The battle for the Iron Throne heats up in season five of HBO's hit show Game of Thrones. Released from the tight confines of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss took liberties in this episode to create their own story and build out a couple of storylines not in the books.
Game of Thrones has consistently used its series premieres as a way to set up for the rest of the season. Nothing extreme or insane happened in the season five premiere, but there are five moments that set the tone for what's to come. They're also the moments everyone will be talking about (spoilers ahead).
1) Cersei meets a witch
The episode opens with a young, blonde girl — Cersei as a child — schlepping through the forest with her friend to visit an old witch. When she arrives at the small hut, she tells the witch that she's the daughter of the landowner, and demands that the witch tell her fortune.
After sucking some of her blood out of a finger cut, the witch tells the young Cersei about her future: she will marry the king but have no children by him, and eventually will be usurped by a younger, more beautiful queen.
The scene then cuts to the present-day Cersei visiting her now-dead father. On her way up the stairs she locks eyes with Margaery, the soon-to-be wife of her youngest son. The dynamic created by the flashback is a departure from the book, and helps build out Cersei's character.
2) An unsullied is killed in a brothel
The unsullied are the warriors freed and recruited by Daenerys in her quest for the Iron Throne. They are entirely devout, mostly silent, and presumably asexual. In the first scene with Daenerys's army in this episode, though, one of the unsullied is seen venturing into a brothel to lie in the arms of a prostitute while she sings to him.
As the camera zooms closer and closer on his face, his neck is sliced by a man wearing a golden horned mask, a member of the Sons of the Harpy group. As the unsullied dies, the camera shot from his perspective shows the masked man and the woman who laid in bed with him staring down at him, emotionless. It's a terrifying scene in its intimacy and brutality, and one that seems to represent some of the uprisings Daenerys and the unsullied will have to face in Meereen as the people they have liberated see them less and less benevolently.
3) Daenerys goes to see her dragons
This premiere also sets up a sort of tension in Daenerys's personal plot line. For almost the entire fourth season, Daenerys's tension was external. She had cities to reconstruct, slaves to free, and justice to be served. But part of what has made Daenerys such a stable and smart character is that she has always run on a strict, unshakable internal moral code.
In season five we start to see her personal life shake up a little bit. The manifestation of this change is a visit to her dragons, which she has locked in a dungeon. When she visits these dragons that she used to love and mother, she approaches them fearfully, and the dragons respond to her presence with fire and anger. It's an emotional moment because Daenerys wants deeply for them to respond to her with love, and instead she feels the same pushback she receives from her new subjects.
4) Tyrion survives life in a box
Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage, is one of the most entertaining and complex characters on the show. As a "halfman" whose mother died giving birth to him, Tyrion was hated by his father and despised by his siblings. He was always the left-out member of the family, and after killing his father in the season-four finale, he hasn't moved up much in anyone's standing.
At the beginning of this episode, we get Tyrion's perspective from inside a wooden box where he has been living while he crosses the sea to the Eastern continent with Varys. Dinklage's presentation of this character includes so much physical comedy, and in this box-weary, drink-deprived state, the actor gets a chance to really play up that physical comedy and set up his character for a season of physical and emotional trials.
5) Jon Snow takes action
Jon Snow's plot on the Wall and beyond in the fourth season was at times incredibly slow. For seasons, Jon Snow was this mopey, very sad character whose heart was broken over his lack of parentage and deep love for a woman he couldn't have because of his vow to the Night's Watch.
As I wrote before the season premiere, "The seeds of Jon Snow's character contain promise. But instead of allowing those painful experiences to mold him into a man who feels deeply hurt and deeply misunderstood, he mostly seems to be someone who can't take a single action."
Season five seems to be a turning point for Snow's character, though. In the very first episode, Jon Snow refuses to watch the King Beyond the Wall burn to his death, and the episode ends with a shot of him holding a bow as his arrow kills the King Beyond the Wall. It sets up Jon for a season of action over inaction, and for following his gut instead of just orders, something that should be infinitely more interesting.
Correction: a previous version of this piece called the King Beyond the Wall the King of the North.