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Isaac Hempstead-Wright

'Game of Thrones' enters Season 5 at war with it all

It's always worrisome when a beloved show enters midlife. Giddy limerence gives way to the more critical eye of a long-term relationship, and even the most beloved characters or innovative worlds can seem overly familiar and irksome. The more acclaimed or popular a show is, the more tempted we are to find fault when the new season does not appear to live up to the nostalgia-enhanced memories of previous glory.

In actuarial terms, then, this should be the time HBO's "Game of Thrones," which returns Sunday, hits critical turbulence, dinged for repetition or gratuitous complexity, for complacency or contrivance, especially given the necessarily increased deviations from...