the poor Unsullied having his throat cut) and Tyrion being Tyrion, at one point vomiting and talking about pushing his shit through a box inside a hilarious Westerosi minute.
Some key talking points from season five episode one, then.
1 | Flashbacks
We knew they were to be used for the first time this season, but the surprise was that a character flashback was the opening scene. Less of surprise was that, even as a child, Cersei was a bit of a sod. Her trip to the fortune telling witch with cleavage was all a bit Brothers Grimm, but the format does open up some tantalising possibilities, chief among them being the return of Ned Stark or Tywin Lannister and the chance to find out exactly how Hodor became Hodor. Actually that last one seems unlikely.
2 | The Sparrows
Another open secret about season five is that religion is going to play a key part. What a transformation for cousin Lancel, last seen squealing his way around Cersi’s bedroom as the victim of her latest incestuous embrace. Now he’s back as a shave-headed, bare-footed zealot with the sinister air of someone who wondered into a Scientology centre ‘for a laugh’ and never quite returned. “Their world is at hand” he tells Cersi of the Seven Gods, providing a key premonition for the season ahead.
3 | The First Big Death
Farewell then Mance Raider, King-Beyond-The-Wall, He With The Ironing Board Chin. The man who united the wildlings won top marks for perhaps the biggest understatement in Game Of Thrones history when Jon Snow told him he’d be burnt alive. “Bad way to go,” he reflected. Still, it didn't stop him refusing to save himself by bowing to Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane’s bemused disdain for all things related to The Wall was one of the highlights of the episode) and was duly set ablaze, before Jon took mercy on him with a expertly shot arrow. On that: it was a risky move from The Hunky Bastard to defy the latest King, but politically, it may have won him favour with the wildings.
4 | While We’re On That…
...Is Melisandre emerging as the show’s new Most Annoying Character? Her sermon to the gathered wildlings / men of the night’s watch before setting Mance on fire was callous in the extreme. She could be set to replace King Joffrey as the one you love to hate. Particularly if she starts tying up Jon Snow and covering him with leeches.
5 | Naughty Dragons
It was pretty much business as usual for Daenerys Targaryen Breaker Of Chains, Mother Of Dragons, Other Titles We Can’t Quite Remember, who continues to try and impose order in Meereen. But when Daario Nahaaris convinces her to try and reconcile with her dragons – last seen being locked away in a crypt – she discovers they’ve turned into the scaly equivalent of stroppy teenagers. We don't speak dragon, but we're pretty sure that roar when she entered the room meant "I hate, you you’ve ruined my life!". Still, Daenerys was involved in the most exciting moment of the whole episode, when Varys convinces Tyrion to travel to Meereen to meet her. The thought of two characters meeting for the first time made us almost whoop out loud with excitement. Game on.