Game Of Thrones S06E01 “The Red Woman” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky Atlantic, Mondays, 9pm
Writers: David Benioff, DB Weiss
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Essential Plot Points:
- At Castle Black, Davos and the Jon Snow Fan Club discover Jon’s body a-mouldering in the yard. They quickly take it to Davos’s quarters and fetch Ghost from his pen so he can look adorable, nosing his owner’s lifeless hand.
- Melisandre wanders in and sees the body. She’s clearly disturbed. “I saw him in the flames. Fighting at Winterfell,” she says, thus refuelling all those “Jon Snow resurrection” rumours.
- Figuring that Jon Snow fans have a limited shelf life at Castle Black, Davos sends Edd to find the Wildlings to convince them to come back and fight the mutineering Night’s Watch. Davos and the others then barricade themselves in.
- At Winterfell, Ramsay momentarily shows some human emotion lamenting Myranda before rectifying this lapse by demanding her body be fed to the dogs.
- Roose calmly but chillingly lets Ramsay know he’s not cool with Sansa and Theon having escaped. If Sansa is not captured and returned, then a) the other Northern lords won’t stand with them when the Lannisters come calling, and b) Ramsay cannot sire an heir. In which case Ramsay’s usefulness is… dangerously limited.
- It looks like Ramsay could be swiftly back in Roose’s good books when his men catch up with Sansa and Theon, but then…
- …Brienne and Pod to the rescue! Ramsay’s men don’t stand a chance.
- Brienne pledges herself to Sansa who this time accepts.
- Jaime arrives back in King’s Landing with Myrcella’s body. Cersei is shaken but oddly subdued on learning of her daughter’s death; she recalls Maggy the Frog’s prophecy that all her children will die before her, and is convinced she’s a monster who’s had the one good thing she’s created in her life taken away from her.
- The High Sparrow and Septa Unella play good cop/bad cop with the imprisoned Margaery but she’s resolutely not playing along for now.
- In Dorne, Ellaria has her Sand Snakes kill Doran in front of a bunch of guards who have “see if we care” expressions. As he dies she tells him no weak man will rule Dorne again. Cue…
- …On a ship bound for King’s Landing another couple of other Sand Snakes kill Trystane.
- In Meereen, Tyrion and Varys wander the streets finding evidence of unease everywhere; the Sons Of Harpy are still active while the cult of the Mother Of Dragons is also growing. Then someone torches all the ships in harbour.
- Jorah and Daario are tracking dragons (and therefore Dany as well) following the trail of burnt corpses. Jorah finds evidence of a Dothraki horde – a huge circle of grass trodden down by hundreds of horses’ hooves. At the centre there is a small patch of untrodden grass and there he finds Dany’s ring – he now knows the Dothraki have captured her.
- The captured Dany, meanwhile, keeps her mouth shut until she’s finally taken to the big man – Khal Moro. She’S presented to him as a potential sex toy. She tries to impress him with a list of her titles, but fails (he probably got bored somewhere around “Queen of the Andals”).
- Then she reveals that she’s the former wife Khal Drogo which does impress him. As the widow of a khal, she won’t be raped. Instead Moro says she’ll be sent to Vaes Dothrak where all khal widows end up.
- The now-blind Arya is begging on the streets of Braavos. The Waif appears and starts hitting her with a big stick. To be fair she does give a big stick to Arya as well, but Arya – being blind – can’t really defend herself. This is presumably anther piece of “tough love for her own good” from the Faceless Ones, but you can’t help feeling The Waif savours saying, “See you tomorrow,” just a little too much.
- Back at Castle Black, Alliser Thorne knocks on Davos’s door and tells the men inside they have until midnight to leave. The Jon Snow fan club know they’ll all be killed as soon as they open the door. When Davos says that Melisandre may be able to help them, the others are sceptical. “You haven’t seen her do what I’ve seen her do,” says Davos.
- But we’re doubting he’s seen her do what she does do next: she undresses and metamorphoses into an old crone who looks centuries old.
Game Of Thrones season premieres are rarely blockbusters; they’re usually more like foundations stones for their respective seasons, a solid base on which to build. The problem for “The Red Woman”, though, is that it has more weight of expectation than most, with fans – and indeed casual viewers – being whipped up into a state of excitement about whether Jon Snow’s going to be resurrected. The more everyone on the cast and crew protested “no!”, the more we disbelieved them. Then within minutes of the episode opening Melisandre reminds us that she saw a vision of Jon fighting at Winterfell to keep the dream alive. Hey… it could be a zombie Jon Snow at Winterfell.
But much like The Walking Dead teased us with that whole , “Is Glenn really dead?” business that pissed off as many people as it excited, Game Of Thrones seems in no hurry to state its case either way. Yeah, he’s dead, but that body looks tantalisingly resurrectable; they need to either bring it back to life or cremate it as soon as possible to stop the rest of the show being overshadowed by one big question.
Instead we get a travelogue round the regions. It’s what Game Of Thrones does. There’s rarely a beginning, middle and end to any episode, just a pick’n’mix of various plot lines all progressing in parallel. But for some reason, that Jon Snow question makes you wish the show would concentrate one plot for a while, especially when most of the other plotlines we visit here offer up little more than vignettes. The exceptions are the Winterfell action which contains some of the best moments of the episode (and a bloody good fight) and the Dorne scenes which contain some of the worst (oh look – shock death, yawn). At least both of those contain some significant movement in their respective storylines. The Jorah, Tyrion, Arya, Dany, Margaery and Lannister scenes – although they all contain some fine acting and powerful dialogue – feel primarily like scene setters or mood setters; ethereal promises of things to come. They’re all impeccably crafted, it’s just that altogether they feel like a whistlestop tour of “where everybody’s at right now”.
But as evidenced by the lengthy “Good” section below, there’s still plenty to enjoy, and not just the somewhat surprising revelation that the Dothraki have a sense of humour. As the show enters its sixth season and unknown territory (while still dealing with a few loose ends from the published books in the series) it looks better than ever, the acting is still marvellous and there are still some moments when this “fantasy” feels more raw, emotional and relevant than most so-called “realistic” drama.
And as we said at the start, Game Of Thrones always begins seasons a bit listlessly. It just seems to niggle more this time. Bloody Jon Snow. He can’t even die properly.
- That freaky final scene. The Red Woman is clearly battered and weary and fed up with having to hide behind her supernatural facade.
- Ramsay ruining his moment of compassion by ordering that Myranda’s body should be fed to the dogs.
- Some gorgeous cinematography during Sansa and Theon’s snowy escape.
- Sansa accepting Brienne’s pledge (and Pod having to prompt her with the exact words).
- Alliser Thorne’s speech goes a long way to explaining his reasons for killing Jon Snow if not justifying them. It’s also interesting that there’s some mumbled discontent from some members of the Night’s Watch – this isn’t as simple as good guys versus bad guys issue.
- As odious as Roose is, it’s great to see him wipe the smile off the even more odious Ramsay.
- Cerei’s introspective speech about being a monster is genuinely harrowing: “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 pure, so good, maybe I’m not a monster.”
- Oh Lordy, the Dothraki are hilariously un-PC. You really don’t want to laugh when they’re discussing Dany’s pubic hair but you can’t help it. Console yourself that you’re laughing at them rather then with them. Especially when they clearly have no perception of the irony in the phrase, “I like to talk when I’m finished, otherwise we might as well be dogs.”
- Then we get the almost Monty Python-esque scene in the tent when Moro asks, “Seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time, what is better than that?” and his men give a few suggestions – “Killing another Khal…” “Conquering a city…” “Breaking a wild horse…” As he raises his eyebrows in exasperation and qualifies his statement to, “Seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time is among the five best things in life,” you can’t help thinking, “But what have the Romans ever done for us?”
- The way Arya is introduced into the episode – with the camera panning past her like she isn’t there before panning back as if it’s just noticed her now that some yokel’s legs aren’t in the way – is a very clever visual indication of her new lack of status.
- You have to admire the way the show (just about) gets away with Jorah happening to find Dany’s ring in the vast expanse of the Sea Of Grass thanks to that small-circle-of-grass business. Did the writers have that worked out when the Dothraki circled Dany last season?
- That shipyard seems to go up in flames suspiciously quickly and in a completely uniform fashion, as if all the ships were set alight at the same time.
- While the comedy Dothraki scenes worked (somewhat surprisingly) all attempts to give the Sand Snakes witty dialogue still fall flat. They often come across like something out of a ’70s comic book.
- In fact, both of the Sand Snake scenes felt like they were lifted from another show. You know, the kind of show that wants to be Game Of Thrones but can’t quite see there’s more to it than random, bloody death scenes.
- Can someone please explain Tyrion’s line, “It’s a good job you’re not a boy any more, because you have no cock.”
- Okay, Melisandre gets to reveal her true self, but she’s a disappointingly light on screen time for an episode that’s been named after her.
- No dragons.
And The Random:
- For the record, Dany’s full list of title that she uses in this episode is: “Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker Of Chains and Mother of Dragons.” She seems to have left out Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and Princess of Dragonstone but there’s no point over doing it, is there?
- Why is this graffiti in English and not in Valyrian?
- One great, subtle little touch is when Arya overhears someone saying, “What happened to that Kingsguard?” She knows, but she might be regretting killing him in a brothel now. Or maybe not.
- The revelation that Melisandre is an ancient clone using magic to disguise herself has not yet surfaced in the books but it has been hinted at heavily by GRR Martin in print. In the books, it’s stated that she uses “glamor” magic to alter appearances (not just her own but other people’s too) and GRR Martin apparently also told co-showrunner David Benioff says that Melisandre is “several centuries old”. What’s more, Carice van Houten actually said that her character was over 100 years old in an interview in 2012. So this has clearly long been the plan.
Review by Dave Golder