Game of Thrones returns with the Season 6 premiere “The Red Woman.” We quickly reconnect with the rich world of Game of Thrones and those who inhabit it. We learn what has happened with the characters we care about, as well as some we don’t. There was a fair amount of death in the Season 5 finale, and we see the impact in “The Red Woman.” Many of these characters are trying to find their feet in this ever changing landscape.
Season 6 of Game of Thrones begins as Season 5 ended, with John Snow lying dead. Ghost howls as Jon’s blood seeps into the snow. Ser Alliser Thorne is quick to own his part in the treason. The long-held hatred for the Wildlings strengthens Thorne’s position. He tells the men of the watch, “Lord Commander Snow did what he thought was right. I’ve no doubt about that. And what he thought was right would have been the end of us. He thrust a terrible choice upon us and we made it.” Few in Castle Black are willing or able to challenge Alliser, nor do most want to. Alliser represents the old ways that men are reluctant to let go of, despite all the evidence of the new threat they face.
While Alliser Throne consolidates power, Ser Davos Seawork rallies Eddison Tollett and others who were loyal to Jon. Davos helps Edd understand that his impulsive plan to immediately avenge Jon is short sighted. He points out that they are not the only ones who Jon has saved. Edd leaves to get help, ostensibly from the Wildlings of whom Jon had won their begrudging respect. Davos has always tried to be the voice of morality, even when it has come at a cost. Despite his misgivings about her, Davos recognizes that the Red Woman Melissandre may be able to help them.
Melissandre is surprised to find Jon dead. She tells Davos, “I saw him in the flames fighting at Winterfell.” After her prophecies about Stannis and Jon have failed to be realized, she appears to be having self-doubt. Alone in her room, she takes off her gown and red necklace and we see her true form. The ancient woman stares at her own reflection with a hard look.
The Wall remains one of our favorite locations in the world of ice and fire, as the North is filled with dark nights and hidden magic. With Jon Snow gone, having Davos serve as a source of resistance against Alliser provides an effective anchor for the audience. If it weren’t for Davos, Alliser probably would have already slaughtered Jon’s allies. The best news out of Castle Black is that our favorite direwolf, Ghost, continues to survive.
Cersei Lannister has been freed from her prison cell after completing the walk of shame to atone for her sins. It seems unlikely that Cersei has truly changed, but she plays the part for now until the tides turn. Margaery Tyrell, on the other hand, remains locked up and unrepentant in the Great Sept, despite the High Sparrow’s attempts to maneuver her into confession.
The relief of Cersei’s release is short-lived when her brother Jaime returns from Dorne, carrying their dead daughter Mrycella. Cersei appears most sympathetic when she’s vulnerable, and mourning her children. She is flawed, yet has a moment of insight when she tells Jaime, “From her first breath, she was so sweet. I don’t know where she came from. She was nothing like me. No meanness, no jealousy, just good…I thought if I could make something so good, so pure, maybe I’m not a monster.”
She tells Jaime about the prophecy of the witch–that all three of her children would die. Jaime isn’t interested in prophecy or fate and tells her, “Everything they’ve taken from us, we’re going to take back and more.” We’re not sure we believe him, but we love him for saying it.
Ramsay Bolton is mourning as well, in his own way. As he talks about Myranda, his murdered girlfriend, it feels as though he genuinely cared for her. The viewer can almost feel sympathy for him until Ramsay reminds us of his true nature. He suggests that rather than being buried or burned, Myranda can be fed to the hounds, noting, “This is good meat.”
Roose Bolton is not pleased with his son’s games. They have defeated Stannis Baratheon, but they have lost Sansa Stark, whose presence helped them keep a hold on the north. Losing an heir to House Greyjoy doesn’t help their position either. Roose reminds Ramsay that without Sansa he won’t have an heir and that he may have a brother on the way who could usurp him. The former bastard Ramsay continues to have a precarious position within the House of Bolton.
Ramsay has sent his best men and hounds after Sansa and Theon. They make their way across an icy stream with Theon warning Sansa, “I’ve seen what his hounds do to a person. This way is better.”
As they rest among the roots of a dead tree, Theon holds Sansa for a moment warmth and comfort. You can see Theon beginning to emerge from the shell that was Reek. Their moment of reprieve ends when they hear the hounds. Theon attempts to sacrifice himself in order to keep Sansa safe, but fails. It appears that they will be dragged back to Winterfell to face more of Ramsay’s torture. For a moment, we curse Game of Thrones for always crushing our hopes.
Just as our hope disappears, we hear the sound of hooves and then Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne arrive. The Bolton soldier comments, “It’s a bloody woman,” just before he’s killed. As Podrick and Brienne fight, Theon picks up a sword. When Theon saves Podrick from a Bolton soldier, the emotion of reconnecting to his former life plays all over his face. After killing the soldiers, Brienne lays her sword down in front of Sansa, and again, pledges her service. This time, Sansa accepts, stumbling over the words her mother once vowed to Brienne. Brienne has tears in her eyes, finally being able to honor the pledge she made to Catelyn Stark. We’re pretty relieved that Sansa has found safety, at least for now.
After killing the soldiers, Brienne lays her sword down in front of Sansa, and again, pledges her service. This time, Sansa accepts, stumbling over the words her mother once vowed to Brienne. Brienne has tears in her eyes, finally being able to honor the pledge she made to Catelyn Stark. We’re pretty relieved that Sansa has found safety, at least for now.
At the Water Gardens, Prince Doran Martell walks outside with Ellaria and Tyrene Sand. He talks about his brother Oberyn, saying what an adventurer he was. Doran receives notice that Princess Myrcella Baratheon is dead, but before he can act Ellaria and her daughter attack. Tyrene kills the Prince’s guards, while Ellaria stabs Doran. As he dies, Ellaria tells Doran, “Your son is weak just like you. And weak men will never rule Dorne again.”
The other Sand Snakes are making sure of this. As Trystane Martell sits on a ship, reading, Obara and Nymeria Sand suddenly appear in his cabin. How they got there is a mystery. They tell Trystane they are there to kill him. As he challenges Nymeria, Obara puts a spear through the back of Trystane’s head. Nymeria isn’t too pleased her greedy sister took her kill. Certainly Game of Thrones has convinced us that these Sand Snakes are venomous, but they have yet to convince us that we want to see more of them.
Varys and Tyrion Lannister are together again, so our expectations are high. As they walk along the streets of Mereen Varys teases Tyrion that he walks like a rich person, then mocks him when his poor Valyrian scares a young woman into thinking he wants to eat her baby. It’s nice to see Game of Thrones lighten things up a little.
As they walk through the city Tyrion tells Varys, “The Queen is not as popular in Meereen as she used to be.” Neither the masters or their former slaves are happy with Daenerys. Tyrion says, “Whoever you are, wherever you go, someone in this city wants to murder you.” They head towards the harbor and find that all the ships have been set on fire. They’ll have to find a way to govern Meereen because no one will be heading to Westeros any time soon.
Daario Naharis and Ser Jorah Mormont are searching for Daenerys Targaryen. They find signs of the dragon Drogon. They both want to grow old in order to see the new world that Daenerys will create, though Jorah’s growing greyscale infection isn’t exactly in his favor. They see signs that a Dothraki horde has passed. Jorah finds the ring Daenerys dropped, confirming she’s been taken.
Daenerys walks along with the Dothraki who have captured her. Her hands are tied and they whip her when she slows. They talk about her white hair, with one Dothraki commenting, “My friend’s mother saw a ghost and her hair turned white.” As they walk, she searches the sky for signs of Drogon.
They bring Daenerys to Khal Moro, who asks his men, rhetorically, if seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time isn’t the best thing in life. This leads to a comical discussion about other things that might better, such as killing another Khal, enslaving a city, or breaking a wild horse. Khal Moro prepares to rip off her clothes, but she speaks for the first time.
She introduces herself, using all her titles. This usually impresses people, but he only laughs. It’s not until she tells him she is the widow of Khal Drogo that he shows her any respect. She offers to reward him if they accompany her to Meereen, but instead Khal Moro intends for her to go to Vaes Dothrak, the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen. His wives smirk and tell her she will live out her days with the widows of dead khals. They really don’t like Daenerys.
Arya Stark begs on the streets of Braavos. She was blinded after wearing one of the faces in the House of Black and White, even though she hadn’t let go of who she was. The girl from The House of Black and White arrives, throws a staff at her, and challenges Arya to fight. Arya complains that she cannot see, but it doesn’t stop the other girl. After they fight for a bit, she tells Arya that she will see her the following day and leaves. Seems like Arya’s training may not yet be over.
The Red Woman
For a series with so many characters and numerous competing plotlines, Game of Thrones manages to keep us engaged with the various threads of the series. “The Red Woman” gives us what we love about Game of Thrones–beautiful landscapes, extensive world-building, and characters you can root for. For the Season 6 premiere they throw in some things we don’t often see in Game of Thrones – a little humor and a bit of hope. The series is off to a strong start and we suspect these ten episodes will fly by.