Last night Sky were kind enough to invite me out to the big Game of Thrones party happening at the Tower of London. Namely, the premiere of Season 5. I battled the dragons, beefeaters and a pretty wicked head cold to attend, but in the end I got to see the first episode of the upcoming season.
Before that though, I walked on the red carpet alongside most of the major players of Westeros. There was fire, house banners, screaming fans and a bunch of other ludicrous dressing on the Tower. If anything, this was really a testament to how the show has grown to be the biggest thing on television. Game of Thrones is a phenomenon that even the most optimistic of HBO execs couldn't have hoped for. It really has become one of the biggest franchises in the entire world over its four season run. That is shockingly rare for a television show.
Here are a couple pictures I took just to give you an idea of what the place looked like.
Enough of all this pageantry though. I'll give you what I know you want. The first episode of Game of Thrones Season 5. Was it any good? Obviously, spoilers for the end of Season 4. I'll talk about what happens in the episode broadly enough as to not spoil it for you, but just enough to give you my thoughts.
Still here? Great.
The most succinct way I can explain the episode is that it's a pretty standard opening for a Game of Thrones season. There was no big revelation or twist, just piece moving and resolution from the end of Season 4. The funeral of Tywin Lannister brings Cersei and Jaime together to talk about the consequences of his death. Tyrion himself turning up in a far away land with Varys as the two figure out their new purpose. The question of what's to be done with Mance Raider now that Stannis Baratheon has concurred the Wildlings and sits at Castle Black. Daenerys wrestling with her decision to lock up Viserion and Rhaegal and what that means to her as the 'Mother of Dragons'. There are the broad strokes tied in a couple sentences.
As I said, just lots of clean up and making sure every character has a determined mission going forward. Don't expect any fireworks yet, at least where the characters are concerned. This episode feels quieter after the pretty substantial pace of the end of Season 4. For now, the slower plotting feels quite deliberate. That could be a sign that the show is maturing, garnering an understanding of the power of pacing…or it could be the series is drawing from a book that has much less going on in terms of huge political plays. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next few episodes.
Having said that, the series is really looking fantastic now. It always has for the most part, but you could forgive the TV show for some of its more unconvincing effects and design for…well, being a TV show. That is no longer the case. The episode looked like a big budget movie, with the status as the biggest thing on TV obviously encouraging HBO to put in top dollar for the show. You've all seen the sequence of Meereen's Harpy being pulled from atop the city's pyramid from the trailer. That's here and might be one of the most impressive visual effects sequences in TV history. We are living in a world where television shows can look like blockbuster movies. That is exciting.
All in all, people are going to be impressed by this episode for the showmanship, even if it arrives by coolly slipping us back into Westeros rather than a shot of dragon breath to the face. In honesty, I think the show could benefit from a quieter season, letting events start getting ready for the final to seasons. During an interview with Sky last night, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau said that this season feels like the beginning of the End Game. Judging by the first episode, that could certainly be the case.
Oh. And hail to the king.
(Yes. I realise my tie was ludicrously long)