Acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones has returned, with episode one of season 6 airing on Sky Atlantic on Monday night. And while, by no means a landmark episode, ‘The Red Woman’ was certainly a welcome opener.
Job one for producers Benioff and Weiss was certainly to address the cliffhanger they had left us all on at the end of season 5. Primarily, the fate of Jon Snow. When last we watched, the young Lord Commander was subjected to a hail of stabbings, which would almost trump the dying moments of Julius Caesar. Yet this is a series of Red Priests and White Walkers, so no one need remain dead for too long. We now have our answer. For now at least, Jon Snow is dead. Rumours persisted about actor Kit Harrington’s presence on set, but his role has been reduced to that of a tragic, cold corpse. Whether he stays that way remains to be seen.
The episode moved us away from the goings-on in the north, and addressed some of the other characters we’d almost forgotten about while wringing our hands at Jon Snows fate. There was a satisfying moment in which Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Theon (Alfie Allen) were rescued from the Boltons by Brienne (Gwendoline Christie). Heading further south towards Dorne, the show reminded us of the violence with which we’ve grown accustomed to with a number of Martell characters killed off.
The show managed to present some humour through moments of miscommunication by Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in Mereen and in a debate about beauty, by members of the Dothraki horde that now holds Danaerys (Emilia Clarke). Yet it was the very end of the episode which provided the biggest twist in the tale.
It was the red woman, Mellisandre who had the last say in the episode. Her loss of faith (after Jon Snow’s death) led us to see her true form. In showing us that she was actually an older woman, masked by her faith, Game of Thrones added another plot twist to its long line of shocks.
However there is a sense that this episode is more about set-up than anything. Bear in mind that the series has now moved beyond the Books which spawned it. George R.R. Martin continues to be an active presence in the writing, but has continually postponed publishing his next book. And after all, we all know that the show must go on.
Martin has said that he is now putting all his efforts into getting The Winds of Winter published, but for now based on this episode, the Game of Thrones television series is a more than welcome continuation of the fantasy epic.