Dark & Terror-ful
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 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.
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.
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.
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.”
What 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.
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…
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.
And… instead of the sultry Red Woman, an aged crone was in her place.
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.
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.