April 29, 2016 Game of Thrones – The Red Woman (Season 6/ Episode 1 Review)
Holy plot twist Batman! HBO Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss know how to deliver gripping event television, and they did not disappoint with the show’s season six premiere on Sunday April 24th. It has been a long wait for fans who have been speculating about Jon Snow’s fate, even though everyone, from producers to cast members, have tried to drill into viewers brains that Jon Snow is dead. But, he will be brought back to life in some form, right? Though the episode, titled The Red Woman, begins exactly where we want it to, it is the final minutes that have created a jaw-dropping, water cooler moment that is sure to have an impact on what happens with Jon Snow going forward.
Unfortunately, for now, fans continue to be in the dark about what will happen to Jon. At the Wall, his corpse is still on the cold ground when the episode begins, soon being seen by Ser Davos amidst the heartbroken howls of Ghost, and taken into a private room for protection. It is only a matter of time before Ser Alliser Thorne comes to claim the former Lord Commander’s body. In the meantime, we see Thorne justifying Jon’s murder to the members of the Night’s Watch.
While Ser Davos, Ghost, a distraught Melisandre and other loyal friends mourn Jon, Ramsay also grieves over his deceased mistress, Myranda. For a very brief moment, we see Ramsay actually feel something and wonder if maybe he has a sliver of a heart, but once he orders her meat to be fed to the dogs, we are reminded that even that small piece is blackened. Now that Sansa Stark has escaped with Theon/Reek’s help, Ramsay’s position had weakened. If he does not produce an heir, he cannot unite the North, and so he sends his bloodthirsty hounds to catch Sansa and Theon.
It is dicey for Sansa and Theon for a minute. After running through snow and freezing water, they find some shelter and momentary relief before Ramsay’s hounds and henchmen find them. Theon, still trying to redeem himself, tries to divert the captors by claiming Sansa is dead, but she is hiding in plain sight and is soon found. All hope is dashed for a few fleeting moments before the queen of badassdom, Brienne of Tarth, and her trusted sidekick, Podrick Payne, come charging in to save that day. And, save they do, with an assist from Theon. It is a momentous cheer and simultaneous sigh of relief for fans to see Sansa saved. Brienne pledges her fealty to Sansa, and when Sansa accepts, it is cathartic to see this new union take hold.
In the South, Cersei Lannister, still recovering from her traumatic experience at the end of last season, is thrilled to hear of the arrival of her daughter, Myrcella, but that happiness is quickly taken away when she sees her brother/lover, Jaime, accompanying their daughter’s dead body to shore. In a rare moment of vulnerability, we see Cersei reflect on the first time she and Jaime witnessed death with their mother, and Cersei starting to believe that all the death she has endured is inevitable, as it was long ago prophesized. Jaime does not accept that reasoning and vows to avenge the deaths of all whom they have loved; giving her the strength she needs to join him in vengeance.
If the first episode provides a view into what the rest of the season holds, the most apparent theme throughout The Red Woman, is women, either in positions of power or weakness. Margaery is a queen that is still locked in a cell rather than sitting on a throne. There is a plan for her and we can see that by the pressure she receives from the High Sparrow to give a confession. But, Margaery is a cunning woman and knows the power she holds over the people of King’s Landing.
There is also a change brewing in Dorne with Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes providing one of the most shocking moments of the episode. After receiving word of Myrcella’s death, Doran Martell, his men, and son Trystane are all murdered by these very capable women. The Martell bloodline is gone and the likelihood of a war between a Dorne that is no longer ruled by “weak men” and King’s Landing seems imminent.
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea in Meereen, Tyrion Lannister and Varys are dealing with a city divided and losing faith in their departed Mhysa. After we witness how bad Tyrion’s Valyrian is, we see the two come across a Red Priest, preaching that Daenerys is their salvation and to be wary of the Sons of the Harpy. Yet, the people do not seem too ignited by his words. Soon Tyrion and Varys witness Dany’s fleet in flames, extinguishing any hopes of leaving for Westeros.
Before we learn of Dany’s whereabouts, we see Jorah and Daario searching for the woman they both love, and it is not long before Jorah spots Dany’s ring. They know the Dothraki have her and are on their trail. When we see Dany, she is being whipped as she walks with her hands bound, enduring talks between Dothraki men about whether her curtains match her drapes, and we all wonder when her dragon will show up and save her.
But, it is not long before Dany is presented to Khal Moro, once again facing the threat of rape, and tries to use her “Queen of Meereen/Mother of Dragons” card to get her out of her current predicament. But it does not work, only garnering laughs from the Khal and his followers. Eventually, Dany gains his respect when she reveals she is the widow of Khal Drogo and Khal Moro proclaims that no one shall touch her. Unfortunately, good news comes with bad news as Khal Moro also informs Dany that she will be sent away to spend the rest of her days at what is essentially a retirement home for widows in Vaes Dothrak. Jorah and Daario better find her sooner than later.
In Braavos, viewers are given a brief glimpse at Arya Stark’s situation. She is blind and a beggar, which is part of her training to become a Faceless Man. It is not long before the Waif shows up to give her a lesson and a good beating with a stick. It is hard not to think of Daredevil in this moment, as Arya learns how to be a warrior without the use of sight.
In the final moments of the episode, we return to Castle Black. Thorne wants Ser Davos to give up Jon’s body and Davos tries to negotiate terms while biding his time so he can try to gather the Wildlings and see what Melisandre has up her sleeve. There are many theories about what could happen with Jon Snow, one being Melisandre bringing him back to life, but it looks like fans have to wait to see if any of the circulating theories come to fruition.
Melisandre is visibly shaken by the recent series of events, her prophecies having failed her. She is losing faith and ultimately viewers see her naked, looking at her true self in the mirror, revealing herself to be a very old crone after removing her mystical necklace. We see that Melisandre’s magic is real but not fool-proof. She was wrong about Stannis and it appears she was wrong about Jon, but perhaps she still has enough power to bring Jon back. CrypticRock gives The Red Woman 4 out of 5 stars.