[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he two fiery dragons may have zipped their flaming snouts for now—thankfully sparing the platinum blonde locks of their mistress Queen Daenerys Targaryen—but the debate has just begun to heat up over the Game of Thrones season five opener. (Beware of spoilers!)

Have the show runners finally gone too far? Have the fans of George R.R. Martin’s epic “A song of Ice and Fire” books been betrayed because the plot lines have truly diverged? Or are they going to continue to “hate-watch” the HBO series, as one of our crew here calls his Sunday night viewing experience glued to the tube?

As Martin labors to finish what he started, the show’s creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, press on their own way, killing off a major character, Mance Rayder, the king of the free-folk/Wildlings, in the season opener. They had him burned at the stake, instead of following the book’s switcheroo when Stannis Baratheon’s mistress Melisandre summons some of her magic and subs a character named Rattleshirt disguised as Mance to go up in flames in his stead. Live free or die, indeed.

Melisandre Game of Thrones
Melisandre, also known as The Red Woman, in Game of Throne’s season 5 premiere. (Photo credit: Helen Sloan/ HBO)

Face it, readers, you will always have your jam-packed books—whether Martin gets to the end himself, or a ghostwriter finishes the job. But for us watchers, the series is still as good as it gets. Whether we will ever want to go back and read the source material is another story.

All the HBO show’s special ingredients were on full display as the season got underway. There’s nudity, sexuality, depravity, sudden violence, stunning locations, splendid costumes, tense drama, blood, breasts and guts. What more do we need? It did not disappoint. Of course, not having read the books, we did not know what we were missing, nor what was supposed to be coming. That’s the joy of it, we suppose.

With an assist from his brother Jaime, Tyrion Lannister (played to perfection by Pinker Dinklage) managed to escape from the dungeon at Kings Landing but not from the abyss of his guilt. One of our favorite characters in the series, the small guy shot his evil dad, Tywin Lannister, with a crossbow as the dastardly Lord of Casterly Rock sat on the privy and also strangled the only love of his life, Shae, after finding her lying naked in his dad’s bed. That’s gotta be tough on anyone. Too bad he’ll never see a therapist, because he does have a lot of issues to work out. We hope he finds closure somehow—if he doesn’t, don’t you dare spoil it!

Meanwhile, our other favorite male on the show, Jon Snow, won a temporary truce at Castle Black between the free folk/wildlings and the Night’s Watch—without a creepy ice walker in sight—but self-declared King Stannis Baratheon had to go and ruin it.

Tyrion Lannister
The character Tyrion Lannister killed his father in Game of Throne’s season 4 finale last year. (Credit: HBO)

And way, way down south, across the sea, Dany is still missing a dragon, and the two she has locked away look rather depressed from their neglect, and that could be cause for animal rights’ activists, assuming the former slave kingdom of Meereen ever had any, which is doubtful. Khaleesi, as we like to call her with humble devotion, has a complicated relationship with other creatures. She hatched three dragons herself, lost one, and, proving she’s no vegetarian, ate the heart of a stallion. As for the Great Harpy of Meeren, the big bronze-buttocked-and-bare-breasted female with wings mounted atop the Great Pyramid, the new queen apparently has no respect for idols of the past, having her forces pull the statue down with ropes and demolishing it in a great moment of television action and special effects.

And next week we get to see what the Stark girls are up to: Arya is about to meet a cult of mysterious assassins and Sansa is going to find out what master spy Littlefinger has in mind for her. And from what we’ve seen so far, it can’t be good.

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