Game of Thrones - 6.01 The Red Woman
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It's going to be very hard not to spoil Game of Thrones; the ultimate 'water cooler' show despite the odds working against me. So, as I take over the reigns for the sixth season I'll do my best, please don't kill me, I have to survive till at least the last episode, my body doesn't like fire, I hate being cold and had I been a character in the series, I wouldn't have survived the pilot.
Much like Jon Snow we know nothing. For the last year everybody and their dog, or dire-wolf, has had a theory on whether Jon Snow has actually died or whether he will be resurrected. Regardless, you won't find the definitive answer within this review. You DO get a definitive answer within the episode though. Its a nervy move by the creators of the show and it works for me, whether it will work for the audience long term for season six remains to be seen.
The one thing that makes or breaks Game of Thrones in both the book form and on screen is whether you can follow multiple separate narratives that rarely intertwine. Some of these story lines have been going for the best part of the nearly fifty episodes over the last five years. Years of waiting with bated breath whether stories and characters meet or get resolved; and the often don't. In this opening episode, a certain story, which I won't spoil here, but I so want to, gets resolved and gets resolved well. When two characters finally talk to each other, one on bended knee, it's spine tingling and jaw dropping all in one and oh so good to see.
Death is everywhere and in everything when it comes to GoT. While the obvious relates to Snow and the ambiguity surrounding if he remains lifeless, there are other fates of well-established characters questioned in this episode also. Who gets killed? Ah, that would be telling. There are deaths and one particularly shocking. No questions asked, no stroking your beard and discussing theories. A particular character will not be in next weeks episode. Their death, I'm guessing, will permeate other episodes and cause shockwaves throughout the rest of the season.
One of the most striking things about the series is its use of strong female characters. Take Brienne of Tarth; tall and as strong as an Oak, she is a no nonsense bad ass that takes nothing for granted and carves her own path through the landscape. Or Melisandre, the red woman who gives this episode its title. She is a strong, politically wise character, who squirms like a snake, gaining control through the use of words and (magical) manipulation rather than brute force. Its an interesting point and one that needs to be highlighted more. Women rule and control Westeros, whether you like it or not... but why wouldn't you?
Arya, blind after her encounter in the tombs in Season five, looks set to be on a journey akin to Daniel from The Karate Kid, meeting her Mr. Miyagi character (also a tough female) who will surely show her the ways to survive without the use of sight. Daenerys is now a Dothraki prisoner. It's different to see her stripped of power and essentially back to the character we met at the beginning of Season one, alone, afraid yet strong willed. She is, however, Khal Drogo's widow which may have some bearing on her journey, especially as Daario and Jorah are hot on her trail.
The overall episode is a good one - simple for Game of Thrones. There is little in the way of character development but there are a few shocks and revelations peppered throughout the episode. The only downside is some questionable CGI within the closing scene involving The Red Woman Melisandre...
I'm glad to be back in the land of politics, feckless power, magic and birthright; the ice and fire of Westeros. Episode two can't come quick enough.