Warning: Spoilers ahead
We’ve been waiting for this day to come for nearly a year now; the hype for Season 6 of Game of Thrones has been unbelievably high ever since the bloody season 5 finale, topped with the apparent murder of Jon Snow. Season 6 has a lot of questions to answer, and a lot of ground to cover. In that sense then, the season premiere kind of plodded along. Beside a few instances, the episode felt more like an epilogue to Season 5, than a meaningful propellant for the rest of this season.
Let’s start with the big one: yes, Jon Snow is dead, and clues to his probable resurrection are still minimal within the confines of the actual narrative. At Castle Black, Ser Davos, a few Jon loyalists and Ghost (who we’re still not sure Jon has warged into) are locked in a room with Jon’s corpse, plotting their revenge against the remainder of the Night’s Watch, particularly Alliser Thorne, who’s announced his treason in a propagandist monologue about the dangers of the incoming pillaging, raping Wildlings (Donald Trump reference, anyone?) .
The most significant parts of this segment come with regard to the Red Woman, Melisandre, who is visibly broken and lost after the death of Stannis Baratheon. The biggest clues towards her link with Jon’s fate come in two dialogues: one, where she tells Ser Davos of seeing Jon “in the flames, fighting at Winterfell.” (This is given weight by speculation of a massive battle at Winterfell later in the season, where Kit Harrington allegedly shot, decked in battle armour) And second, when Davos himself pins the hopes of their survival on the Red Woman, and quite possibly, by extension, Jon Snow himself.
And of course, that reveal of Melisandre’s true form, of a scraggly old woman at the very end cements her as one of the most fascinating characters on the show. What are her motives? For how long has she been searching for a “great victory”? And how will she move forward, now that her hope, in the form of Stannis, has been lost?
Fortunately, some loose ends are tied up elsewhere in the show. Sansa and Theon (who seems to finally be ridding himself of Reek) are saved from their would-be Bolton captors by the eternally badass Brienne of Tarth, alongside the now-swordfighting Pod. Brienne is finally able to uphold some of her oath to Catelyn Stark, and swear fealty to Sansa, in a rare glimmer of hope. Tyrion and Varys are still figuring out how to clean up the mess in Meereen, and offer up their trademark wit, but little else. Arya is now a blind beggar on the streets of Braavos, and in one of the most painful sections of the episode, is beaten mercilessly by the Waif who promises to return the next day. But given what we know of her, Arya is sure to stage an incredible comeback. I cannot wait.
Jorah (secretly dying of Greyscale) and Daario, through some dragon-fodder-tracking, realize the Dothraki have taken away Daenarys. Daenarys, who is now a Dothraki slave and subject to their vile contempt, nears Vaes Dothrak. When confronted by the new Khal, she menacingly lists her overlong titles in the hopes of having her way (seriously, that didn’t work in Meereen for long, how do you expect it to work here?). But Khal Moro has a trick of his own, turning Dany’s widow-of-Khal status into a banishment to the Dothraki home for widows. Dany continues to fall below Sansa on the likability scale for me; inept as she is as a ruler, she seems to be able to do even less without her titles and dragons.
Cersei and Jaime on the other hand, grow more human. With the death of their daughter Myrcella, and in the aftermath of Cersei’s walk of shame, they care for little else but revenge. Jaime is determined, but tender with Cersei, who in a rare moment, contemplates her own apparent monstrosity. This arc is definitely going to be one of the most interesting of the season, tied in with the fate of the imprisoned Tyrells and the High Sparrow’s schemes. And in one of the biggest twists of the episode, Ellaria Sand and her daughters, the Sand Snakes, launch a swift rebellion, brutally murdering King Doran, his bodyguard, and aboard the Dornish ship, his heir, Trystane. Spear-through-the-face, classic Game of Thrones. Seems like Ellaria and Cersei are going to have an epic clash of the queens soon enough.
At the end of the (slightly shorter than usual) Season 6 premiere, it certainly feels like the viewer is being eased into the rest of the season, very gently. There is a lot of stage-setting for some crucial arcs, but there is little advancement of plot. Game of Thrones has always had relatively mundane openers, so there’s still a lot to look forward to in what the showrunners have described as the best season yet. As long as the Jon Snow arc isn’t dragged on for a frustratingly long time, and we get some real action soon, we’re certainly in for a hell of a ride.
Remember, Winter is coming.
Images sourced from: The Telegraph, The Mirror, Vox