What does the future hold? This is the question pervading the latest chapter of Game of Thrones. In the first season premiere to open with a flashback, an adolescent Cersei (Lena Headey) seeks out a witch in a dark wood in order to discover her fortune. With a taste of Cersei’s blood, the witch predicts a future of great disappointments and humiliations. This lends a tragic light to Cersei’s storyline, as much of the horrors she has experienced had already been foretold to her. The beginning of “The Wars to Come” sets the tone for an episode that interlocks present and past while discarding hopeful ideals of a peaceful future.
Downtrodden and defeated, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) gains some hope as Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) convinces him that he will have an important role in the future of the Seven Kingdoms. In classical terms, the Lannisters are a cursed family, which is why they have suffered so much. As their storyline often harkens to the tale of Oedipus (who breached by accident), and the two greatest crimes a mortal could commit (patricide and incest), the Lannisters have indulged in those vices willingly. It will be interesting if the showrunners (and George R. R. Martin himself) find a way to absolve Tyrion of these sins.
While Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) has gained much traction as she fights for the iron throne, her rule is similarly unstable as the citizens of Mereen resent her presence in their city. One of her strengths as a leader has been a commitment to her ideals, and these are heavily questioned in “The Wars to Come.” After dissolving slavery, she now refuses to reinstate the popular fighting pits which she sees as barbaric. Lying in bed with Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman), the sellsword attempts to convince her that the fights have virtue, and he is only alive because of them. It will only be in upcoming episodes where we see what decision Daenerys makes, although it’s evident that compromise is necessary in order to survive. The added struggle of having lost control of her dragons only adds more instability, but if she is destined to be a fair and good leader, Daenerys must transcend her identity as the Mother of Dragons. Hopefully, more time will pass before she regains that aspect of herself, and in that sojourn, her true identity will undoubtedly emerge.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) experiences an almost parallel struggle of virtue and faith ala Daenerys, as he attempts to convince Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) and his Wildlings to join the army of Stannis (Stephen Dillane). The scene between him and Mance is among the strongest of the episode and demonstrates Snow’s compassion. He uses reason and conversation rather than force and the sword. While this is also a matter of circumstance, Jon has learned that he cannot bend the will of another individual. This is a valuable lesson for a man destined for greatness. Much like Daenerys, he holds the dignity of humankind at high order — in both life and death.
The theme of the future similarly holds a self-reflexive weight going into Season 5. While Game of Thrones rarely dips too deeply into the waters of overt self-awareness, the showrunners have already come forward by saying that upcoming events will not follow the meticulous path of the books. Thus far there have been few surprises for readers of Martin’s series, but it has already been announced that characters who survive in the books will find death on the small screen. The future is not as predictable as it once seemed, and the question as to how this will play out lies… well, in the future.
Justine Smith (@redroomrantings) lives and writes in Montreal, Quebec. She has a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies, and a passionate hunger for all kinds of cinema. Along with writing for Vague Visages, she is the film editor of Sound on Sight and a freelance writer.