Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ S06E01 “The Red Woman”

By April 25, 2016

Valar Dohaeris fellow Thrones Geeks! As all men must die, so too must we serve, and it is my honor and privilege to serve as Geeknation’s official recapper of HBO’s juggernaut, Game of Thrones this season! Please comment and join in on the discussion

The moment finally arrived last night with the season six premiere episode “The Red Woman,” so let’s just dive right in, shall we?

In the North

Well, I think the first thing we need to do is address the direwolf in the room:

Jon Snow is still dead (they’re really going to drag this out, aren’t they?).

Picking up mere moments after season five ended, the show begins with a slow push into Castle Black at dawn. We hear a mournful howl on the wind, and see Jon’s body lying alone in the snow, no sign of the traitorous brothers who stabbed him. He is found by Ser Davos Seaworth and a few loyal brothers of the Nights Watch, including Jon’s last remaining close friend, Edd. In case any viewers were clinging to the hope that Jon had somehow survived the stabbing, that dream is dashed as Edd, Davos, and Lady Melisandre (who fled back to Castle Black after the burning of Shireen Baratheon didn’t go quite as planned…) all declare him gone (did Ghost licking Jon’s hand make anyone else tear up? Anyone?).

Meanwhile, Alliser Thorne explains his decision to kill Jon to the remaining members of the Night’s Watch, continuing to prove that, though misguided and kind of a jerk, he is not a man without a twisted sense of honor. He believed that Jon did what he thought was right, but Thorne simply could not get past thousands of years of prejudice against the wildlings (I guess that since he wasn’t at The First of the First Men in season two, or at Harhome last season either, he hasn’t quite grasped the danger the White Walkers present…seeing is believing on this show). Thorne, Olly (ugh, Olly), Yarwick, Marsh and the others felt that killing Jon was best for the Night’s Watch…even though we, as viewers, know how wrong they are.

As for the last few men (and direwolf) loyal to Jon, they prepare to fight and die over his body unless Edd can find help (from Tormund and the wildlings, most likely). Thorne gives them until nightfall to give themselves up, but we’ll have to wait until next week to see the outcome of that ultimatum.

Elsewhere in the north, Ramsay Bolton mourns the loss of his crazy lover, Myranda (at the hands of Theon) while his father Roose makes funny remarks about wanting to reward the man who killed Stannis during last season’s battle (he’s the kind of guy who could never wrap his head around a woman doing that. Go Brienne!). Though the Boltons defeated Stannis, they know a bigger battle is coming (they committed treason by marrying Ramsey to Sansa Stark and Cersei Lannister is not going to let that go) and their one ticket to uniting the North against the Lannisters; Sansa, has escaped with Theon. As the pair flee through the forest and across a nearly frozen river, they are chased by Ramsey’s best hounds and trackers. Theon has fully come back to himself (he is no longer “Reek”) and after sharing a touching hug with Sansa (how is it that this show made me feel for a character who did such despicable things just a few seasons ago?!), attempts to lead Ramsey’s men away from her. The Bolton men, however, are not fooled and find Sansa, only to be attacked by Brienne and Podrick (who has clearly been taking his sword fighting lessons with Brienne seriously). Brienne, Pod and Theon (!) kill them all and Brienne pledges her service to Sansa in a lovely scene that mirrors the one from season two where she did the same for Sansa’s mother, Catelyn. Seeing these two characters come together (finally) just feels right.


In Kings Landing

Cersei has recovered from her Walk of Shame and is back in the Red Keep (under the protection of the newest member of the Kingsguard…a silent “mountain” of a man…), but what joy she felt is short lived as Jaime arrives with the body of their daughter, Myrcella (killed by Ellaria Sand in Dorne last season). Cersei and Jaime share a genuine moment of regret, sorrow, and anger as Cersei expresses her fears that everything that happened was fated to be (remember Maggy the Frog: gold will be their crowns and gold will be their shrouds), but Jaime doesn’t believe in fate, destiny, or in anyone that isn’t them: “everything they’ve taken from us, we’re going to take back. And more.” It’s on, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what they can do as a united pair.

One of the running themes in this episode (and series as a whole) is the idea of purity and innocence. Cersei believed that Myrcella was the one pure thing she ever had a hand in creating, and yet she died. In the following scene, The High Sparrow visits Margaery, who is still in prison for lying under oath to the gods (in regards to her brother, Loras’, sexuality). Margaery maintains her innocence, claiming she has nothing to confess, but when the High Sparrow asks if she is, therefore “pure, perfect and wholly without sin,” she can only answer, “none of us are.” It’s a powerful statement that encapsulates most of the characters in the series: no one who is wholly pure or wholly evil can last long in the world (well, we certainly hope Ramsay gets his comeuppance soon…). That’s a lesson someone like Ned didn’t/couldn’t learn and makes characters like Tywin, Varys, and Jaime (among others) more layered and interesting.

In Dorne

In a rather shocking turn of events (especially to book readers), Ellaria Sand continued her quest for vengeance by murdering the leader of Dorne (and brother to her lost love, Oberyn), Prince Doran Martell. With the help of Oberyn’s daughters (Tyene, who kills Doran’s bodyguard Areo Hotah, and Obara and Nym, who apparently followed Jaime’s ship to Kings Landing…ok, we’ll go with it…in order to murder Doran’s young son, Trystane), Ellaria seeks to lead Dorne into a war against the Lannisters, and by the look of it, the Dornish people are behind her (since several of Doran’s guards didn’t make a move to help him when she and Tyene attacked).

In Essos

With Dany gone from Mereen (flown away on her dragon, Drogon), Tyrion and Varys take a stroll into the city. They debate how rich people walk, observe a group of freedmen praying with a Red Priest (that’s going to be trouble), try to figure out who the leader of the Harpies is (Varys’ “little birds” are on the case) and ultimately watch the ships of Mereen burn in the harbor (I hadn’t realized there were that many ships in the Mereen to begin with…).

Meanwhile, a greyscale afflicted Jorah travels with Daario in search of Dany, who, after having been abandoned by Drogon, is captured by Khal Moro’s khalasar. When brought before Moro, Dany reveals that she speaks Dothraki (and thus understood all of the crude things the riders said about her…awkward?). Though they laugh at her list of names and titles (Daenarys Stormborn, Queen of Mereen, Mother of Dragons, etc), Moro changes his tune when she announces that she is the widow of Khal Drogo (though why he didn’t realize this when one of her titles was “Khaleesi,” I’m not sure…). Though he speaks to her with respect, he refuses to escort her back to Mereen, as the tradition of the Dothraki is for all widows of khals to join the Dosh Khaleen in their city of Vaes Dothrak. So, Dany is going to be a prisoner for at least a little while longer.


Further north in the city of Braavos, we get a brief check in with Arya, who is still blind and begging in the streets. We hear hints of the conversations she overhears, including someone talking about a Kingsgaurd (which would be Meryn Trant, who Arya viciously killed last season), until the Waif interrupts her. They engage in a very one-sided fight with staves (leaving Arya beaten and bloodied) after which the Waif promises to return for another match.

Back In The North

Since the episode is entitled The Red Woman, it seems fitting we spend our last moments with Melisandre in her room at Castle Black. Based upon her actions up until this point in the series, it would be quite a stretch to call Melisandre a character who is “pure” or “without sin,” and yet that is how she sees herself – everything she has done (birthing murderous shadow babies, burning Shireen (someone who was pure), etc) was done in the name of The Lord of Light (“light” – hope, purity, etc). But she herself admits to working in shadow, often using “tricks” and theatricality (potions/powders, a fake burning sword, visions in the flames) to achieve her goals.

After the events at the end of last season, Melisandre’s facade begins to crack. The things she claims to have seen are not coming to pass; Stannis was supposed to be the Chosen One, the Boltons were supposed to be defeated (she saw their banners lying in the snow), and Jon Snow was supposed to be a part of the Battle for Winterfell. As she contemplates her failed interpretations in her room, she stares into a clouded mirror…and lets her greatest facade fall, that of her false face and body. As a powerful Red Priestess (and seemingly with the help of the ruby in her necklace), Melisandre had created a mask (or glamour) that hid her true form, that of a very old crone. Her youth and beauty were an illusion, a lie. So the question is, can a lie be pure (she said as much to Selyse back in season four)? But can she maintain the illusion now that doubt has crept in? Whatever crisis of faith Melisandre does or does not have going forward is likely to be a key component in, not only the ultimate battle between fire and ice (pure or not, she seems like a weapon the realm of men will need when facing the threat of the White Walkers), but also whether or not she has the ability to bring Jon back from the dead (as we saw the Red Priest, Thoros of Myr, do with Beric Dondarrion in season three).

Well, I have to hand it to David and Dan…they started the new season off with a bang, surprising book readers and non book readers alike. There was a nice balance of good things (Sansa + Brienne), bad things (goodbye Doran…), and weird things (Melisandre’s true form) happening. There’s plenty to contemplate, debate, and look forward to in episode two.

Best Moments:

  • Brienne pledges herself to serving Sansa.
  • Jaime and Cersei pledge to take down…everyone.

Most Shocking Moments:

  • Tyene takes out Areo Hotah?
  • Lady Melisandre looks great for her age…

Best Quotes: 

  • She thinks you want to eat her baby. – Varys
  • F*ck prophecy, f*ck fate, f*ck everyone who isn’t us. – Jaime
  • I’d like some mutton. – Davos

Most Pressing Questions:

  • Will Edd find the wildlings in time to help Davos, Ghost, and the others protecting Jon’s body?
  • What is Melisandre’s next move (and shouldn’t be Davos be furious with her after what happened to Shireen and Stannis?)?
  • Will the Sand Snakes ever not be annoying?

One of the intriguing things that became crystal clear last night is that at this point, even if George R.R. Martin had released “The Winds of Winter” before the new season started, the series and the books each have forged their own path. So we’d still be in for all sorts of twists and surprises with the new episodes, as creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have taken the show in directions that I think will end up differing greatly from the rest of the novels moving forward. Suffice to say: there’s never been as complex, shocking, thoughtful, maddening, and mind-blowing a show as this on television, so I think we’re in for another incredible ride this season.

Well, that’s it from the realms of Westeros and Essos for this week! Tell us your favorite and least favorite storylines so far, and what you hope to see next week in episode 2 (I personally can’t wait to meet the Three Eyed Raven). See you then!

Game of Thrones airs every Sunday night on HBO.

Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.

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Rachel Cushing
Rachel is a television editor by day and either a Jedi knight, vampire slayer, or elvish warrior by night. In between she makes time for movies, movies, and more movies (plus a few books, television shows, and then…more movies). When she’s supposed to be sleeping, she writes about movies as well, both here on and on her own blog. Tweet her @RachelJCushing
  • solong

    About Theon coming “fully back”: That’s over simplifying it. We see a man who’s suffering greatly – not only from old guilt and physical and psychological torture and PTSD but a man who can never be who he was nor does he want to be so. Wanting to help Sansa is a way back to being human again which is good but Alfie Allen has said that he’s not Theon Greyjoy “reborn” nor is he fully Reek any more. To Hollywood Reporter he said “but to put a finger on where he’s going, in terms of how much Reek is in there and how much Theon is in there, I can’t really put a percentage on it. But I always thought it would be interesting if he took ownership of that name, Reek, and made it an image of strength.”

    I think that’s beautiful. There is nothing stronger than a survivor of abuse.

    • Rachel

      I definitely agree that he has not been “reborn” and that there is a lot of nuance to the story arc (which Alfie Allen does a brilliant job of selling) but it’s a major step forward for him to “act” like Theon and not “Reek” – that was my intention when I wrote that (there’s not a lot of room to dissect every point I want to make in a recap – it would be 3000 words long!). It’s a testament to the writing and acting in the novel/on the show to treat a person who has DONE such terrible things, but who has also BEEN through terrible things, with such care.

      • Liz K Clark

        Totally agree, and totally understood you on your first post. I was done seeing that iteration of Reek so now we have a hybrid. I do think Theon is dead though – after being through so much you can’t return to your old persona after being put through so much. Make sense?

  • David Johnson

    I think Melisandre taking the necklace off i believe is somehow to help Her Regenerate Her Power. Now are the Lannisters ready for a 2 front war with the North & Dorne till everyone figures out the true threat is from the White Walkers.Was really hoping GeekNation was going to Restart the GoT Podcast 3 or more People don’t always see an Episode the same, but I’ll be back next Monday for Your breakdown!!!

    • Liz K Clark

      Hey hoping for the podcast too but here we go: Overall thought it was a great episode. One of the strongest season openers since the pilot. Lots to cover, and that was well done, as is this written review. Yes, Melisandre revel was unexpected – but come on! She’s a witch or something similar so we knew it was coming in some form sooner or later. And as Rachel said – they really are goign to drag the Jon Snow thing out! But it would be so Walking Dead to reserect him so soon into the season. Right? 😉

      • Rachel

        They’ve so thoroughly committed to the “Jon is dead” thing that they have to keep it up for at least a while, possibly even to the end of the season (though how they preserve his body so long, I’m not sure – because of the threat of the walkers and wights, it’s the common practice to burn the dead at this point). We’ll see!

      • David Johnson

        Clare finally announced on Her Twitter page no podcast. #RIPGoTPodcast

    • Rachel

      I’m sorry I don’t know anything about the podcast – I just joined the GN team as an editorial writer a few months ago! But thanks for reading!
      A few thoughts: I was disappointed they didn’t address the almost literal “cliff hanger” with Sansa/Theon as well, but I can guess that it simply had to do with only having so many minutes in each episode to tell all the stories that need telling!
      I think Melisandre is in a dangerous period of doubt – nothing she thought was true from her visions has panned out and the taking off the necklace is symbolic of that. I’m hoping she regains her sense of purpose and power sometime soon, but am not sure what will bring that about!
      I love that The Lannisters are besieged on all sides – and not just from the north (Boltons) and south (Dorne), in King’s Landing they are up against The Faith AND the Tyrells (I’m wondering if Lady Olenna makes an appearance soon…she was last seen conspiring with Littlefinger). There’s also a lot of unrest still in the Riverlands, so Cersei/Jaime/Tommen may not be sure where to turn first! Personally I don’t think it’ll be north – I think that arena will be dominated by people rallying behind Sansa (Davos? Also, Littlefinger last told Cersei he would head up north with the Knights of the Vale (to cut off Sansa’s head…unlikely)…so I think they may join her as well…though I bet she won’t be interested in being Petyr’s puppet anymore…) vs. The Boltons.
      What I really want to see now is Bran (and meet the magnificent Max von Sydow as the Three Eyed Raven!). Can’t wait til next week 🙂

      • David Johnson

        No problem on the podcast it was just nice because every year Clare would have a different gang to debate the episode. Never had a show where everyone saw it the exact same but She was probably to busy to put it together again this year. You’ll be getting a few people here every week to agree or debate You on Your breakdown of the episode. So welcome to the GN family You’ll be seeing Me chime in a lot. 🙂

  • David Johnson

    OK did I blink when they showed how Sansa & Reek survived the jump of the wall of the castle. Was the a children’s birthday party going on & they landed in a Ball Pit or on top of a Bounce House????

    • Yep, I too was pretty surprised they didn’t show that. I get the ol’ production rule of “out early” in a scene, but that was a pretty big moment that was never revisited.

      • David Johnson

        Neither one of them was even limping & the snow wasn’t deep enough in any of the scenes for a big snow drift. Should have just had them walk out the front or back gate!!!