‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 Episode 1 Recap: The Red Woman

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Game of Thrones Season 6 episode 1 Joe Naufahu and Emilia Clarke

Joe Naufahu and Emilia Clarke in ‘Game of Thrones’ (Photo by Macall B. Polay/Courtesy of HBO)

After what seems like years but was actually only a very long 10 months, HBO’s Game of Thrones returned with the premiere of season six on April 24, 2016. We left Jon Snow dead (as the producers adamantly claimed over and over again) at the end of season five and Daenerys lost who knows where after her dragon saved her life but dumped her in the middle of nowhere. Last we saw of the Queen of Dragons she was being circled by hundreds of Dothraki on horseback without Khal Drago to rescue her. Jamie Lannister was heading home with his dead daughter and Cersei was finally back in the castle after enduring the walk of shame.

Season five’s finale also found poor Sansa escaping from her sadistic husband Ramsay Bolton with the help of an unlikely hero, Theon Greyjoy. Meanwhile, Arya was blinded for dishonoring the Many Faced God with her impulsive actions. And let’s not forget Brienne of Tarth carried out a death sentence on Stannis (Stephen Dillane) the day after he burned his own daughter at the stake at the urging of the Red Woman/Red Witch/Melisandre. Wow, so much heartache and drama, but all most Game of Thrones fans care about is what’s happening with Jon Snow. I’m standing strong with the “no way is he dead” group until I see his body completely destroyed.

And without further ado, let’s check out what actually went down in episode one of season six titled The Red Woman:

After a lengthy montage of scenes from season five’s finale, season six kicks off with wind whistling and the sound of Ghost howling. Jon Snow’s body has been left in the snow on a bed of his own blood. He looks 100% dead. Ghost chews at a locked door to try to get to his master and finally Sir Davos (Liam Cunningham) comes outside to find out why Ghost is so upset. Sir Davos had no idea Jon (Kit Harington) was murdered until he spots the body in the snow, and neither did any of Jon’s loyal men who quickly gather up the stiff corpse and take it inside. Sir Davos lingers a bit, staring at the bloodstain. Why? Does he see something in the snow? Inquiring minds want to know, but that’s left unanswered as inside the room Jon’s friends gently touch his chest and then shut his unseeing eyes. Sir Davos wants to know how many of the Night’s Watch are still trustworthy and learns only the men in the room are definitely on Jon’s side – along with Ghost, of course, who can fight better than most men. The Red Witch (Carice van Houten) joins the group, looking sorrowfully at Jon’s body. She says she saw him in the flames fighting at Winterfell, and Sir Davos tells her he knows nothing about flames but Jon is definitely gone so he won’t be doing any fighting at Winterfell (or anywhere else for that matter). She strokes his cheek – come on, bring him back to life! – and the scene switches to the murderers and members of the Night’s Watch gathered in the meeting room.

Alliser Thorne (Owen Teal) announces Jon Snow is dead to the gathered brothers and confirms he and his officers killed the commander of the Night’s Watch. Some men yell out that Thorne and the others are murderers and traitors, but Thorne will have none of it. “Loyalty is the foundation on which the Night’s Watch is built,” says Thorne, claiming he’s never disobeyed an order and Jon Snow would have destroyed the Night’s Watch. He’s ranting about Jon giving over their land to the wildlings and how that decision would have ended the Night’s Watch so the officers had to end Snow’s life. That seems to quell the group’s anger. They really gave up far too easily. This would have been the perfect time to take down the duplicitous Thorne and his minions.

Back with Jon, Ghost – ever the loyal friend and companion – licks his master’s frozen hand. Jon’s friends want to make a stand and swear they will die protecting Jon’s body with Ghost’s help. Sir Davos suggests they recruit the wildlings to help out.

And now we move on to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) mourning – in his own twisted fashion – his dead girlfriend. He vows her pain will be paid for “a thousand times over.” And now for a typical Ramsay gross-out moment: there will be no burial or burning for Myranda, she’ll be feed to the hounds so as not to waste good meat. Ramsay’s dad, Roose, arrives and tells his psycho bastard son they need Sansa or they won’t have the backing of the North. Ramsay’s sent out people to fetch her, but Roose says it’s imperative she returns or the family will be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 1 Alfie Allen and Sophie Turner

Alfie Allen and Sophie Turner in ‘Game of Thrones’ (Photo Courtesy of HBO)

Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Theon (Alfie Allen) run through the forest in deep snow, barely ahead of their pursuers. The dogs are nearly barking at their heels when Theon says they have to cross the freezing river or get ripped to shred by the hounds. With no other option available, they cross the river and emerge in the forest on the other side. They’re safe for a bit and find shelter in a fallen tree. Theon hugs Sansa both for warmth and to calm her down as she’s on the verge of a breakdown at this point. Just then the dogs bark again (they also crossed the river) and Theon sacrifices himself to lead them away. Before making himself known to the hounds, he tells Sansa to head north to Castle Black where Jon is the commander. (Obviously Jon’s not, but Theon has no way of knowing that.)

Theon makes a stand before the guards, telling them he left Sansa to die in the snow after she broke her leg leaping from Winterfell’s walls. They don’t believe him and of course the hounds sniff her out in her nearby hiding place. One guard says to Theon, “I can’t wait to see what part Ramsay cuts off you this time,” and just then Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christine) and Pod (Daniel Portman) appear to save the day! They cut down guards left and right, even after Brienne is knocked off her horse. Engaged in one-on-one swordplay, Brienne takes down all comers while Pod does his best to finish off the last guard. He’s outmatched and about to be cut down when Theon, once again showing he’s not completely beyond redemption, comes up behind the guard and kills him. Battle over, Brienne kneels at Sansa’s feet and swears by the old gods and new to keep her safe. Sansa vows Brienne shall always have a place by her hearth, reciting the age-old pledge. Sansa’s safe…for the time being.

Cersei (Lena Headey), sporting short hair, is excited to hear her daughter’s ship has finally arrived from Dorne. She thinks Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is bringing back Myrcella and races to meet him at the harbor. Unfortunately, she’s in for more heartache. Can’t say I feel sorry for her, after all she is unrelentingly evil and would have done the same thing if she’d been in Ellaria’s (Indira Varma) position.

After the initial shock of Myrcella’s death, Cersei and Jamie discuss dead bodies, remembering the first one they ever saw was there mother’s. A gruesome discussion of the decomposition of the dead continues and Cersei ties it into how their daughter will look as she’s lying dead in a crypt. Cersei cries, remembering their daughter was always good and sweet – not mean or jealous like her mom. “I thought if I could make something so good, so pure, maybe I’m not a monster,” says Cersei. She reminds Jamie the witch told her her three children will all die, and she believes in the prophesy. Jamie says f*ck prophesies, they’ll take everything there is because nothing matters but the two of them.

Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham) reads passages to Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer) who’s still locked up. In comes the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), sending Septa Unella away. Margaery just wants her brother but the High Sparrow (who I keep wanting to call the Head Sparrow) won’t tell her anything about Sir Loras. The High Sparrow does cut her some slack, telling her the King misses her and she needs to confess so she can go home to him. But Margaery absolutely refuses to because she has nothing to confess.

Back in Dorne, Ellaria accompanies Prince Dolan Martell (Alexander Siddig) as he reminisces about his brother Oberyn’s life. “Oberyn was born to be an adventurer and I was born to rule,” he says. Then a message arrives with news that Princess Myrcella is dead. Before he can put two-and-two together, the Sand Snakes strike. Ellaria stabs Prince Dolan, leaving him to die a short but painful death. She taunts him as he dies, telling him he did nothing when Elia Martell was raped and murdered or when Oberyn was butchered. “Your son is weak just like you, and weak men will never rule Dorne again,” she replies when he uses his dying breath to ask after his son.


Speaking of Dolan’s son, he’s given his choice of which of two Sand Snakes will kill him. As he squares off with the chosen one, the other spears him through the back of the head all the way through his nose. She cheated and her sister calls her a greedy b*tch, which she is but she doesn’t seem the least bit ashamed of her actions.

And now finally we get to catch up with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) in Meereen. They’re walking through the streets discussing rich people and how they walk as well as Varys’ lack of a penis. Tyrion tries to give a woman on the street clutching her baby a little money, but she thinks Tyrion wants to eat her baby. Varys straightens out the situation. Tyrion needs to figure out these Meereenians pretty quickly if he doesn’t want rumors to spread that he eats children! Tyrion and Varys continue their stroll of the Meereen streets, coming across graffiti that says “Kill the Masters” and “Myhsa is a master.” (Myhsa means mother, and Daenerys was called mother.) They then listen in on a meeting of freed men who are being encouraged to take up arms and, since Daenerys bailed on them by riding her dragon out of the city, fight for themselves. Varys still has no idea who is actually in charge of the Sons of the Harpy, but he has his little birds out trying to gather information. As they continue their stroll, men and women run by, racing away from something. All of the ships in the port are on fire so there will be no returning to Westeros anytime soon.

The visit to Meereen leads into a visit with Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) who are hot on the trail of Dany and her dragon. They discover the spot where the dragon fed (roasted carcasses of animals are a dead giveaway) and ride through the open field below. They talk about how they both want Dany, but all the while Jorah has his eyes glued to the ground as they ride. He stops for a second to check on the progress of the greyscale he secretly became infected with late last season, and then they ride up to an area of trampled ground which Jorah surmises was produced by a horde. In the middle of the beat-down grass Jorah finds the ring Dany took off and left as a breadcrumb for her rescuers. They now suspect the Dothraki have her.

Enter the Dothraki. Thousands of Dothraki slowly make their way through the desert with Dany handcuffed and walking by the leader’s horse. He whips her when she slows down and makes fun of her white hair and pale, pink skin. They have no idea she understands Dothraki and tell her they’ll ask Khal Moro about sharing her once they’re back at camp.

At the Dothraki camp, Khaleesi is brought to Khal Moro and his wives are quick to suggest he should cut off her head. There’s a weird discussion about the best things in life and as he goes to touch her, Dany speaks to him in Dothraki, giving him her full name and credits, ending with Mother of Dragons. He, and his sons, laugh at her and he calls her Queen of Nothing, telling her he will lie with her that night and she will give him a son. She completely disagrees, and his wives reiterate their stance that she’s a witch who should be headless as soon as possible. Dany tells him she was the wife of Khal Drago and that she burnt his body. He asks for her forgiveness – no one can lie with a Khal’s widow, and he cuts her loose. She wants an escort back to Meereen and she’ll give him 1,000 horses (such a deal!), but apparently she didn’t know she’s supposed to live out her days with the other widows of dead Khals so it appears a return visit to Meereen isn’t in the works at this point.

And now we get to catch up with the blind Arya who’s on the street, begging. She’s only received two coins, but she’s listening to everything that’s going on around. Then Waif (Faye Marsay) walks up and asks if she’s listening (which we just pointed out she definitely is) and if anyone is talking to her. Waif makes her fight with a pole and Arya is horrible at it, swinging wildly and getting beat unmercifully. As she’s on the ground, lips bleeding, Waif says, “See you tomorrow,” and walks away.

Back at the Wall, Thorne and his men knock on the door of the room where Jon Snow and his supporters are holed up. Thorne says he doesn’t want to fight and will grant amnesty to all of Jon Snow’s loyal brothers who throw down their arms, and he’ll let Sir Davos go too. Sir Davos asks for mutton if he’s going to make it South without starving. Thorne says he can have some food and he can even bring the Red Woman with him, but he must surrender by nightfall or it will end in blood. Sir Davos thanks him and says they’ll get back to him with an answer. We all know what that answer’s going to be, don’t we? Sir Davos says he’s been running from men like that his whole life and knows they’ll be slaughtered if they open the door. Davos thinks the Red Woman will be able to help them. “You haven’t seen her do what I’ve seen her do,” says Sir Davos when they ask how one woman can get them out of this situation.

In her room, the titular Red Woman looks into a mirror and strips. She stares at her reflection, looking completely forlorn. She takes off her necklace which stops glowing red and looks again in the mirror, but this time it reflects back a naked, saggy, elderly woman with scraggly hair. She looks centuries old (and she is, according to George R.R. Martin), but why are we seeing this hidden side of her now? She looks incredible sad, as if the death of Jon Snow is the last straw after a series of misinterpretations of the signs. She goes to bed and covers herself in blankets.

Why didn’t the Red Woman help Jon Snow? That’s the end of the episode and still no real Jon Snow answers. No!!! Jon Snow’s body is indeed frozen stiff, but it’s with his loyal friends and Sir Davos. Ghost also licked his hand and is there to protect him from the Night’s Watch. His body is in one piece so it’s still possible he can come back.

Unfortunately, the preview of season six’s second episode shows clips of Cersei, Bran, Sansa, Arya, Ramsay, Jamie, Tyrion and a dragon but not a single clip of a scene with Jon Snow, Sir Davos, the wildlings, or the Night’s Watch. Which, ever the eternal optimist, to me indicates something big’s about to go down at the Wall in episode two.

Season six’s first episode touched base with everyone and even killed off a few supporting characters while advancing the story forward on all fronts. I’m so happy the writers chose to finally let Brienne pledge her service to Sansa (at least one Stark is semi-safe at this point), and the situation in Dorne has become even more interesting now that Dolan Martell and his son are out of the way. Dolan didn’t have much of a backbone but Ellaria is not afraid to stand up for her people and to protect their interests, even if it means war. Jamie’s declared he’s 100% behind Cersei’s actions moving forward, fate be damned. Plus episode one found Dany back among people who, for the moment, don’t want her dead. Overall, Game of Thrones season six episode one was an excellent way to kick off the new season, even without a definitive answer as to what’s up with Jon Snow.

GRADE: B+

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