Season six of Game of Thrones has finally arrived! I spent a good chunk of my public holiday weekend binge-watching season five and crying with a mixture of excitement and apprehension about season six. Whilst watching season five, I noted that there were quite a number of lows (for me, personally) in comparison to a few intense highs that almost made up for the lows. Although this new season is unknown story territory for me and a lot of other people (because we’ve run out of books, thanks George R R Martin), I’m interested to see where show creators/executive producers/writers/makers of mischief D. B. Weiss and David Benioff take the story of our beloved protagonists and antagonists; whether this direction makes any sense, or whether it’s just directionless.
Let’s get on to the episode! Warning: This post is completely filled to the brim with spoilers.
Firstly, there are no changes to the opening title sequence, so that means we won’t be seeing any new locations this episode. It’s still pretty upsetting to see the Bolton sigil of the flayed man on Winterfell. Meanwhile, this episode is directed by Jeremy Podeswa, who also directed the Emmy award winning episode of last season, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken“, as well as “Kill the Boy“. I quite enjoy his directorial style.
We begin the episode at the Wall. Jon Snow’s direwolf, Ghost, is howling, because Jon Snow is still dead after the events of the finale of season five where he was stabbed to death by his fellow brothers of the Night’s Watch. Davos Seaworth, my favourite bro of all time, finds Jon dead. Unfortunately this scene is too dark for my television to handle, much like most of the House of Black and White scenes from last season, so my visibility was pretty poor and I couldn’t even see any of the nice direction by Podeswa. Jon’s friends come to his rescue and take him to safety inside, but unfortunately, he is definitely dead. There’s a lot of blood lost. Davos and Jon’s friends now have a pretty legitimate reason not to trust Alliser Thorne or the rest of the Night’s Watch who rebelled against Jon Snow for bringing the wildlings south of the Wall. Davos and friends send Jon’s trusted companion Dolorous Edd off to help in some way, and I’m wondering whether he’s going to bring the wildlings to Jon’s defense. The Red Priestess Melisandre enters and sees Jon dead – she appears visibly saddened, but I wonder what her agenda is?
Meanwhile, resident sourpuss slash general scumbag Alliser Thorne holds a big meeting with what remains of the Night’s Watch, and admits to killing Jon Snow as a result of Jon’s poor decision making in allowing the wildlings south of the Wall which would have brought ruin to the Night’s Watch apparently. He fully admits to committing treason however also notes that he never disobeyed Jon’s orders whilst he was Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, which is a good point. However, Thorne appears to be forgetting the massive army of the undead which waits for the Night’s Watch north of the Wall. Davos and Jon’s friends plan to kill Thorne and all the others who killed Jon.
Back at Winterfell, Ramsay Bolton sees his girlfriend Myranda is dead after Theon pushed her off the side of castle last season. He makes a nice speech but ultimately allows her to be eaten by the hounds instead of being buried or cremated. Typical. We later see Ramsay walking with his father Roose Bolton who confirms that Stannis is dead (ffffffuuuuuuu; however we haven’t yet seen his body, so I still have high hopes that this is all a big joke). Roose makes the great point to Ramsay that whilst he did succeed in defeating the Baratheon army which came for Winterfell, they were depleted and tired, and it will be much more difficult to defeat a fresh Lannister army who will be more prepared for victory. Sansa (heir to Winterfell) and Theon (heir to the Iron Islands) are gone, and Ramsay’s claim as the heir to House Bolton is on shaky ground as Roose is expecting a son by his new wife, Walda Frey. My bet is that Ramsay is going to probably murder or otherwise maim Walda Frey to secure his claim as the only son of Roose Bolton.
We then cut to Sansa and Theon (also known as Reek, but whom I will henceforth call Theon), who are on the loose, escaping through the snow, running away from the Bolton hounds through a freezing river. Theon and Sansa huddle inside a tree and I can’t help but be really happy that Theon is finally reclaiming some of his agency in protecting her. Theon suggests that they escape to the Wall as Jon is Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch there and it’s a bit awkward because you almost wish these characters had phones to contact each other so that they know what the news is. The Bolton soldiers find Theon and Sansa, but before they are killed, my favourites Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne show up to save the day! They decimate the Bolton soldiers and Brienne swears her loyal service to Sansa, as ordered by her mother Catelyn Stark before she was murdered by the Boltons in season two.
Brienne swearing her service to Sansa was one of my favourite scenes of this episode. You can’t help but feel a little bit misty-eyed about how much pain it has taken for these characters to get from A to B. The last time Brienne and Sansa met, it was before Sansa was married to Ramsay Bolton, whilst Sansa was being maneuvered and manipulated by Littlefinger for his own means. Sophie Turner’s acting as Sansa is also improving every season. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of this group (Sansa, Theon, Brienne and Pod) in future episodes.
Back at King’s Landing, Cersei hears word that a boat from Dorne is arriving. Unfortunately, it is Jaime returning with her daughter, the Princess Myrcella, who has been poisoned and killed by Ellaria Sand at the end of last season. Cersei notes that the boat bears a shrouded corpse – recalling the words from her prophecy by Maggy the Frog at the beginning of last season, that she will have three children, and gold will be their crowns, and gold their shrouds. Cersei and Jaime discuss death, and they promise to take back what is theirs. They seem to be maybe back in love with each other again. In any case, I do believe that Lena Headey’s performance as Cersei Lannister is the best performance on this show. Her portrayal of the emotional push and pull of someone who knows they might be a bit rotten on the inside but wants the best for their children is kind of beautiful.
Margaery Tyrell is also still in jail and asking after her brother, Loras. Unfortunately she won’t confess anything, so she’s still in jail for now.
In Dorne, Ellaria Sand is with Prince Doran Martell. He speaks of envying his brother, Oberyn Martell, who was killed in a trial by combat in season four. Some chatting happens and then Ellaria and her daughter (one of the Sand Snakes sisters, daughters of Oberyn) kill Doran and his loyal guard Areo Hotah because they find out about Princess Myrcella being poisoned and killed. They make the point that the people of Dorne do not respect him as he did nothing when his sister Elia was raped and murdered, and also did nothing when Oberyn was killed. She says “weak men will never rule Dorne again”, which makes me think that perhaps Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes will rule in Dorne from here on out, which could be interesting. Meanwhile, the other two Sand Snakes kill Prince Trystane in a ship which is heading for King’s Landing.
Rant time. It doesn’t really make sense that the Sand Snakes and Ellaria would kill of Prince Doran and Prince Trystane if their whole goal is to avenge Oberyn and maintain the power of Dorne and House Martell. What kind of vengenace for Oberyn is killing his beloved brother and nephew and literally putting his House into extinction? Poor storytelling, and unforgivably bad, fake Spanish accents. I’m really not a fan of the Dorne storyline.
Tyrion and Varys then walk through Meereen; the city is ruined after what happened in episode nine of the last season. There’s a nice joke about Tyrion’s rusty use of the Valyrian language. Daenerys Targaryen is no longer popular in Meereen, and is now seen as one of the Masters who rules the city, rather than as a liberator of slaves, as she wished to present herself. There is a Red Priest in the city who preaches about Daenerys’ importance as queen, but unlike Cersei in King’s Landing who reinstated the Faith Militant who now cause havoc in the city, Tyrion recognises that the intermingling of religion and politics is a problem and doesn’t look kindly on the Red Priest. Tyrion and Varys note that a general sense of fear has brought the city to a standstill, and the streets are deserted. There is some lovely direction by Podeswa as we see Tyrion and Varys from many different angles; from inside buildings and behind objects, as if there are many eyes watching them. A bell rings and people run from somewhere, and it turns out that Daenerys’ fleet of ships is being entirely burned. Tyrion rightly comments that now they can no longer sail back to Westeros, they’re now definitely stuck in Meereen for some time.
Daario and Jorah look for Daenerys in the field where we last saw her, finding the charred remains of a ram which must have been burned by big dragon Drogon. Jorah pretty much admits to Daario that he loves Daenerys, which is awkward. Jorah looks at his wrist, and the greyscale which he acquired last season has spread. A big circle in the grass made by a massive Dothraki horde is found, with Daenerys’ ring in the middle. They postulate that a Dothraki horde must have taken Daenerys.
We then see Daenerys, who is being marched to places unknown with a Dothraki horde, guided by two gross dudes who make some gross comments about her body. Daenerys is having a tough time and is whipped to keep walking, but to her credit, it appears that she knows that listening to people talk is how she’ll gain power in this situation; having learned the Dothraki language after being immersed in its culture in the first season, as wife to Khal Drogo. Daenerys is taken to see a new Khal, Khal Moro. Daenerys reveals that she can speak Dothraki and regains some power, however she also reveals she was Khal Drogo’s wife before he died. Widows of Khals in Dothraki culture are meant to live out the rest of their days at the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen, in a sort of convent, being venerated and respected, living a nun-like lifestyle. In a way, she is freed from the cruelty of Khal Moro and his Dothraki horde, however she is also trapped within that culture in another manner entirely. I am guessing that Daario and Jorah will show up and liberate her from nun life.
We then meet Arya Stark in Braavos – still blind after the murderous events of last season’s finale, begging for coins. The waif from the House of Black and White arrives and beats her up with a big stick whilst Arya tries to defend herself. My guess is that Arya is being trained to use her senses; to use senses other than sight so that she can become the ultimate assassin. I vaguely recall that they did something like this in the books, but I can’t remember the specifics of it anymore.
Back at the Night’s Watch, Thorne and friends go to Davos’ room where he and Jon’s friends are guarding Jon’s body. They are told to surrender peacefully by nightfall, but please everyone note the crossbows that are pointed in Davos’ general direction; Thorne is not to be trusted whatsoever.
Luckily, lady Melisandre is here to save the day! In the first female nudity moment of the season, Melisandre removes her clothes, and the jewel in her necklace glows as she takes it off. Melisandre is revealed to actually be a decrepit old woman, and her beautiful, youthful façade is a glamour that hides her real self. She is hundreds of years older than her appearance, and naturally as a result of that, seems pretty tired. She goes to bed. The end!
I have to say that Melisandre actually being a very old woman is not much of a surprise to me, since there have been a couple of hints in the show about this. I remember Melisandre said to Stannis in approximately season two that she had seen many more battles than he had, alluding to a much older age. However, if they’re trying to tell us that the necklace is what’s keeping her young appearance up, then I call BS on that since she was naked in a bathtub a couple of seasons ago and wasn’t wearing it then and looked as beautiful as ever. Long story short, this reveal tells us that Melisandre is a lot more powerful than expected. If Melisandre is powerful enough to keep that façade up all day every day, then what else can she do with her powers? I wonder!
I quite enjoyed this episode. It put us back in the time and place of a number of characters, but not all of the faces we’ll see this season. It hinted at some interesting beginnings, but landed on a weaker ending in which someone actually just goes to bed. I’m not sure this is the best season opened of the series’ six seasons, and I note that it began in a bit of a different manner than usual – launching us straight into the story rather than giving us a little intro teaser moment like they usually do to get us settled before the action begins. What did you guys think?
Judging by the preview for episode two, which is entitled “Home”, next episode we finally get to see what Bran has been doing for the past year whilst everyone else has been having adventures, we get to see Cersei versus the royal guard, Brienne and Sansa trying to find Arya, Ramsay and Roose Bolton trying to find Sansa, Jaime versus the Sparrows, some Wall matters, and apparently Tyrion finally gets face to face with a dragon! Genuinely looking forward to what’s next for our fun friends.