Game of Thrones: “The Red Woman” – A Review

Jon Snow, The Red Woman, Game of Thrones, review, TV, Kettle Mag, Luke Gratton
Written by Luke Gratton

The 10 month wait for the new season of Game of Thrones has been – short – excruciating. Everyone is talking about the wait, and now that it’s over, what’s there to talk about? That’s certainly plenty to cover: some good, some bad.

The question everyone is asking

We open over a dark terrain, then Jon Snow’s body. Still dead. It is moments after we left off from the season five finale (and we feel the repercussions of the finale along the way, as you’ll see). I suspect the episode was destined to open this way, if it was any other way the writing team would lose the “is he dead or alive?” suspense we’ve all felt since we last clapped eyes on the show.

All eyes are on Castle Black. All eyes have wanted to be on Castle Black since last year’s twist. And yet, we are greeted back with some anti-climatic scenes. The last four season openings have somewhat dealt with the aftermath of the previous season finale; the death of Tywin Lannister in the opening of season five, for example. But this episode appears to do it with much less grandeur. We race through scenes and are hardly given a chance to breathe when they arrive. That being said, there isn’t much to glare at. It happens. Then it’s over.

Aftermath of season 5

The episode deals with aftermath, yet there are some scenes – especially those concerning Dorne and the Sand Snakes – that could have played out in the season five finale. Perhaps that’s where they belong, unless this season involves Dorne. But even last season barely featured Dorne – so why drag out these two (dull) deaths into the show’s opening of the sixth season? Unless we have some substantial development, I can’t see much justification for this move.

We see a broken Cersei in contemplation. She grasps to what little hair she has, a physical transformation that’ll never let us – or her – or anyone – forget the hard-hitting Walk of Atonement scene. The excruciating long haul of the act clearly haunts her, but there is no sign of the fierce woman who was carried away by Ser Robert Strong – or the Mountain. Of course, the death of her daughter extinguishes some of the flame, but where is the scorned woman and what are her intentions concerning revenge? Jaime takes on the anger, and from scenes from trailers, he’s going to do exactly what he promises his sister. 

Meanwhile, in Meereen: Tyrion and Varys take a stroll discussing the aftermath of an epic from the previous season. Apparently there is no room for development, or very little, and this acts as a sort of prequel for what might hopefully come in the future of the season. It does act as a set up of sorts, setting the scene for what is yet to come. And yet we learn rather suddenly that it will definitely not involve Tyrion returning to Westeros or King’s Landing any time soon. So what comes next? I suppose part of the suspense is not knowing, but knowing it won’t be including a reunion with Tyrion, Cersei and Jaime is somewhat disappointing.

Women take the lead

But we can’t dwell on the negatives. Let’s talk about a strapping hero who puts up the best and only fight of the episode – someone who knows how to take a kick and a punch. Brienne. Somehow we all knew she’d come riding along, but even when she did, we were still in awe. She does so brilliantly and in the style of how she does everything. This season and the last proves that she gets what she wants, even if it takes a hell of a long time. I hope this story keeps up; I hope Sansa Stark is little (or a lot) more than a damsel in distress. Frankly, I’m enjoying that she was saved by another woman, not by a man. The two surviving men of the skirmish, Reek and Podd, play an almost useless role in what Brienne takes home as her own.

We can’t ignore how many women this episode centres on: their inner conflicts, personal or physical. A Queen enslaved, but still she holds tight to her authority even when powerless. There’s still venom in her speech. If this episode succeeds anywhere it’s with the women characters. Two men are riding along in the hopes of saving her, but let’s be honest, if anyone will get Daenerys out of this scrape – it will be Daenerys.

Surprise twist

The heading of the article might be somewhat misleading, and although we knew about the Red Woman’s powers, we didn’t know this. Did we see it coming? Book readers maybe, but even in the moment, no-one really did. The scene is so powerfully shot and well devised, you really don’t want to believe what you are seeing. The pause of the camera watching this decrepit woman observe herself: you want to look away, but you can’t, stunned in disbelief. It explains a lot from previous seasons, like when she attempted to seduce Jon Snow. He says he loves another woman; maybe he did, or maybe he’d love any woman other than her.

Nevertheless, this proves the might of the Red Woman’s power, so what does this hint of her true nature mean for the future? Does the awesome power she possesses mean a certain fan favourite could return? Or are we seeing Melisandre in the days of her long over due retirement? We can’t be sure, but we’ll watch, and we’ll certainly find out. 

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments below!