Game of Throne S6:E1, Review and discussion

Image via HBO.com

EPISODE TITLE: THE RED WOMAN

DIRECTOR: JEREMY PODESWA

WRITTEN BY: DAVID BENIOFF & D. B. WEISS

AIRDATE: 24/4/16

IT’S BACK! Last night saw the premiere of Game of Thrones season 6, possibly the most anticipated season yet. It has been 10 long months since the closing minutes of the season 5 finale left the fates of a number of characters hanging in the balance, most notably the fate of The Lord Commander of The Nights Watch, Jon Snow. So lets get that one out of the way straight off the bat: Jon Snow is DEAD, but that’s not to say we wont see him again!

The episode opens on a wide shot of a cold snowy Castle Black, and as we zoom in on the lifeless body of our hero, surrounded by puddles of his own blood following a mutiny by members of the Nights Watch, the desperate wails of Snows loyal companion, the direwolf Ghost can be heard. Alerted by these anguished sounds, Ser Davos Seaworth finds the Lord Commanders body and orders a group of loyal men to carry him to an empty room. The Red Woman Lady Melisandre is shocked, as the “flames showed Jon fighting at Winterfell”. Could we witness a decline in the priestess’ faith this season? After all this is the second time the flames appeared to show her something and it didn’t come to pass, the other being when she misguidedly burned Shireen Baratheon at the stake, believing the Lord of Light would change Stannis’ fortune in exchange for Kings Blood. Davos and his small band of men barricade the door, vowing to protect Jons body from the traitor Alliser Thorne, the leader of the mutiny against the Lord Commander. Thorne openly admits the killing, hypocritically stating “Loyalty is the foundation on which the Nights Watch is built. Knowing that they will be unable to hold off for long, Davos sends Edd in search of the Wildlings to help them fight against Thorne. Later, Thorne offers Davos a horse, food and safe passage to the south if he surrenders, but Davos refuses, knowing full well the man has no intention of letting him live. At the close of the episode, we see Melisandre alone in her chamber, sombre after yet another false vision. Her devotion to the Lord of Light rocked, she removes the amulet from around her neck and she is instantly transformed into an old woman, making it more Game of Crones than Thrones! The title of this episode, The Red Woman, had led to much speculation that we would see Melisandre revive Jon Snow. That obviously didn’t happen, and we got something perhaps even more unexpected, but is it being hinted at that Melisandres amulet can give and maintain life, and implying that it could be used to bring Jon back to life? Or is she using a Glamour, a trinket used to disguise a persons true identity? Or is Melisandres magic infinitely more powerful than anyone ever believed? This story will get very interesting in the coming episodes, no doubt.

In the North, Ramsey sits next to the body of Myranda, seeming to be genuinely mourning her death following her fall from the battlements at the hands of Theon before he escaped with Sansa. It is at odds to the sadistic nature he has displayed up until this point, but, just as we are thinking that there might be more to the Bolton Bastard, he orders for her to be fed to his dogs, as a burial or funeral pyre would be “a waste of good meat”. Roose Bolton confirms the death of Stannis Baratheon, however it appears that nobody is aware that it was Brienne who struck the killing blow. However, I admit, I’m sceptical about Stannis’ death. To me, if there’s no body, then there’s no death, especially in a show like Game of Thrones, which has never shied away from killing major characters, case in point, Jon Snow. The only reason I can think of for not showing Stannis’ death is because for some reason Brienne chose not to kill him. Perhaps we will see evidence of Stannis’ body in the coming episodes, but until then I remain sceptical.

Theon and Sansa are shown to have survived their jump from the battlements at the end of season 5 unscathed, but when we first see them in this episode, they are on the run through a forest, with the sound of Ramseys hounds close behind them. When they catch up to them, Theon urges Sansa to head north to The Wall and seek out refuge with Jon while he offers to try and hold them off. Naturally, that doesn’t go well, and Ramseys men are about to capture them, when Brienne of Tarth and Podrick ride in and save the day. Gwendoline Christie once again shines as warrior woman Brienne, showing time and again that she is as formidable an opponent as any man. With Sansa rescued, Brienne pledges her allegiance to her, thereby fulfilling the oath she made to Catelyn Stark to protect her daughter. This scene is a turning point for Sansa Stark. For the first five seasons, Sansa was beat, tortured, raped and used as a pawn in the great game. But she has been shown to be clever and able to assess situations and act accordingly (like when she lied to save Littlefinger in Season 4). Now that she has become united with Brienne, she can start to grow further and perhaps make a legitimate play for the Iron Throne.

In Kings Landing, Cersei Lannister is still recovering from her walk of shame ordered by the Faith Militant last season. Her spirits are briefly lifted when a servant informs her that Jamie has returned with her only daughter, Myrcella, from Dorne. Despite all the spiteful, deplorable acts Cersei has committed through out the course of the show, it would take a hard person to not feel some shred of sympathy for her, watching her run gleefully to greet her daughter, who has just been murdered. Lena Headeys acting in the scene is superb, showing emotions ranging from happiness to utter grief. Her only redeeming feature has always been her love for her children, and now with two of them dead she fully realizes that Maggy the Frogs prophecy is coming true, and the remainder of the series will surely show her doing everything in her power to keep her remaining child, King Tommen, alive. There is an interesting contrast to be observed between Jamie and Cersei in the wake of Myrcellas death. Cersei is utterly broken, lamenting the fact that because Myrcella was so beautiful and kind, it made her feel as if she couldn’t be all bad if she was able to bring her into the world. Jamie on the other hand, is fired up and plotting revenging, swearing to “take back everything they have taken from us”. Elsewhere in Kings Landing, we have a brief check-in with Margaery Tyrell, trapped in her cell with Septa Unella (who is only waiting for her chance to whip out that bell of hers again and start shouting SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!) trying to wear her down and confess to her sin of giving false testimony in her brothers trial. Margaery shows more inner strength than Cersei did, still refusing to cave to the pressure and confess. I hope that Margaery is freed sooner rather than later, as her constant battle with Cersei for power over both Tommen and the Realm has produced some of the best moments in the show in the past, and with the hatred only growing between them following their recent ordeals, the stakes between them couldn’t be higher.

The episode also takes a short trip to Dorne, picking up shortly after Ellaria administered the poison which killed Myrcella. Last season, the Dorne story-line was not a hit with fans, with many calling for it to be scrapped altogether this season. The show-runners had already deviated from the Dorne story-line in the books, (for example, Myrcella is still alive in the source material, and the current plan was to have her claim the Iron Throne under Dornish Law, which states the eldest child is heir, irregardless of gender), but with this episode they continue to change it completely, with Oberyn Martells paramour Ellaria Sand leading his daughters in the ambush and murder of Dorne ruler, Doran, and his son Trystane, who had been betrothed to Myrcella. As Ellaria puts it, “weak men will never rule Dorne again”. There is really only one way this story-line can go now, and that is war with Kings Landing, who will no doubt seek retribution for Myrcellas murder. But with the Dornish story-line leaving a bad taste in the mouth of fans, will this new development be enough to satisfy fans for the rest of the series?

We have a brief check-in with Arya in Braavos to. Its a short scene that sees her still blind and begging for scraps on the streets of Braavos. Then The Waif appears and forces her to fight with staffs. She is easily bested and The Waif leaves her, telling her she will return tomorrow for more of the same. It’s a nice little scene to just catch up with Arya and her training with The Faceless Men, but whether or not she completes her training and heads for Westeros to take revenge on the remaining people on her kill list this season remains to be seen.

In Meereen, Tyrion and Varys are trying to maintain some level of control of a city that has been brought to a standstill by a fear of The Sons of the Harpy and the disappearance of their Queen Daenerys. As Tyrion puts it, “whoever you are and wherever you go, someone wants to murder you”. So, fun times in Meereen. We learn that Varys has his spys out trying to find the leader of the terrorist group, after which the marina is attacked and the fleet of ships is destroyed by fire. “We won’t be sailing to Westeros anytime soon” says Tyrion. Nothing new there then! His comment though could be a subtle reference to the rumours   that Tyrion will one day mount one of Daenerys dragons and help lay siege to Westeros. Who knows?!

Finally for this weeks episode, we find out what has become of Daenerys after she was surrounded by a horde of Dothraki warriors at the end of last season. At this point, Daenerys story-line in the show has reached the same point as the books, and I have the same feelings about seeing it adapted as reading it: it feels like treading old ground. Daenerys has been captured by Khal Moro, who initially plans to rape her, before he learns who she is. Daenerys asks him to escort her back to Meereen where he will be rewarded for his efforts, but Moro has other ideas. He informs her that she must do like all widows of deceased Khals, and live out her days in Vaes Dothrak, the temple of the Dosh Khaleen. Daenerys is of course reluctant, what with her planning to reclaim the Iron Throne. This plays out exactly the same in the book, and despite the fact that it will probably lead to Daenerys most likely gaining a vast Dothraki army to her cause, it still feels like going backwards rather than forwards. Aside from that, where is Drogon gone? He appeared seemingly out of nowhere to rescue Daenerys last season, so expect him to do the same again in this season.

So there you have it. Season 6, Episode 1 answers all the questions about the fates of Jon Snow, Princess Myrcella, Sansa/Theon and Stannis Baratheon(although I’ll still remain sceptical until I see a body on that one). But it also sets the table for a season that is sure to be a feast for the senses for fans of the show, filled with shocks and twists.

Game of Thrones airs again next Sunday. The title of Episode 2 is “Home”.

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