It’s back! It’s finally back! We can now all end our eternal slumbers of despair from the gaping void that HBO’s Game of Thrones brutishly left us in ten agonizing months ago. The war for the Iron Throne now thankfully wages on. However, we’re right at the beginning of the new season, so if you haven’t, there’s still plenty of time to go back and binge past seasons in order to catch up to the current season and join in on the excitement!
In the sixth season premiere last night, we were effectively treated to loose ends from season five’s finale being tied up in season six, episode one’s “The Red Woman”. So let’s start at the beginning with some season five finale callbacks of where we left off, to where we are now.
In the season five finale, Jon Snow is deemed by many of his Night’s Watch brothers as “traitor”. He made deals with the Wildlings, the Watch’s sworn enemies north of the Wall, allowing them free passage through the magical barrier, in order to protect them from the dangers that continue to grow in Westeros’ frigid, northern region. Snow is mislead by newly recruited Crow, Olly, who has Jon believe that a captured Wildling knows where Jon’s Uncle Benjen Stark is, who disappeared way back in season one after going north of the Wall. Jon is met not with the captured Wildling, but several blades to the gut instead, one of which belonging to the recently dethroned, Lord Commander, Ser Alliser Thorne. “For the Watch”, Jon snow dies.
In season six’s opening shots, we skirt along with the camera, on the side of the Wall, slowly booming down into Castle Black’s courtyard where Jon Snow’s body lies pale as the snow and half frozen, not long after being shanked to death by his brothers. Ser Alliser Thorne has taken back the post of Lord Commander and explains to his angered brothers that he along with other like-minded Crows killed Jon because he threatened the safety and integrity of the Night’s Watch by making deals with the Wildlings. Ser Davos Seaworth hears Grey Wind howling for his fallen master and investigates to find Snow dead, wherein he gathers the last loyal Crows to the fallen Snow, holing up in a room in Castle Black, where they guard Jon’s body with their lives, with Ser Alliser literally banging on their door. The group explains that they will talk over the notion of surrender amongst themselves, where in all truth begin to plot an escape with Melisandre coming to mind as their potential secret weapon. We’ll get to her soon, because well, there are a couple of things to talk about concerning the Red Woman.
Moving slightly south, we find ourselves in the now Bolton-occupied kingdom of Winterfell, the Stark’s former homeland. Ramsay Bolton is mourning – yes, Ramsay of all people is actually mourning – over his fallen girlfriend/plaything, Myranda, Theon having tossed her over the ramparts to her death in season five’s finale when she was about to start using an escaping Sansa as an archery target. We find that Sansa and Theon indeed survived their plunge over the castle walls and are having a bit of a Cool Hand Luke moment with hounds hot on their heels as they run through the snowy wilderness.
They escape for a short while only for the hounds to pick their trail back up, Theon urging for Sansa to go on without him while he distracts the incoming Bolton guards. This plan fails miserably as Theon and Sansa are both recaptured, only to have Brienne and Podrick (yes!) come to their rescue, both the wandering knight and her squire laying some serious smack-down on Ramsay’s best guards, Theon himself able to join in on the action. Then, in possibly the best scene out of the episode, Brienne once again recites her vows of service to Sansa, as she did to Catelyn seasons before, Sansa remembering her birthright and accepting Brienne’s pledge of service and companionship. High fives all around.
We then make a return trip to King’s Landing where Cersei is doing what she does best: drinking wine and staring out of a window, only this time, running her fingers longingly through her shorn hair. She receives word that a Dornish ship is sailing in to port, where Cersei then stands, as it is slowly realized that her daughter, Myrcella is returning not rosy-cheeked, alive and happy, but pale and covered in a death shroud. The gradual decay of joy to sorrow on Cersei’s face as she watches her murdered daughter sail to her is actually quite heartbreaking – until you remember how awful Cersei really is. Jaime promises his devastated sister/lover that they will take everything back and more that was ripped from them.
Next, we find ourselves in the Landing’s dungeons where Margaery Tyrell and her brother, Loras, are imprisoned for their crimes committed in season five: Loras for sleeping with Renly Baratheon and Margaery for giving false testimony against him. It is apparent that the High Sparrows have broken her and that she appears to be heading down a road that will lead to her confession, as the Sparrows so adamantly demand she concede to.
Hopping the pond over to Dorne, we see the aftermath of Jaime and Bronn’s (speaking of which, where was he?) escapades that lead to them making off with Myrcella. After her public humiliation in which she is struck by Prince Doran and forced to pledge her allegiance to him or otherwise die, it seems Ellaria Sand had made plans for Doran’s assassination. In true Sand Viper flare, She suddenly stabs Doran in the heart, while her daughter puts a sword in his guard’s back. Meanwhile, her other Vipers corner Doran’s son, Trystane in his room, where he takes a spear through the head – ouch! It appears that Dorne has a new ruler.
Next, heading over to Meereen (this show could use a travel plan or two), we find where Tyrion and Lord Varys stand amidst the crumbling city in the absence of it’s queen. The streets are littered with the starving homeless, ruins of past places of commerce, and the murderous, gold-masked Sons of the Harpy. The people of Meereen are not happy and are debating about whether or not to take control back from the city’s elite. This “problem” as Tyrion puts it, is compounded on when it is revealed that someone has set Dany’s entire naval fleet ablaze. She’ll need those dragons more than ever now to make it to Westeros and with Tyrion now acting ruler of Meereen, his world continues to be turned on its head.
We then meet back up with Ser Jorah and the Khaleesi’s guard and secret lover, as they are hot on the trail of the missing queen. We then travel ahead of the two men to find the Khaleesi herself being led along by the Dothraki, Dany coming to a stop under the Khal’s tent in the middle of a sprawling Dothraki settlement. The Khal tries to take Dany as his wife, but upon hearing that she is the widow of Khal Drogo, he declares it is forbidden to take a Khal widow as his own, so deems it necessary for her to go where all Khal widows go: to a monastic-like temple where they live out their days in solitude. Ser Jorah better hurry it along and get to Khaleesi ASAP.
Now on to the character of which the episode shares its namesake: The Red Woman.
This is actually slightly out of order, as it is now at the end of the episode when Ser Davos suggests that the group of cornered Crows seek the Red Woman’s aid in escaping Castle Black with Snow’s body. We then cut to Melisandre in her private quarters at the castle, staring forlornly into her fireplace as the flames lick the stones of the hearth. She stands up, goes to a mirror and removes her clothing for some more of that magnificent Game of Thrones gratuitous nudity. The real interesting part however, is when Melisandre removes her amulet necklace and stares back into the mirror where a now very different reflection greets us, that of a woman well past her prime. We then close the episode with an immensely saddening dolly out to reveal the true decrepit form of the very old, Red Woman, who then slowly crawls in to her bed nude, her illusionary image we’ve all grown accustomed to, lifted to suggest there is much more to this character than we could have, or honestly, should have known.