The premiere episode for Season 6, The Red Woman, is a solid entry for Game of Thrones. While Season 5’s opener didn’t have a lot of great highlights, The Red Woman takes the time to develop some key plot points and checkups on our favorite characters. While it certainly isn’t an episode that will be remembered for breaking the wheel, it does do a commendable job of setting up most of the character arcs for the upcoming season.
Game of Thrones has always had the burden of encompassing multiple story lines in the hour program. Not that it hinders it, quite the opposite. The massive collage of characters keeps the viewer on their toes, and it’s a task that’s quite hard but done so well to juggle by the writers. The Red Woman does a successful job weaving between all the story lines in Westeros and beyond, even if we do wish we could spend more time with certain characters.
To many fans hopes, we start this season right where the last one ended. Jon Snow is dead, there is no longer any doubt about that. He is found lying in the bloody snow by Ser Davos, who quickly employs Jon’s friends in the Watch to move the body indoors. While it is still almost certain that Snow will make some sort of comeback this Season, it certainly wasn’t in this episode. Davos and the remaining allies from the Watch fret for their lives from those in command, and hastily try to employ the help of the Wildlings for help.
As we transition from the Night’s Watch, we find ourselves in King’s Landing with Cersei who is desperately awaiting the return of her daughter. Unfortunately there is nothing waiting in the ship from Dorne but pain, and Cersei has to watch her brother Jaime’s mournful face as their daughter’s lifeless body rides next to him. Cersei has always been a difficult character to peg. In one instance she is a spiteful, manipulative backstabber who we want to get what’s coming to her. Other times she’s entirely sympathetic, and we start to feel bad when Cersei gets what she has coming to her. She’s crippled by the love she has for her children, and it’s clear here that Myrcella’s death has deeply resonated with the former Queen of Westeros.
The death of Cersei’s daughter also left many to question what would happen to the Sand Snakes back in Dorne when it was revealed that they were behind the murder. This episode takes care of this question right of the bat as the Sand Snakes perform a vicious coup, killing anyone in charge in Dorne so that their authority rules supreme. It is no doubt setting up an eventual clash of swords between the armies of Dorne and the armies of the Lannisters. The ending interaction between grieving parents Jaime and Cersei lead the viewer to believe that the former is out for revenge, and will most likely make an eventual return to Dorne to settle the score.
Speaking of burning questions that have been answered, fans need no longer worry if Sansa and Theon made the enormously high jump from Winterfell from the previous Season. While it doesn’t explain how they exactly survive, which is rather jarring, the pair is seen on the run from Ramsay Bolton’s soldiers, who eventually catch up to Reek and Lady Sansa. Fortunately Brienne makes it there just in the nick of time to lay waste of Bolton’s soldiers, earning the MVP moment of the episode. She once again asks Sansa to accept her as her personal confidant, and this time Sansa graciously agrees giving the episode one its most heartfelt moments.
As for the other Stark daughter, she isn’t doing so well since the last time we saw her. Super assassin-in-training Arya has since gone blind for cheating the Many Faced God out of a kill, and she’s reduced to begging on the streets for what little money she has. The only silver lining here, if you want to call it that, is that one of the pupils from the House of Black and White will show up everyday to beat the living crap out of her. While that might not sound like a day’s highlight, it will no doubt eventually sharpen Arya’s fighting skills getting her one step closer to completing her much awaited hit list.
Next up we have Tyrion and Varys as they walk the streets of Meereen. They’re scoping out the citizens to gauge if Daenerys still has the local support. While Tyrion is rather visibly nervous to lead, something that we rarely see from everyone’s favorite Lannister, his good friend Varys gives him some much needed advice to calm his nerves. The two eventually agree that they need to take care of whoever is controlling the Sons of the Harpy, whoever that may be. While it at least gives us Tyrion’s goal for the Season, we could have used a little more time in Meereen to gauge how the Lannister dwarf will fare with the responsibility of Daenerys’ absence.
Meanwhile, the former ruler of Meereen has been abducted by a horde of Dorthraki as Jorah and Daarios search the countryside for any trace of her. As she’s dragged along by the tribe, Dany holds playing her trump card of being formerly married to a Khal close to her chest, and she doesn’t reveal it until the current Khal is ready to rip off her clothes. While she’s spared the lesser two evils, it is revealed that she must now live under the rest of her days on an island for being a Dothraki widow. While these subplots with Meereen and Dothraki are a good distraction for Dany’s character, it’s time for her to finally make her move to Westeros by at least the Season’s end. With apparently only 13 more episodes being made after this current season, we need to see her make her move sooner rather than later, and too much time shouldn’t be spent lingering on these subplots which, let’s face it, are basically just filler.
The episode eventually comes full circling by making its way back to the Wall, giving the events at the Night Watch one more scene than everyone else. As it should; Jon Snow’s death is one of the most important in the series and the fallout should be intensely followed. As Jon’s cohorts make up their minds what to do to defend themselves, Ser Davos suggests using the powers of the Red Woman. As most of us know, Davos doesn’t exactly like Melisandre, which shows what dire straights he’s really in. The final shot of the episode appropriately deals with the Red Woman, as we watch her undress and take of her necklace in front of the mirror. The twist comes in the form of disfigurement as we watch Melisandre transform from her young beautiful form to a saggy gollum with white hair. It’s clear that the Red Woman is centuries older than led to believe. Does this mean she could use the rejuvenating necklace to resurrect the late Jon Snow? We’ll have to wait to see.
While The Red Woman provides some great moments, there was no real standout scene beside the Brienne throw-down. Even the Melisandre twist at the end was a little lackluster. Then again, first Season episodes from Game of Thrones are rarely standouts; and how could they be? They have the enormously difficult task of setting up each character’s story lines and reeling from events from the previous Season, and in that regard The Red Woman certainly succeeds. All in all, the opener for Season 6 is a solid entry that will hopefully provide more interesting things to come.
8/10 – The Red Woman is a solid opener for what looks to be a promising season of Game of Thrones.