“The Red Woman”
Let me just housekeep a few things before we get started…
First, I decided for my own sanity to change the way I cover Game of Thrones this season. I really need to scale it back, so no more 12-paragraph missives or reams of screenshots (unless the shit really goes down) – it’s just more than I have time for. This season’s theme is lean and mean.
Second, it probably goes without saying but I’m going to assume if you’re reading the post, you’ve seen the episode. Since we’re all basically in the same boat now – virtually nothing that happens in Game of Thrones this season will have happened in A Song of Ice and Fire yet (or ever) – spoiler tags seem a meaningless gesture. If for some odd reason Benioff and Weiss loop back to something that gives book readers an insider advantage, I’ll tag it. Otherwise, you’re assumed to be in the know.
Now then, a confession. I actually saw the premiere two weeks ago. I was invited to the premiere night in Los Angeles and made the trip – I mean, seeing Game of Thrones two weeks early and mingling with the likes of Pryce, Cunningham and Headley? Who could say no to that? It’s been a struggle to keep all that bottled up for two weeks, but there you go. I got my photo taken in the Hall of Faces, snapped a few cast pics and drank some cheap well drinks at the Hollywood Roosevelt. Good times.
As for the episode itself, I did re-watch it tonight so that I could reflect on it (and take good notes). On balance I would call it a solid season premiere, more or less following the usual pattern of checking in with everyone (almost) and prioritizing plot over action. I was disappointed Bran didn’t appear (until the preview), considering he’s been gone for a year and they’ve been teasing his role this season hard. The episode suffered from what’s an increasing problem for Game of Thrones as a whole – too many plots, too many characters. That’s not anyone’s fault but it does get very frustrating at times.
For me, the best stuff was (as is often the case) up north. The stuff at The Wall was riveting. The scenes with Sansa and Theon and their rescue by Brienne and Pod were excellent. Dorne, was, as ever, a clusterfuck – I really wish GoT would just pretend Dorne never existed, because they’ve screwed up that part of the story so badly (and it’s not Martin’s best stuff to begin with) that I think it’s beyond repair. Arya looks like she’s headed for a long season (Maisie hates those contacts), and Cersei may just be headed for a comeback. I deplore her, but Headley is a great actress, no doubt, and where Cersei’s children are concerned she can almost make her sympathetic.
In the East, we have Danerys now in the clutches of a new Dothraki Khal – which gives us one of the funnier moments in a pretty serious hour in his “five greatest things in life” routine (I liked “Mutton”) too. I think the presence of a new Red Priest in Meereen is a potentially very important development. Tyrion and Varys – while as ever a hoot when they’re together – are getting the idea of just what a shit job they’ve been left with.
But let’s be honest – what everybody wants to know is what happens with Jon Snow. I won’t rehash all the theory and analysis on the subject – suffice to say I find the arguments that he’s coming back in some form extremely convincing. But if you were hoping for a resolution in the premiere (I wasn’t, to be honest) you’ll be disappointed. What we do get is a very creepy scene involving Melissandre at the end of the episode, which seems certain to be the one everyone will be talking about all week.
Theories present themselves – is she stealing away years from her own life in order to give them to Jon? Is that how all Red Priests bring back the dead? Occam’s Razor suggests she’s simply an old crone who’s been using the dark arts to appear young, and every night she takes off the necklace which somehow seals the illusion in place. But then, even if that were the case Weiss and Benioff are showing us this scene for a reason – and perhaps it’s because they want to show us a Mel who’s completely given up on herself and is ready to die. Why? To make Davos’ request that she bring back Jon all the more dramatic. Ideas about how Jon might live on (perhaps as Jon Stark) abound – it could be the Red Woman, maybe he wargs into Ghost, maybe he returns through a power Bran learns from the Three Eyed Raven. Whatever the answer, we’re waiting at least one more week to find out.