Hi all! I’m Michael, the custodian for Pudding Shot! Every week, I’ll be posting my Game of Thrones reviews over at my personal blog, Off the Bookshelf. This week, though, our Monday post is going to be my savage, scathing #hottake on Episode 1 of Game of Thrones Season 6. Warning: this WILL spoil the episode. Read at your own risk! Enjoy!
Another year, another ten thousand words on Game of Thrones.
As with most GOT episodes, the title refers to a whole host of different characters. Cersei wears red when she sees Myrcella’s body. Ellaria and the Snakes are pretty red women with the blood of Trystane and Doran. Arya? Sansa’s hair is red, so there’s that. Dany is referred to as a pink person. Anyway, let’s take this piece-by-piece.
The episode opens on the mournful howls of Ghost as we stare at the very-very-dead Jon Snow. Alliser Thorne presents his case, but we all know it boils down to “jon snow, am i right??” This argument wins over the bigots of the Night’s Watch. Meanwhile, the Jon Snow Resurrection Squad assembles in a tower – Davos, a couple redshirts who’ll probably die soon, Melisandre, Ghost, and – briefly – Dolorous Edd Tollett, who’s gone to find the wildlings, neatly tying up that subplot in S6 where he befriended Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, the giant. Liam Cunningham (Davos) steals the show, delivering some deadpan lines in a surprisingly funny episode. No Jon Snow Resurrection yet, but Melisandre does strip down to reveal her true form: a sad old woman. That scene, the final one of the episode, carried an enormous amount of weight. Melisandre is almost infamous for gettin nekkid on camera; whether it’s for Stannis, Selyse, Davos, Gendry, or Jon Snow, the world has seen the teats of Melisandre many a time. But this time, she stripped down for herself. She stripped down to look at herself. Sad, old, lost. It tied in all the themes of the episode, the idea of stripping away everything but the rawest, barest essence of a person.
Speaking of which…
Theon (my adopted son) and Sansa flee Winterfell. Theon has gone full Finn From The Force Awakens mode, grabbing Sansa’s hand at every opportunity and doing his best to be a big damn hero. I got a little tired of Theon being the driving force in Sansa’s scenes. Not to draw out the Finn comparison too much, but the reason that worked in The Force Awakens was because Rey is confused and peeved at his hero complex. Here, though, it’s played straight. Theon is the main character in Sansa’s scenes; even when Brienne swears her fealty to Sansa, Sansa looks to Theon for some reason (“hey, is this ok?”). It’s the same trap they fell into last season – putting these two characters together is going to naturally shunt one of them to the background. This episode, Sansa got shunted. Nonetheless, I like the general outline of this plot so far. Even if it does mean Brienne got to have her Stannis cake and eat Sansa too, so to speak.(Also, Sansa forgets the vow and Pod corrects her? What the absolute heck. “Sansa remembers her courtesies” is pretty much the defining characteristic for her. “A lady’s armor is courtesy.” Etc. Why does she need dudes to tell her what the vow is?)
The Bolton plot is also well-established, with Ramsay’s cute little funeral speech for Myranda building into a full-on confrontation between Roose and Ramsay. Well, as full-on as the Boltons get. Implicit threats and quiet, menacing looks are the wheelhouse of Michael McElhatton.
Also, Stannis is 1000000000000% dead.
Lena Headey continues to just destroy every scene she’s in, as she and Nikolai (sporting adorable matching hairdos) have yet another “WE ARE WEIRD BUT WE ARE IN LOVE” scene, full of desperate emotion. I liked how they opened that scene with Jaime standing in front of an ivy-lined tower window; he’s on the opposite side of the window that he stood in front of when he threw Bran to his crippling. The scene with Margaery was…good? I’m sure it’ll have more context as the season goes on, but for now it just served to 1 – make an even bigger cartoon out of Sepa Unella, and 2 – establish that Things Are Rough. King’s Landing, this episode, pretty much just existed to remind us that it exists. Also to show off the incredible jawline of Jaime Lannister.
dorne is pictured below:
No but actually – while killing Doran and Trystane and Areo Hotah was a weird choice, I also am kind of excited by it. Ellaria and the Snakes are potential plot machines, even if they aren’t really “characters” by most definitions of the word. The show also made a point of how the guards stand by and let kinslaying happen. Which, ok, weird, but this is something that would’ve worked better if Dorne didn’t feel like it was inhabited by roughly seven people. You want to know what I blame the Dornish problems on? The Alcazar in Spain. They got so wrapped up in netting this sick setting that they didn’t leave any room for establishing Dorne outside of a skeleton crew of characters. A few shots last season of riots in the streets of Sunspear, or rotten blood oranges being flung at Doran might’ve helped set this up. But as it is, Dorne feels like weird stage play happening in a different universe. They tried to use Jaime to connect us to Dorne, but they forgot to make a Dorne to have Jaime connect to. Heck, all we needed was a thirty-second scene of Jaime and Bronn slipping through the streets of Sunspear during a riot and infiltrating the Water Gardens. But noooo, we get the postmodern stage play.
Speaking of stage plays…
Ok. I didn’t really care. I haven’t cared about Arya’s story since she left Westeros. (although I did like the Meryn Trant killing and all the plot that entailed). The Waif beats up Arya. At least they’re capturing the essence of her story in books 4 and 5: stuff happens that seems kinda neat but also very disconnected from the main story. Never been a fan of that. NEXT
MEEREEN & THE GREAT GRASS SEA
Well well well, I wonder how Dany will get a fleet now? If only the Greyjoys were in this season! Tyrion and Varys are and always have been the best power couple in Game of Thrones. The empty city was very eerie (although really? they didn’t even have a retinue of guards? That’s literally how Barristan died, you idiots!) Lots of language jokes in this episode, starting with Tyrion’s Valyrian mumblings. (I still place good money on a burgeoning love triangle with him, Missandei, and Grey Worm. She’s a language tutor, and she has a 100% bang rate with all her students in the show. As far as we know). What didn’t work in Meereen is showing us why Tyrion should care – and why, by proxy, we should care. All I wanted was him to say “when Dany returns, I’ll hand her the city on a silver platter,” or “the names never mattered; it’s just the game I love,” or something like that to establish what he’s feeling about Meereen.
Good brief scene with Daario and Jorah. Again, funny. “Are you what I’ll look like when I’m old?” And for the inevitable complaint about how finding the ring was just sooooo convenient: well, duh. But the ring was also at the center of a giant bulls-eye of trampled grass. Which, by the way, was pretty cool. We got a lot in this episode of characters moving through the echoes of what other characters have wrought.
And then we come to Dany. The Dothraki were, in my opinion, a highlight of the episode. This was quality vintage Game of Thrones here – eminently watchable. The brutality and darkness of Season 5 seems to be washing away like the filth of Saruman. Yes, it was still very rapey – but they managed to balance that with solid frat humor. The Monty Python Spanish Inquisition homage (“seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time is among the five best things in life!”) was actually pretty good, I thought. Obviously humor is a subjective, to-each-his-own thing, but I liked the Dothraki Bros.
Overall, I’d call this episode Literally Spectacular. As in “prioritized spectacle.” Dorne? Fuck it, let’s just go hog-wild. Sansa and Brienne? They meet! I love the different squads assembling across the world, as different characters get thrown together. You really get the feeling that we’re entering a final act, I think; that these things have to come to a head soon. And given that they’re saying we might only have 15 episodes after this season, things are definitely coming to a head. Is there still stuff I hate/am tired of/completely baffled by? Absolutely. Did I have a good time watching the show anyway? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT. Like I said, this was Very Watchable Television. Last season, the heavy weightlessness of the show made it hard to watch even on scenes that weren’t offensive to the senses. But at least I enjoyed this episode. I really don’t mind if I need the Mystery Science Theater 3000 mantra: “Tell yourself it’s a TV show, I should really just relax.”
Like this? Don’t forget to head on over to Off The Bookshelf, where you can read last year’s reviews or just soak in the lovley aesthetics.