“Westeros needs to be saved from itself.”
In the fight for the Iron Throne, power is paramount. With the death of Tywin Lannister, a vacuum of that very power now exists in the Seven Kingdoms, and character after character is struggling to maneuver him or herself into a better position to obtain that power. When one ruler leaves, another must take its place, and one of the show’s central questions right now is about what exactly being in power means, about what exactly you must do to rise a rung on the ladder.
One thing you have to do? Take advantage of the opportunities that you come across. For example, a new religious group–the Sparrows–comes into town, and we learn that they “never would’ve come to the capital if Tywin were alive”. It’s starting to become open season here, and it’s clear that people like Cersei are constantly trying to gain higher seeding in the Game of Thrones playoffs. As is highlighted in the flashback used to open the episode, Cersei must hold onto that power because there will always be “another queen”, one that is “younger and more beautiful”. It’s just how it is.
Season five in general seems to be intent on tackling the idea of power, and it underscores the pervasive difficulties that come with any position of leadership. For example, Daenerys’s relationship with her dragons seems to be representative of her relationship with Meereen as a whole, and as she says, “I can’t control them anymore”. To that, Daario responds: “A dragon queen without dragons is not a queen.” He tells her that she needs to show her strength, that she’s the Mother of Dragons, but the look on her face after she visits her dragons says it all: things aren’t very certain right now, and she’s in a tricky place. Is she really the Mother of Dragons, or are the children becoming the true parents?
And here, “The Wars to Come” raises the question of power in terms of motivation, setting up the good of the ruled on one side and personal gain and luck on the other. For the latter, we see multiple instances of characters acknowledging and sometimes turning their noses up to the idea: Littlefinger remarks that “the gift of a great name is sometime all one needs”, Varys tells Tyrion that “any fool with a bit of luck can find himself born into power”, and Daario says that “anyone with a chest full of gold can buy an army of Unsullied”. So, we have one way of achieving power–the easy way–being put up against the more difficult–yet arguably more rewarding–way. Varys, for instance, states that everything he did, he did “for the Seven Kingdoms”, and he later goes on to tell Tyrion that “earning [power] for yourself takes work”. Tyrion responds by saying he hopes for a “land where the powerful do not prey on the powerless”. It’s a wonderfully written exchange, and it ends with Tyrion and Varys heading onto the road for more good-natured insults about crates and shit (oh, and that thing where they’ve decided to meet up with Daenerys).
Elsewhere, the Jon Snow-Mance Rayder storyline also deals with the idea of power and what it means. At one point, Snow tells Rayder that “you didn’t do it for power; you didn’t do it for glory; you did it to save them”. It’s an important line because at the end of the day, leadership comes back around to actually leading a group of people. The survival of the whole comes into contact with the desires of the individual here, and Snow accuses Rayder of being driven by his pride rather than by his peoples’ needs. Rayder, however, responds: “The freedom to make my own mistakes is all I ever wanted.” When Melisandre goes on about choosing light or darkness and good or evil and the true god or the false one, we realize that these are very limited options. We realize that in the quest for power, one thing that may fall by the wayside is true freedom. We may have “one true king”, but what comes at the expense of attaining that position? In the long run, perhaps Stannis Baratheon will be the one burning alive, an arrow in his chest as he looks out into the darkness. After all, there’s always someone waiting to take your place.
-Each of these episodes can be quite overwhelming to review due to the sheer number of storylines, so keep in mind that I will not touch on every plot point of this premiere.
-Seeing as Emilia Clarke is unwilling to do anymore nude scenes–which is her right, so good for her–she now has to do those “the blanket is somehow able to stick to my chest” scenes.
-Ciaran Hinds was fantastic in his role. He’ll be missed.
-This review went up right at 9:00 because I was able to watch the episode early. However, I most likely won’t be reviewing any more episodes until the penultimate episode of the season (this is not an easy show to write about for me, and Sundays are extremely crowded). Enjoy the season, and I’ll see you then.
Photo credit: HBO, Game of Thrones