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Emilia Clarke plays Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones.

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Game of Thrones: The Wars to Come

Directed by Michael Slovis

On HBO

It’s time to make good use of your HBO Go accounts — Game of Thrones season five launched this past Sunday, and if you haven’t had a chance to see the premiere, you have a couple of days to catch up before episode 2 airs. “The Wars to Come” picks up right where season 4 left off, reminding us of the events that nudged Westeros into a pit of chaos while hinting at the turmoil to come.

“The Wars to Come” is an episode with dark themes (the usual murder, scheming, and betrayal we’ve come to expect from the series) and bright settings — it’s even sunny at Castle Black! We catch up with characters, following many storylines, in King’s Landing, The Wall, Meereen, The Vale, and other undisclosed locations. While it’s not in the running for the most exciting episode of the series, the episode does a good job of setting the stage for the coming season. Nothing too unexpected happens, and no devastating information is uncovered. However, we certainly get the impression that huge plans are being set in motion, so the slow start feels more like building momentum than a lull in the action.

We didn’t meet anyone who struck me as a new key player, but audiences are reunited with many familiar faces and a stellar cast. Varys (Conleth Hill) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), two of the show’s wittiest characters, journey across the Narrow Sea with hopes of rallying support for a suitable contender for the Iron Throne. The pair clearly has doubts about the possibility of redemption for the Seven Kingdoms and views their mission as a last Hail Mary. Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), known as the Mother of Dragons, can’t be bothered with troubles in the West as she is occupied with rebellions and busy maintaining her rule throughout the Free Cities. In a memorable scene, Daenerys has to remind her new subjects that she is “not a politician, [she’s] a queen” as they demand that she make concessions to appease the former slave masters.

The episode opens in an unusual way — a haunting flashback that may explain the roots of a particular familial animosity. We are left to wonder how Westeros will function with a young and inexperienced king sitting the Iron Throne, with no fearsome and respected grandfather to play royal puppeteer. Marriage plans are cast into doubt amid the confusion and redistribution of power; Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) seems bereft without a plot or two up her sleeve. Power struggles in The North threaten Westeros with an impending apocalyptic terror, but everyone is too preoccupied with forwarding their own agendas to take the threat seriously. As the series constantly insinuates, “winter is coming,” so hopefully the Seven Kingdoms will worry more about the White Walkers instead of political alliances and contested lines of succession.

If you’ve been following Game of Thrones, you already know that no character is untouchable, and I’m sure that season 5 will continue to shock audiences with its unpredictable and anything-but-reassuring storytelling.