Game of Thrones often seems like a teenage boy's version of Wolf Hall.

This review contains spoilers

I can imagine a surly teen perhaps being told to watch Wolf Hall as part of a Tudor history project at school. He gets bored with it - all that politics and plotting and murmuring - and so he starts thinking how he'd improve it: well, replace all those candles with flaming torches, he'd say. Throw in far more nudity and blood and one or two epic battle scenes. Forget manicured English gardens and let's have some snowy mountains. Exchange that castle for this pyramid.

The last time I spoke to a teenage boy was last month when I gave my brother some cash for his birthday, saying, 'Em, here… I didn't know what to get you.' So I know nothing of such creatures but can assume they'd prefer flaming torches and nudity over the court of Henry VIII. And as I watch Game of Thrones I can't help wishing for the opposite: for all the clashing of swords and shooting of arrows to calm down for just a second. Oh how I wish we were back in thoughtul, sedate, flickering Wolf Hall.

Unless you keep up to date, religiously, with Game of Thrones there's little point in wading into the series at this late stage. Series 5 started today and a newcomer will be easily lost as the plots, the warring factions and the relations between them are so intricate. There will probably be websites out there offering any such brave beginners a family tree, guides and tips, but who wants to devote studious attention to what is simply a fantasy TV series? It reminded me of studying Ulysees; you can't just curl up on the sofa with the book and a cup of tea. You have to be prepped and do your background reading before you can begin the primary reading. You can't just enjoy it.

So, beginners, forget it. Loyal fans, however, will be overjoyed with this opening episode as it drew together the classic elements. Everything you'd expect from Game of Thrones was here, excluding a mighty battle scene but we can hardly expect them to hurl that at us in a series opener. Instead we had funerals, throat-slittings, sex and nudity, a burning at the stake and a bad-tempered dwarf in a box.

We opened at the vast, candlelit funeral of Tywin Lannister who lay in state with eerie painted stones covering his eyes. As sulky Cersei viewed the body, she remembered having her fortune told as a child, where the witch warned her: 'Everyone wants to know their future…till they know their future' then went on to tell her she'd bear children but, 'Cold will be their crowns. Cold their shrouds.' Unease springs up all around the adult Cersei, knowing the dutiful mourners standing patiently outside are simply waiting to see that Tywin really is dead, and then they'll move against her.

The best thing about this episode was that a thousand plot lines were springing up at once. We jumped around between most of the main characters, catching up with all of them, including Daenerys who's having trouble these days controlling her dragons. She pays them a maternal visit but they just leap and roar and try to blaze fire everywhere. She can't control her babies anymore and, for once, she looked anxious instead of ice-cool.

Yet the best scene was the final one, and it belonged to the magnificent Ciaran Hinds, playing Mance Rayder. Asked to 'bend the knee' and lend his army to another king, he refuses, knowing that refusal means he'll be burned alive. He's led to the pyre and as it starts to smoke he begins to moan, heroically stifling his screams, but for how much longer? Mercifully, Jon Snow shoots an arrow into his heart, killing him quickly.

Tremendous scenes like that smouldering finale make up for all the exhausting homework the series requires for those, like me, who aren't fanatics.