We were welcomed back to the world of Westeros this evening, when Game of Thrones’ fifth season kicked off on Sky Atlantic. We Brits were a day later than much of the rest of the world, after the UK missed out on HBO’s world-wide simulcast, but we needn’t have worried too much about spoilers.
Asides from one fairly gruesome death (which did admittedly deviate from the book’s plot) there wasn’t a huge amount going on.
That should come as no surprise. Game of Thrones always starts slow. The first few instalments lull you into a false sense of security, and you begin to believe it’s a show about a pair of travelling chums or a fledgling romance between a couple of outcasts, before the second half of the season hits you like an axe in the face.
And then most of your favourite characters die. Sometimes from being literally axed in the face.
But the beginning of season five felt like the right time to pick up the pace.
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that Thrones is holding its ground as one of the best series on TV. It’s clever and witty and its dramas are almost absurdly gripping – but 40 episodes in, those dramas all feel rather small.
Because, really, the show’s overarching plotlines are pretty stagnant. Stannis is still stropping around the outskirts of Westeros. And we’ve been waiting for Daenerys to try and take the Iron Throne since season one. She’s settling in across the Narrow Sea like she’s forgotten all about her plan to overthrow the Baratheons and take back her birth-right. While Jon Snow is still pouting at The Wall. Lovers may have died and allies made and then burned at the stake, but let’s face facts, not much has really changed.
In the aftermath of Tywin’s humiliating demise, I was excited by the thought of brilliant Tyrion joining forces with fellow fan-favourite The Mother of Dragons this year, but minutes into the first episode it became clear I had jumped the gun. Season five looks more likely to be Tyrion’s Meereen travelog than anything more exciting.
Complete with shocking, gruesome twists and lots more nipple than your average drama, Game of Thrones is known for being high-octane and fast-paced – and this series opener was a solid, sound hour of TV. It just didn’t feel quite fast-paced enough.
Perhaps I’m being impatient. George RR Martin’s tale is an epic and complicated one. And I should know that we never get exactly what we want in the wilds of Westeros (asides from that wondrous episode last season when horrid little Joffrey croaked.)
But five seasons in Thrones is starting to feel a little like it’s dragging its heels.
Let’s hope that’s not to ensure it doesn’t catch up with Martin’s yet-to-be-written-let-alone-published novels. As someone who gets writers block every 20 minutes or so on a bad day, I can only imagine the pressure the fantasy genius must already be under…
Game of Thrones continues on Mondays at 9:00pm on Sky Atlantic