“The Woman in Red” is not what she seems.
First things first; You will see spoilers for not just the episode being reviewed but all previous Game of Thrones episodes. You have been warned.
Look out book readers, we are on even footing at last! The entire fanbase reeling as one when we jumped into the unknown for Sunday night’s Game of Thrones season 6 premiere “The Red Woman.” The episode was exactly what was needed, yet still disappointing in the way only a great show can be.
A large portion of the fanbase would agree with me when I say we are coming off the weakest season of Thrones. Season 5 was a recalibration of the world after the climactic events of Season 4, similar to how 2, one of the weaker seasons, was a response in this way to the beheading of Ned. It is in this context that we return to Westeros mere hours after the finale of last season. It is perhaps the most mathematically socialist episode ever, with the way the story at the Wall bookended a series of contained chunks from each moving storyline from last year (Bran is still nowhere to be seen). It is also the densest. But no moment was truly as exciting, in a true fantasy nerd way, as the final scene of “The Red Woman,” so let’s work backwards.
What makes Melisandre’s reveal work is how much it feels like Weiss and Benioff are throwing a bone to the lowest common denominator in reminding viewers how sexy she is. The allure of topless women in Game of Thrones has worn thin long ago. It seems the creators have finally grown aware enough to play it close enough to rote, so that when it turned out the titular red woman is gray instead, the surprise factor is ratcheted up a notch. The image was shocking enough on its own, but the way the reveal played out was classic Thrones. The question of does Melisandre have enough power to resurrect a dead Jon Snow may have a clearer answer soon, but for now he remains dead.
It was an interesting choice to lean into how obvious the fake out was during the show’s marketing push, then somehow not address it. Which is not to say Jon Snow did not have an impact on the episode, in fact his death has divided the The Night’s Watch more than a lifetime of whining. He just may not be back in a corporeal sense for a few more weeks. And that’s just fine, because there is plenty else going on in Westeros (and beyond).
The hour bounced between character vignettes rapidly, with the best being Brienne’s daring rescue of Sansa and Theon (back to Theon) along with one of Podrick’s finest moments that all culminated in someone finally allowing Brienne to do her duty. Although the episode didn’t dig too deep into any one storyline, it’s simply good to be back. Good to hear Tyrion and Varys exchange dick(less) jokes, good to see some hope in Arya’s miserable life, good to see the Lannisters reunited.
On that note, one of the best parts of early season “Game of Thrones” has always been seeing which groups of characters will be paired up. The trend this season tends to be reunion, perhaps as we push towards the ending everything will come back to the beginning. Jaime has returned to a distraught Cersei and Daenerys to a new clan of Dothraki. Neither reunions are welcome and both catch all parties seem caught off-guard. The world is not what it once was, and neither are those who inhabit it…
Or don’t inhabit it, as it would be criminal not to include this week’s most world shattering event: the murder of both male aires of Dorne. Most of the time in Dorne last season was spent, well it’s hard to remember now isn’t it? The vipers have always been compelling on the surface level, but never got the proper screen time they deserved. They didn’t get much more than five minutes this time around, but that was par for the course this week.
All the jumping around in “The Red Woman” seemed preliminary, focused on a recap and on good pacing or storytelling. Do a whole season like that and it will surely be a disaster, but for the premiere it worked as well as it could have. The best Thrones episodes are focused, and moving forward there sure is a lot to focus on. So let’s cross our fingers — and our hearts — and hope for our least favorite characters to finally die.
Most Shocking Moment: The woman in gray
Biggest Groan: The Dothraki apparently aren’t aware of fact checking
Most Important Deaths: Doran and Trystane Martell
Jon Snow Update: On a table. Dead.