Warning: major spoilers below! Do not read until you have watched the Game of Thrones season five premiere, "The Wars to Come."
Waiting for Game of Thrones season five has felt like forever, but just imagine if you were a young Cersei waiting over 30 years to watch your awful, terrible future unfold just as a witch told you it would when you were just a child? That's how the season five premiere of HBO's hit series kicked off, with the long-awaited flashback scenes to young Cersei Lannister, walking through the woods with a friend, seeking out a witch she'd heard lived on "her" lands. And this should come as no shock to anyone: young Cersei is just as bratty and selfish and entitled as present-day Cersei, demanding that the witch tell her what lies in store for her in the future, or else she'll have the witch killed.
Charming kid, huh?
But in the classic case of "be careful what you wish for," the psychic tells Cersei she has to taste her blood, and she'll get three questions answered. Cersei's told she'll never wed the prince, she'll wed the king and be queen herself—but only for a time. Then comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast her down and take all she holds dear. The king will have 20 children and she'll have three. Gold will be their crowns, gold will be their shrouds. As all Game of Thrones fans know, all that has come true...except for her youngest two children dying. But hey, give it a few seasons and a few more weddings, right?
In present day, Cersei makes all the mourners who have traveled from far and wide wait while she privately grieves her father Tywin's body with Jaime in the Great Sept. Jaime urges Cersei to start building up allies, since he thinks all their subjects are their enemies waiting to pounce and take all they have, but Cersei only cares about getting revenge on Tyrion. This family has more issues than yours, guaranteed.
Little does Cersei know, Tyrion is far, far away from her wrath, as Varys took him on a journey (locked away in a tiny wooden box, yikes) to safety. They arrive in Dantos, to Varys' allies who always supported the Targaryens over the Baratheons/Lannisters. There is a small faction of people who believe Westeros needs to be saved from itself. But Tyrion doesn't care about the fate of the country: "The future is s--t, just like the past."
Varys tries to convince Tyrion they each have a part to play in the war to come even if it's not as a lord, and he wants to see peace in the land. He hints at wanting to help a woman rise to power and take the iron throne...and then he outright says the name we've been waiting to hear him say this whole time: Daenerys Targaryen! He wants to take Tyrion to Mereen to meet her and see if she's an option worth fighting for. Say it with us: Yaaassss!
Cut to Mereen, and the giant statue that sits atop the castle is being torn down from its high ledge. This seems pretty ominous. We then see an unsullied soldier paying for cuddling in a brothel, which if you think about it is equal parts sweet and depressing. But then someone in a gold mask slits his throat! Meet the Sons of the Harpy. They are a group of Mereenese people opposed to Dany being their "conqueror." Though no one knows who they are (read: masks), everyone suspects they are noble families that lost their power when Dany freed the slaves.
A curious Missandei makes her way down to what's pretty much the unsullied locker room to find Greyworm, and asks him why the murdered unsullied was found in a brothel, but he tells her he doesn't know. We all know she was hoping the unsullied still have a way to get it on, since she's crushing hardcore on Dany's favorite unsullied. But Greyworm dashes her hopes. Girl, we feel you.
Dany is told that Yunkai's former slave masters have formed an council to be governed by her, but their only concession is that they want the fighting pits reopened, and she refuses. Later in their (!!!) bedchambers, a naked (!!!) Daario tells her she should reconsider and open them again. He used to fight in them when he was younger and sold into slavery, and credits his famous fighting skills to the pits. He made so much money in them for his slave master he was set free and his life was finally his own. Daario believes this would only show off her strength here in Mereen, but Dany is worried about her hold on power.
Her biggest dragon, Drogon, hasn't been seen in weeks, and she doesn't think she can even control them anymore. Is she the true mother of dragons? She goes to see her other two, Viserion and Rhaegal, who are still chained up and they. Are. Pissed. That certainly isn't going to endear her "children" to her.
Back up north at Castle Black, the fighting has stopped, and Jon Snow is teaching young Night's Watch men how to fight. Gilly tells Sam she thinks the new Lord Commander hates her, but Sam tells her hates all Wildlings…including her baby. Is this foreshadowing? Should we be worried about Gilly and her child again?
The Red Woman then collects Jon to see the "king," aka Stannis, who has taken up quarters on top of the wall. On their way up, she asks if he's a virgin, and when he says no, she simply says, "Good." That can't actually be good if she thinks it is! Run away, Jon! Run far, far away!
Stannis tells Jon he plans to take back the north "from the thieves who stole it," including Roose Bolton who currently occupies Winterfell (now that's low, even for him), now that Tywin can't protect them all. He needs more men to do this, however, and so he wants Jon to rally the Wildlings into an army that will fight for him. If they swear to follow Stannis, he promises to pardon them and give them land to live on south of the wall…as long as Mance Rayder kneels and swears loyalty to him under threat of death. Jon presents that deal to Mance, but he says he'll never serve Stannis. He doesn't want his people fighting and dying for "a foreigner's" war. He'd rather die than betray everything he believes.
Stannis follows through on his threat to burn Mance alive in front of the Night's Watch as well as some of his own Wildling army, to add insult to injury. He starts to burn, and before he appear weak by screaming in agony in front of all his people, Jon takes mercy on him and shoots him with an arrow, ending his pain. And Game of Thrones season five claims its first victim! RIP Mance Rayder, you were strong until the end.
Back in warmer, sunnier parts of Westeros, we find Sansa and Littlefinger watching Robin Arryn training how to fight…not well. But Littlefinger receives a message, and leaves with Sansa. They leave Robin behind, and take a different route than they told everyone they would travel on because Littlefinger trusts no one. He tells her they are traveling somewhere so far away, even Cersei will never be able to find them.
Meanwhile, Brienne and Pod are unsure of their next move. Brienne basically tells him to get lost, but Pod refuses to leave his knight. Brienne feels lost without a good lord to believe in and fight for…and Sansa literally rides right by them! That is a horrible, cruel twist of fate.
Back in King's Landing, Loras is hilariously and awkwardly trying to give his condolences to his betrothed Cersei, but she's only got eyes for what Margaery is whispering in Tommen's ears. There's that "younger and more beautiful" queen to take away all she holds dear! First she took Joffrey, now she's taking Tommen and the Iron Throne.
Cersei then sees her young cousin who she used to, ahem, bed, and he's dressed in weird, plain clothes, because he's now a part of a religious group who call themselves "Sparrows." He finds her later to apologize for "tempting her" into "unnatural relations"—though we all know it takes little to tempt her into incest—and for poisoning Robert's wine during his boar hunt that led to his death. But of course, she refuses to even acknowledge this murderous scheme.
Later that night, Loras and his new lover talk about leaving for Dorne or Highgarden, aka anywhere but King's Landing, until Margaery walks in on them. She asks her brother to be more discrete, but he doesn't care. Now that Tywin's dead, he believes he's free of being betrothed to Cersei. But is he free from her wrath? We doubt it.
While it felt so good finally traveling back to Westeros, the season five premiere felt more like a setup episode than anything else, really teeing up what we can expect from this season. We got a glimpse into Dany's upcoming struggles with unrest in Mereen, we know what Varys and Tyrion are planning, and the drama between the Night's Watch and Stannis' army is only just starting to heat up.
But where. Is. Arya?!
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.