Robert? Dead.

Viserys? Dead.


Drogo? Dead.

Renly? Dead.

Robb? Dead.

Joffrey? Dead.

HBO's "Game of Thrones" returned for a fifth season Sunday night, and promptly did what the show's writers do best: killed off a would-be king. Now we can add Mance Rayder's name to the above list.

"Thrones" is a show where viewers generally know what we're going to get: Intricate plot lines, an ever-growing cast of characters, gratuitous nudity, weird religious speeches, and violence – yes, lots of violence.

Sunday was no different as Mance, the once-proud king of the wildlings, met his demise (quite painfully) after he wouldn't pledge allegiance to another contender to The Iron Throne: Stannis Baratheon.

Near the end of the episode, Melisandre, the red witch and Stannis' adviser, began burning Mance alive as a crowd gathered to watch at The Wall. It was a gruesome sight, but Jon Snow mercifully ended Mance's suffering by shooting an arrow through his heart. (What a protagonist!)

(That makes seven kings or would-be kings who have been killed on the show, by my count. If I'm missing anyone, shout in the comments.)

Stannis had been hoping, with Mance's allegiance, to lead a wildling army south and take over Winterfell, which had been conquered by Roose Bolton. But Mance wouldn't pledge and so, like so many other kings before him, he had to go. Of course, we had to listen a weird religious speech from Melisandre first. (An aside: I wonder what the show's budget for torches is? There seems to be an exorbitant number of them in a surprising number of shots.)

So, "Thrones" closed with the death of a leader. And, it also opened with reference to a death of another leader in King's Landing.

The incest-loving twins Cersei and Jaime Lannister were viewing the dead body of their father Tywin (who was killed by their young brother Tyrion) and Cersei made clear that she blames Jaime for Tywin's death. (He was really more of an unwitting accessory, but I digress.)

We also learn that Lancel Lannister (another of Cersei's incest lovers) has joined a weird religious cult called the Sparrows. We'll see more of them later this season -- which I'm not sure is a good thing.

Tyrion, meanwhile, has traveled with Varys to Illyrio's home. He's been stuffed in a crate the entire trip to avoid detection for his father's death. He begins drinking heavily upon release. Varys and Tyrion express hopeful worldviews.


Varys: "Things have gotten worse, not better."

Tyrion: "The future is shit, just like the past."

They determine to travel to Meereen to help Daenerys Targaryen ascend to the Iron Throne.

Dany, meanwhile, is dealing with her own problems: One of her unsullied soldiers has been assassinated in a brothel. Dany pledges to chop off her opponents' heads like snakes. (Problem solved!) But she has a potentially bigger issue: her giant, scary dragons don't appear to want to listen to her.

"I can't control them anymore," she says. So, yeah, um, good luck with that.

With two total deaths (by my count), the episode was somewhat slow. But I've got no complaints. With no new George R.R. Martin books to read, it's nice once again to be hanging out in his world.

Grade: B+