Game Of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 1 – The Red Woman Review

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★★★★

Game of Thrones fans beware! The night is dark and full of terrors, and this review is full of spoilers. Which could be a scarier prospect.

Welcome back to Westeros! If you're in need of a catch up, you can read this. But we come back to the Seven Kingdoms with everything in disarray. And this episode is all about tragic disappointment for the characters (so, no real change there, then...).

Wall Together Now

Jon Snow's (Kit Harington, even though a dummy would be cheaper) body is found. Davos (Liam Cunningham), Eddison Tollett (Ben Crompton) and some of his friends plan how they could strike back. Melisandre (Carice van Houten) mourns another lost warrior. Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) explains his reasons for killing Jon. Davos has a plan.

If it's Castle Black, it must be Men Standing Around In Leather And Furs Deciding Things. But it's given a little more impetus than the usual scenes of this nature as there's a full-blown revolution cooking away in the castle. Snow's death (however long it lasts) should spur some good drama here. And Melisandre gets another moment to wonder whether her visions are any use to the people she believes in (neither she nor Davos should really be offering their services to anyone, given their combined track record of dead leaders). Nicely played by all concerned, and it's even fun to see Thorne be openly manipulative while trying to convince everyone he's still loyal (surely "don't turn your superior officer into a knife rack" is on page one of the Night's Watch manual?).

A Cold Winterfell

Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) mourns a loss and worries for his future. Theon "Reek" Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) make good their escape, but are tracked down by soldiers and hounds. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman) come to their rescue and Sansa accepts Brienne's oath of service.

Rheon almost – almost – makes us feel sympathy for Ramsay as he mourns the death of Myranda (Charlotte Hope), killed by Reek before he and Sansa did their Murtaugh and Riggs act off of a castle wall. But he's soon back in sneery, evil mode when he commands a servant to feed her body to the dogs. So... at least he's nice to animals? Today?

Meanwhile, Sansa is too cold for this shit as she and Reek flee, trying to cross a freezing river as Ramsay's men and hounds close in. It's so good to see Brienne getting to be a badass again, and the fight scene is brutally real – she's even knocked back a couple of times – but is ultimately triumphant. Brienne and Pod as Batman and Robin? We can see it.

King's Saddening

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is crushed to discover her daughter Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) is dead when brother/lover Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) returns with the assassinated girl's body from Dorne. Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) meets with the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce).

Headey truly can deliver in moments like this. For all the plotting and the sneering, Cersei is still a mother, now fraught with grief. Coster-Waldau, meanwhile, after a season of Jaime largely on the back burner, finds the character's fire as he swears vengeance against those that have done them wrong. Look out people... The Lannisters will be back to full power before you know it, and all we really want is Bronn (Jerome Flynn) fighting alongside them. As for the Margaery scene, it's fine, but feels for now like a rehash of Cersei's suffering under the tender mercies of the Sparrow. Hopefully this will lead to Mags plotting her own return.

Dorne To Be Bad

Prince Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) receives word of Myrcella’s death. Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) kills him, and Sand Snakes Nymeria (Jessica Henwick) and Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes) slaughter Doran's son Trystane (Toby Sebastian).

Ellaria has HAD IT with Doran, who did nothing as her family was killed. So she's taking things into her own hands. Who saw quite this much slaughter in Dorne coming quite this quickly? But the power struggle should prove fruitful, especially if it gives the Sand Snakes more to do than just kill people. Still, Trystane had it coming. And that "you're such a greedy bitch" was the best line of the episode.

Mereene Serene?

Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) wander the streets of Mereene trying to get the lay of the land they now technically oversee, and there is more chaos brewing. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) search for Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke).

Everyone's favourite double act returns to lighten the mood, and if you're a fan of just Dinklage and Hill walking and talking like a Westerosi West Wing episode, this is the scene for you. Exposition is doled out, but kept light and breezy even as their situation seems typically dangerous. And that big shot of the ships on fire... Even the ships are being killed this week?

The other big double act of the episode is Jorah and Daario, the wandering warriors. It's remarkable how lucky they are to stumble on Dany's ring (though we suppose the hoof prints around it may have helped), but there's some nice back and forth about age and Jorah hoping to see Dany rule the world. Which will be difficult unless he can find some cure for the lethal Greyscale spreading on his arm.

The Lady Dothraki Protest

Daenerys is brought before Khal Moro (Joe Naufahu) and reveals her connection to the Dothraki. Looks like she'll have to go and live with other former Dothraki widows at the Temple Of Dosh Khaleen in Vaes Dothrak.

A mixed blessing this one, setting Dany's story back to Season One's woman in peril, but at least we still get to see her getting the better of her captors for a brief moment. It's also fun to see someone who couldn't care less about her taking five minutes to rattle off her various titles. And her denying Moro the chance to remove her clothes feels like the show expanding on Clarke's desire to stop doing nude scenes.

Home Of The Braavos

Arya (Maisie Williams), still blind, begs on the street. The Waif (Faye Marsay) challenges her to combat, which does not go well for Arya.

Anyone else have Matt Murdock/Stick flashbacks during this scene? Before you know it, Arya will be listening for heartbeats and fighting crime as a vigilante. A minor scene here, but setting up the chance that the Many-Faced God's servants might give her another chance. Plus, it's Arya, and we always want her to succeed because she's awesome. Williams plays the hell out of her blind confusion and fear.

The Real Red Woman

Melisandre, alone in her chamber, removes her amulet and reveals her true self: an ancient woman who quietly goes to bed.

We're back at Castle Black for one last shocker of the night. We've had death most of the way through, so the show must be ready for some nudity. But kudos to show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss for using it for much more impact than usual as Melisandre strips and then transforms into her actual self. It's not often you feel true sympathy for someone who has done terrible things, but sometimes this show can make it happen. A great way to end a strong season opener, with the promise of much more to come.

READ THIS: Who are Jon Snow's real parents?

In summary

Highlight: That emotional final reveal, Melisandre as she truly is.

Lowlight: The Brothraki sniggering duo wondering about the colour of Dany's hair in places other than her head. Khal Drogo would've had their heads off in seconds.

Kill of the week: Goodbye Doran Martell. Stabbed through the heart, and Ellaria Sand's to blame.

Quote of the week: “Whoever you are, wherever you go, someone in this city wants to murder you..." Tyrion, who could be reciting the show's basic theme.

MVP: Brienne Of Tarth. Riding to Sansa's aid, and probably glad to be doing something other than waiting for a candle to show up in a window.

Random thought: Temple Of The Dosh Khaleen sounds like an unused Indiana Jones title.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Game of Thrones season 6

Season 6, Episode review guide

Episode 2 - Home

Episode 3 - Oathbreaker

Episode 4 - Book of the Stranger

Episode 5 - The Door

Episode 6 - Blood of My Blood

Episode 7 - The Broken Man

Episode 8 - No One

Episode 9 - Battle of the Bastards

Episode 10 - The Winds of Winter