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“Game of Thrones” thrives as storylines converge

(HBO)

(HBO)

One of the things that makes “Game of Thrones” so popular is the fact that it’s so densely populated with three-dimensional characters of all shapes and sizes. If you happen not to be interested in one or two of the primary storylines, there will almost certainly be another three or four that do interest you. There’s a little something for everyone in “Game of Thrones.”

However, the sheer amount of characters and stories being told in “Game of Thrones” can sometimes be its greatest detriment. There are many people who won’t even start watching “Game of Thrones” because its myriad characters seem so complicated and intimidating.

There has been very little crossover between character storylines through the first four seasons of “Game of Thrones.” Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) lives in her own little dragon-filled world, while the Lannisters hang out in King’s Landing. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is cold in the North, and Arya (Maisie Williams) has her own adventures roaming through Westeros. This setup can get frustrating at times, which is why last Sunday’s premiere was an especially nice to start the fifth season of the series; the episode hints strongly at the possibility of at least a couple character threads converging at last.

The premiere, titled, “The Wars to Come,” feels very much like a “Game of Thrones” premiere; it spends a lot of time catching us up on its characters’ lives and predicaments from the end of Season 4. As in many of the previous season premieres, it takes its time, moving slowly along as it reintroduces us to a select group of its characters and closing with a powerful character-building moment.

The episode opens with a flashback to Cersei Lannister’s (Lena Headey) childhood, where viewers get some insight as to why present-day Cersei is so suspicious and paranoid of Margaery Tyrell’s (Natalie Dormer) impending rise to the throne as the queen. While it is intended to make us sympathize with Cersei, the flashback makes it clear that Cersei has been a nasty, entitled piece of work for a long, long time. It’s noteworthy in that it’s the very first flashback “Game of Thrones” has ever used, and it foreshadows a big season for Cersei Lannister.

The episode checks in on Daenerys and her dragons, where we once again get the impression that Daenerys has very little control over the creatures. The dragons have always been her largest asset and most valuable weapon in the event of a throne-capturing war, and it will be interesting to see how her storyline plays out as she gradually loses her control over them.

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) have escaped King’s Landing. They are, apparently, headed to meet Daenerys so Tyrion can help her become queen. As I mentioned earlier, the fact that these two storylines seem to be converging is hugely important for the show. The prospect of two of the show’s most iconic characters, Tyrion and Daenerys finally interacting is thrilling.

Two more storylines headed for a convergence: that of Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and that of Sansa Stark and Littlefinger (Sophie Turner and Aidan Gillen, respectively). Brienne and Sansa narrowly miss each other in the premiere, but it is more than likely that they will meet soon. Brienne is intent on honoring her vows to Catelyn Stark by protecting her children, and the idea of her discovering Sansa and saving her from whatever misery awaits her with the twisted Littlefinger is a glorious one indeed.

The most significant thing this episode accomplishes is positioning Jon Snow as the best and most intriguing character of the season. Jon Snow’s corner of the show has been widely derided for years now as tedious, boring and unnecessary. Harington has never been the greatest actor; Snow hasn’t been a fraction as charismatic as characters like Tyrion or Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). However, ever since he and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) met up at the end of last season, Snow’s storyline has picked up steam. Both he and Stannis are forceful, stubborn characters, and placing them in the same vicinity is already yielding strong results.

In a major plot point, Jon directly disobeys an order from Stannis, who believes himself to be the King of Westeros. This could be punishable by death, but Jon does it anyway out of loyalty to a friend. Jon hasn’t previously had character development as interesting as this, nor has he been given the chance to interact with characters as strong as Stannis.

The cohesion of storylines will do wonders for the show, breathing fresh air into some of its duller areas. Fleshing out Jon Snow’s character is a huge step forward as well. Going forward, it seems his scenes may well be some of the best and most anticipated of the season. Overall, “The Wars to Come” is a very promising start to the new season. Here’s hoping your favorite character is still alive by the time it’s over.

Eli Fine can be reached at elazarfine@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @ElazarFine.

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