Game of Thrones is back, finally! Season 6 was the latest start in the shows history and we got answers to some questions while yet more questions are posed. With rumors floating around about there only being two seasons left after the one that is underway it’s hard not to try to begin connecting all the dots and look at the implications of even the subtlest actions of each character. The Starks are still scattered, old orders are fragile, magic and ascetic religions are on the rise, armies are comprised of both the living and the dead—the stage is set for the end. This post is dark and full of spoilers.
Let’s start with the title of the episode, “The Red Woman.” The title clearly is referring to the biggest reveal of the episode: Melisandra—the seductive, fire-haired woman is really a shriveled several hundred year old hag. The Red Woman is an illusion powered by the ruby gem that has been locked onto Melisandra’s throat in a necklace that she does not remove.
It seems that the role of magic will increase as we approach the end of A Song of Ice and Fire. It has always been a part of the story as a back drop, existing but always experienced through small flashes of the supernatural. Ser Davos teases Melisandre’s power in the end scene saying, “You haven’t seen her do the things that I have seen her do.” Davos saw the shadow birth but I don’t think Davos has seen this and I am really not sure if this helps or hurts Jon Snow. She is not devising a plan with Davos and the men of the Night’s Watch loyal to Jon Snow. In fact, she looks tired and worn down from 400 years of searching for a savior, burning children and falsely putting her faith in Stannis Baratheon. Jon is still dead and she needs a nap.
Yes, Jon Snow is dead. There are various theories about Jon’s possible ressurection (and parentage!) still swirling. One of the most interesting is the idea that he might be able to warg into the body of his direwolf, Ghost. His dying word in the book was, “Ghost,” and what this could mean it is difficult to say but it certainly is not an accident. It was interesting how the episode opened with Ghost howling over a long shot of Jon’s dead body in the snow. While we got the question about Jon Snow’s status among the living, we have so many questions now about how it is he will be brought back from the dead.
The show has a bit of closure with 2 storylines, the first is the Dorne plot. With the assassination of Prince Doran and his remaining loyal soldiers, the Sand Snakes have taken over Dorne. Ellaria Sand wants revenge for the murders of Elia and Oberyn Martell, which she perceives to be the fault of the Lannisters. This plot is among the muddiest and it’s hard to see any kind of endgame for the Sand Snakes in Dorne. The Lannisters have a much better funded, trained and equipped army. How will these short term political moves enacted out of revenge benefit the people of Dorne in any way?
In fact, I think it could actually be the beginning of the story of Daenarys coming to Westeros. Perhaps, Daenarys Targaryen will succeed in conquering Dorne where Aegon Targaryen could not. Either way, what was becoming a long and drawn out plotline has now been succinctly wrapped up. I would not be surprised if we do not go back to Dorne for the duration of the season. When we do go back, however, I will be rooting for the Lannisters. George R.R. Martin (GRRM) is so good at making me hate characters only to find their humanity fullly redeeming.
The second plotline that gained a bit of closure, but one which I am sure we will return to at somepoint this season is the story of Sansa Stark. Hearing Ramsey Bolton tell his guards to feed the only person he seemed to care for to the dogs because she was “good meat” was an additional look at how deeply disturbed he is. For the first time in a VERY long time, it feels like Sansa is now safe. Or, at least as safe as she can be. Brienne of Tarth is as close to a Good character as there is in this world and her oaths mean something. While her protection does not guarantee Sansa’s safety, I do believe that they will now make it to The Wall. Whether or not Jon Snow has been Lazarus’d at that point, we will have to see.
I think that the North will have to be taken back from the Bolton’s before the focus can be put on fighting the dead. What’s even more difficult to fathom is anyone making Southerners care about it in anyway. Jon Snow couldn’t even convince the Night’s Watch about the true reality of the danger they face. It seems like it might take a long time for King’s Landing to start getting cold. But the sixth book in the series is called The Winds of Winter, so I am sure it’s going to get blustery real soon.
Arya, is living out her punishment for stealing from the Many-Faced God as a blind beggar. We see a scene where she is taunted and brutally beaten by one of the servants of the Many-Faced God. This form of punishment is obviously to train her how to fight without her senses, to be more aware and in tune with the world as an assassin, but she still is very confused about what is happening to her.
Despite being in some of the trailers for Season 6, Bran did not appear in the premiere and Rickon (The most forgotten Stark child) is still nowhere to be seen either. The Season 6 trailers trailers showed us scenes of Bran, so we can still anticipate his return. Rickon could be a 30 year old man the next time we see him. Maybe he is just hanging out with Benjen Stark and Gendry at the local tavern.
Lastly, after being captured by the Dothraki and presented to Khal Moro as a slave, Daenerys becomes aware of a tradition that she cannot escape. As a former Khaleesi, the widow of a Khal, she will become a member of a type of religious sect known as the Dosh Khaleen. These are the seers who initially foretold Daenerys’ birth of Rhaego, the stallion that would mount the world. They are the only permanent residents of Vaes Dothrak, the closest thing that Dothraki culture has to a capital. It is a “city” that has no walls, but so large that it could contain every Khalasar should they all return to the city at once. Taking Daenerys to Vaes Dothrak certainly will prevent her from returning to Mereen and sailing to Westeros but Jorah and Daario are out there tracking her.
Overall, it was an episode that was used to set up the final act of Game of Thrones. It will be interesting to see whether or not GRRM publishes The Winds of Winter this year and to see where the stories will overlap or diverge and perhaps the book will give us a look at some actions that we can look forward to in an eventual season 7. As we approach the true battle of the story I am not optimistic about the ability of Man to organize into a coherent force and face the White Walkers but there are so many complexities left to unravel, we’ll see where it goes.