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The Game of Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 1, The Wars To Come

The Game of Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 1, The Wars To Come


If you want to be king, you simply must get yourself some combatants to watch idly

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Helen Sloan/HBO

"The freedom to make my own mistakes is all I ever wanted."

These words, uttered by a certain late king beyond the wall, could just as easily have been spoken by any of the brave souls at The Verge playing the Game of Game of Thrones this season. Our high fantasy league embraces imperfection. Mistakes will be what makes this season worth fighting for: misplaced trust in characters, misremembered plot points from the books, inadvisable smack talk. What's really important is that we all have a sense of agency in this game; that we're not ruled over by some self-righteous mother of dragons who thinks we're too good for this kind of debased human cockfighting. We'll tear each other apart for sport if we want to, thank you very much. And we'll emerge stronger for it.

We'll tear each other apart for sport if we want to, thank you very much

The fourth season of Game Of Thrones ended with one inglorious death and a battle of arguable climactic value, but its real significance was its geographical shakeups. Finally, characters who had spent years on end frittering away in their own corner of the world were beginning to broaden their horizons. Arya's en route to Braavos, Varys successfully smuggled Tyrion to Pentos, and Stannis and his army made their splashy (with wildling blood) entrance in the north. In Thronesland, a change of location is often the most demonstrative power play of all, and those characters who have made their moves also happen to be the ones expected to rack up lots of GoGoT points. But after so many drastic repositionings, many of our characters were still settling back into their groove, and last night's premiere still felt largely expository.

We know we won't be revisiting Bran and Hodor and the ancient tree babies up north this season, but it was reassuring to see Random magic stuff getting some early play, even if it was via a flashback. Little Cersei Lannister gets the unhappy news from a witch that all three of her kids are going to die, which might have been interesting to learn for whoever's got Tommen and Myrcella on their team. (+20) After that, we checked in with present-day Cersei, up to her regular old tricks (+5 making commoners wait, +10 blaming her brother / lover for their father's death — "Tyrion may be a monster, but at least he killed our father on purpose," she sneers at the dude whose metal hand she was all up on exactly one episode ago).

Speaking of the little monster, our usual quip factories Tyrion and Varys have safely made it to Pentos (+40 each), but the former is still understandably distraught from the season-ending double play of murdering his dad and his ex, and the latter is suddenly all politicized now that he's further than ever from the walls of the Red Keep. Still, Tyrion gets Line of the Night (+15) with the timeless bon mot "The future is shit. Just like the past." And we'll throw Varys some kudos for his effortless rejoinder to Tyrion's complaints about the plumbing situation on the voyage over (+5). Still, I miss old Varys, the series' one True Neutral — now that he's revealed himself as Team Targaryen, i.e. a person with actual loyalties and specific ideas about who should be on the throne, it's hard not to think less of him. Varys always had the air of knowing way more than anyone else, but at this point, it would seem we know more about how the Targaryen takeover is going than he does. Have his little birds seriously told him nothing about the situation in Meereen?

It was a big night for butts

Probably nothing but the most pressing facts: that while she's got the Jabbawockeez picking off her ex-slave army, and her grasp on local mores is shaky at best, Daenerys Targaryen also has a new baby blue dragonscale dress (+10) and is still finding time to let her hair down (+15) and enjoy a naked nightcap (+5) with her current squeeze / life advisor Daario Naharis. I wish there was a way Dany could get points for flying in the face of traditional GoT nudity laws by staying relatively covered up while Daario's body took center stage, but so long as they're together, a win for him (+15) is a win for her, right?

Game of Thrones
"Uh, your dumb face is freezing cold just like everyone else's." (+0, Lord of Light)

It was actually a big night for male butts in general, outnumbering instances of female nudity 3 to 1. I have to say, the pervy female gaze has been a welcome addition to the show since last season's first nuDaario striptease. This week we also got Loras Tyrell trading birthmark stories with a random blonde (+15) and good ol' closet freak Margaery Tyrell hanging around to watch the show (she didn't see any real copulation, but we'll throw her +5 just out of respect; also another +5 for openly flirting with a 12-year-old at a funeral right in front of his mom). Margaery was one of several females who were not afraid to get invasive with the men in their life this week; both Melisandre (+5) and Missandei (+5) both asked after the anatomy of unsuspecting men (Jon Snow and Grey Worm, respectively), which is just like, a great way to assert your power, even if you never end up following up on it. I am fascinated by how romantically the show treats Missandei's curiosity about her crush's dick, all trembling lips and soft music.

Game of Thrones

Sansa Stark is also newly self-possessed (and newly GOTH +10), trading cynical banter with her creepoid ward Littlefinger in that way that used to get him so riled up with Varys back in the old days. If anyone's owed an attitude problem, it's Sansa; everyone else already has one or has never been engaged to two Lannisters. I'm interested to see who actually ends up with the upper hand in this unholy union in the Eyrie; right now it's still a little too Humbert Humbert for my comfort — they're even going on a road trip together! Plus, in the rich Thrones tradition of sitting on a platform and watching people fight (seriously, if you want to be king, you simply must get yourself some combatants to watch idly), Littlefinger's setup leaves a lot to be desired. And Sansa did not seem very impressed (to be fair, she didn't seem impressed by anything this week).

If anyone's owed an attitude problem, it's Sansa

If this is sounding like a lady-dominated episode, that's because it kind of was — even if it was just taking advantage of a momentary lull in battlefield action, it was not unwelcome. There wasn't that much else going on in the bloodshed department, besides the arrival of the Sons of the Harpy and their first onscreen kill (+5) and of course, the mercy killing of Mance Rayder by the Emotional Jon Snow (+40). It's hard to tell who the bigger loser is in the wake of the king of the free folk: the now leader-less wildlings (-10) or our own Dieter Bohn, who officially has the first hole in his roster. We can patch that up, Dieter. See if you can broker something with Kwame to get Robin Arryn on your list — that kid has got to be the only armed character in Westeros who's still weaning. Give him a month in Daario's fighting pits, and I would not want to be opposite him in a duel.

Game of Thrones
GoGoT training camp

This week's scores (calculated from this total b.s. point guide):

Bryan Bishop: 39 points

Liz Lopatto: 28 points

Casey Newton: 85 points

Adi Robertson: 23 points

Dieter Bohn: 51 points

Chris Plante: 57 points

Ross Miller: 3 points

Kwame Opam: 14 points

Arielle Duhaime-Ross: 13 points