The episode began with the series very first flashback scene, ever. It featured a young Cersei Lannister getting her fortune told by a witch, who rightly tells her "everyone wants to know their future, until they know their future." Cersei is told that she will not marry the Prince she is currently betrothed to but that she will be Queen, but only until a younger prettier woman comes along and that she will have three children who will have "gold as their crowns and gold as their shrouds." The key point to note here is that beginning with Cersei, the showrunners are emphasizing how she is central to many of the events that happen in Season 5, as the death of her father Lord Tywin Lannister (the richest and most powerful man in Westeros) at the end of Season 4 causes a power vacuum, that Cersei despite her flailing attempts, is unable to fill.
The episode begins with a shot of Tywin's body lying in state in the Great Sept of Baelor and then we get a dizzying series of interactions of Cersei at Tywin's funeral (her uncle Kevan Lannister, her distant cousin/boy toy Lancel Lannister, her betrothed Loras Tyrell, and er brother Jaime Lannister).
One thing the episode does very well is catch us up on the story for almost all the many characters we are following. There are appearances by Tyrion and Varys in Pentos, Daenerys and Daario (and her two captive dragons) in Mereen, Brienne and Pod, Sansa and Littlefinger and Jon Snow and Mance Ryder and Stannis and Melissandre at the wall. The only "main" characters we don't see in the first episode are the other Stark children: Arya and Bran (and Rickon, of course).
The best parts of the episode were:
- The sheer grandeur of the Great Sept of Baelor and the impressive scale of the Harpy Statue in Mereen were pretty awesome to see.
- They finally named the two smaller dragons, Rhaegar and Viserion, as well as showing that even these two are a handful to deal with.
- The best lines of the show were both about Daenerys: "A dragon queen without dragons is not a queen"(Daario Naharis, to Dany) and "Who said anything about 'him'?" (Varys to Tyrion)
- Loved the fact that Jon did the right thing by putting Mance out of his misery while he was being burned alive by The Red Lady but did he really need to make it so obvious that he was the one who fired the shot?
- I'm not really complaining per se about the show's willingness to depict same-sex nooky as part of its commitment to sexposition but it would be nice if they rounded out the depiction of Ser Loras as more than just Margaery's gay brother.
The parts of the episode I could have done without:
- Did we really need female frontal nudity in the brothel scene before the anonymous Unsullied guy got his throat cut?
- Did we really need to know the details of how Tyrion's poop was dealt with while he was stuck in a box for the duration of a long ship voyage across the Narrow Sea?
Overall: A decent start to an intriguing season of my favorite show on television.