REVIEW: Game of Thrones 6.01 ‘The Red Woman’ – GoT has not lost its ability to stun fans
Warning: This review contains spoilers for Game of Thrones 6.01 ‘The Red Woman’, which first aired in the UK at 2am. Please click back if you are waiting for the 9pm repeat and do not wish to be spoiled.
There was so much discussion on what might happen in the premiere episode of Game of Thrones season six, it seemed impossible for it to include any twists that had not already been discussed at length by fans. The season five finale invited and received a ton of speculation, and yet ‘The Red Woman’ still managed to deliver a couple of decent surprises.
It was in the moments that hadn’t been so diligently foraged by fans that Thrones was able to shock. When it was revealed that the sixth season premiere was titled ‘The Red Woman’, many fans jumped to the conclusion that Red Priestess Melisandre – conveniently located at Castle Black – would raise fallen Lord Commander Jon Snow from the dead. However, Game of Thrones would never be that crude.
Melisandre did have a role to play, but it was far from what fans might have expected. In a chilling end to the episode, Mel removes all her clothes for bed, including her ruby necklace. Firstly in a reflection in the mirror and then in full glory, we learn what she truly is. What consequences will this have for future episodes? It seems that the ruby necklace may be the source of Melisandre’s powers. We know now what she is without it, but what could someone else be if in possession of it?
The Jon Snow question received as little attention in this episode as I expected. His body remains – unburnt – in the hands of Ser Davos Seaworth and Snow’s few remaining loyalists, who find themselves trapped and expecting to be killed by new unelected Night’s Watch leader Ser Alliser Thorne and his men. While Jon’s body remains intact I will retain hope, but I doubt whatever happens next for Jon (and something surely must) will happen before the latter episodes of this season’s run.
The most exciting and only other surprising part of this episode was in a scene few spared much thought for. The fallout over Myrcella’s death was supposed to be Cersei’s burden in King’s Landing. The failure to recognise what Ellaria’s actions could mean for her own future and that of Prince Doran of Dorne was an oversight that was rewarded with pure, gory joy – a brutal Jon Snow-style mutiny against Doran, led by Ellaria and her daughters. Even eye candy Trystane was not exempt from the bloodshed. What is next for Ellaria and Dorne? Will she wage war on the Lannisters as well? If she is as cruelly efficient as with her murder of Myrcella, Tommen will not last until the end of the season.
As with other premiere episodes of Game of Thrones, ‘The Red Woman’ offered scenes with most series regulars, but never delivered the depth that we craved. It is the con of having such a large cast and so many interweaving story lines. We will have to wait until later episodes to learn what happens next to Sansa, Theon, Brienne and Pod; Cersei’s grief; Arya’s blindness and the attack at the port of Meereen. This episode was more of a reminder that they still exist, and a refresher of how last season ended.
A highlight of ‘The Red Woman’ was Danaerys’ staunch refusal to submit to her Dothraki captors, powerfully using her smarts and language to reach an outcome where she would not be harmed. She has come a long way across six seasons. She is set to go further, however: she is being taken to Vaes Dothrak, the capital city of the Dothraki and home of widowed Khaleesi. It was where she was supposed to quietly go when Drogo died, instead of finding new people to rule. Can she work her magic at the Dothraki capital to retain her freedom? It would be a shame for Daario and Jorah to find her before she could find a way to intelligently escape the situation alone – Emilia Clarke as Dany is always wonderful to watch.
A notable absence from this episode was Bran. Where is he, after we were told so much of Isaac Hempstead-Wright’s return to the series? Perhaps Game of Thrones hopes to do his storyline justice by allowing it more time in an episode not so crammed with titbits from other characters. If this is the case, it will be warmly welcomed.
‘The Red Woman’ showcased both the best (the surprises, the bloody violence, the ability to dictate water cooler discussions) and the worst (the over-large cast and lack of attention offered to each plot) of Game of Thrones. However, despite a solid ten months of discussion on what was next for the characters of Westeros, it still managed to surprise – a difficult and impressive feat. Hopefully now the series can slow down a bit and focus more clearly on the characters we love throughout the rest of the season.