Season Six, Episode One — “The Red Woman”

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

By Jarrod Jones. Oof — is it me, or are the waits between seasons of Game of Thrones getting longer?

Ten long months have passed since the gallant (but still rather dim) Jon Snow was paid his dues by his Brothers in Black. And now Game of Thrones has finally returned to us. After nearly an entire year’s worth of grim speculation, ceaseless internet rumors and a vague bitterness that Season Five really wasn’t all that hot, we’ve come to this premiere armed with lofty expectations, keen to see its well-oiled cogs turn with a bit more verve. So it was somewhat reassuring that, as far as getting this season underway went, “The Red Woman” was ostensibly an exercise in narrative efficiency.

But only somewhat. While “The Red Woman” does spend some time dealing directly with the fallout of Alliser Thorne’s hideous betrayal, it clocked in overtime to make sure we’re up to speed with nearly every single subplot presently underway. (Which, by the way, is so many.) As we jump from The Wall to King’s Landing to the nearly glacial landscapes enveloping Winterfell, this episode was, in a word, dizzying. (Especially jarring was poor Arya Stark’s abrupt ass-whoopin’ at the hands — and staff — of the one known only as The Waif.) The only truths we came to by the end of this week’s premiere were those we’ve already long suspected. (Save for Melisandre’s, erm, “undressing” just before the credits infuriatingly began to run — seriously, what a swift hour.) If anything, this week’s episode could be considered a tease.

Nearly all of it. Progress comes slowly to Game of Thrones (it is known), but the fact that the season begins with Jon’s body still cooling in the snow is, in itself, a tease. (Send your prayers to the gods presently looking over Ser Davos.) The same could be said of Jaime’s delivery of poor Myrcella, who set sail for King’s Landing with her uncle father only to end up with stones covering her eyes. Cersei Lannister is presumably too busy licking her wounds from that Walk of Shame last season to even consider getting pissed at her lover’s brother’s botched rescue attempt of their daughter. So it seems that the patently obvious Dornish betrayal will have to be addressed later. Perhaps next season.

WHAT WORKED: Aside from “is Jon Snow really dead?” (yes, for cryin’ out loud) the big question everyone was keen on seeing answered was “how far would Sansa and Theon go before Ramsay’s hounds caught up with them?” The answer, unsurprisingly, was “not far.” But with this abrupt turn of events came a wildly surprising last-minute save — the rarest in all of Game of Thrones, a saga in which rescue rarely comes, if it comes at all. Lady Brienne and her squire Podrick — who, shockingly, seems to have mastered the swing of a broadsword — came to Sansa’s aid in the nick of time, and what’s more, we received satisfaction in knowing Brienne has finally made good on her promise to Catlyn Stark: Sansa now travels with a knight and squire in lockstep behind her. (Also Reek, who showed more Theon here than he has in years.) Is it safe to assume that hope is returning to Westeros? (Mmm… probably not.)

WHAT DIDN’T: Ah, the Sand Snakes return. Any hope I had that Ellaria Sand had tempered her nigh-vaudevillian troupe of teenage mercenaries with a bit of menace was quickly dashed as she executed a gleefully bloody coup on Doran Martell (and later, on that dorkus malorkus, Trystane). I appreciate the Dorne vs. King’s Landing subplot to a certain degree (though its sepia tone is little more than pale pastels compared to the White Walker menace), but the insistent nonchalance of the Sand Snakes — who roll their eyes like “whatever” as they shove spears through the skulls of their enemies — continues to make their presence so darned silly. The Dornish are known for their theater. But that shouldn’t suggest they always need to play to the back of the room.

Really, really hoping that Dany’s time with the Dothraki is short-lived. Not just for the sake of long-suffering Ser Jorah (whose grayscale appears to be worsening, giving this particular subplot a ticking clock), but because Dany is now as far away from sacking King’s Landing as she was at the beginning of this series. I have grown weary of watching the Mother of Dragons placed at the mercy of sinister men. It’s time for her to begin hacking away at the lower abdomen of the patriarchy. Whether she wields flame or a sword (or perhaps both?), Dany needs to finally become the master of her own destiny — not some maiden to be rescued by a dipshit like Daario Naharis.


Your pain will be paid for a thousand times over. I only wish you were here to watch.” – Ramsay.

I don’t know where she came from. She was nothing like me.” – Cersei.

BEST MOMENT: Melisandre reveals herself. We’ve definitely seen The Red Woman without her signature garb before (*ahem*), but this time around Game of Thrones‘ insistence on full frontal nudity served a purpose far more sinister, frightening and (dare I say) intriguing than anything Melisandre has been involved with in the past. (And that includes having a freaky, smoke-charred Stannis baby.) Melisandre’s big reveal served as this premiere’s one real shock: a grim reminder that magic continues to fight its way back into Westeros, but it may have arrived far too late.

EPISODE’S MVP: I’m giving it to Brienne of Tarth this week. After months of dauntless resolve, and after Brienne finally made good on her vow to avenge her first charge (the dear, departed Renly Baratheon), Sansa has become her primary focus — and she arrives to win the day with a might unparalleled. Sansa’s cold shoulder last year may have struck a blow to Brienne’s pride, but her determination remained steadfast. And so this season gave us its first big payoff.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.


– Certainly the saddest moment of the week was watching a forlorn Ghost weep for its fallen master. Where were you when we needed you last season, bro?

– Despite all the narrative calamity, “The Red Woman” gave itself enough room to enjoy some visual poetry. Theon and Sansa’s brief respite under a ripped tree was a particularly arresting visual, and Melisandre’s unveiling was a lyrical reminder of the sorcery at play within Game of Thrones.

– Ramsay would feed anyone to the dogs. Even his fallen lover. Standing over Myranda’s body: “She smelled of dog.”

– It would definitely appear that Stannis is dead. So we can tuck that little subplot away. But where’s the body? Even Tywin Lannister’s corpse popped up at the beginning of last season for a quick semblance of finality, and this week Myranda (Charlotte Pope) came back to do the same. Something’s not quite kosher here.

– Not present for this week’s skirmish: Littlefinger, Sam, Ginny, Jaqen, Bran, The Three-Eyed Raven.

8 out of 10

Next: “Home”, soon.

Before: “Mother’s Mercy”, here.