Preview: Game of Thrones season five - exhilarating and all askew
Any Game of Thrones fan knows episode nine of any season is the sucker punch of the season. Well, episode one of the much anticipated season five starts with a pretty dizzying uppercut.
In an unprecedented move, our return to Westeros opens with a flashback to Cersei's childhood, in which she is every bit as imposing as we know her to be now.
The flashback not only sheds light on why the queen regent of King's Landing is so manipulative, it also hints at the storyline to come regarding the Lannisters. And it's not pretty.
From that, the episode moves swiftly between storylines, catching the audience up on the characters across the Seven Kingdoms.
If the rest of the season is anything like the premiere, it will be dark and tense. But those who love Tyrion will be glad to see him back and as witty as ever - though quite a bit filthier than when we saw him last.
Shipped inside a crate from King's Landing to Pentos, the imp tumbles out at Varys' feet and immediately goes for the wine. Their banter is delightful as always, and draws more chuckles than the rest of the episode.
Importantly, Tyrion and Varys' interaction highlights a major point that is relevant to all the characters and will drive developments moving forward: those with talent have a role to play in the future of the Seven Kingdoms.
“Any man can find themselves born to power,” says Varys, but to earn it is a different matter.
Indeed, over the past four seasons, we see the Lannisters at the top, but much of their power has to do with their patriarch, Tywin Lannister.
Now that he's dead, it's the first time his children can find no comfort or backing in uttering the words, “My father” - the father who made sure everyone obeyed their family out of respect, or fear, or both.
Cersei and Jaime know this; and the audience knows this and is waiting with bated breath to see how the Lannisters will now manage without Tywin.
In fact, all the cards are in the air across the realm.
In Meereen, Daenerys finds her position challenged, while at the wall the Night's Watch finds their order jostled by the arrival of Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre.
There is no structure established in the previous seasons that isn't thrown awry, and it's exciting.
Now with the powerful Lannisters a touch less powerful than before, the Iron Throne is truly up for grabs by anyone. With hints of unlikely alliances – yes, plural – where Westeros goes from here … your guess is as good as anyone's.
Based on both books four and five, season five promises to showcase the writers' talents more than ever before.
Raunchy, bloody, snarky, and emotional, there are already two deaths one hour into this season. Prepare yourself for many sinister turns, for the night is dark and full of terrors.