Game of Thrones: 10 things we learned (and didn't learn) from season 6 episode 1
So is Jon Snow alive or isn't he?
***WARNING: SPOILERS for Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 1***
Having left us in agonizing suspense last year Game of Thrones galloped back onto the schedules in the wee hours of the morning (there will be a repeat broadcast at 9pm tonight on Sky Atlantic).
There were several jaw-dropping surprises, some gorgeous set-pieces and winks towards the show's heady tradition of sex and violence. But amid the twists and payoffs, one major plot thread was left dangling. Here then are ten take-aways from the Red Woman.
1: Jon Snow…we still don't know
For the past 12 months, everyone involved in Games of Thrones has been essentially yelling from the roof-tops that the moody Lord Commander is definitively, unambiguously, permanently dead.
No one believes them of course which is why many viewers will regard the opening shot of the freshly felled Snow lying in a pool of blood as yet another misdirection. Dead for now but sure to return - that's our prognosis (the internet would seem to agree).
2: The Red Woman isn't who we thought she was.
The most shocking moment was right at the end as Melisandre, still grieving for Stannis and Snow, removed her gleaming red necklace. Suddenly she aged decades (centuries perhaps). Indeed, the stooped crone who now stood in her place was so withered she looked like a troll from one of Peter Jackson's Tolkien movies. Sensuality has always been part of Melisandre's arsenal, rendering her transmutation all the more unnerving.
3: The Mother of Dragons is in big trouble
Daenerys looked pretty pleased with herself as she confronted the Dothraki leaders in their native tongue, dropping the bombshell that, far from the random slave she appeared to be, she was the widow of mighty Khal Drogo. They were impressed alright.
But then came the bombshell: under Dothraki law, the widows of slain Khals were obliged to see out their days toiling in a fortified convent in the capital of Vaes Dothrak. The smugness fell away from Daenerys and she realized just how vast a pickle she was in.
4: Ramsay has (non-murderous) feelings after all
Do not adjust your set – the sociopathic Bolton heir was genuinely discombobulated by the death of Myranda (sent plummeting from the battlements by Theon last season). She alone had not feared him (a bit of a misjudgment in our opinion) and, for a flickering moment, Ramsay bore a distressing resemblance to an actual human being. But the door slammed shut just as quickly as he ordered her body be turned into the Westeros version of Pedigree Chum and fed to the dogs.
5: The Sand Snakes are back (world's tiniest hurrah)
A majority of the flubbed notes in Game of Thrones season five concerned the Sand Snakes, the whip-wielding, potty-mouthed daughters of Oberyn Martell. Having poisoned Myrcella last year some of us had hoped we'd seen the last of them. But no, here they were, killing off the royal house of Dorne in an escalation of their strategy of waging a destructive war against the Lannisters. But at least their dialogue had improved, setting aside an uncomfortable lurch towards comedy when Trystane Martell copped a spear through the back of the head/front of the face.
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6: Brienne rode to the rescue just in time
Sansa and Theon/Reek/Theon made a decent fist of their escape attempt but were in the end hunted down by the Bolton forces. With impeccable timing, Brienne (and Podrick!) charged into the fray. "Is that a woman?" wondered one of the henchmen, just before the Lady of Tarth sliced his neck open. Hurrah for Brienne!
7: Is Ser Davos the new Jon Snow/Robb Stark/Stannis Baratheon?
For all its nihilism, nastiness and nudity, Game of Thrones has always been at pains to give us someone to root for. But with Jon Snow dead at least on a medium term basis, the show is running short of likeable characters. Excluding Brienne of Tarth on the grounds that, in the necessary circumstances, she'd gladly slice you in two, the only one left of vaguely noble deportment is Ser Davos Seaworth. The problem is that Ser Davos was at his most compelling serving as medieval Waylon Smithers to Stannis's Mr Burns.
With his boss discredited – and dead, obviously – Ser Davos is an appealing sidekick in dire need of someone to fall into line behind. As hero material he'll do for now – it was certainly satisfying seeing him confront Ser Alliser over his betrayal of Jon Snow and rub the scowl off Thorne's jobs-worth face. In the long term, though, a proper leading man type is required.
8: It was heartbreaking watching Cersei grieve for her daughter
They might as well post that Emmy to Lena Headey now. The scene in which she mourned for Myrcella – so kind and considerate and un-Cersei like – was devastating. What an interesting pivot Game of Thrones has made, first with the Walk of Shame and now with the death of Myrcella. For the previous five years, Cersei has been the nasty we've loved to hate. But now the show has invited us to consider what the view might be like from her perspective.
9: Who needs George RR Martin when you've got D&D
Show-runners David Benioff and DB Weiss have run out of books to adapt but making it as they go seems to suit them just fine. Of course we have no idea whether the major developments this season have already been plotted out by Martin or are D&D originals. Yet the omens are positive and it appears Game of Thrones season six will be as thrilling, nauseating and jaw-dropping as those that have gone before.
10: Can someone please give Arya Stark a break
She saw her father publicly executed, arrived at a big family wedding only to discover everyone freshly slaughtered – and now she's blind, begging on the streets of Braavos and being bullied by the Waif from the House of Black and White. When is the Stark princess going to finally catch a break? Not any time soon by the appearance of things.
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The next episode airs on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Monday.