By Brooke Schmidt
After a long year of anticipation, HBO premiered the first episode of “Game of Thrones” on Sunday, April 12, to its millions of fans across the world. From its inception, the show has garnered a place in the hearts of its viewers due to the intricate storylines, well-developed characters and gratuitous amounts of nudity.
It would be a lie to say that the nudity wasn’t a draw for most people at the beginning of its run. Now, however, the show has turned into a cherished time of the year where people see their favorite characters massacred from the comfort of their homes.
Last season ended with a bang — and several deaths — which made the season premiere even more exciting. We left the series following Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) double murder, Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) heartbreak and Stannis’ (Stephen Dillane) takeover, amongst many other things. Many of those plotlines were picked up by the premiere, but there are several characters left out from the moment we last saw them — mainly a certain Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). We last saw her boarding a boat to Braavos, but she was gone from this episode. She will probably be featured in the second episode, and we will hopefully figure out what happened to her once she sailed from the shore. Excluding Arya, most of the main characters were focused on during the course of the episode. Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) even made an appearance, which bodes well for future storylines.
Throughout the episode, a large majority of the sequences feature events in King’s Landing as well as Jon Snow’s plight at the Wall. In King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) has the first ever flashback in the entire series. The showrunners revealed last year that they would break their flashback rule, and they did so with beauty.
The flashback showed a young Cersei having her fortune told by a frightening old woman in a dilapidated hut in the woods. It was both creepy and fulfilling, as any “Game of Thrones” flashback should be. It gave further insight into Cersei’s deepest fears, humanizing her while also turning her into a desperate creature. Her fears mainly consisted of being removed as Queen to have a younger, more beautiful woman replace her. Basically, this was nothing new to intuitive fans, but it was an interesting scene and expertly shot.
The young actresses did a beautiful job and, as usual, the production value was on par with any “Lord of the Rings” type big-budgeted film. All of Cersei’s scenes throughout the episode fixated around this theme of losing everything she holds dear, from her father and sons to her crown.
Along with Cersei in King’s Landing, the episode featured the Wall pretty heavily. Politics of the new Lord Commander were discussed, but that was not the main focus. It was, instead, Stannis’s desire to rule the Wildlings. In order to take control of Westeros, Stannis decided the only course of action was to force the Wildlings to fight under his command. One person really stood in the way of that: Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hind). Rayder, truly, is the only capable ruler throughout the entire series thus far. People follow him because they love and respect him, not because they fear and resent him which is a common theme throughout the other rulers. The only other similar ruler was Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), but he wasn’t respected nearly as much as Mance and could never command such an army.
In the end, Stannis gives Mance an ultimatum: bend the knee or die. And thus another strong, interesting character dies before we can understand them further. In the best scene of the entire episode, Mance refuses to bend fealty to Stannis. Instead, he is led to be burned alive on a pyre. Jon Snow, in another effort to make the entire female population love him, puts Mance out of his misery with an arrow to the heart. While audience members got a taste of Mance’s personality, I truly wish we could have gotten the opportunity to see him challenge Stannis as a ruler. There is a good chance that Snow’s action may make the Wildlings swear fealty to him instead of Stannis, but such events will be shown next week — or never, depending on my predicting skills.
What does this say about the entire show? Everything is hitting the fan. Tyrion may be helping Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke); Sansa (Sophie Turner) is going somewhere with Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen); Brienne and Podrick (Daniel Portman) may be going to find Sansa, but no one is really sure; King’s Landing is full of deceit and lies (but that’s not really new); and Jon Snow creates another reason that he should be King.
Predictions aside, this episode was an incredibly strong start to another exciting season, and fans are already clogging the internet with discussion and speculation. However, when does the show ever follow fan speculation anyway? Well, fans shall see next episode if their predictions have come true. For now, the biggest question remains: Who shall be the next to die?