After a substantial wait and a number of promotional photos and clips, the ever-increasing phenomenon that is Game of Thrones returned to our screens. There was considerable pomp, of course, and considerable anticipation over the title of the episode – “The Wars to Come” – and thus, when I finally settled down to watch it, lunch in one hand and a large, fortifying mug of coffee in the other, prepared to thoroughly immerse myself in what was to come, I expected a great deal.
Game of Thrones is, after all, a tremendous success. It’s critically acclaimed, is an adaptation of a widely popular, though undoubtedly lengthy series of books, and has a huge fanbase. Although some of the people that watch it occasionally have a few bad things to say about this or that, the problem is that they still watch it. If they don’t, it’s still on their radar. It is, seemingly, on everyone’s radar. Because of this, the premiere of its newest season surely needed to be good.
But I was disappointed. I watched all of it, determined not to miss even the slightest detail – for whatever criticism I may lay against Game of Thrones in this review, I could never honestly claim that it is too simplistic – and yet my attention wandered several times. I cannot remember the last time that happened while I was watching this show.
Why? Well, the answer to that is an easy one, if somewhat unpleasant: because very little actually happened. It felt like nothing more than a filler, an hour to be expended establishing where every single character is and what they are doing before the series can move on to better, brighter things. It did not, to sum up, sit well with me.
On the one hand, though, it does make sense. There are lots of characters, and the wait had been lengthy, so some sort of summing up to ensure the viewers are all on the right page doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable, in the name of ascertaining that there would be no confusion leading in to the next couple of episodes, and that there would, instead, be some interest in a multiplicity of storylines.
On the other hand, it made for a somewhat dull episode. Little of consequence occurred – there were a few deaths here and there, but that’s par for the course, and they occurred on a much smaller scale than the show is capable of – and the majority of the plot seemed to be concerned with establishing what could under certain circumstances happen in the future, not what was happening right now. I enjoy the political details and shenanigans as much as the next person, but I was, to phrase it somewhat indelicately, increasingly bored, which was certainly not the way I expected to react to the return of such a high-profile show.
Like most fans of the show, a lot of my favourites have died horribly. Usually screaming. But they’re not all gone (yet), and the ones that remain made a good showing in this episode. Varys and Tyrion, for example, were in fine, more or less alcohol-fuelled form, and their conversations, political or otherwise, never fail to be entertaining. They’re well written, deeply layered characters, and even if little occurred in their exchanges either, it’s surely only a matter of time.
I also enjoyed Sansa’s appearance, brief as it was. Now that she is free from the toxic environment of King’s Landing, I hope that she’ll be able to grow if not flourish; finally able to develop the strength she needs to survive. Her story arc is, arguably, the most interesting, given what she was endured and the way she emerged from it at the close of the previous season, and I’m looking forward to seeing where her story will be taken next.
To conclude, I thought this was a weak and mostly uninteresting episode in regards to plot, with the only redeeming features being the characters themselves, and their strong portrayals.