Written by Bill Bodkin & Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs
Pop-Break’s Editor-in-Chief Bill Bodkin, and Senior Television Columnist Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs review the Game of Thrones Season 6 Premiere, ‘The Red Woman’
Bill Bodkin: Kimberlee, it’s been a nerve-racking day. I’ve been absolutely amped for the season premiere of Game of Thrones. I did have some trepidation going into this episode– would the series jump into the thick of things right away, or would they start slow and give us a table setting episode? What were you feeling coming into this?
Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs: Given that the show has finally surpassed the books, there was an equal amount of anticipation on both sides of the fan base, so I expected the season opener to hit the ground running instead of the traditional table-setting of past premieres. I think we got something in between here, as though there was no shortage of forward thrust, the big question posed by Season 5’s finale is still unanswered: is Jon Snow really dead or, to borrow a line from The Princess Bride, just mostly dead?
BB: And for those wondering, “Captain Handsome” Kit Harington is, to borrow from the HBO short film Seven Days in Hell, “indubitably” in the opening credits sequence. It was extremely smart for the season to begin zooming into Castle Black and Jon Snow’s dead body. If they had started anywhere else, I feel this entire episode would’ve been a huge misstep. I also love the fact that my favorite character in the series, Sir Davos (Liam Cunningham), is not only the one who discovers Snow’s body, but is the one defending him — even in his “mostly dead?” state. Also, I have to feel bad for the direwolves — how many of their masters have they seen killed?
KRF: Well, one theory circulating among the “Jon’s Not Dead” faction is that Jon warged into Ghost’s body at the moment of his death and, perhaps through the magic of Melisandre (Carice van Houten), will be reborn in another form.
BB: What’s your theory — is Jon actually dead and done for in the series?
KR: NO WAY.
BB: But, they’ve killed everyone. And usually very, very, VERY brutally, terribly, and in such ways that I can’t sleep at night the visuals are so harrowing.
KR: Yes, but the major characters killed off to this point had basically reached the end of their storylines. Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), Stannis (Stephen Dillane), even Robb (Richard Madden) and Catelynn (Michelle Fairley) had served their narrative purpose at the time of their deaths – each of them casualties of their march towards a throne they had tenuous claims to at best. Arguably, Ned Stark (Sean Bean) was the series’ most shocking death, but his death served as the catalyst for everything that’s come after. In both George R.R. Martin’s novels and the show, Snow has been portrayed as being integral to the end game of the story. To kill him off now would simply be bad storytelling – death for the sake of shock. Martin has also faked us out with character deaths before (in the books, Theon’s (Alfie Allen) fate is unclear for quite some time before he resurfaced as Reek and even Arya (Maisie Williams) had a minor fake-out) so I would wager anything that Snow will be back in some form by the end of episode three.
BB: Devil’s advocate — do you think the Night’s Watch was right in killing Jon off? Thorne (Owen Teale) does make some really good points, which is actually the first time he’s ever made any logical sense in this series.
KRF: Thorne is no fool and is quite capable of leading the Night’s Watch, but he’s so mired in the rules and tradition, that he’s not seeing the changing world before him. Jon was absolutely correct that the greatest threat is not the Wildings, but the forces of Winter that reared their terrifying heads back in last season’s Hardhome. This new world is not a place for men like Thorne.
BB: I’m just looking forward to the Wyndham Wizard/Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) exacting some medieval justice on Thorne. Moving on — can we agree that the absolute most badass segment of the premiere is when Captain Phasma, I mean Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), came in on her horse and laid waste to Ramsay’s (Iwan Rheon) scouting party?
KRF: Brienne is, in some ways, a spiritual successor to Ned Stark in that she takes her vows and sense of duty incredibly seriously. Not only was that scene bad ass, but I can breathe a sigh of relief for Sansa now that she’s finally in the hands of someone she can not only trust, but who has the requisite skills to protect her.
BB: I agree, and she’ll finally (depending on how long she lives) be the protector that Sansa (Sophie Turner) has been searching, and yearning for since the day her father was killed. I’m actually very intrigued at how both Sansa, and Brienne will develop as characters this season given the potential of them being an on screen team. Sansa’s probably one of the most evolved (and tragic in so many ways) characters in the series — I’m extremely intrigued.
KR: I kind of hope Sansa and Brienne fall in love and ride off into the sunset together. Brienne really has that Prince Charming vibe Sansa’s been dreaming about over lemon cakes since she was a girl. Speaking of bad bitches, Dorne finally provided some real pay off, as the Sand Snakes execute a wonderfully sneaky and bloody mutiny on Prince Doran and co.
BB: Yes, if there was one really weak storyline last season, it was definitely The Sand Snakes. The main thing I remember from them last season was the one trying to seduce Bronn (Jerome Flynn) in a “should I be watching this with my wife in the room?” type scene. I’m glad the potential of these characters was finally realized. But what I also loved was this set in motion the bloody, bloody tale of revenge Jamie and Cersei are going to weave on Dorne.
KRF: Lena Headey was SO good tonight and, for probably the first time ever, made me feel real sympathy for Cersei as she mourned Myrcella’s death. It was harder to care when she was mourning Joffrey, since he was such an unrepentant little shit, but as she said, Myrcella “was good. From her first breath, she was so sweet. I don’t know where she came from.” It’s as though sweet Myrcella was the last bit of goodness Cersei had left, the one thing on the earth (other than Tommen) that proved she wasn’t just a monster. Cersei was effectively mourning the loss of that part of herself, as well. It was incredibly moving and also portends an impending shitstorm since, without that moral grounding, there’s nothing holding Cersei back from her baser urges now.
BB: It also potentially foreshadows the death of Tommen, since the prophecy did says she’d lose “all her children.” You’re right this is the first time you really, actually feel for Cersei. She’s given speeches of woe and loss before, but Myrcella was a character untouched by evil in this series. I thought that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was equally as powerful, and I liked the new shade of Jamie Lannister we saw in this scene. Jamie’s been arrogant, he’s been a victim, he’s been a hero — but we’ve never seen him really be the voice this strong voice of reason. His “two against the world” mantra was perfect, and really is setting the table for the unbridled hell that’ll be unleashed this season — both on Dorne, and The Sparrows. Those sons of bitches are going to die a horrible death this year.
KR: You know, what I’ve always found the most offensive about Cersei and Jamie’s relationship isn’t the incest, but the fact that he’s way too good for her. Jamie has a sense of honor, fluid though it may be, that is alien to Cersei and I’m interested in seeing how that plays out and also how it potentially fits into the latter half of that aforementioned prophecy. But either way, I hope they rain hellfire on the Sparrows, who are basically the Westerosi ISIS. And speaking of both Lannisters and parallels to real world events, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) clearly has his hands full with Mereen which, after Daenerys’’ abrupt exit via dragon, is in the midst of a serious power vacuum that has torn the city asunder and literally set it aflame.
BB: I honestly thought Varys (Conleth Hill) was going to get iced in that scene. You can tell someone is watching both he and Tyrion while they survey the area. But, luckily the world’s best eunuch was spared. Their story was extremely brief, but I feel this is really going to be one of the most intriguing aspects of the new season — Tyrion’s reigning in of Mereen. Dany, on the other hand, is seemingly in the “Sansa Stark role” this season — where nothing is going to go her way this year.
KRF: I loved Dany’s introduction to the Khal because it provided some needed comic relief (the bit about how even if he was blind, he’d know she was beautiful based on his wives’ demands to behead her was gold). I’m not really worried about Dany, though. Not only are Daario and Jorah on her trail (I enjoyed their scene together as well, with Jorah’s advancing grayscale serving to make his quest all the more urgent) but Drogon’s got to be done licking his wounds soon and between the three of them, the Dothraki will likely be convinced to help Dany return to Mereen rather than send her to the widow’s coop with the rest of the Dothraki Golden Girls.
BB: I know you’ve been dying to make a Golden Girls reference in your Game of Thrones reviews. I think Daario and Jorah will make for some much needed comic relief, and of course Jorah’s impending death is going to be so damn tragic. I really thought Emilia Clarke did a nice job re-establishing herself as a tough lead, I thought last year things got a little out of sync with her, and to see her back in the saddle (despite not being in charge of her own fate) was great. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m not caring at all for Arya’s storyline at all. This has gone on way too long, and it’s really advancing in a slow, and sometimes heavy handed way.
KRF: This is the first time we’ve seen Arya since she’s been blinded and it was a very brief scene. I anticipate she’s going to undergo some more Pei Mei-esque training this season before things really start moving along. I do feel that this punishment of sorts is necessary, however. Her revenge killing of Meryn Trant last season was delicious, but also brutal. She can’t bring that type of emotion and rage into it if she plans to become the warrior / assassin she longs to be instead of the cold-blooded murders she’s so angry at. She’s got a lot of growing up to do and I’m hoping we’ll see that this season.
BB: I can see all of that, I just feel the training has been taking an extremely long time, and Arya is basically been stuck in neutral. I do agree that a comeuppance needs to be had for that unsanctioned hit, but let’s hope it progressed past the training phase beyond this.
Well, I guess we only have one thing left to discuss — that ending. Now, I honestly thought that Melisandre was going to take her own life, but instead, we just saw a lot of boob. I mean, a lot of boob.
KRF: It was an unlikely nudity free episode right up until the end. Then, Melisandre got naked, took off her choker, and was suddenly a naked, wrinkled old hag – bam! Two pairs of breasts for the price of one! Game of Tits never disappoints. That was an interesting scene, to say the least. We already know the followers of the Lord of Light have the power to raise the dead, so Melisandre’s youth being a disguise isn’t all that shocking, but I wonder if, as you said, that reveal (we’ve never seen her vulnerable in any way before and her true appearance is the visual representation of vulnerability) hints at a suicidal streak or, at the very least a temporary giving up due to her current crisis of faith. I still think Melisandre will have a lot to do in the weeks to come, but in what form?
BB: I also thought she’d “distract” Thorne and his men by showing off her naked body — and it would’ve been super effective since these dudes never get laid. However, it makes for a really intriguing coming weeks. But, it also makes her a little more sympathetic than normal. She’s been an awful, hated character — now we see her true form, and for some reason I feel for her. Is that weird?
KRF: I think that Melisandre, way more than that other religious zealot, the High Sparrow, has the potential to change. As I said, I think Stannis’ death has created a crisis of faith in her. The horrible things she did were, in her mind, for a righteous cause. Now that her cause has been revealed false, I think she’ll eventually apply her considerable powers elsewhere – probably somewhere Jon Snow related, if you ask me.
BB: So, as an episode I think this was everything I could’ve wanted and more. I felt they naturally, and seamlessly touched upon every single storyline that needed to be discussed. There was enough action, enough drama, and enough twists and turns to have me even more excited for the rest of this season.
KR: Tonight’s premiere was a nice little appetizer that certainly whet my appetite for what’s to come. I’m already anxiously awaiting next Sunday! Will Jon Snow rise again? Will Drogo lay waste to the Dothraki? Will Hodor Hodor?!?!
BB: Will Tyrion get drunk? By the gods old and new we hope so!