The lights dim. The air stills. The warning of impending nudity and violence flashes up on screen. And Throners – my beloved, wonderful, powerfully sexual Throners – we're home.
Welcome to another season of Raven On, the only Game of Thronesrecap to open with a loving haiku about the glory that is Daario Naharis' bare body.
Buttocks like sand dunes at dusk
Smooth, firm and willing
Could Jon Snow have a rival?
Yes, saddle up for another year of shallow objectification, toilet humour and vaguely stalky behaviour from your humble recappespondent, who relentlessly refuses to talk television like a mature adult, or give up writing in the third person.
Once again, there are rules to these recaps. We're discovering the story through the TV show, so if you've read ahead in the books, keep schtum, or we'll give you the full Joan of Arc treatment.
The first episode of a Game of Thrones season, much like a new car, has a particular smell of promise and delight that takes a few days of excessive drive-through fast food consumption to destroy.
At that point, we'll start asking the serious questions like "Hey, where was Arya?" or "How did those dragons get so big without food?" or "Is the engine supposed to rattle like that?" But for now, we're hitting the highway and taking in the entirely new experience.
The C-word this episode is Consequence, and our featured characters were all dealing with it in one way or another.
For Cersei Lannister, it's about how to stay safe after the death of her father Tywin. Twincestous brother Jaime is circumspect: Tywin built them an empire, and it's up to them to keep their enemies from the door (literally, as the twins are locked in Baelor's Sept while nobles wait outside to pay their respects).
But for Cersei, already jealous of Jaime's elevated position in her father's eyes, it's a time of bitter regret. Haunted by a childhood encounter with a prophetic wild woman – who predicted a only a limited amount of queenly glory – she doesn't mourn Tywin's loss as a daughter, but as a subject whose protective shield has just been zapped. She warned Jaime about Tyrion, but he remained sympathetic to their brother, which in a way makes him even worse.
By the way, I'm going to miss Tywin so much. Seeing him in death, much as he was in life, with some truly imposing stones, only reminded me of how much I love-hated his no-nonsense style.
Speaking of shields, Jon Snow is back on sword up-skilling duty at The Wall. He's tough with his young charge, demanding he not slack off with his heavy shield. But he's fair too, and kind, because of course he is because he's Jon Snow and I love him and I'm sorry Kit Harington I know you feel objectified but I'm not going to stop sorry, not sorry.
Melisandre/Kate Bush, with a newly discovered super power of never-ending internal warmth (as a Queenslander, how I envy such a talent for cold climes!), calls on Jon Snow to have a quick word with Stannis, which of course has to be at the top of The Wall because why hang around inside where there are fires and blankets when you could be gazing out onto white nothingness in negative 40 billion degrees?
Stannis needs more fighters to properly take the south and wants Mance Raydar to sign his free folk up to the Baratheon cause. He knows the King Beyond the Wall likes J-Sno, so he tasks the "Bastard of Winterfell" with bringing Mance onside. Jon adopts his most beautiful, brooding expression, but Mance has fought too long and too hard to bend the knee. This doesn't bode well.
There's plenty of knee-bending going on in Loras Tyrell's bedroom, with the heir of Highgarden getting quite acrobatic with Dornish lover Oliver, ooo-er. Sister Margaery bursts in ("You're very respectful." "I'm very hungry!") to complain about Slow Lorus' tardiness for dinner and laissez-faire attitude towards the closet. Why bother? is Slow Lorus' point about his sexual orientation. Everyone knows anyway. Ever the sharper political animal, Kate Middleton is more wary about how it could be used. The pair discuss the will they/won't they status of Slow Lorus' arranged marriage to Cersei – Kate Middleton hates the concept, but as Slow Lorus points out, if they don't get hitched, his sis will be stuck with the mother-in-law from hell.
Meanwhile, hello Lancel Lannister! Battle weariness and a sensible haircut have done wonders for you, young man. Turns out Lancel's rejected cousin love (always good) and found the Seven. Now termed a "Sparrow", he seeks to lead Cersei back to the path of good, but she's not convinced he could lead anything. Not even a dog on a lead.
Daenarys Targaryen is facing two very big obstacles, and I'm not talking about Daario's spectacular boudoir assets, snort blush giggle. Her dragons, Viserion and Rhaegal, have grown enormously while locked up in the dungeons under Meereen. They're not happy either – blimey, I'm fostering three kittens at the moment, and they get pouty when I'm late with their kibble, heavens knows how cranky a very hungry scaly critter must get. And their bigger brother Drogon? He's off playing the most effectively hard-core game of hide 'n' seek ever seen.
Dany's also facing more domestic dramas in the form of a weird masked cult, which has started slitting the throats of Unsullied soldiers who are going to brothels for some good old-fashioned honest spooning. The lesson? Never be front spoon, it leaves you exposed in more ways than one. Missandei and Grey Worm are both intrigued by the idea of an Unsullied in a brothel, but they're both too sweet to spell out why.
The Khaleesi is urged to compromise with her new subjects by re-opening their fighting pits, the Slaver's Bay version of Russell Crowe's Gladiator. Dany is appalled by the concept of men slaughtering each other for fun and profit, but has her views slightly altered by Daario's backstory (and WHAT a backstory!). He urges her to remember her position is tenuous, and an operating fighting pit could be a good piece of PR.
Look, I'm anti-violence in general, but if a fella like Daario started hanging around my bedroom in the buff urging me to consider the benefits of brawling, I can guarantee I'd be on the phone to a few friends within five minutes trying to start my own Fight Club. Which I would never talk about.
Finally, quite possibly the best until last – Tyrion's epic vom all over a Pentosi penthouse. The half-man had a rough ride across the Narrow Sea, and seems to have reduced his mission in life to drinking himself to death. Varys, ever the silver tongue, reveals himself as a supporter of the Targaryen claim and manages to convince Tyrion that he is still a man of consequence, and can play a valuable role in the wars to come. "Can I drink myself to death on the road to Meereen?" Tyrion respostes, which seven hells yeah, means a drunken road trip to Dany-ville!
Yay! Best Moments
Brienne and Pod's scene was just a little teeny one in the scheme of things, but it just made my heart hurt so much. Poor Brienne. "The good lords are dead; the rest are all monsters." Despite Pod's never-ending optimism, bless him, Brienne seems to be having a wrestle with the Black Direwolf. She's worked so hard to do the right thing, but nothing seems to matter. Oh, how we've been there, sister. She tries to push Pod away, telling him she's no knight, so he has no business thinking he's a squire. Stay faithful, Pod. She needs you more now than ever.
Zing! Best Lines
Varys owned Tyrion like a boss after the little lion complained about being boxed in:
"Have you ever had to push your shit out of those air holes?"
"No, I've only had to pick up your shit and throw it overboard."
And oh, Melisandre/Kate Bush, you made my little heart tingle with your elevator small talk:
"Are you a virgin?"
How is Littlefinger still a thing? Why is Sansa with him? Why is her hair not red anymore? Where is he taking her that Cersei can't get her? Why is she not clawing his eyes out? Why is he such a slimeball?
Oh, Mance, you beautiful, stubborn man. I know you were right, your freedom was paramount, but you must admit Jon Snow did make some awfully good points about the future survival of your people as well.
"I think you're making a terrible mistake," J-Snow tells him. "The freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted," he replies. Argh, heartstrings, pulled tighter than a harp after a service.
What made Mance's death sequence was the sheer terror in which he faced it. Here was no Ridley or Latimer, lighting a candle never to be put out. Here was simply a terrified mortal man facing one of the worse kinds of torture. Jon Snow sparing him with a mercy arrow was a relief, but did nothing to stop the great sense of sadness at what might have been, if Mance had just been able to bend not his knee but his iron will.
We should see Arya, we should see Dorne, we should see Tyrion drink his own bodyweight in road beers and we hopefully will see Littlefinger punched in the spleen. I shall see you all then, Throners. Stay Daario-licious.