Behold, it has returned. Beginning last night, the sixth season of Game of Thrones takes us back to Westeros with all the violence, sex, zombies, and dragons that comes along with it. Season Five left us with a variety of questions: How will Daenarys escape from the Dothraki horde? Did Theon and Sansa survive their fall from the battlements? Is my sweet, precious Stannis alive? Is my sweeter, more precious Jon Snow really dead? And what manner of dark, twisted, disproportional revenge will Cersei deliver to her tormentors?

How many of those will be answered by the newest chapter in TV’s most epic program? Let’s find out.

Season 6 Episode 1: The Red Woman
Written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa

Recap:

And now our watch begins.

We open as we closed, with Jon Snow dead in the snow. His body is discovered by Davos, Edd, and the others and taken somewhere out of the cold. Melisandre appears and is gutted to find that her predictions of Jon fighting in Winterfell will never come true and the flames seemd to have lied to her. As Thorne consolidates his power, Snow’s Crew decide what to do next. As appealing as Edd’s call for a suicide run is, Davos reminds them that they have a Wildling army nearby that owes Jon Snow a solid.

Back in Winterfell, Ramsey Bolton eulogises Miranda before having her corpse fed to her hounds. He has a father/son discussion with Roose that amounts to “Congratulations on beating Stannis’ army but you’re also an utter fuck up for letting Sansa/Theon escape, and if you don’t sort that out then my unborn son will take your place and you’ll end up possibly skinless.”

Theon and Sansa are on the run through the woods, pursued by Ramsey’s hounds. They end up crossing a frozen river that looked cold enough to freeze Theon’s dick off…oh…sorry Theon. They huddle for warmth and plan their next move but are soon discovered. Saving them and me from having to return to Winterfell for yet more degradation, Brienne and Pod show up and dispatch Ramsey’s men. Brienne swears fealty to Sansa who, this time, accepts.

At King’s Landing, Jamie Lanister returns and brings Cersei a funeral boat instead of a daughter. They talk about death and Cersei sees that the witch from the start of season five was right in her prophecy that Cersei’s children would all die. Jamie ignores that and tells her they need to stop moping and destroy their enemies.

Margery is read to from a holy text and refuses to confess. The High Sparrow arrives, also asks her to confess, and manages to make slight head roads towards her “salvation” because Jonathon Pryce’s voice would make you believe anything.

In Dorne (boooo!) Doran talks to Ellaria and laments that he was always the leader while hisbrother, Oberon of getting-his-head-crushed fame, was always the adventurer. A messenger arrives and he receives a message/knife in the chest. The Sand Snakes kill his bodyguard, the messenger, and his son.  Suddenly Drone looks more interesting than last season.

In Meereen, Tyrion and Varys walk the streets, accidently convince a beggar that Tyrion wants to eat her baby and wander about chatting in a scene seemingly there to show the Meereen fleet being burnt and to justify Peter Dinklage’s name coming first in the credits.

Out in the fields, Daario and Jorah look for Daenarys, talk trash, and eventually find her ring and the realisation that the Dothraki have her.

Which they do, tied up and forced to march with idiots who talk about her hair (all of her hair) like a pair of Dothraki frat boys. She is taken to Khal Moro who is all ready to strip her, bed her, and have her carry his son, until she reveals that she can speak Dothraki and that she is Khal Drogo’s widow. Moro will not harm a Khal’s widow, but he also won’t take her back to Meereen. It seems the widows of Khals go to Khal retirement village, a prospect that doesn’t seem great.

In Braavos, Arya is a blind beggar now. Her friend from the faceless ones shows up, gives her a stick, beats the shit out of her, and leaves.

Finally, at the Wall, Thorne tries to reason with Davos but Davos, this not being his first rodeo and all, rebukes him and tells the other members of Snow’s Crew they need to wait for Edd, or maybe the Red Woman can help.

Speak of the devil, Melisandre is in her room. She strips off her clothes and jewelry revealing a crone in her place. She climbs into her bed and we fade to black.

Review:

The first episode of each season of Game of Thrones faces the problem that comes from having so many characters in so many locations. The first hour (or two) needs to reposition everyone for the audience. We need to know who is where and what each is doing, and also where they are going. Each scene must establish a present and a future. We need to be caught up but also made to be ready for what’s next. In previous scenes, the show has been primarily successful in doing it with a relative lack of clunk.

Tonight’s episode was one of the less clunky ones. For example, the episode opening on the Wall manages to establish that Jon is dead, who supports him, and how they can fight back against the traitors in the Watch with the help of the Wildlings. In a handful of scenes, we are reminded of where we are and given the promise of a rich, interesting future. Most of the scenes play out in similar ways: scene establishment and then an action or a line of dialogue that reveals a new plotline has started. Some were good, some were too on the nose, and some were too quick. Such is the peril of a season opener in the world of Game of Thrones.

The other problem facing tonight’s episode is more exclusive: the issue of putting distance beteween this new sixth season and the previous season, thought by many to be one of the weakest. The fifth season offered too many nothing plots (Dorne) and far too many instances of harrowing, unforgivable sexual violence towards women. A first episode cannot completely wipe away the errors of a previous season but it can establish a tone for what’s to come.

Having a majority of the fatalities in this first episode of the season be killed by women is definitely making a statement that this will not be another season about weak women being brutalized by men. Hopefully.

Overall what was good and what wasn’t? As I said, the disjointed structure of trying to be everywhere at once makes it an uneven episode as we can’t get too confortable in one place too long before we’re whipped across the world. This has always been the danger of Game of Thrones and its plotlines moving further and further away from each other. However, at the same time, it is nice to drop in on as many plots as possible, if only just to remind us where everyone is and what they’re doing.

It was good to see some movement in Dorne. The Dorne plot was the weakest part of season five, so to have the brief time we spent there tonight be all steak and no sizzle was a step in the right direction. It was good to see Sansa’s plotline link with Brienne’s, as I couldn’t have handled it if the show had dedicated any more time than it did to Sansa and Theon on the run, as I want Sansa to be safe and Theon, no matter how much the show wants me to care about him, bores me.

Finally, that ending.  What does it mean? Is that what happens when the Red Woman loses her faith? And if she’s lost her faith who will bring Jon Snow back to life? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Body Count – 9

Nudity Count: Men – 0 Women – 1

Best line: “Fuck prophecy, fuck fate, fuck everyone who isn’t us” – Jamie Lanister.

Prediction for next week: Violence. Sex. The whereabouts of Sam and Gilly. Plans, plots, and other chicanery. A higher body count. Stannis’ triumphant return!

 

Featured Image: HBO