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Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 1: “The Red Woman” Recap

SE Andres is a marketing graduate student, writer, feminist, environmentalist, and Thor impersonator.

Davos plans


Davos Seaworth, Dolorous Edd, Alliser Thorne, Olly the Little Shit, & Jon Snow's Body

In the season 6 premiere, entitled “The Red Woman” we open with last season’s cliffhanger. Jon Snow is lying on the snow-covered ground with Ghost howling and trying to get out of his room to Jon. Davos overhears the direwolf’s cries and looks out to find Jon’s exsanguined body. Soon, Jon’s devoted friend Dolorous Edd comes with a small group of Jon devotees. They all take the body inside Davos’ quarters, and Edd knows it’s Alliser Thorne’s doing. Just as he is about to retrieve Ghost, the Red Woman knocks, and Edd lets her in on his way out. She looks at the body with the realization that something she had actually seen in the flames had come to pass. What will she do now? What can she do to serve the Red God? The Onion Knight now tells Edd to fetch the others Jon has saved because they’ll need all the help they can get, presumably the Wildlings.

Permitting Edd to go about without capture, Thorne holds an impromptu assembly and tells the angry Night’s Watch that the council all had a part in Jon’s murder. He explains that Jon gave the Wildlings a place behind the Wall, even after they had pillaged those very villages in which they now reside. The focus on Olly here, stoic and full of hate, is interesting. Who knew that little shit would be so pivotal in this? He’s the embodiment of the Wildlings’ actions before Jon granted them safety from the White Walkers.

Thorne tries to get Davos and those protecting Jon’s body to admit to terms of surrender. He would allow Davos and Melisandre to go south without punishment. Davos hilariously requests mutton because he’s not much of a hunter. His dry, calm tone only serves to make Throne squirm and rile him up. Thorne says he must surrender by nightfall or it ends with blood. Davos thanks him evenly and agrees that they will discuss it and get back to him. The other men of the Night’s Watch begin to show their fear and can’t believe they’re putting all their eggs in one basket with Dolorous Edd. But Davos says that they have the Red Woman. It’s the first time he puts faith in her. He’s down to scraping the bottom of the barrel. She does strike fear in people’s hearts, and he knows she holds some sort of power, at least enough to sway men of great power and to make them do her bidding.

Melisandre shows her true self



At first when Melisandre disrobes, I thought, “Really? Another nude scene for her just for the hell of it?” But as the scene progressed, it began to make sense symbolically. She was stripped of everything. We see the real her, her real age, her real body. She is finally completely exposed to the world and to herself. She is coming to terms with reality that she had failed the Red God in putting her faith in Stannis instead of Jon Snow, the person she should have been protecting in the first place. Her giving up her powers and her role as Red Priestess is suggestive of two reasons: her guilt of failure as aforementioned or the final and ultimate sacrifice to resurrect Jon Snow—a life for a life. It could be a combination of both. None of this needs to be said; her silent actions say it all. Where she was using her body prior to this as a way of seducing others, now she is using it as a sacrifice for others, to do the right thing for the good of Westeros. BUT is this her resignation, or is it her daily routine? I can’t even fathom that she’d just go to bed right now when so much depends on her. Is she going to die, or is she just giving up her youth and pretenses? Is she going to prove that her powers are real? Only the next few episodes will tell us.

Ramsay grieves


Ramsay & Roose Bolton

Ramsay Snow shows an emotion called grief as he mourns Myranda. “Your pain will be paid for a thousand times over,” he vows. Well, Ramsay, I doubt she felt much pain at all with how sudden that smooshy death was. But this means Ramsay will stop at nothing to find Sansa and Theon. The thing he will now live for is their punishment. And he gets off on punishment. Rather than burn or bury her, he tells the maester to feed her to the very hounds she cared for, not allowing good meat to go to waste. Roose tells him he did well against Stannis and asks if he knew who delivered the killing blow to Stannis. Unsurprisingly Ramsay didn’t claim that kill. He’s not after notoriety or heroism or respect. He’s focused on vengeance and bloodthirst. Stannis wants to reward the man who killed Stannis. Funny you should say that, Roose. ()

After all that Roose congratulated him for, he suddenly asks, “Do you feel victorious?” Then he shames him. He won against unprepared, weathered, weak, and tiny Baratheon army. Compared to a ready and able Lannister army, this was nothing. Roose defied the crown to get Ramsay married to the Lady of Winterfell, Sana Stark, to win the North and unite them against the Lannisters. And here, he lost Sansa because he liked to torture her, or as he referred to it, “played [his] games with her.” Not to mention Theon Grejoy, the heir to the Iron Islands. And they are both gone. He’s telling Ramsay to grow the hell up and start thinking like a leader and not a defiler. Ramsay assures his father that the two runaways will be found. He’s already got his hungry hounds looking for them. They’ve already got the taste for human flesh, right? But Roose isn’t done. He makes it known that without Sansa, Ramsay won’t be able to produce an heir, and without an heir, Roose’s supposed and coming son will be heir to Winterfell. All of the shade is glorious. For once I like Roose, though in the back of my mind I still hate him for the Red Wedding and can’t wait for Arya to stab him between the eyes. Will this threat to Ramsay’s position make him do terrible things, like stab Walda’s womb, Red Wedding style? Will he throw her from the ramparts, too? Will he risk the alliance between the Boltons and Freys? Will he be the undoing of everything Roose worked for? This season should prove to be intriguing for the Boltons. Or will Roose have to kill or imprison his own son to prevent that and the further torture of Theon and Sansa? He allowed Ramsay this position of power. And he let it on too long, knowing Ramsay’s enjoyment and priorities.

Sansa accepts Theon's hug


Sansa Stark, Theon Greyjoy, Brienne of Tarth, & Podrick Payne

That leads us to the runaways Sansa Bolton nee Stark (I'm going to refer to her still as Stark in the future, you guys) and Theon Greyjoy, formerly known as Reek, formerly known as Theon Greyjoy with the hounds on their tails. They wade the freezing creek to escape the hounds and hide beneath a fallen tree. For the briefest moment, they are safe, and Theon holds Sansa and she breaths and relishes a hug, something she hadn’t had in a long time. It’s a tender moment, one in which Theon is proving his devotion to Sansa. But the hounds still catch up to them, and he gives himself up to the soldiers in order to allow her escape to the Wall. Theon tells the soldiers that Sansa is dead, but Theon’s distraction doesn’t work because the hounds know Sansa is hiding there. Before the two are hauled back to Winterfell to receive their punishment, which the soldiers eagerly anticipate, Brienne rides in and slays the soldier that realizes it’s “A bloody woman,” which hearkens back to Roose’s assumption that a man killed Stannis. While Brienne slays three men, Podrick, still a novice swordsman, fights one guy that entire time. Before one more can kill Podrick, Theon takes a sword form a fallen soldier and shoves it through the guy’s neck from behind. Sansa is safe once more, and she owes her life to Brienne. Brienne immediately swears her sword to Sansa, who looks at Theon for approval. Theon approves with a nod, and Sansa accepts it.

Brienne and Sansa’s sword swearing ceremony is delightful for so many reasons. Brienne finally gets vindication, proves her worth, and upholds part of her oath to Catelyn. It has to be one of her greatest triumphs (and so soon after executing Stannis). Brienne’s pride can’t last too long, however. She’s got to screw up somehow. That’s what this show does. Sansa is adopting much of her mother’s spirit. We see nods to it often. The last time was when she mirrored Catelyn, both looking up at the tower from which Bran fell. The tower that started everything. Here, rather than in front of a hearth, they are in the absolute cold. But there is a warmth here: there is love and loyalty, a bind that brings these four people together. Sansa, at the beginning of her part of the oath, is still scared and cold. She doesn’t remember the oath very well. Surely, her mother taught it to her. Her mother knew it, after all. With a little help from Podrick, she recovers from her stumbles and grows in confidence as she finishes her oath with a look of determination and resolution evident in her face.

Brienne swears her sword to Sansa


Jaime fuels Cersei's fires


Cersei & Jaime Lannister

As the Dornish ship sails to the King’s Landing harbor, Cersei is informed. She eagerly runs to greet her daughter. But she sees a grim Jaime in a rowboat with Myrcella’s body covered behind him. She begins to cry, and the camera lingers on her, steadfast yet devastated. She just can’t win. With Jaime, she recalls the first dead body they say: their mother’s. She explains the physical attributes of what happens to a body once it dies. The body is no longer the person they once knew and loved. It decays and rots. She actually admits her own faults of jealousy and meanness when pondering how Myrcella turned out so exactly opposite of her. You wanted her home, Cersei, and this is what you got. Here, Cersei is giving into fatalism, which she had teetered with, being so driven to fate by Maggy the Frog’s prophecy. She can’t help but think of her sweet daughter decaying in the crypts. She even goes as far to say that Jaime is a prophet with his words that people would try to tear them apart and takes what’s theirs after their father died. And it came true.

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But Cersei is ignorant of the fact she and Jaime have no power anymore. Where they were once two of the most powerful people in Westeros, they have been shamed by religious zealots; their family has been decimated by their greatest enemies and closest friends; and they are as they once promised—the two of them versus the world. And there is no possible way for them to ever succeed in that cause. There are too many forces against them, and Tommen is next on the hit list of Lannisters. Then it really will be those two and their uncle, whom Cersei has cast out.

The High Sparrow offers Margaery some advice


Margaery Lannister & The High Sparrow

Septa Unella reads the scripture to Margaery Lannister nee Tyrell, who insists to see her brother. But the septa isn’t having any of that. She must confess to get any answers. But Margaery isn’t having any of her lip either, not as Queen. “Sinners don’t make demands; they make confessions,” Unella pointedly says and makes a move to strike Margaery. The power here is displayed by Septa’s standing straight over a cowering, huddled Margaery. It’s exacerbated with an over-the-shoulder shot upwards at Unella. And it couldn’t be clearer who is in charge here. At least until the High Sparrow comes in before she beats Margaery. She looks at Margaery with embarrassment and then disgust at Margaery to cover up her own shame. He gently pulls her hair back and says that Unella is “overzealous at times” and will speak with her. This is a total good cop/bad cop scenario playing out. This act of mercy allows a path for Margaery to open herself up to the High Sparrow and confess. She inquires—not demands--about her brother; but the High Sparrow is here to talk about her sacred vow of marriage. He insinuates that she must confess her sins, but she has nothing to confess. But no one is perfect and pure. The fact that he talks to her is sweetly and gently makes her respond in like. Will she give up her brother to be Queen once more? What is more important—her marriage and place as Queen? Or her brother? Up until now, she was able to navigate through both her familial loyalty and her devotion to the crown, tying them together. Now she must choose.

Ellaria's stabby coup


Doran & Trystane Martell, Ellaria Sand, & the Sand Snakes

With a great juxtaposition, we open in Dorne with Doran envying his brother Oberyn, who truly lived out in the world, while he was confined to his prison of ruling life. Ellaria, playing the part of a devoted member of the royal council and family, agrees, “The gods are not fools. You would have been a lousy adventurer, and Oberyn...” She scoffs as a messenger approaches. “He would have been a terrible ruler.” Doran notes to Tyene how genius her mother to agree with him. He opens the note from the messenger and sees that Myrcella has died. Tyene is quick to stab the powerful Areo Hotah in the back, a symbol of the Sand Snakes’ turning on Doran. But Doran deserves better: Ellaria pulls a knife from her bangle and stabs Doran in the chest. The messenger runs, but Tyene takes the knife from Hotah’s back and throws it into the messenger’s neck. The guards at the palace remain unfazed. Doran tries to fight Ellaria, but he remains weak as ever. She ensures to point out to him that he hasn’t left the palace and doesn’t know his own people and their disgust for him, none of which we’ve actually seen because there are absolutely no people in Dorne, aside from a select few guards. One of the Sand Snakes mentioned last season that the people want justice, but that was it. We’re completely thrown this twist without so much of buildup. I suppose they were working towards it, and the plan was always in place. It just never really hit the stride and seemed like a hasty throw-on. Doran pleas before he goes about his son Trystane. Ellaria rolls her eyes and says Trystane is weak, just like him. “And weak men will never rule Dorne again.” With that sentiment, he dies.

Trystane is on the ship anchored at the harbor in King’s Landing, painting Myrcella’s blue eyes onto rocks for her funerary layout. Somehow, Obara and Nymeria enter. I guess from another ship that sailed behind his own? They certainly didn’t go on the ship with him, Jaime, Bronn, and Myrcella. But here we are. They ask who he wants to kill him, and he chooses Nymeria. In the books, Obara is seen as the strongest and most fearsome of the Sand Snakes, and this is a nice nod. But Nym is the most underrated. Before he attacks, Obara gruesomely shoves her spear in his head and out his nose. Tyene looks at her with annoyance and says my favorite line of the episode, “You’re a greedy bitch. You know that?” Like cats done playing with their food, they leave the ship and leave their cousin on the floor in his own brains and blood. Dorne has officially entered the fray and declared war on the Lannisters.

Tyrion wants to eat that baby


Tyrion Lannister & Varys

In one of the most unwitty banters, Tyrion explains his own joke of Varis not being a boy anymore…because he’s a eunuch. This joke falls incredibly flat and is so unlikely Tyrion’s typical wit where he never needs to explain anything. He makes up for being absolutely awful by giving a coin to a poor woman on the street with her starving baby. He tries to speak Valyrian to her to explain that, but Varys translates that he said he wants to eat her baby. Now there’s a joke! The two read on the wall “Kill the Masters” with a newer graffiti below it, “Mhysa is a master.” It shows how the tides continue to turn against Daenerys, and what hell Tyrion has walked into to try to fix. A Red Priest preaches to a bunch of former slaves that the Lord of Light brought Dany to them to free them. But in her absence, he requests that they not wait for her to return and rather be bold and make their own destiny by taking matters into their own hands. Tyrion notes it as a problem. Someone watches the two of them through a broken window lattice as Tyrion tells Varys that, “Fear has brought Mereen to a standstill. Whoever you are, wherever you go, someone in this city wants to murder you. We can’t fight an enemy we don’t know.” Who is this fella? Why is he watching them? Is he going to murder them? A crowd runs, screaming, but Tyrion and Varys curiously walk with purpose towards the source of the commotion to find that all the ships are burning in the harbor. The planned sail back to Westeros at some point is now moot.

Dany confronts Khal Rhalko


Daenerys Stormborn, Jorah Mormont, & Daario Naharis

Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis bond as they search for Daenerys. After seeing Drogon’s spit roast, they run into the circle, trodden by the Dothraki. At the center: Daenerys’ wedding ring. It allows them to know that she is alive and taken captive by the Dothraki but also prevents the Dothraki from knowing she’s remarried.

The two Dothraki keeping Dany hostage disparage her and joke about raping her. Little do they know, she knows their language. They take her to Khal Rhalko. The Khal’s wives claim her to be a witch and advise to cut her head off. Like a true frat boy, Khal Rhalko says that seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time is one of the five best things in life. He attempts to tear open her dress, but she demands him to not touch her in the Dothraki language. Everyone looks baffled as to why some white chick is speaking in Dothraki to the Khal like that. She announces herself and her claims. They all laugh, and he says she is nothing but a slave. And guess what? He’s going to rape her tonight. So the Dothraki just become more uncivilized the farther we get from the books? Okay. I was hoping they’d do away with a lot of the rape stuff, but I guess the rule is maybe just to not show it every episode? Well, Khal Rhalko thinks she may bear him a son from this one rapey union. But she laughs in his face and says she’ll bear no children…ever. She doesn’t say it’s from a curse, but she uses the words that the witch used to curse her. The Khal’s wife again declares her to be a witch. The Khal admires her fiery spirit, and she adds that she was the wife of Khal Drogo because he missed her saying she was a khaleesi, apparently. He instantly regrets getting rapey because it’s forbidden to lie with a khal’s widow. She requests to be taken back to Mereen in exchange for a thousand horses. But he requires her to go to Vaes Dothrak, the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen, where all khaleesis go to retire. Will she end up ruling them, too? And/Or gathering their support? Will she be rescued before she gets there?

Waif beats Arya with a stick


Arya Stark (Still not Nobody)

Blind and homeless, Arya begs on the streets. She listens to the voices around her, and one of them is Waif’s. She hands Arya a bo staff and begins to beat her while others don’t take notice. After Arya’s been beat pretty well, Waif takes her leave and tells her she’ll be there the same time tomorrow. It’s Arya’s first lesson in her blind state. It’s likely they’ll be teaching her how to listen. If she passes, she’ll probably regain her eyesight. I just hope it’s soon. I’m tired of Arya’s storyline, and I’m glad it was somewhat short this episode.


This episode was entirely about the women. Jaime wasn’t the focus of his scenes with Cersei. Theon wasn’t the focus of his scenes with Sansa and later Brienne. Septa Unella wants to operate on her own and relishes in the thought of violence and disobeying the High Sparrow. Margaery must make a decision soon. Will she end up naked on the path of atonement like Cersei? Or will the High Sparrow be lenient on her? Danaerys saved herself from slavery but will still be confined ot a place she does not want to be. Arya is now being taught by Waif, the underling woman, instead of Jaqen H’ghar. Melisandre sacrifices herself rather than sacrifices others. She becomes a hero in that regard, if I’m correct in my assumptions of what she is doing. Ellaria Sand now rules Dorne, and the Sand Snakes are deployed to wreak havoc on the Lannisters. At this point, Lannisters are now facing enemies from Dorne, the Riverlands, the Reach, the North, and eventually Daenerys and the White Walkers. Dorne is most immediate threat, followed by the Reach. With two of their own imprisoned, war will be waged on the Faith Militant along with the Lannisters. It would be interesting to see the two (which are my two favorite houses along with the Mormonts) team up. What happens when Sansa reaches the Wall, if she does, should prove interesting, if Jon is still dead and if Jon is revived but changed. The performances by Gwendoline Christie, Sophie Turner, Lena Headey, and Emilia Clark in particular are outstanding. They say so much without words. Davos and Ramsay were really the only men with some focus. Even Varys and Tyrion’s conversations revolve around Daenerys.

So who is winning the Game of Thrones as of this episode? A tie between the High Sparrow and Ellaria Sand, surely. Nothing is going right for anyone else. And Brienne gets special note for her being the most selfless, true, direct, loyal, heroic person in this horrible world.

Who is winning the Game of Thrones?

© 2016 SE Andres

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