Game of Thrones’ best episodes tend to come later in the season. Such is the fate of a highly-serialized story. It takes awhile for the storylines to build, twist, and fulfill. As much fun as it was to have Game of Thrones back, the Season 6 premiere — “The Red Woman” — had the unwieldy task of catching us back up with most of our main characters. This resulted in a breezy episode where lots of characters learned stuff we found out last season (see: Myrcella’s untimely death), while others only got the littlest of plot progression.
Here’s everything that went down in the various storylines — from least to most successful.
Back in Dorne, Ellaria makes her move.
The Dorne plotline was one of the weakest part of last season. It was a new setting filled with new characters we (mostly) hadn’t gotten a chance to know in previous seasons and wasn’t given enough screen time to make up for that fact. That lack of character development really hurts here. When Ellaria and the Sand Snakes take out Doran and Trystane, we don’t really care. We never really got to know these characters. They seemed nice enough not killing Myrcella, but they weren’t very dynamic (part of Ellaria’s complaint against their leadership). With Ellaria seemingly in power now, King’s Landing has an enemy in Dorne.
Davos, Ghost, and Jon Snow plan their counter-attack.
The Castle Black storyline was a bit of a dud for me. I kept waiting for something to happen re: Jon Snow (for Melisandre to bring him back to life, obviously), but instead, we got Davos & Co. locking themselves in a room with Jon’s body and making dinner requests through the door like they were emo teens mad at their parents for taking away their Playstation.
I’m not really sure what Davos & co.’s endgame is here. Like, yeah it really, really sucks that Allister and his cohorts (yeah, I’m side-eying you, Olly) killed He of the Handsome Hair, but can we focus on the zombie army currently encroaching for more than two second? It will inevitably be cathartic to see the wildings help the non-Jon-Snow-killing members of the Night’s Watch get revenge for his death, but there are other issues to worry about. Namely: zombies. (I still get “Hardhome” flashbacks sometimes…)
Ramsay and Roose glower in Winterfell.
We didn’t get to spend much time with Ramsay and Roose in this episode, but what Ramsay lacked in minutes, he made up for in a sociopathic eulogy for Myranda. These two really were perfect for one another and Ramsay’s melancholic comment that he only wishes Myranda could be around to watch him give her murderers a slow, tortuous death, was some solid characterization. This is as close as Ramsay gets to being fond of someone, and it’s still laced with dreams of death and ill deeds. Ramsay finishes up his eulogy by telling the help to feed Myranda’s body to the hounds. Even that has a sense of poetry to it?
Ramsay may have conquered Stannis’ army for the house of Bolton, but don’t think that means his place as heir is secure — not with Sansa on the run. Roose makes it perfectly clear to his son that, should he not have a Stark-related heir to secure their position in the north, the unborn Bolton child could steal the family title away from Ramsay. Roose seems much more confident that Ramsay will not murder his unborn half-sibling than I am.
Jorah is still turning into a rock — and Daario is still oblivious to it.
Hot on the trail for Daenerys, Jorah and Daario take some time to chat about how they both hope to live long enough to see Daenerys’ rule change the world. There’s a tragedy to this conversation. Firstly, because in the case of Jorah, we know he has the greyscale infection that is almost always fatal. Secondly, because in the case of Daario, we know that nothing beautiful in this world can survive.
Daenerys reconnects with the Dothraki culture.
It’s hard not to root for Daenerys, but the way her storyline shifts in setting from season-to-season can make following it incredibly tiring. After her horse-maelstrom capture in the Season 5 finale, Daenerys is brought into a Dothraki camp. She plays dumb for a while, but eventually reveals that she not only understands the Dothraki language, but is the queen of titles (seriously, she has so many of them).
The hunky Khal Moro is unimpressed with all of Daenerys’ titles until she gets to the widow of Khal Drogo. This, the fact that she used to “belong” to another man, is the element of Daenerys’ identity that makes Khal Moro step back, stop threatening rape, and treat her with a modicum of respect. He stops threatening sexual assault and tells her that, instead, decides to ship her off to The Home for Widowed Khaleesi. Sounds fun.
Tyrion and Varys’ rule of Meereen is off to a great start.
It is oh-so-delightful to have the dream team that is Tyrion and Varys back together. Tyrion is one third of the council in charge of ruling Meereen in Daenerys’ absence. Though we don’t get to see Grey Worm or Missandei, we do get to see Tyrion and Varys trying to learn the city. Varys is better at it than Tyrion, who accidentally tells a woman he wants to eat her baby.
The Waif continues to torture Arya.
In another brief check-in, Arya continues to live a tortured existence. Following borrowing one of the faces of the Many-Faced God and killing the “wrong” person last season, Arya is blind. We catch back up with her as she’s begging on the street. The Waif uses this as an opportunity to challenge her favorite pin cushion to a fight. Apparently, it’s going to be a daily thing. Arya really needs to find new friends.
Margaery just wants to see her brother.
The Faith Militant continue to be the worst in Season 6, but they have yet to break fierce Margaery. Unfortunately (for both us and Margaery, it’s unclear if they have broken poor Loras). I am so ready for Margaery to be out of a cell. Get on it, Olenna.
Jaime and Cersei plan their vengeance.
Though Cersei and Jaime’s plotline consisted of them processing information that we have had an entire hiatus to process and probably didn’t care that much about in the first place — i.e the death of Myrcella — like always, Lena Headey manages to act the hell out of the part of Cersei. This woman has done terrible, unforgivable things, but it’s hard not to feel for her when she runs to meet the boat she thinks is bringing her only daughter back home, only to slowly realize that she will never again see her.
Surprisingly, Cersei doesn’t blame Jaime for this development, as is her wont, but rather fate. As you’ll recall from the Season 5 flashback, a witch told her when she was young that she would watch all three of her children die. (Everyone start placing your bets on Tommen’s death episode). Though Cersei is usually the one who preaches vengeance, it is Jaime here who picks up the Lannister torch and vows to visit misery upon the people who have wronged them. This is a man in pain, seemingly turning his back on the better angels he was actually listening to post-Brienne. This man has more in common with the one who pushed Bran out of that window for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Will Jaime’s thirst for vengeance fade as the grief has time to settle in? This is Game of Thrones. Never.
The Red Woman reveals her true form.
Game of Thrones likes to save its most important twists for the final moments of its episodes, something to keep viewers eager for the next installment. It’s a serialized narrative device as old as serialized storytelling itself. Unfortunately, the reveal that Melisandre is actually an old woman didn’t have the context or explanation we needed to make it a classic Game of Thrones reveal. Instead, it was more of a “huh” moment — potentially cool in the long run, but confusing in the short term. Or perhaps Game of Thrones was simply relying on the shock value factor of showing the body of someone who isn’t a young, hot lady.
Even before Melisandre took off her necklace to reveal her older form, there was a weariness to this character we haven’t seen before — save for in the Season 5 finale. The Red Woman has been incredibly shaken by her failure with Stannis. What she saw in the flames seems impossible now, which seems to be making her question everything she thought she knew. (Notice there is a “seems to be” in that previous sentence? Again, it would have been nice to get a bit more insight into what Melisandre was thinking in this episode.)
Despite the lack of clarification, I loved the Melisandre stuff in this episode. The Red Woman’s weariness seems even more unsettling given how long she has been alive and how much she has seen. If she’s worried about the White Walkers, then we should really be worried about the White Walkers. (Truth: I was already pretty worried about the White Walkers). Melisandre is much older (but how old?!) and more powerful than we ever knew. I’m intrigued now more than ever to see what part she has to play in the larger battle against death.
Brienne and Pod save Theon and Sansa.
Game of Thrones is at its most, deliciously watchable when it is bringing together disparate plotlines and characters. It’s this show’s equivalent of a unicorn. It happens so infrequently, but, when it does, it is a thing of desperate beauty. I want all of the unicorns. We’ve been promised more coming together of characters and plotlines this season. The convergence of Brienne and Pod and Sansa and Theon is the first.
Seeing Brienne race in to save Sansa and Theon in their moment of peril was a moment of the something working out for the good guys — a narrative choice that isn’t usually made on this show. Who knows how long this good luck will last, but I am going to enjoy the joy of Brienne tearing up when Sansa accepted her pledge of fealty for as long as I can. Seasons later, Catelyn Stark’s love for her children lives on.
Rating: ★★★ Good
-Did anyone else want Sansa and Pod to acknowledge one another when they met back up? After all, Pod was Tyrion’s squire when Sansa was married to him, which has to mean they had some good times together, right? Maybe this will come up in future episodes…
-Olly aged a lot overnight. Murder will do that to an adolescent.
-We met some widowed Khaleesi in Season 1: the dosh khaleen. They were the group of fortune-telling women that made Daenerys eat that horse heart and told her that her son would be a great Dothraki conqueror. Whoops.
-Did anyone else tear up when Theon and Sansa hugged? These are two characters who have gone through so much, but who still love one another and can find comfort in that. They grew up as brother and sister within Winterfell so, in some ways, it was seeing the Stark family reunited (and be able to momentarily enjoy that reunion) for a brief, glorious few seconds. Also, it made me realize that hardly anyone on this show ever hugs. Can we have more Game of Thrones hugs, please?