Over its first four seasons, "Game of Thrones" has become a cultural phenomenon (second only to "The Walking Dead") and weekly, must-see appointment television. The main reason the battle for the Iron Throne has become so popular and enthralling is how it eschews the traditional fantasy narrative. [Season 1 through 4 spoilers ahead].

Over its first four seasons, “Game of Thrones” has become a cultural phenomenon (second only to “The Walking Dead”) and weekly, must-see appointment television. The main reason the battle for the Iron Throne has become so popular and enthralling is how it eschews the traditional fantasy narrative. [Season 1 through 4 spoilers ahead].

From Ned Stark’s beheading through the Red Wedding, or even the fight between The Mountain and The Viper, viewers were floored by shocking deaths (and should’ve realized then that George R. R. Martin was going to deal even more terrible gut punches in the future).

Yes, making even the central characters of this tale expendable is a big twist, but there’s more subtle, yet important, narrative techniques and themes that make “Game of Thrones” like nothing else on television. And that’s where Season 5’s first four episodes excel.

After all of the deaths and significant changes at the end of last season, the early part of Season 5 settles down to deal with the ramifications. We get a good dose of alliances — Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill), and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), Podrick (Daniel Portman), Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), and Sansa (Sophie Turner) — we got hints of last season. There are also some new partnerships that are surely going to elate viewers.

The most interesting aspects of Season 5 were the philosophical and thematic contemplations that made up the bulk of these episodes. There are examinations of power and justice, revenge, gender politics, religion and the intention of leadership.

There is also swordplay and blood being spilled, but it’s those quieter, more thoughtful moments that will have the most consequences down the line. If I had to predict — without having read any of the books — this season of “Game of Thrones” will set up the endgame of the series. That means it may not have the shocks of a Red Wedding or Mountain vs. Viper, but may end up being the most crucial to how the series climaxes, and thus its legacy.

Photo courtesy of HBO