Game of Thrones Season 5 First Four Episodes Overview

Screeners are officially out, and the critics are starting their warm up blasts as they make their way through the first four episodes. Last year, these reviews were a little difficult, as Joffrey’s death took place in the second episode, but reviewers were unable to talk about it. Right now, it is less clear if anything like that happens. (Though from our spoiler round up from the first episode, there is a suggestion that a fairly mid-level character might be biting the dust.)

So what are the critics saying about the first few episodes of Season 5? Well, let’s go with the bad news first–Entertainment Weekly isn’t fully impressed. Their big complaint? It’s one we’ve heard many times when it comes to the early episodes of the Game of Thrones season–namely that the plot moves very slowly.

…the story moves slowly, focusing less on the game-changing moments that often come early in the season (Joffrey dies! The Unsullied revolt!) and more on long-term strategy.

And though the show worked really hard to excite us for Dorne, apparently the reviewer isn’t so pleased with the results.

Having killed off so many characters, it needs to repopulate. But too many of the new faces look like they’re on the wrong show. When Cersei enlists a religious leader, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), to help her politically, his bald devotees, who carve stars into their foreheads, resemble cult figures from a Kevin Williamson drama. And when the show introduces Oberyn’s revenge-thirsty daughters (Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, Jessica Henwick), they’re closer to B-movie bad girls than warriors.

Ouch. But by the end of the review, there is a note of hope, mainly in the idea that Tommen is going to die. That sounds rather blood thirsty, considering he hasn’t even hit puberty yet. But I suppose such are the standards the show has set.

The New York Daily News is a little kinder, suggesting that the show, like Tyrion, has been locked away in a crate for the last few months and needs time to get settled:

Tyrion has been nailed inside a crate since season 4 ended. So you’ll forgive him if he needs a few minutes — and a few drinks, of course — to find his rhythm.

And like some fans, they seem to appreciate when the show takes the slower path to get from A to B.

The Mance drama plays out at considerable length, with a long pause for philosophizing on the nature of trust, faith and freedom. This gives the show a nice stretch of breathing space among the scenes of decadence, violence, dragons and Machiavellian maneuvering.

So, to sum up, this season seems to be taking it’s cues from the first three seasons instead of last year–at least according to the reviews. But last year’s season was always going to be something of an outlier, as it was based on the second half of a book, instead of covering the entire terrain of one. That whizbang start with a major villain’s death wasn’t going to be the way this season played out, considering that most of the obvious candidates met their makers last season. But I for one am okay with a slow start that builds into something bigger. It’s how Benioff and Weiss have been playing the game since they began.