Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 1 – The Red Woman REVIEW

*FULL SPOILERS AHEAD*

Last time we were in Westeros we all looked on in horror as Lord Commander Snow was butchered by his own men at the Wall. Since then rumour has been rife whether Jon has indeed bit the dust, or whether he will be resurrected by the Red Woman or by some other method. The title of the first episode of this new season hinted that perhaps such a resurrection would take place. What we got was instead much stranger…

I’m sure nobody saw that coming. Firstly, Jon is very much dead (at least for now) and Ser Davos, along with some other men of the Night’s Watch, have barricaded themselves into a room with Jon’s body. Ser Alliser attempted to lure them out, presumably to murder them, but they are currently at a stalemate. Intriguingly, Melisandre is also hidden away with them, and in the final scene of this week we finally discovered why the episode was named The Red Woman. Having stripped, she then took off her necklace, and looking in the mirror, she became an extremely elderly lady. The transformation was the first big shock of the season, and has already led fans to speculate over its meaning. Perhaps the necklace allows her to give the illusion of youth? There was a shot of her in a bath in Season 4 without the necklace on looking not at all old and creepy, but maybe that was an error. That seems unlikely. In that scene it is only Melisandre and Stannis’ wife Selyse, and The Red Woman explains how she doesn’t need to use tricks for a true believer like Selyse, which could imply that Selyse sees her in her true form, but the viewers do not. It is a tantalising cliff hanger, which certainly takes some attention away from Jon Snow’s death, which can only be a good thing. For that death to overshadow the whole season would negatively impact upon other storylines.

Speaking of the other storylines, this episode jumped back and forth across the lands to check in on a multitude of characters. Sansa and Theon were on the run from Ramsay’s men. This provided a fun, naturally violent set piece, in which Brienne and Podrick (all trained up) rescued the pair. In a world in which torture and misery generally prevail, it was a brief moment of success for the good guys which was no doubt lapped up by fans. Brienne finally saved Sansa after being rejected by her last season, and its certainly interesting to see where the group now end up. There was talk of Sansa running to Castle Black, so perhaps that is their next destination. That would certainly be quite an event.

As for everyone’s other favourite Stark, Arya (sorry Bran), the news was not quite as good. Left blind and homeless after disobeying Jaqen H’ghar and being evicted from the House of Black and White, she was forced to fight his protege and was swiftly defeated. She promised to return the next day, and so it seems like this is Arya’s life for the foreseeable future. After a pretty lacklustre story in Season 4, here’s hoping she gets something more interesting to do this time round. A nice bit of happiness for her at some point wouldn’t go amiss either.

Speaking of a lacklustre story and an absence of joy, Jaime’s rather disappointing trip to Dorne last season to retrieve Princess Myrcella ultimately proved fruitless. He returned home to a miserable Cersei, who spoke of the prophecy that the witch told her in last season’s opener: her three golden haired children would die (somebody guard Tommen). After the misery that Cersei suffered at the end of last season, and since Jaime has completed his turn to the good side, it was difficult not to feel a twinge of sadness for the two of them at losing their only daughter. Then Jaime, embracing Cersei, exclaimed that they would take everything they once had back and more. The Lannisters are coming.

In Dorne, a revolution is underway, making this one episode more exciting that the whole season spent there last time round. Having murdered Myrcella, Nymeria and her Sand Snakes deposed of Doran and his son Trystane in quick succession, ridding Dorne of weak male leaders. Presumably, the Lannisters and the Martells will now go head to head, each having multiple reasons for a thirst for blood. Even if last season was a bit lacklustre, it’s allowed the story to reach this point, and the bad blood has been building up since pretty much the very beginning. If a battle between the two finally commences this season, it will be a long-run story well executed.

Jaime and Cersei may be plotting revenge from King’s Landing, but Tyrion is destined to spend the foreseeable future in Meereen, since a mysterious someone has burned all of the ships in the harbour. With Daenerys gone, Tyrion and Varys are in charge of quelling rebellions and bringing order to the city. We got little development in that area this week, with more questions that answers, but it appears someone is secretly leading the Sons of the Harpy. We also got a glimpse of some followers of the Lord of Light, as well as a frankly quite hilarious baby-eating joke. Yes you read that right. Not much to write home about, and honestly it is difficult at times to care about what happens so far away from the Iron Throne, but hopefully the brilliant buddy-movie quality of Varys and Tyrion will be enough to raise this story.

Finally, the Mother of Dragons, having been captured by the Dothraki and verbally insulted, was dragged before Khal Moro. After a bit of verbal sparring, in which Daenerys continued to prove herself as one of the most badass characters in the show, her life was spared, but only because, being a widow of a Khal (Drogo), she would be sent to the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen, in Vaes Dothrak, to live amongst the other widows. Jorah and Daario are hot on their heels, having found Dany’s ring in the grassland. Surely Jorah will know that if she’s not dead, she’ll have been sent to Vaes Dothrak? What about the dragons? As with everything else, it’s still too early to really tell where this particular thread is going. Still, though, we are into our sixth season, and Dany is nowhere nearer the Iron Throne which she craves. How much longer will we have to wait until she finally crosses the sea to Westeros?

There were hints of other stories such as Margaery still being in prison, and Roose Bolton threatening Ramsay with a different heir, which added up to a truly jam-packed opening episode. Bran has yet to be reintroduced having been absent last season, but you can be sure we’ll see him soon. It was a solid opening, providing fans with many new talking points instead of rehashing the Jon Snow question over and over. This time last year, I was personally disappointed with how the show opened, but I was pleasantly surprised at the enjoyment of this season’ premiere. The stories are more sparsely located than ever before, and it can be jarring at times jumping from one place to the next to visit certain characters, but with the show slowly drawing towards a true finale (two shorter seasons await after this one concludes), no doubt the stories will intertwine once more, battles will be won and lost, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have something to cheer for. Here’s hoping this season builds upon this solid opening.

Verdict: 8.5

 

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