Game of Thrones is back and not with a bang but with a sharp and patient episode, "The Wars to Come".
As its name suggests, the episode was all about being forward-looking. Forget the past, ignore the present and think of the future or die by (almost) burning alive.
Characters revisited in episode one included Cersie, Jamie, Tyrion, Varys, Brienne, Pod, Danaerys, her (humongous) dragons, Littlefinger, Sansa, Jon Snow, Tywin and Melisandre among others. And, thanks to skillful script and screenplay, the quantity of characters didn't take a toll on the quality of the storytelling.
With Tywin Lannister dead, a power vaccum looms atop King's Landing which means many claimants to the Iron Throne can come toppling out of closets, looking to challenge boy-king Tommen's seat of power. Cersie, meanwhile, is still lusting to see Tyrion's head on a spike.
The imp, however, is safe with Lord Varys, who in a major deflection from the books, travelled East with the fan-favourite character. The two have taken refuge in the kingdom of Illyrio Mopatis — the man who arranged the wedding between Dany and Khal Drogo.
Tyrion who has taken to some rugged looks, remains consumed with the awareness of killing his lover and his father. Varys is patient, slick and scheming as always. Scenes between the two are classy with a poignant sense of humour.
Littlefinger and Sansa, meanwhile, have left the young and spoilt Robin Arryn to learn sword-fighting and his pitiable attempts are no less humorous.
In Mereen, Danaerys is still learning how to rule while her Unsullied are being targeted by a group called the 'Sons of Harpy'. She has bigger problems at hand -- the dragons she's still unable to control. They have gotten bigger, fiercer and scarier and whereabouts of the scariest one still remain unknown.
The script tactfully highlights her immaturity as a ruler with dialogues like, "I'm not a politician, I'm a queen".
Up North, things are hectic with the crows, wildlings and Stannis-Melisandre and gang all camped out there together.
Snow is ordered to do the uphill task of convincing Mance Rayder to look forward and pledge his wildling troops to Stannis, if he wants to be saved from the punishment that awaits for his attack on The Wall.
It's worth noting that the show's treatment of Mance Rayder is a lot different from the books where the King beyond the Wall has a bigger role to play.
In keeping with its tradition, today's episode saw two deaths, lots of male nudity and couple of new characters including Sir Jorah's replacement in Khaleesi's council of advisors (trying to keep this spoiler-free, so no names).
All in-all this was largely an uneventful and unexciting episode. But one needs to remember that GoT has really spoilt fans with fireworks almost everytime so far and that this can be considered the lull before the storm and (more) slitting throats -- almost like a rebellious teenager (who shocked us with the Red Wedding) coming of age.
The Wars to Come looks like a strong foundation of the winter to come in Westeros.