‘The Red Woman’
This is the beginning of the end.
Or at least, that’s what we’ve been told. The rumours spreading ahead of this season six premiere were that after this season’s ten episodes, only a shortened two seasons remained. Yet while pieces certainly did fall into place in ‘The Red Woman’, they did so in a style suggesting things are only just get started, and nowhere near finishing.
It is hard, however, to think of a first episode in Thrones history that didn’t have quite so many pieces to pick up. Last season’s finale, ‘Mother’s Mercy’, left just about every storyline up in the air, more so than usual. While this episode did well to carry on the plots, there were some issues amongst an otherwise strong episode.We’ll start with the inevitable headline: Jon Snow is still dead. But right now that’s OK, as his death has massively invigorated the other characters at The Wall. Alliser Thorne now has depth! Yes alright, we could assume he was more than just cruel before, but now it seems as though Owen Teale actually has something to do, with Thorne’s impassioned explanation for his treason. He might not be right, but it’s a step up from the ‘I don’t like you’ approach that overshadowed the sentiment of ‘for the Watch’. Where that whole plotline goes next is anyone’s guess: with Melisandre’s magic (more on that later) and perhaps Tormund and the wildlings, it isn’t hard to see Davos – who was particularly enjoyable to watch taking control – winning the imminent fight, but then that leaves the Night’s Watch essentially defunct, as the White Walkers sweep ever south. It seems like a lose-lose situation, but wherever it goes next, the setup here was good to watch.
Sweeping south ourselves, the scenes of Sansa and Theon’s escape ended up feeling like it truly closed a chapter on Sansa Mark I. Her season four ‘Dark Sansa’ transformation seemed like something similar, before she was swallowed up by the great game once more, but seeing her take on her role as a leader, if only to Brienne in accepting her sword, was a great moment. I feel that her storyline will always be clouded by controversy given the debate on her treatment last year – my feelings on the matter can be read in last year’s season review – but irrespective of last season, her trajectory has always looked like heading to greatness eventually, and perhaps this is the start of that.
Incidentally, we know what role Brienne and Pod will play there, but I find it hard to believe that Theon’s past will be swept under the carpet. Yes, he’s been absolved of the blame for the non-deaths of Bran and Rickon, but he was still the cause of Robb’s downfall, and severed all ties to the Starks. It’s not the Game of Thrones way to let that slide, and we’ll hopefully see even more of the dynamic between him and Sansa now that neither of them are prisoners and their conversations aren’t as diplomatically focused on escaping Ramsey.At King’s Landing, we only had fleeting moments, and all they really did was carry on thematically from last season. We did see Cersei almost break at realising Myrcella was dead, but beyond that it was fairly standard.
Across the Narrow Sea was where some of the main problems occurred. While the general direction of Dany, Arya, and Tyrion’s storylines is fine, the actuals this week were a bit off. There was the ‘known’ Dothraki rules for widows to live at Vaes Dothrak, something she surely had known and that undercut her strength in that scene. There was Arya suddenly being a beggar girl, not utilising the immediate aftermath of her going blind last season. And most problematic of all, was the contrivance surrounding the entirety of the Meereenese fleet burning, with Tyrion’s droll nature not really suited to this development. The fleet that was burning there was the build-up of that entire plotline until this season, gone. Perhaps there will be a payoff later this year; there certainly needs to be.
But before we talk about the worst part, Dorne, let’s touch briefly on the shock moment of the episode, Melisandre. I’ll discuss this more in a separate article about what this could mean theory-wise, but in relation to the rest of the episode, it’s very interesting that she is what we end on. Not in how she impacts Jon, or Davos, or anyone else, but in her backstory. Carice van Houten has always been a strong performer when called upon, and can surely be relied upon to deliver more this season.So, Dorne. It’s hard to know what to say. It wasn’t great last year, in terms of the Sand Snakes and their cartoonish nature, but this episode didn’t really help. Doran and Areo both got built up a fair bit – Doran with his speeches and power, Areo with that axe, and then in a flash both depart rather meekly. And none of it really makes sense. Why not kill Myrcella, Trystane, Bronn, Jaime, Doran and Areo all at once, in Dorne? Why wait until they were split up? And while we’re at it: how did Nymeria and Obara get on that ship? They were at the docks when it departed. The whole thing is a bit odd. It’s the first episode so I’ll give it a chance to develop better as the season progresses, but it’s a major negative point against the rest at the start.
So, ‘The Red Woman’ was a strong episode, but not one without its failures. Next week will probably answer some of the mysteries we’re waiting on, so the wait begins!