Four Letter Nerd

Game of Thrones Season Six, Episode 1: The Red Woman

While watching the scenes from the wall on last night’s season premiere episode of Game of Thrones, I thought of this “Weekend Update” bit from the early days of Saturday Night Live:

Just replace “Francisco Franco” with “Jon Snow,” and you have the premiere’s message to its viewers: Jon Snow is still dead. He’s “deader than dead” as show creators insisted and after the first hour of season six, he’s still a corpse, though he does have some very protective pall bearers for a guy who supposedly isn’t coming back.

But alas, we all must wait at least one more week to find out if that body breaths again while Dolorous Edd plays Lassie and gets help or the suddenly saggy red priestess decides if she can intervene.

The Night’s Watch wasn’t the only group coping with loss of life. Jamie returned with Myrcella’s body and Ramsey looked over the dead Myranda, who he lovingly fed to the dogs when he was done mourning.

In fact, the general theme of tonight’s episode seemed to be dealing with “loss” in many ways, not just the loss of life. We got our first glimpse of Arya dealing with the loss of sight. Ramsey and Roose are dealing with the loss of their two most valuable captives. Tyrion and Varys are dealing with the loss of Daenarys and the control she had on a city that is in serious turmoil.

And how about our first deaths of the season coming from that disaster of narrative storytelling that is Dorne (I’ll be shaking my head and groaning as I write about that entire sad section of the show).

I will start my recap of “The Red Woman” in the North (I know everything started at the Wall, but I’m going to save that for last), where Ramsey is receiving more “father of the year” type motivation from Roose.

Winterfell/The North

For one brief moment, did anybody else feel sympathy for Ramsey Bolton? I may be the only one, but he seemed to have a real connection (even though it was a sadistic connection, they seemed to genuinely care for each other) with Myranda, the girl Theon shoved off the wall last year and killed to save Sansa. I want to emphasize “brief” describing that moment as Ramsey told the Maester responsible for the body to “feed it to the dogs.” Now there’s the callous, cold-blooded bastard we all love to hate.

Speaking of cold-blooded, the soft spoken Roose Bolton “praises” his son for having defeated Stannis at the end of last season. But every compliment is back handed when Roose addresses Ramsey as he turns the conversation to the escape of Sansa and Theon. Daddy blames Ramsey for the loss of two prisoners that gave the Bolton’s a claim to the Iron Islands and the North.

Roose addressing Ramsey revised

Roose Bolton addressing his son Ramsey about the importance of Sansa Stark.

Roose is right, of course. But father Bolton plays his own games with Ramsey. He’s been doing this with his son ever since we first saw them interact in season four. If Roose needs his ruthless bastard to get in line, he drops a passive aggressive hint that he hopes Walda Frey (Roose’s wife) has a boy so he can be done with Ramsey, replacing him with a legitimate son.

Meanwhile, Theon (I won’t be calling him Reek anymore) and Sansa are running from a Bolton search party, walking through frigid rivers and snowy forests. Though they are eventually run down, Brienne and Pod appear and kill the Bolton men, with Theon killing the last one. Brienne offers her services once again to Sansa, and this time she wisely accepts (though she needs Pod’s help remembering the proper words for accepting Brienne’s service. So Brienne has gone from serving Renly to Catelyn Stark to Jamie to Sansa. How many episodes of service will she give the oldest remaining Stark?

Brienne pledges her service to Sansa

Brienne pledging her services to Sansa.

King’s Landing

We didn’t spend a lot of time in the capital this week. But it was very important for Cersei, the recent participant in a “Walk of Shame” you might remember, to deal with the death of her daughter, Myrcella. I wondered when that happened if Jamie would take any blame from Cersei for their daughter’s death. But for at least one episode, they seemed unified in purpose. Cersei recalls the words the witch told her when she was a girl (you might remember the first scene of season five) and how Myrcella’s death further validates their accuracy. But Jamie vows to fight, regardless of what fortune tellers say.

Cersei sees Myrcella

Cersei seeing the lifeless body of Myrcella for the first time.

Back at the Holy Sept, Queen Margaery is still in her sack cloth receiving a “good cop, bad cop” routine from Septa Unella and the High Sparrow. They want her to confess so she can return to being queen, but Margaery insists she did nothing wrong and just wants to see her brother.

The Queen and the High Sparrow

The Queen and the High Sparrow

Meereen

I really hope for stronger work for the rest of the season from Tyrion and Varys, but tonight’s scene did not give me high hopes. Their conversation seemed to only serve one purpose: to show how terrible things are in Meereen after Dany’s departure last season. Varys does speak the language better and does have his “little birds” trying to find the man who is behind the “Sons of the Harpy.” But mostly, this scene is just to show the city Tyrion is now responsible for is burning (literally). I expect better from Tyrion in the coming weeks.

Tyrion and Varys

Tyrion and Varys discussing their situation in Meereen

Meanwhile, Daenary’s friend with benefits and forever friend zone are seeking out her trail. Jorah and Daario spot the giant circle of tracks where Dany was taken captive at the end of last season. Jorah discovers Dany’s ring laying in the middle, and knows she’s been taken by the Dothraki. And being that he spent the entire first season with them, he knows that could be a bad thing.

The Mother of Dragons begins this season as a captive, coming full circle from where she started the series as a prisoner to the Dothraki. Though as we will find out, this is a different Dothraki horde than the one Khal Drogo led. If they had known who she was (and that she could speak their language), they wouldn’t have openly talked about all the dirty things they wanted to do with her (or maybe they would have anyway, I mean these are Dothraki savages after all).

Dany before Moro

Daenarys before Khal Moro.

And it looks as if Khal Moro, the man leading this particular Khalasar, planned on making some “white haired, pale skinned” babies with Dany. But the “Mother of Dragons” tells him who she is, quoting her 3,000 names, changing Moro’s attitude when she says she was the wife of Khal Drogo. He cuts the ropes that were holding her captive, but says something about a temple where she must go because she’s the wife of a former Khal. So it only took Dany one five minute scene of the season premiere to get in the good graces of a Dothraki horde.

Dorne

I had really high hopes that last year’s disaster that was Dorne would rebound this season. The reason for my optimism was because I thought Doran Martell, the Prince of Dorne, would respond to Ellaria Sand’s betrayal poisoning of Myrcella and bring the Sand Snakes to heel.

Well, the disaster continues. We are only in Dorne for two minutes when Ellaria and Tyene (the third Sand Snake) stab Doran and Areo Hotah (Doran’s personal guard) to death after he receives word of Myrcella’s death. Ellaria tells Doran “you did nothing” when Elia and Oberyn (his siblings) died. Later, Doran’s son Trystane is on a boat when Obara stabs him in the back of the head. Now, why was Trystane on a different boat than his betrothed? And are Obara and Nymeria heading to King’s Landing or do they plan on turning that boat around?

Dorne

Doran talking to Ellaria before his death as Areo Hotah and Tyene Sand look on.

I don’t often get upset when the show makes changes from the book, but the Prince of Dorne (who in the text is pragmatic and calculating, only acting when he has the resources he needs to) is reduced to a weak cripple who made no impact on the series at all. It’s as if the show saw how bad Dorne was last season and wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. We’ll see if anything useful can be made of Ellaria and the Sand Snakes this season, but I have serious doubts about that.

Braavos

Arya has taken on new role for the faceless men, playing the part of a blind beggar. The goal of this is teach her to listen, since people don’t notice blind beggar’s, they are likely to have conversations around them that otherwise would be kept quiet. The Waif arrives and throws a stick at Arya, telling her to fight. Of course, Arya is brutally bad fighting blind with a stick (at least she is in episode one). She receives a bloody lip from the Waif as it looks like it’s going to be a very humbling season for our favorite little assassin.

Arya fighting blind

Arya and the Waif fighting in the streets.

The Wall

Our feature presentation of the evening begins right where season five left off: with Jon Snow’s body laying in the middle of the snow. Daavos and a number of men who were still loyal to Jon in the Night’s Watch approach the body and secure it, taking it to a room and locking the door. Dolorous Edd wants revenge and doesn’t care if he dies to get it, but Daavos has a more practical solution. He sends Edd to seek help (I have a pretty good guess as to who, but will have to wait to find that out).

Jon Snow's Pall Bearers Two

Daavos and men loyal to Jon Snow looking over his body.

Alister Thorne calls a meeting of all the men of the Night’s Watch to inform them of the murder of their Lord Commander. And though the hall is greatly divided, Thorne does take full responsibility. He says all they’ve been fighting for would’ve been destroyed and Jon been allowed to continue his practice of catering to the Wildlings. Keep in mind, Thorne has yet to see the Whitewalkers in all their glory.

Thorne later goes knocking on the door where the body of Jon Snow is being kept. He gives terms to Daavos, telling him they have until nightfall to surrender. Daavos doesn’t believe for a second any of them will survive if that door opens. But he does think Melisandre could be of service (talk about coming around to appreciating someone you previously despised), telling the men of the Night’s Watch guarding Snow’s body, “I’ve seen what she can do.”

ALlister Thorne

Thorne gives until nightfall to see the body turned over.

As for the Red Woman, it’s a real contrast now to see her having so many doubts. Melisandre has always been one of the most confident characters in the show, never appearing to doubt her action for even a second. But knowing she was wrong about Stannis has Melisandre showing self-doubt for the first time. And add Jon Snow’s death, a man she saw in the flames fighting at Winterfell, and the red priestess may want to find another career.

Of course, none of that was the center of Melisandre’s story this night. In the final scene, Melisandre disrobes for about the 100th time. She’s got a hot body and the producers are willing to find any excuse to show it on screen. But then Melisandre removes her necklace and those curves start to sag as an old woman who is likely hundreds of years old appears on screen and looks in the mirror, ready for bed. Feel free to keep that necklace on in the future, Melisandre.

Melisandre without the necklace

Melisandre without the necklace

Of Note

-I wondered at the end of last season why Ghost did not come to the aid of Jon Snow as he was being stabbed to death. We see him tonight locked up in his kennel, a nice job by the show tying up what would’ve been a really perplexing loose end. Yes, Ghost is a beast with some mystical power to sense danger, but he doesn’t have hands that can open locked doors.

-The decision to have Grynn and Pip die at the Wall Battle in season four created an issue tonight. With Sam off to be a Maester, Dolorous Edd was the only loyalist left to defend the body of the Lord Commander. They had to pull a couple of random bodies(men who I think of like the red shirts from Star Trek) from out of nowhere to give a sense that anybody at the Wall liked Jon. I understand the Wall battle needed some loss, but it hurt the narrative just a bit here.

-Allister Thorne mentioned that Bowen Marsh and Othell Yarwyck were the men who helped him mastermind Jon Snow’s murder. They are the first steward and first builder of the Night’s Watch. Marsh is the one who leads the attack in the books, but I think Thorne was the better choice for the show.

-Remember during the prophecy Cersei received as a girl that she was told she would become queen and have three kids, but her king would have 16. She was also told all three of her kids would die. Will Tommen make it through alive this season?

-A refresher on Doran’s siblings: I don’t think much is needed to remember Oberyn. But Elia was raped and murdered by the Mountain when the Lannisters sacked King’s Landing before Robert became king (“You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children!!!”)

-Some may be surprised that the Dothraki did not recognize Daenarys right away being she was Khaleesi over a large hoard not that long ago. But there are numerous Dothraki hoards, not just one, that roam around led by Khal’s who showed the strength to lead. It was a better choice to have her run into one who didn’t see her use black magic that led to their Khal’s death.

-Is Daavos really so quick to forgive Melisandre? This is a woman whose decisions led the man he called king to ride to his death. Now, I don’t think Daavos knows about Shireen’s death yet. But he may just see the need at the moment as far greater than past grievences.

Questions

-Will Jon Snow come back to life next week or stay dead?

-Will Dolorious Edd return with the help he was sent to get?

-What’s in store for Dany in that temple?

-Can we please give Tyrion some witty banter next week?

-Will the remaining characters of Dorne be of any use the rest of this season?

Next week’s episode title is “Home.” We’ll see what that’s all about next week.

 

 

 

 

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Jeff Merrick

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