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The Red Woman and the Crone: GAME OF THRONES, season 6 ep 1, Review & Recap

Spoilers,
Dark & Terror-ful

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Though episode 1 of Season 6 of HBO’s award-winning series Game of Thrones was called “The Red Woman,” the red-haired, red-garbed witch Melisandre (Carice van Houten) had a relatively small role in the premiere. Instead, creator-writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss took viewers on a tour of all the remaining characters, reminding us of who had died in the Season 5 finale, and who was left to deal with the grief.

No longer relying on one of the novels from George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, show-runners Benioff and Weiss had, instead, an outline for the unfinished sixth book, provided by author Martin. Still, it was clear that Benioff and Weiss were in charge of last night’s episode, if only because they managed to work in the storylines of all the characters left in the story, whether they are competing for the Iron Throne or not.

The Starks

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With the death of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) at the hands of his fellow Men of the Night’s Watch at the end of season 5, the House Stark has taken prominence in the series Game of Thrones. To the dismay of all actor Harington’s fans, Jon Snow is undeniably dead. Alas, he is deader than the proverbial doornail.

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After his friends gathered up his body, they and Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) locked themselves in a room with it, trying to decide what to do. Though Davos formerly despised the black magic of Melisandre — the Red Woman — he actually mentioned her as a way to restore Jon. I don’t know if she can help him or not, but the trailers for the show indicate that if Jon does come back to life, he very well may be one of the dreaded Night Walkers.

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Jon’s sister Sansa (Sophie Turner), has been blindly following the advice of the manipulative Lord Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen), getting herself into a marriage with the sadistic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), who raped her on their wedding night, and turning down the help of the valorous and honorable Knight, Lady Brienne.

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After Ramsay’s victim — Sansa’s “brother” —  Theon (Alfie Allen, above L) helped Sansa escape from Winterfell at the finale of Season 5, the two of them were seen desperately running through the snow-filled woods, attempting to escape Bolton’s hounds.

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I felt actual joy at the arrival of Lady Brienne (Gwendline Christie, above R), one of the most consistently delightful characters of the series. She and her squire, Podrick (Daniel Portman, above L), fought and defeated Bolton’s men. Then Brienne renewed her oath to protect Sansa. This time, Sansa accepted her protection. Thank the gods.

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Arya (Maisie Williams) disobeyed the rules of the House of Black and White in the Season 5 finale, taking one of the faces of the Many Faced God to get personal revenge. For her punishment, she has lost her sight. We first saw Arya on the streets, begging for her survival. Later in the S6 premiere, one of her fellows from the Temple arrived, carrying big sticks.

images-10The blonde girl has become the master in the master-student relationship, it seems, as she was teaching Arya how to fight and defend herself. Arya needs it. She doesn’t seem to be able to do anything on her own except kill people who have hurt her or members of her family.

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She has a lot to learn if she is going to become one of the Faceless Men, as was her former mentor Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), who drank poison, because “only death can pay for a death,” after Arya killed for revenge, rather than for someone’s else’s honor or justice.

Brothers Bran and Rickon Stark were not in last night’s episode.

The Lannisters

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One of the slower moments in last night’s episode was the reunion of twins Jaimie (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey) who were mourning the death of their daughter Myrcella, poisoned by the Dornish Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma, below) as revenge for the death of her brother-lover Oberon.

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Though Cersei told Jaime that the two of them need to take revenge on all the world, the scene itself didn’t reveal anything new about their characters nor add anything to the plot, since viewers already knew that their daughter was dead. Viewers also knew about the witch who had predicted Cersei’s mournful fate and the loss of her children, though Jaime, apparently, did not.

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Brother Tyrion Lannister’s (Peter Dinklage) story was also a bit slow last night, as he and Varys (Conleth Hill) roamed around the streets of Mereen pretending to be inconspicuous. Since one of them is a dwarf and the other is a bald eunuch, they’re hardly unremarkable in the dirty streets of a city populated by ex-slaves and beggars. New York Times critic Jeremy Enger stated that “maybe one day Tyrion and Varys can make [us] care about Mereen,” but, unfortunately, it wasn’t in last night’s episode. Their appearance was more of a reminder that they’re still in the story rather than anything more exciting.

Daenerys Targaryen

She may be the Mother of Dragons with a whole bunch of other titles, but Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) was nothing but a white-haired slave to the Dothroki horse-lords who captured her after she walked away from her dragon Drogon.

images-4In an ironic twist, she herself was taken into slavery and brought to the new Horse-lord, who not only didn’t care that she was the conqueror of Mereen who had freed all the slaves, but decided that as the widow of Khal Drogo, she needed to go with all the other widows of the dead Khals.

I think that means that she either goes into isolated mourning for the rest of her life, or she dies on a pyre, I can’t recall exactly what they told her in season 1.

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I’m sure Daenerys, clever young woman that she usually is, will manage to talk her way out of her intended fate. And her being a widow of a Khal protected her from rape at the very least.

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Meanwhile, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glenn), her former advisor who is now stricken with the deadly Grey Scale, and her lover Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) have teamed up to find her. They discovered her dropped pearl ring, and recognized the tracks of the Dothroki.images-1

The Tyrells

Instead of torturing Queen Mother-Dpwager Queen Cersei,  who has already “atoned” through her “walk of shame,” Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham, standing, below) was torturing Queen Margery (Natalie Dormer), of the House Tyrell, who kept asking to see her imprisoned brother or her husband, King Tommen. When the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) came in, he commented that Septa Unella “can be overzealous at times.”

images-12What an understatement. Unella reminded me of all the nuns who taught school and tortured us kids when we were young, so I just wanted to slap her. (I still don’t know how Cersei didn’t break Unella’s nose during her  walk of shame last season, chanting “Shame” and ringing that bell all the way behind the nude and shorn Cersei.)

Margery held to her innocence last night, not admitting her guilt in anything or her knowledge of anything illicit that might have occurred on her brother’s Loras’ behalf. Unfortunately, that didn’t win her a Get Out of Jail card with the High Sparrow, who’s apparently more power-hungry than spiritual.

The Martells

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Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma, above R) of Dorne not only wants revenge for the death of her brother-lover Oberon, she wants war against the Lannisters. She poisoned Cersei’s daughter Myrcella in the finale of S5, and last night, she had her nephew Trystane murdered, while she herself killed her brother Prince Doran. Does she also want the Iron Throne for herself? That remains to be seen.

And The Red Woman Is…

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Though the Red Woman (Carice van Houten) was hardly in last night’s titular episode, she provided the biggest shock of the evening. After discussing the Red Woman, Davos seemed convinced that she could do something for the murdered Jon Snow. After she touched Jon Snow’s corpse, saying rather mournfully that she “saw him fighting at Winterfell” —  an indication that it was yet another of her fire-visions gone awry  — we saw a sad-looking Melisandre undressing alone in her chambers. She undid her gown, as she often has in the series, though usually it’s been when she’s seducing or attempting to seduce one of the powerful men in her world. Standing there, nude, she then took off her famed red-jeweled necklace.

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And… instead of the sultry Red Woman, an aged crone was in her place.

Wowza!

Melisandre has a lot more secrets than we imagined. She’s apparently not the young sexy seductress of men in power that she seems, but an ancient crone who’s using much of her magic to appear young.

What a shocker.

And yet another indication that Melisandre is as power-hungry as most of the rest of the characters.

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Yes, Game of Thrones returned with a big Bang! in the premiere for season 6, slowed down only in a couple of spots when the storylines didn’t have time to take off and actually go anywhere (Cersei and Jaime, Tyrion and Varys). Otherwise, it was a splendid opening to the show’s sixth season, which show-runners Benioff and Weiss claim will be one of its last.

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The Last Thing You See Before You Die: GAME OF THRONES, Season 5, Review

No S5 Spoilers

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Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, is adapted primarily Books 4 and 5 in George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Along with Books 4 and 5 — A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons — the writers returned to Book 3, A Storm of Swords, for additional content. They also had access to material from Martin’s as-yet unpublished Book 6, The Winds of Winter.

Season 5 of the dramatic adaptation won a record number of Emmy Awards for a series in a single year: 12 awards out of 24 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series. Created and (mostly) written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the show’s writing, acting, and design are all brilliant, and Game of Thrones deserves every award it’s won.

Season 5

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Season 5 of Game of Thrones unites many of the storylines that have been converging during the previous 4 seasons. The major families who started the drama — the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens — are joined with the Tyrells, the Martells, and the Boltons. The only remaining Baratheon, Stannis, is still waging war against the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Season 5 also takes one of Season 4’s major themes — religious intolerance — and puts it in the forefront of the drama. Although family loyalty still determines most of the characters’ actions, the quest for power is intimately intertwined with any family obligations.

The Lannisters

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Cersei (Lena Headey, above R) competes with Margery (Natalie Dormer, below)

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for the affection of, and power over, King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), Cersei’s youngest son.

In an attempt to regain her political power and to unseat Queen Margery, Cersei arms the religious Zealots known as the Sparrows, and tries to manipulates their Machivelian leader, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). But is he as devout as he seems?

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Fearing for his daughter’s safety, Cersei’s twin Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) travels to Dorne

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in order to bring their daughter Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free, below L) home to King’s Landing.

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A complication arises due to the fact that she has fallen in love with Prince Trystane (Toby Sebastien, above R), to whom she is betrothed. Can he save Mycella’s life without risking his own?

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With the help of Varys, the youngest Lannister son, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), has escaped from King’s Landing. He goes to Mereer in an attempt to find Daenerys and join her cause to reclaim the Iron Throne.

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Before Tyrion can reach Daenerys, however, the exiled Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen, above L) captures Tyrion and holds him for ransom. Will Tyrion be able to escape his fate once again?

The Starks

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Jon Snow (Kit Harington) becomes Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and rivalries are fierce, especially since he wants to help the Wildlings reach safety, causing other Men of the Night’s Watch to question his loyalty, just as the Wildlings do. Where is Jon Snow’s real loyalty?

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Sansa (Sophie Turner) continues to be manipulated by her uncle-in-law, Petyr “LittleFinger” Baelish (Aiden Gillen),

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who aranges a marriage between Sansa and her family’s enemy, the violent and sadistic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon).

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For help escaping, Sansa looks to the former ward of the Stark family, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen, below L), now called “Reek,” but does Theon even remember who Sansa is?

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Arya (Maisie Williams) arrives at the House of Black and White,

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where she wishes to learn how to become one of the Faceless Men, and is reunited with Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Walschiha).

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Sansa is told that she will have to give up all her earthly possessions — even her sword, Needle, the symbol of her family and its love — in order to enter the House. She can change her appearance, but can she give up her plans for revenge?

Meanwhile, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) is still looking for Arya and Sansa so that she can keep her word to Lady Stark, their mother. Will she save either of them?

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The Targaryens

In a storyline that’s become increasingly socio-political, Danaerys (Emilia Clarke) rules the freed slaves of Mereen as well as the members of The Unsullied, a slave army whom she has liberated.

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When she attempts to administer justice — by being as violent as the former slave owners — a masked group of rebels, called The Sons of the Harpy, kill members of her army and try to kill her. Should she stay in Mereen and rule, or continue her quest for the Iron Throne?

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Danaerys’ dragons have become far too large and powerful for her to control, which saddens and alarms her. How will she rule Mereen or take back the Iron Throne without them?

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The Tyrells

Now that Margery (Natalie Dormer) is Queen, playing a dangerous game with Cersei,

her grandmother Olenna (Diana Rigg, below) competes with Cersei for power. Additionally, Olenna must maneuver to keep her family safe. Who will win this mortal political struggle?

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The Baratheons

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Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and his family are the only remaining Baratheons. Determined to become King in place of his murdered brother Robert, Stannis ignores the advice of his Hand, Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham, below R),

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instead listening to the prophesies of the Zealot RedWoman (i.e., prophet, seer, witch) Melisandre (Carice van Houten).

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She asks him to pay the ultimate price for the throne.

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Will Stannis pay it?

The Boltons

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Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton, above L) and his son Ramsay (Iwan Rheon, above, center) are Wardens of the North, occupying the Stark ancestral home, Winterfell. They bolster their position with an arranged marriage with Sansa Stark. When Roose tells his formerly illegitimate son Ramsay that his new wife (above L) is pregnant, Ramsay fears that his own position will be undermined by the prospective heir. What action will he take?

The Martells

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The ruling family of Dorne, the House Martell (pictured above) plot to revenge the death of their prince Oberon, who was killed in combat defending Tyrion, of the House Lannister. Will they punish the innocent Princess Myrsella for her grandfather’s treachery?

The One True God

In seasons 4 and 5, the “One True God” has almost become a character in his own right, as the Old gods and the New, through their followers, compete for power. Unfortunately, too much of that power is earthly and political, rather than spiritual, leading to violence and intolerance. Which of the many gods will win?

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The Night’s Watch

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With Jon Snow (Kit Harington, above L) as the new Lord Commander, the men of the Night’s Watch must prepare for an invasion of the Wildlings who live North of The Wall. Jon wants to save the Wildlings, if only to help in the battle against the dread White Walkers.

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Jon’s friend Sam (John Bradley, below R) has already become attached to the Wildling Gilly (Hannah Murray, below L) and her infant son, whom he rescued.

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Now he, and his other brothers, must decide if they will follow Jon or declare him a traitor.

Caveat Fantasia

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I have to admit, once again, that I am not a big fan of fantasy, either in books or in films, and that a drama that has too many paranormal elements or characters can distance me emotionally, simply because the characters are not real. Game of Thrones really amps up the fantasy elements in Season 5. There are White Walkers,

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Wights (skeletons who come up out of the ground and fight with the White Walkers), 

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this guy here, who looks like a White Walker and seems to control the dead, but confuses me with the crown-like points on his head. He’s The Night King, I believe.

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Fights involving too many of these dudes becomes an excuse for CGI effects and action scenes in which I have no emotional investment. Because, you know, half the characters aren’t even human beings, so I don’t care what happens to them.

Still, there were the Giants, some of whom had a droll sense of humor,

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and the Dragons,

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which were total awesomeness.

Game of Thrones Season 5 is available for purchase for $38.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers. Many of the retailers have special bargains for purchasing seasons 1-5, including Amazon, GooglePlay, and iTunes.

Rated Mature for (sometimes graphic) Violence, Sexual Situations, Nudity (sometimes full frontal, male and female), Adult Content, and Adult Language.

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