As Ser Davos waits for Thorne to bring his mutton, life goes on for everybody else in the premiere of the sixth season of Game of Thrones. For viewers who wanted progress on the Jon Snow/resurrection front, this episode was frustratingly non-committal. Nevertheless, most other sub-plots seemed to move on at hyper speed.
To begin with, we should get some of the potentially negative elements out of the way. Somewhat unusually for the writers/directors/editors of this show, there were a few slip-ups. Early on in the episode, Brienne saves Sansa from Ramsay Bolton’s soldiers… and his dogs. The problem is, after a cathartic fight scene – where Reek evolved into Theon, and Padraig fought as a hero – the soldiers died, but the dogs simply disappeared. There was no explanation. Following Ramsay’s heartfelt eulogy for Myranda, he orders for her to be fed to the dogs. Some have facetiously suggested he called them back for dinner with a dog whistle. In all honesty, that’s currently the most believable scenario, outside of the obvious misstep that this appears to be.
Another issue lies with the Sand Snakes. Not with the appalling writing and equally shoddy acting, but another unexplained event. As the fifth season approached its end, the Sand Snakes appeared on the dock at Dorne, watching as Jaime sailed his daughter, Myrcella, to her poisoned death. Yet, in this episode, two of the same women (along with their thoroughly cheesy dialogue) appear on the boat to murder Tristane. Seemingly they went through the same plot hole portal that the hounds did. Perhaps we shall see an explanation in due course, but currently there are more questions than answers.
This final point may appear harsh, specific as it is, but a continuity error appeared at the end of the episode. As Melisandre removed her necklace, viewers were treated to a bait and switch such that the large 14-year old male demographic may have shed a tear, as the beautiful Red Woman is replaced by the old bath lady from Room 237 in The Shining. This suggests that without her necklace, Melisandre assumes her natural form. However, in the seventh episode of season four (this is my Magic Xylophone moment) we see Melisandre without her necklace bathing, looking as seductive as ever. So does this new discovery rest on a contradiction? Possibly – there are fan theories online which suggest it was all very purposeful, but you may find those yourselves.
Now, eventually we can move on to the more impressive elements. The saviour of Sansa by Brienne represented a rare moment of warmth in the intertwining stories of two of the show’s most unfortunate women. Viewers may approach episode two with a little more hope on that front.
As is customary with Tyrion, he offered some comic relief, accidentally offering to eat the baby of one unfortunate mother. His pithy observation as Danaerys’ ships burn that ‘We won’t be sailing to Westeros soon‘ underlines the abject scenario the Mother of Dragons finds herself in. Walking the desert, being whipped and verbally abused, one would imagine things could only get better for the silver-haired queen. Alas, they do not, as she discovers that her fate as a Dothraki widow lies in servitude in Vaes Dothrak. Of course, it’s hard to believe that will simply be her destiny, but the horizon for Khaleesi certainly appears bleak.
With the loss of her vision, Arya faces a stick fight with The Waif, in a scene which resembles a dark medieval version of Karate Kid. Nevertheless, it’s easy to understand how this training is important to Arya’s growth as part of the Faceless Men, and Faye Marsay’s part, though short, is typically blunt, and equally as impressive.
Overlooking the possible contradiction with regards to the necklace of Melisandre, it is interesting to hypothesise about the meaning of the final scene. Perhaps the Red Woman has lost faith in her gods, or she may need the rest to prepare for such event as the resurrection of Jon Snow. Clarity should be produced as events unfold, and it will be most interesting to watch the continuation of Melisandre’s character arc.
Visually, the premiere stood up to its general high standards. Glorious, expansive shots of Danaerys’s journey are combined with more elaborate, suggestive shots, such as those on the streets of Braavos. In terms of sound, the non-diagetic audio was impeccable, as ever, with craftily chosen mood music, dire wolf howling and crackling fires serving to supplement what was onscreen admirably.
Overall, the opening episode was solid – it demanded attentiveness, and succeeded in building further excitement for the season. It was, however, flawed, and some of the pacing seemed off. Where Dorne fell in a day, Thorne and his men couldn’t even make stew. The justification for this, of course, is to flesh out, as far as possible, the most heavily debated feature in the series: the future, or lack thereof, of Jon Snow. One hour in, and we know nothing.
Dir: Jeremy Bodeswa
Scr: David Benioff, George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Liam Cunningham, Carice Van Houten, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams.
Prd: David Benioff, George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss, Duncan Muggoch, Peter Welter-Soler
Music: Ramin Jawadi
Release: 25th April 2016 (UK)