Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Sunday night's Game of Thrones Season 6 episode, "The Red Woman."
Contributing Editor Tara Bennett jumps back into Westeros with the premiere episode, written by executive producers David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by Jeremy Podeswa.
As expected, Season 6 picks back up where the camera left Jon Snow, dead in the courtyard of Castle Black because of the betrayal of his fellow Night's Watch brethren, as orchestrated by Ser Alliser Thorne. Ser Davos finds Snow, and together with a few of Jon's actual friends, they bring his very cold corpse into a room, allowing only Ghost and Melisandre to join them. From there the rest of the story threads, or cliffhangers, from the Season 5 finale are addressed: Sansa and Theon on the run from the Bolton's, Cersi waiting for Jamie to return with her daughter, Myrcella, from Dorne, Varys and Tyrion left in the ruins of Meereen, Ellaria and her Sand Snake daughters, blind Arya and then Dany's Dothraki problem.
As the seasons mount, Game of Thrones, with its myriad of plot lines, characters and machinations, should provide a flowchart from HBO for visual aid viewing. With that being said, Benioff and Weiss do a terrific job methodically, and entertainingly, plugging us back into each storyline of urgency. We get to spend time with each storyline following a small arc of progression that smartly tees off to the next plot thread. Only the Castle Black storyline gets to bookend the episode, with a pretty mostly dead Jon Snow opening the episode, and a shockingly close to dead-looking Melisandre revealing her true ancient form to a mirror (and us!) as she crawls into bed. It was a stunning revelation that tells us two things: a good piece of jewelry can really draw the eye, and all of those free naked times from Carice van Houten finally had a price! Your eyes, your eyes!
None of the storylines were duds. No, we don't know if Jon Snow is really dead, and you're nuts if you really expected an answer in the premiere. Fans still get to lay bets on whether saggy Melisandre will save the day with her blood magic, or maybe Ghost is already a warg vessel for Jon's soul, or maybe he's just sincerely dead.
The Dorne turn of events was certainly a surprise. Ellaria was super-pissed all last season, but she didn't do much. And her Sand Snakes were less than riveting or effective too. Fast-forward to the aftermath of Myrcella's poisoning and the ladies certainly start this season with 180 purpose. I had barely gotten over the shock of seeing Doran Martell walking when Ellaria and her daughter knifed him to death. As he lay dying, they added some salt to his wound by promising Trystane was also a goner. Don't put the Sand Snakes in the corner, people. They look like they're going to fix Dorne's mess. And poor Trystane Martell. That nice kid got a graphic spear through the head from Obara in the "WHOA!" moment of the episode.
My other favorite moment was Brienne and Poddrick coming to the rescue of Sansa and Theon who were surrounded by the Bolton goons. I'm not gonna lie, I was worried about Brienne at the fight's start. She was looking shaky with her moves, but once she got off the horse, there was some mighty fine killing going on. And hello! Reek/Theon remembered his Stark sword skills as he helped take out Poddrick's aggressor and prove he's still on a useful upswing. Redemption is coming?
Brienne once again offered her fealty to Sansa who finally said the right answer - YES! - to that scenario. Who didn't throw some mental shade at Sansa when she finished her pledge? I see no hands. Talk about hindsight regrets.
Nothing was a waste. Varys and Tyrion doing a slow tour through Meereen was a little underwhelming. It felt the least graceful in terms of functioning as a catch-up narrative. There was some mildly interesting chit-chat but nothing of major note happening. Both actors can do so much more with scenes like that but they weren't given much aside from the necessary exposition walk to see the port enveloped in flames.
No dragons. Always a disappointment when those cranky flame-throwers don't make an appearance.
I'm curious how the Dothraki storyline will unfold. It certainly served to show have far Dany has come in six seasons, but Khal Moro felt like Drogo-lite. Plus, even the women are misogyists and it feels a bit "been there, done that" in the desert. I am however intrigued by the old widow's home they threatened the former Khaleesi with. Death by arid checkers and boring gossip? That's no way for the Mother of Dragons to go down. Let's see if she can empower and then organize a new gaggle of power ladies so she can get back on the road to King's Landing.
Things to Ponder...
What's Cersi and Jamie's game against the High Sparrow going to be? He may be a zealot but he's not stupid, as he's clearly even working Marjory for her pull with Tommen Baratheon. And what happened to that armored monster that swept Cersei from her "Shame!" in the Season 5 finale? When's he going to be ready to come out and play?
Arya's clearly not excommunicated by the House of Black and White. They know her anger hides a lot of power and it looks like they are ready to channel it to their more controlled purposes. Let's imagine: assassin Arya fighting for badass Sansa someday? Yes, please.
Now that we know Melisandre's necklace is a glamour to hide her true age and wizened appearance, will we see more of that side? If she's that old, and now devastated by Stannis dying and everything promised falling short, what's it going to take to get her back in the game?
What did you think of "The Red Woman"? Was it a great start? Did you need more answers?