The first hour of Game of Thrones Season 6 has passed and Jon Snow still looks pretty dead. Whether this situation is permanent seems very much undecided as Melisandre is still hanging around Castle Black and, as we know, may possess necromantic abilities. Hell, fellow follower of R’hollor, Thoros of Myr has brought Beric Dondarrian back from the dead several times and he has only a fraction of Melisandre’s ability. The fact that the episode closes with a reveal of Melisandre’s age, demonstrating that not only does she posses great power, but great power over the forces of mortality. Of yet, nobody’s predictions regarding Jon’s fate have been proven correct or incorrect, but the smart money seems to be on resurrection.
As with Game of Thrones’ other season premiers, much of the episode is dedicated to table setting: Jamie returning to King’s Landing with poor Myrcella’s remains, Sansa and Theon escaping from Ramsey’s clutches with a key assist from Brienne and a new, improved Podrick, Tyrion and Varys assessing the situation in Mereen, Daenerys held by Khal Moro, Davos in a tense standoff with Alliser Thorne and the bulk of the Night’s Watch, and Arya adjusting to training while blind. Naturally, the establishment of plotlines is more exciting this season than in previous seasons as not even those fans that are caught up on A Song of Ice and Fire, know what the season has in store. So far, things are looking pretty good.
The episode’s biggest surprise came in the form of the violent coup in Dorne, resulting in the deaths of Doran and Trystane Martell and Areo Hotah. The Dorne plotline of last season was not a particularly successful one, not serving much of a dramatic purpose beyond placing a new set of characters in opposition to the Lannisters, and while it is sad to see Doran and, less so, Trystane and Hotah, go, the notion of Ellaria Sand seizing control of Dorne in order to make war on the Lannisters is exciting. The coup came as a legitimate surprise as the assassination of Myrcella at the close of season five seemed like a move to force Doran into war, and one would think that Benioff and Weiss would want to keep an actor of Alexander Siddig’s talent around a little longer. No one is safe; such is life in Westeros.
Speaking of Myrcella, the award for the episode’s best acting goes to Lena Headey. As Cersei excitedly runs to greet her daughter only to find that Jamie returns with only a corpse, Headey’s face shifts quickly from elation to shock to a combination of sorrow and resignation. Year in and year out Headey’s Cersei is routinely one of the show’s great performances, a fact that is often overlooked due to the character’s unappealing nature. It is hard not to feel for Cersei as the truth of her daughter’s death lands, she is heartbroken but not surprised; she has endured the deaths of her parents and eldest son, and has become accustomed to loss. We can expect Cersei to cling even tighter to Tommen this season, now that he is the last living child of Cersei and Jamie Lannister.
In an episode filled with far more setup than payoff, the most satisfying plot tonight was Sansa and Theon’s escape. It was not necessarily that huge a surprise when Brienne rode out of the woods to slay the Bolton men, but it also would not have been that surprising if the escapees had been captured and hauled back to Winterfell to endure further rape and torture at Ramsey’s hands, and it’s a relief to see them spared that fate. The prospect of Sansa having to make her way back to Littlefinger accompanied by the motley crew of Brienne, Theon, and Podrick is exciting and could yield some fun adventures, and unanticipated dynamics.
In Essos, Dany, for first time since the first season, finds herself essentially powerless. Dany once again being amongst the Dothraki does not yet generate much interest, one imagines that the plotline will result in Khal Mogo’s khalisar being added to Dany’s forces, Dany welcoming Ser Jorah back into the fold, the fiery deaths of a number of Dothraki, or some combination of those things. These Dothraki seem quite a bit more laid-back than those in Drogo’s season one, with Khalisar providing some comedy in their debate over what the best things in life are. Let’s hope Dany is soon back in Mereen, where, in their only scene of the episode, Varys and Tyrion are sizing up the challenges that face them in governing a populace in turmoil. It’s nice to see Tyrion back in a position of power, we can be sure that he will get to make some moves utilizing what the dearly departed Tywin would call his “low cunning”, before Dany returns.
Arya is similarly given only a single scene, doing some Daredevil-style blind fight training. If there is a weakness to Arya’s storyline throughout the last couple of seasons it is that it comes a little to close to an adult version of the Harry Potter-style exceptional child story. The adventures of Bran, who has still not reappeared, suffer from the same problem; they do not quite fit in with the fantasy-in-a-realistic-medieval-world setting created by Martin. It’s a good thing that Maisie Williams is engaging for an actor of any age, much less a child. Hopefully Arya’s storyline will reconnect with the rest of the goings-on in Westeros sooner-than-later.
It’s all very exciting. Here at the beginning of season six, Benioff, Weiss, and their writers and cast show no signs of flagging. If anything the energy seems to have picked up a bit from the end of the last season, now that greater creative freedom has been afforded to them. Game of Thrones’ sixth season will be the first television season that we will review on an episode-by-episode basis. Please join us in the comments section and keep coming back! Valar morghulis.
Week 1 Power Ranking
1. Ellaria and the Sand Snakes: After a brief, bloody coup, the mistress and baseborn children of Oberyn Martell have seized power in Dorne and, according to them, have the support of the Dornish populace.
2. Tyrion: Right where he should be: running the show without holding the title of ruler. Expect Tyrion to make some serious moves in the coming weeks with the help of the world’s best Master of Whisperers.
3. The Lannister Twins: Bloodied but unbowed, Jaime and Cersei have reconnected and their shared sorrow has shored up their resolve. Look for these two to strike back against the Sands with their son Tommen as a figurehead. Expect “new made” Kingsguard Knight Robert Strong to make a big difference for this squad.
4. The Bolton Boys: Roose and Ramsey are highly ranked but are falling fast with few allies, and the escape of Sansa and Theon. Ramsey will want to, but hopefully won’t, recover Sansa in order to produce an heir. Also, Ramsey is, like, for sure going to murder Roose’s pregnant wife.
5. Sansa: Not yet in a position of power, but surging with newfound freedom and a fiercely loyal, and generally badass, new bodyguard in Brienne.
6. Arya: Down but not out, in the coming weeks we can expect Arya to regain her sight accompanied by a sharp increase in deadliness.
7. Dany: In captivity and headed toward Vaes Dothrak, Dany is temporarily trending downward, but can be expected to recover once key teammates (Daario, Mormont, her dragons) make their return.
8. Stannis’ Old Crew: Davos and Melisandre will have to dig deep and work together if they want to get out of the sticky situation they find themselves in at Castle Black. Melisandre is rattled after letting Stannis down and requires a serious injection of confidence.
9. Margaery: Still held by The High Sparrow and his increasingly powerful band of fanatics, Margaery Tyrell has a long road to hoe if she wants back in the game.
10. Jon Snow: John Snow is Dead. At least for now.
Not Ranked: Sam, Littlefinger, Bronn, and Bran have yet to make appearances.
QUESTION FOR READERS:
There is some confusing geography tonight. At the conclusion of season five, Jaime, Myrcella, Bronn, and Trystane, departed Dorne together, with Ellaria, Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene watching the ship from shore, knowing that Myrcella would soon die. In “The Red Woman,” Tyene is the only Sand Snake still in Dorne, with Obara and Nymeria on the ship, which is anchored outside King’s Landing, to brutally murder Trystane. What happened here? Trystane does not seem surprised to see his cousins aboard the ship, which would seem to rule out the possibility that the Sand Snakes caught up to the ship and snuck aboard. Even if they had been aboard the ship the entire time, one has to believe that Jaime would, at the very least, suspect them of poisoning Myrcella, which would make things awkward. Additionally, we know that Jaime did not turn the ship back to Dorne once Myrcella had died since Doran learns of her death via raven. Is this all simply an error on the part of the writers? It seems like a fairly major inconsistency for them to have missed it.