By James Hancock April 24th, 2016
When I first realized that HBO’s show Game of Thrones would eventually finish George R R Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire many years before the author would be able to do so in his own novels, I had a bit of a nerd temper tantrum. I’ve read the first five books of series twice and I scour the internet regularly for any updates as to when we can expect the sixth novel in the series, The Winds of Winter. But given that it takes Martin about five years these days to write one of these mammoth tomes and with the seventh and final novel likely to be published some time after 2020, HBO’s interpretation of the final chapters of Martin’s saga will be the official canon for many years before the books ever catch up. Like someone with a horrible disease, I had to go through the various stages of rage and denial before I could finally arrive at acceptance. I probably take this stuff way too seriously in that I know the history of Westeros far better than any actual history that has taken place on planet Earth, but I have finally talked myself into being excited for these last two seasons of the show. My idea is that by the time GRRM finishes writing his novels, my memories of the show will be so vague that I should be able to look at his grand epic with fresh eyes. Furthermore, the plots of the show and the books have gradually drifted so far apart from one another that it is no longer really useful making comparisons between the two. The books are the books and the show is show and I’m perfectly okay with that. So having talked myself off the ledge of super nerd rage, I believe I can now watch Season 6 of Game of Thrones with an open mind. Which brings us to ‘The Red Woman’, the first episode in Season 6.
***Nothing But Spoilers Ahead***
‘The Red Woman’ is a solid first episode, but not in my opinion an episode that will go down in history as anyone’s particular favorite. The show hits the ground running where the events of last season left off: the murder of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen captured by a Dothraki horde, Sansa Stark on the run from the Boltons, Arya blinded by the Faceless Men & Tyrion Lannister trying to maintain control over Meereen in the absence of its queen. Given the sheer amount of plot this show tries to juggle, it is incredible that the showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss maintain any narrative coherence of any kind. The number of speaking roles continues to explode exponentially but somehow this episode manages to cram in an enormous amount of plot including the fallout over the murder of Jon at Castle Black, Jaime and Cersei Lannister sharing their grief and rage over the murder of their daughter, the betrayal of Prince Doran Martell in Dorne, Jorah Mormont’s desperate search for Daenerys and Arya’s training in hand to hand combat without the use of her eyes. Some of the scenes ring a little hollow and are likely cooked up for the show with no basis on Martin’s work, but on the whole the episode flows pretty smoothy. But there are two really effective scenes that made a big impact on me that give me hope for the events to come this season.
***Last Spoiler Warning***
As we saw at the finale of last season, Sansa Stark and Theon Greyjoy are fleeing from Winterfell, but in this episode they are eventually caught by Ramsay Bolton’s men. In the proverbial nick of time, Brienne of Tarth arrives with her squire to save the day and together they cut Bolton’s thugs to pieces. In the aftermath, Brienne pledges herself to Sansa’s service and the ritual in which they both partake had chills going up and down my neck. I can forgive a lot of lackluster scenes in this show as long as they occasionally give me moments like this one where I find myself grinning from ear to ear in geeky glee. The second scene that jumped out at me is the one that brings the episode to a close with Melisandre alone in her room. Her faith in her god appears to have been dealt a severe blow with many of her visions such as Jon retaking Winterfell now bound not to happen. She quietly removes her glowing red brooch from her neck and transforms from the astonishingly beautiful witch we all know and love into an old crone. Perhaps this is a nightly ritual that we’ve simply never seen before but the tone of the scene seems to suggest that something has changed in her relationship with her god R’hllor aka the Lord of Light. For my own selfish purposes, I hope this is not the last we see of Carice van Houten, one of my favorite actresses on the show. I’m very curious to see what role Melisandre will play in the show going forward and if she will in fact resurrect Jon Snow as many have guessed.
At any rate, Game of Thrones is officially back and for the next few months we all have a reason to look forward to our Sunday evenings. I’m very eager to see what Bran Stark has been up to while learning about his powers in the far north but most of all I look forward to seeing Cersei Lannister throw down with the Sparrows for control over King’s Landing. One of the greatest strengths of both the show and the books in my opinion is finding ways to make the audience root for characters they have at one point completely despised. Apart from Joffrey Baratheon, I feel like every character has some redeeming virtue or character moment that forces us to see the world through their eyes. So in spite of my frustrations with GRRM’s increasingly slow writing speed, I’m going to do my best to enjoy the last two seasons of this show with an open mind. The first few seasons remain some of my favorite seasons of television I have ever seen. I sincerely hope the folks at HBO find a way to wrap up the saga in a satisfactory fashion that will make both the fans and more importantly GRRM proud of the time invested in the show.
I am one of the Co-Hosts of Wrong Reel.