In case you somehow missed the news, fantasy epic Game of Thrones is back on our screens for a sixth season! It's a big one, too; this time showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are flying solo (you know, to the extent two people can) because the TV show has finally overtaken George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
Finally we can talk about the show without some smug book reader grinning and telling us they know what happens but can't talk about it.
Anyway, on to the recap of Season 6's opener "The Red Woman." It should go without saying really, but just in case: This post contains spoilers for the episode. If you haven't seen it yet and don't want to know what happens, then don't read on.
Death Is Not The End
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the episode opened where Season 5 left off: with the wintry snow of Castle Black and Jon Snow's very dead body. As Jon's direwolf, Ghost, howls a plaintive lament for his fallen master, Davos Seaworth spots the body and drags it inside with the help of some of the few remaining Jon Snow loyalists. As if to prove that dead really is dead, his friend Edd closes Jon's eyes in what is the universal television language for "seriously, this guy's dead."
There's a lot of set-up but not much action at Castle Black. Davos finally gets his chance to shine as a leader (and might get some mutton to show for it) but it's not clear how he and his comrades are going to escape the nefarious clutches of Ser Alliser Thorne (a real bastard's bastard if ever there was one) alive. You do have to wonder why Thorne and his men don't immediately break down the door and kill those inside — given they heavily outnumber them — but then I'm no military strategist.
Melisandre (the titular red woman) does make a brief appearance, troubled by Snow's death due to her previous visions of him fighting — and therefore being alive — at Winterfell. For whatever reason, Davos decides not to chime in and say "errr — but you're magic right? Can't you abracadabra him back to life?"
Born To Run
In the North, Roose Bolton casually belittles his psycho of a bastard son for winning an essentially meaningless battle against Stannis and losing their ace card, Sansa Stark.
Sansa and Theon — who's undergoing a miraculous spinal regrowth — survived the big leap at the end of Season 5 and are escaping Ramsay on their amazingly not-broken legs. With Ramsey's heavies and some bloodhounds on their trail, Theon offers to sacrifice himself and tells Sansa to run North. Sansa — who hasn't made a good decision for five seasons — decides instead to stay exactly where she is. Unsurprisingly, she is found.
Thankfully, Brienne and Pod turn up at exactly the right moment to massacre the Bolton boys (with some assistance from Theon). After what seems like years of Brienne handing out her CV to any remotely high born Lord or Lady she can get near, she finally gets a job! And by accepting her offer of servitude, Sansa finally makes a good decision! High fives all round! Just don't ask how exactly Brienne found them in the middle of nowhere at exactly the right time. Deus ex Mach-Brienne-a?
In King's Landing, pixie-cut Cersei has recovered from her literal walk of shame but is soon grieving for her daughter, Myrcella, poisoned in Dorne. It was a nice reminder that Cersei, for all her faults, really does care for her kids.
Cersei confides in Jamie that the death of her children was foretold in a prophecy, to which he retorts, "fuck prophecy." Yeah Jamie, just ignore prophecies. You definitely don't exist in a world where magic and therefore presumably future telling is a real thing. As the their only remaining child, King Tommen had better watch his back.
Jamie seems to be spoiling for a fight; is he going to take on the High Sparrow? Speaking of which, we do get a brief check in on him and Queen Margaery, who's still locked up, in hopes she might confess to whatever crimes they want to pin on her. She's holding out for now, though.
'You Say You Want A Revolution/Well, You Know/We All Wanna Change The World'
After the Dornish subplot spun its wheels (no offense, Prince Doran) pointlessly for the whole of Season 5, the new season finally gave us some action. Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes (which is what I'm totally naming my punk band, by the way, who's in?) ramped up the bodycount by murdering Prince Doran, his son Trystane, and some nameless guards.
Poor Doran, paying the price for being a restrained and thoughtful leader in a world where that kind of thing only results in death.
Other than that, not much happened, but Trystane wins death of the week for getting a spear through the head.
These Boots Are Made For Walking, And That's Just What They'll Do
With Dany having flown away from Meereen on a dragon, Tyrion and Varys decide to kill some time by taking a leisurely stroll around the city while handily tossing out some exposition.
The two are worried about the Sons of the Harpy but also about Daenerys's followers, all of whom seem pretty unhappy one way or another. It seems they can't trust anyone at all. At least they won't get homesick for King's Landing, though.
Meanwhile, buddy cop duo Jorah and Daario hunt for Daenerys, exchanging quips about how desperately heartbroken the soon-to-die Jorah must be. Quality banter. Jorah follows his throbbing erection for Dany like a diving rod and spots some of her jewelry in the long grass. I wish the other characters were as observant, I'm still waiting for someone to spot that Jorah glances at his greyscale literally every time he's in a scene.
Nobody Said It Was Easy, No One Ever Said It Would Be This Hard
Where exactly is Daenerys, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Haver of Many Nicknames? She's pretty much back where she started: in Essos, in the hands of the Dothraki.
She holds her Dothraki tongue for a while, in spite of the never ending stream of sexism, before revealing that she is the widow of Khal Drogo. That wins her favor with this clan's leader, Khal Moro, but not that much; he states that no Dothraki man must touch her, but sneers at her list of self-appointed titles and nicknames (and rightly so — doesn't Dany know that nicknames you give yourself don't count?). He informs her that, as a widowed Khaleesi, she must see out out her days in the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen with the other widows. Let's hope the world of Game of Thrones invents reality television quickly because The Real Widows of Essos would be a smash hit.
So, after what feels like years of watching Daenerys play Judge Judy in a temple, we're going to see yet more of her doing nothing in a temple. Yippee. I can only assume the CGI for her dragons must be expensive.
Can't You See, What That Woman, She Been Doin' To Me?
Speaking of characters being back where they started, we see Ayra Stark having impromptu fighting lessons with the brutal girl we know as the Waif that are slightly reminiscent of her sword fighting lessons way back in Season 1.
Ayra is now a blind beggar on the streets of Braavos, though seemingly still under the tuition of the Faceless Men. Presumably this will be some kind of lesson in becoming (metaphorically) invisible in order to become a better assassin. Let's hope Ayra doesn't take all season to gain her assassin's stripes — let's face it, we all want her to get revenge on those on her list.
My Friends Are Gone, My Hair Is Grey
Before the episode ends, we're treated to one last check-in with Melisandre at the Wall. Still looking visibly shaken, having seen the deaths of Stannis and Jon defy her fire prophesies, she undresses and takes of the necklace she always wears. And then we see that she's actually Gollum from The Lord of the Rings.
OK, she's not. But she is very old (potentially immortal?) and is using some kind of magic to disguise her true appearance. What does this mean? Well, after plenty — including me — doubted her after the unpleasant Shereen burning incident, suffice it to say she really does wield a lot of power. Can she use that magic to resurrect Jon Snow and have him fight at Winterfell after all? We'll have to wait and see.