‘Game Of Thrones’ Quietly Roars Into Its Sixth Season (TV REVIEW)

[rating=7.00] “The Red Woman”

Boy, that was worth the wait, wasn’t it? Just kidding, it wasn’t. And not just because Game of Thrones usually tends to stumble out of the gate during these season premieres — with the exception of the very first episode, which started the whole thing out quite nicely. Still, after an incredibly disappointing fifth season, the sixth seems to have some real promise, aside from the glaring omission of revealing what’s ultimately to become of Jon Snow. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how this week broke down.

“I can’t speak for the flames, but he’s gone.”

So, the big question that spawned a thousand think-pieces was about Jon Snow’s fate, which was not so much “is he dead,” but much more “how will he come back?” Of course, if you’ve teased an important character’s death for 10 long months, why stop now just because the show is back on the air again? Picking up moments after last season, Sir Davos sees Jon Snow’s body lying where he was ambushed by Alisser Thorne and a handful of of The Night’s Watch and stabbed — a lot. Davos then took his corpse and locked himself in a room inside Castle Black, along with a few men loyal to Jon Snow, his dire wolf Ghost, and Melisandre, whose feigning interest comes from more evidence that her powers have dwindled. Altogether, they’re still vastly outnumbered, and none are being fooled Thorne’s false promise of amnesty if they unbolt the door, and their last hope lies with Edd, who promises to return with reinforcements.

It’s safe to assume Edd was referring to the recently migrated Wildlings, and honestly a Night’s Watch civil war, only with giants, magic, and a direwolf on one side sounds fantastic, and possibly even worth waiting until next week for. As will the answer to following question: if they’re bolted in, how are people getting in and out of that room so easily?

“Do you feel like a victor?”

Speaking of a failed siege on Winterfell, Roose Bolton gives his legitimized son, Ramsay, a condescending congratulatory speech so authentic it could only be delivered from a truly disappointed father. They may have won the most battle, but Roose warns of their betrayal of the crown, and an army of decidedly unhappy Lannisters, guaranteed to be “well-trained and well-provisioned,” will pose a much greater challenge in the days ahead. If that weren’t enough to worry about, Sansa has gone missing with Reek (who seems back on track to becoming more like Theon Greyjoy again), which means Ramsay can’t produce an heir, and his father made a not-at-all subtle assurance that he may lose his claim to his inheritance as a result of all the games he’s played.

It was enough to almost make you feel sorry for Ramsay, if they hadn’t spent the prior scene with him mourning the death of Myranda, his longtime mistress, which he concludes with the very specific orders to feed her corpse to the dogs. Yes, everyone, Ramsay is still the absolute worst.

Ramsay

“…by the old gods and the new.”

As Sansa and Reek/Theon jaunt through the forest and wade across an ice-cold river on the run from a band of Bolton soldiers and hounds, they both finally manage to catch a break. Having spent most of season five staring at a window in the Broken Tower (except, of course, when she really needed to be there), Brienne of Tarth — and Pod — come galloping into action, making short work of the Bolton search party. The hounds, meanwhile, seem to have just up and disappeared in the meantime.

Anyway, Brienne again pledges her sword to Sansa, who takes her up on her offer, and the two exchange the sacred oath. Things seem to be looking up, that is unless they continue to travel north as planned, given that things at Castle Black seem to be on their way from bad to much, much worse.

Theon and Sansa

“Fuck prophecy. Fuck fate. Fuck everyone who isn’t us.”

Back at the capitol, Cersei is still reeling from her literal walk of shame through the streets, surely looking forward to being cheered up by her daughter, Myrcella, who was shipped off to Dorne as part of an arranged marriage back in season two. Of course, that doesn’t happen, because she’s dead, poisoned by Ellaria Sand in the previous episode. Like House Stark, which is also now in ruin, the once powerful dynasty of the Lannisters is dwindling significantly, which Jamie hopes to use as a way to get into the good graces (no pun intended) of his twin sister.

“You have many miles to go.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a stopover in King’s Landing if we didn’t get a reminder of The High Sparrow, still holding Margaery Tyrell in a cell, anxiously awaiting her confession. While The High Sparrow seems to have softened his edge a bit, likely as a tactic to get a confession from her, it is a delightful reminder that King Tommen is completely ineffective as a ruler, which would be reasonable cause for his parents to worry.

“I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Not much to say here, other than Arya’s blind, penniless, and left to beg on the streets of Braavos, but that doesn’t mean her training is over. It’s scenes like this where I wonder if the show’s sadism or the audience’s masochistic tendencies are what really drive its popularity.

Arya Blind

“You’re not a Dornish man. You’re not even our prince.”

You remember how last season every scene that took place in Dorne was borderline unwatchable? Yeah, well, we’re back in Dorne again, and it seems like Prince Doran and Ellaria Sand have made up after he imprisoned her and threatened to execute her if she didn’t stop her multiple attempt to undermine his rule. This, however, does not last long.

Right as Doran gets word about Myrcella’s death, he gets stabbed in the heart, along with his one loyal bodyguard, Areo Hotah, and the only other person in Doran’s entourage that seems shocked by his murder. Ellaria’s scathing “you don’t even know your people” remark was dripping with all the vengeance and bloodlust that makes for a memorable Game of Thrones moment. Too bad it was for such an underdeveloped character. And in Dorne.

Speaking of underdeveloped characters, Trystane Martell bites it — rather gruesomely, too — at the hands of his cousins, who then start infighting over their selfish need to out-kill one-another. Oberyn family get togethers must be extremely awkward.

“We won’t be sailing to Westeros anytime soon.”

It’s unlikely we’ll ever get to see Tyrion and Bronn sharing screen time for the remainder of time Game of Thrones is on the air, but we do get the next best thing with him and Varys. Though it seems incredibly shortsighted (again, no pun intended) of Tyrion to be strolling through the streets of Mereen with no one to guard him but his eunuch spymaster friend, no matter how entertaining it is to see Tyrion muddle his Valyrian when trying to appear as a compassionate ruler. Still, if the time frame of this episode all takes place shortly after the finale, this would mean Tyrion would be strolling through the streets of a town that, just days earlier, had an organized assassination attempt on their queen that he’s ruling in place of.

You’d think Tyrion would be smart enough by now to grab at least a couple members of the Unsullied with him. Granted, the Unsullied haven’t exactly proven to be the best fighters, either. Oh, and someone burned all the ships, so whatever ends up going down in Mereen, there won’t be much in the way of escape (or conquering, but they were nowhere near ready to conquer anything at the moment). Here’s hoping Varys’ little birds bring some encouraging news soon.

Tyrion and Varys

“I’ve been all over the world. There’s no escaping men like us.”

Probably my favorite scene from last night’s episode, and one of the better scenes in quite a while, with Jorah and Daario having a casual back-and-forth where Jorah reveals his undying love of Daenerys, his chosen queen, and the two share a sincere hope to see the world remade after “she’s done conquering it.” For all the undermining, backstabbing, and betrayal, two characters openly discussing their shared vision for a better world seemed almost too pure a moment.

Then again, Jorah does have grayscale, and isn’t sharing that secret with anyone, so it’s not like they were totally on the same page here.

“It is known.”

Jorah finds Daenerys’ wedding, ring, confirming that she’s been captured, and is being marched with a Dothraki army while she overhears every belittling comment made about her, she’s brought before Khal Moro. Despite Daenerys reciting her name and numerous titles in an attempt to gain some kind of respect from her captors, Moro isn’t having any of it — at least at first. Once Daenerys reveals she not only speaks Dothraki, but is the widow of Khal Drogo, she is deemed worthy of respect. That and the promise to live out the rest of her days at Vaes Dothrak, passing the time before her death with the rest of the Dothraki widows.

The lesson here: be careful when name-dropping Dothraki to other Dothraki.

Finally, back to Castle Black, Melisandre goes full-on Room 237 on us, showing us not only the power of her magic, but at how forlorn she’s become at the misguided path it’s led her down. Still, it does leave one lingering question: If Davos and company have until nightfall to agree to Alliser Thorne’s terms of surrender, was she just taking a mid-afternoon nap? Was she going to sleep through everything? Will we find out next week, or will the show continue to string us along, taking notes from The Walking Dead’s approach of treating viewers like some kind of clickbait commodity?

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