The premiere episode of season 6 of Game of Thrones, ‘The Red Woman,’ gave us just enough of each character to be excited about the rest of the season, but may have kept back too much.
Warning: This review of ‘The Red Woman’ discusses sexual assault.
Most of my friends have ditched this show, but I’m still here and eager to see what happens to the characters I love. Overall, I did enjoy the episode, but the biggest problem with ‘The Red Woman’ was that it left a bit too much unresolved where it matters most right now. You know what I’m talking about. Jon freaking Snow. Alive? Dead? Well, he’s obviously dead but permanently dead? Will he be brought back? I need resolution and I need it now. I give the episode props for starting off at the wall looming over Jon Snow’s deader than dead body because it at the very least shows they know this has been what people have been clinging onto for the long hiatus.
I suppose it would be poor storytelling to show their hands on this point, but the ruse feels like it’s being pushed too hard. We’re all so desperate for this to get resolved as soon as possible that one plucky young reporter filed a Freedom of Information Act request against President Obama’s advanced screeners to resolve the issue. I can’t tell if this type of frenzy means they’ve done their job well, or if they’ve pushed too far and it’s gotten to the point of ridiculousness. I’d go with the latter, but I’m chomping at the bit just like the rest of you so it’s difficult for me to judge. I’m part of the frenzy and I can’t help it. As I predicted, there was no resolution over Jon Snow’s fate in ‘The Red Woman’ and it looks like we have to suffer another full week (or more) with Totally Dead As a Doornail Jon Snow. The plot up at the wall was the only one that had major momentum, though, which is ironic because most of the screen time our main characters got there was confined to a single room they’ve barricaded themselves in.
The episode title does hint that Melisandre is the focus character of this week’s episode and we certainly got a huge bombshell at the end. Her final moment in the episode began with what I thought was more gratuitous nudity, but quickly warped into something really weird and shocking. It appears that Melisandre’s necklace has been casting a sort of glamour spell over her and her real form is an extremely old decrepit white haired woman. I… didn’t see that coming. But hey, we’re beyond the books so I’ll probably be saying that a lot now. That was definitely intended to be the jaw dropping moment of the episode and as far as I’m concerned it succeeded. I still think the nudity was completely unnecessary, but I do have to laugh that I thought it was just going to be an opportunity to show off a gorgeous woman’s body and then we got that instead.
After spending a large chunk of the episode up at The Wall, we jump to Winterfell where Sansa and Theon are desperately attempting to escape the Bolton’s hounds. Ramsay’s cruel nature has bitten him in the ass here. He’s lost the only Stark anyone can find, which would strengthen the Bolton’s hold in the North, and he’s lost the heir to the Iron Islands. Torturing them both certainly didn’t convince them to stay longer and they might have kept their hold on the both of them if they didn’t treat them so horrifically. They were willing to jump off the side of a castle and cross an icy river to escape the Bolton’s. That’s pretty hardcore.
But as I’ve said before, all this Sansa Stark stuff is is making me worried. I’m glad she’s finally with Brienne, who’ll protect her fiercely, but after Ramsay’s assault on her I’m in full on protective mode. I’m ready to fight back against any slight to her character and I don’t even feel bad about that. Sansa’s story line better be awesome this season and 110% sexual assault free. The Queen of the North! If she dies this season I’m out, mark my words. I’ve clung on through so much for her and honestly her death would push me over the edge.
Moving on from the chilly and snow covered North, we get a glimpse of what’s going on in the capitol. Even though my feelings about Cersei tend to be critical, whenever she’s hurting about her children I really do feel bad for her. I’m genuinely sympathetic for a grieving mother even if she’s done a ton of horrible things. I hate seeing Jaime slide back into his role as her lover and protector, though. His character was evolving beyond that, but I guess he did just lose a
niece daughter so him comforting his sister mother of his child isn’t exactly all that shocking. Still, that scene was basically playing with my emotions like a yo-yo. I felt a lot of hurt for Cersei, but am still critical of her, and I felt bad for Jaime, but do not like the backwards trajectory his character arc is taking him. God, this whole scene just twisted me around in knots. I hate it. Let’s move on.
We only get to see what’s been happening to Margaery for a few brief moments. Honestly, during this long hiatus I had forgotten that she’d been captured by the Sparrows. And that’s really weird because I actually like her way more than Jon Snow, but I’ve been so narrowly focused on his fate that I’ve completely forgotten that other character’s fates were hanging in the balance too. I don’t want to see Margaery suffer in the same way Cersei has. While the Tyrell’s have been scheming and murdered a couple of jerks (okay, murder is wrong, but come on), I truly believe that Margaery is a good person and has the compassion needed to be Queen. Maybe she’s just manipulated me through the TV screen, I don’t know. But man, I hate seeing her suffer.
The episode’s violence quota comes when we switch over to Dorne. Things seem rather pleasant for the Martell’s for a bit, but then the Sand Snakes start stabbing all the important Martell’s and that kind of puts a damper on the day. Ellaria Sand basically led an all female coup of Dorne and, so far, seems to have succeeded. I loved Dorne in the books, but hasn’t really connected with the characters in the same way on the show so far. I do appreciate the kick ass women, though, and the constant reminder that Oberyn was bisexual. All of that is well and good, but the spark that made me root for Dorne on the pages seems to be missing from the screen and I haven’t quite worked out why that is. I need to ponder that one for a bit.
Once we’re done moving down through Westeros and visiting all the key players, we jump over the Narrow Sea to the second most anticipated plot line of the season; Daenerys and Mereen. Since Daenerys fled the Sons of the Harpy attack on the back of Drogon, the city has been left in a state of disarray. The Sons of the Harpy are still doing their thing, but it’s obvious there are still many who believe in her and want her back. But they’ve lost their leader and it seems like she left willingly and hasn’t returned, so that’s going to turn a few people away. Tyrion and Varys take a rather ill advised stroll through the streets of Mereen to scope out the current state of affairs and stumble across all the boats in the harbor burning, effectively trapping the entire population and shutting down their commerce. Things are not going well in Mereen.
Meanwhile Daenerys has been captured by a hostile khalasar. While the violence quota was met in Dorne, we haven’t yet met the sexual assault quota yet so why not knock that out of the way with the Dothraki? Her captors verbally assault her repeatedly and she’s moments away from being sexually assaulted by the Khal when it’s revealed that she’s Khal Drogo’s widow. Apparently it’s against the rules to rape the widow of a Khal. Thank the Old Gods and the New for the one, right? So we just got the threat of rape, but no actual rape. Look, folks, I understand this is a violent world filled with a lot of bad people, but sexual assault is being vastly overused on this show. It’s come to the point where it’s just expected, and honestly I’m not sure I want to watch a show where rape is just a common part of the plot. It’s beyond ridiculous.
The last character we visit before jumping back to The Wall and the Melisandre reveal is Arya. For the longest time Arya was my second favorite character to Daenerys, but I feel like her plot stagnated when she got to Braavos. I’m excited to see her turn into a bad ass assassin and her training is interesting, but it’s going at a snails pace. I should not be bored by something that’s so interesting. I’ve been eager to see where her plot will go for so long that I’ve begun to fear that it won’t actually go anywhere. Maybe she’ll stay in Braavos forever without ever looping back into the main plot. Perhaps that’s a good thing.
Overall this episode had a lot to get me hyped, but a lot that was just far too predictable as well. While a large chunk of my friends have given up the show for good after last season, I’m still excited about what it has to offer. I’m still eager to see Jon Snow resurrected (it’ll happen, guys, I swear). I still want to see Daenerys become the Queen I know she’s destined to be. I want to see Sansa and Arya grow up into powerful women who reclaim the Stark name and avenge what happened to their family. I’m still watching. So let’s see what they do with this. Please do something amazing with it.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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