Game of Thrones: “The Red Woman” Season 6 Premiere Review

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Here we are. The time of inequality between Game of Thrones fans is over. Those who read the books and those who haven’t finally stand on equal ground. For that, “The Red Woman” has a lot of anticipation to bear. Though, like most of Thrones‘ premieres, it’s a fairly modest episode. It mostly reminds us where everyone is, while hinting at the future. That said, few of the premieres that came before it tried to cram in so many different storylines. We catch up with everyone following the events of season five’s killer finale. The only character we don’t see is one who’s been absent for an entire season already (sorry Bran fans). But for what it’s worth, this episode still effectively sets a lot of things in motion or continues them from when we were last in Westeros.

The opening shot immediately brings us back to the one-sided debate amongst fans on whether Jon Snow is in fact dead. His supposed death certainly puts Davos and Melisandre in an awkward position. Even as their hopes shifted from Stannis to Jon last season, both of their leaders are dead now. Alliser has all but taken over the Nightswatch, and the chances of him killing Davos and the rest of Jon’s allies instead of letting them go as he says are pretty high. The episode seems to be building to a climax here for Davos and Melisandre. Liam Cunningham did a nice job imbedding this storyline, and this episode, with some much needed lightness. This premiere is so bleak that his standoffish one-liners to Alliser put some fun back into Thrones.

But it’s important to note that Jon’s body, and Kit Harrington, are sticking around. There was no sight of Ned, Catelyn, or Robb after their deaths, yet the camera lingers on Ned’s bastard more than once. And Melisandre, showing her true skin for the first time at the close of the premiere, may just be powerful enough to fix this whole mess.

Continuing on the path of season five’s cliffhangers, Sansa and Theon survived their fall, but Ramsay’s men are on their trail. Theon isn’t all there yet, but he’s heroic as he ushers Sansa to safety, even trying to sacrifice himself so she can get away. This change of heart is long-earned and well worth the wait. But it’s Brienne who ultimately ends up saving the day. Watching her fight will always be a highlight of any Thrones episode, but having Sansa finally agree for her help, not to mention the sheer emotion on Gwendoline Christie’s face during this scene, was the best moment of the premiere. It’s been a while since something good happened to Sansa. With Brienne kneeling before her, it appears the show may be repositioning her to grow into a powerful leader like her mother. If Brienne indeed takes her to Castle Black, Sansa may have to put her family name to good use, as the Bolton’s seem ready for a battle with whomever she winds up with.

But while the Starks just keep losing their older, formidable warriors and leaders to make room for the younger blood, the Lannisters are doing just the opposite. Jaime tells Cersei of Myrcella’s death, while the respect of the family name is tarnished in King’s Landing. It’s just Tyrion over across the Narrows Sea in Meereen who has any semblance of power left. But even that city has been ripped apart by the Sons of the Harpy. As we see people watching him and Varys walk the city, smoke rises, and they discover the harbor in flames. Before Tyrion, Daenerys, or anyone gets back to Westeros, Meereen is going to have to be dealt with.

Too bad Daenerys is now frustratingly far away from her throne. It’s just blatantly annoying to have all these other characters near her and for her to suddenly be on her own once again. But I am pleased with how quickly the writers appear to be moving along with this storyline. Jorah and Daario find the ring she dropped in the very first episode. Also, Dany manages get the Dothraki to respect her and free her from her chains in the very first episode. The contrast to how she dealt with the Dothraki in season one to now was incredibly rewarding. Too bad their tradition puts her in a home where widows live out the rest of their lives. Can’t make things too easy for Khaleesi.

Meanwhile, for maybe the second episode that has featured Dorne since it was introduced, something actually happened in Dorne! As king Doran learns of Myrcella’s death, Ellaria murders him, while the Sandsnakes murder his son on the boat leaving King’s Landing. If Dorne is now under the control of Ellaria, maybe this can be a more eventful season for the country. One can only hope, but this was a good, redemptive start.

The only other storyline in “The Red Woman” was Arya’s. Now a blind beggar in Braavos, all hope seems lost for the most likable living Stark. But it appears her training will continue even though she’s lost her sight. Fighting a woman in the street who approaches her, Arya gets the crap kicked out of her. I don’t expect that to continue, as the woman says she’ll be back again tomorrow. Arya’s journey isn’t over and she may become Westeros’ very own Daredevil!

So that about wraps this jam-packed premiere. But for the amount this episode manages to cram in, it accomplishes a fair amount. Season six is now all set and ready to expand this story beyond its original medium. The premiere was light on answers, but tension is building toward some huge conflicts that look to unite more character groups. Grade: B+

Some Other Notes:

  • Am I the only one excited enough to see Bran again that his absence here was a slight disappointment?
  • Besides Bran, the only people we’ve been promised this season missing from the premiere were the Greyjoys. Never the most interesting crowd, I’m glad they were missing.
  • The list of Daenerys’ names is hilariously long now. I kind of wanted the episode to just cut to credits mid-sentence.
  • So Stannis is definitely dead now. Know why? His body was nowhere to be seen in the premiere. But when the camera lingers on your “dead” body, there’s no way you’re actually dead. Or if you are, seriously, f*ck you writers.
  • How old is Melisandre? 200 or 300 years old? Yet she still puts her faith in men like Stannis. Damn…

By Matt Dougherty

 

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