Season 6 Episode 1 Review - 'The Red Woman'

So ' The Red Woman' episode has come and gone again, leaving us once again with more questions than answers. In some ways, Game of Thrones didn't deliver on the big question everyone wanted answering, that being the unambigious fate of Jon Snow. However what it did do so effectively was progress a number of other storylines while keeping a constant emotional thread throughout the episode. Yes, it hooked us in with the Season 5 ending, but this episode ended up being about so much more. Up until that final scene,  I had almost forgotten about the title of the episode, or indeed any potential ramifications for Castle Black, which arguably shows the strength of the episode.

I was more interested in the old school dynamic of Jamie and Cersei, back together and united in grief and revenge. The show is at its strongest when it just allows Lena Headey to showcase her range of acting talents in one on one situations playing off other characters. What I love and loathe in equal measure here is seeing the little piece of joy in Cersei's face as she is informed that the Dornish boat has returned, quickly followed by her realisation of the actual situation involving her daughter's untimely death. Without speaking, we understand Cersei's potential range of emotions as she heads for the docks, and yet we as the viewer know that heartbreak is coming rather than joy. Once reunited with Jaime, Headey's character really steals the show, giving us a timely reminder of the prophecy given to her by 'Maggie the Frog' seen at the beginning of Season 5. Jaime and Cersei as a couple protecting their final cub Tommen gives so much scope for both characters to expand even further as the season progresses.

I was more interested in seeing Sansa finally accept Brienne's vow of loyalty, as this was a simple scene but one of those 'fist pump' moments to finally see Sansa grow and realise she can accept help from others, while at the same time closes Brienne's arc dating back to the days of Catelyn. I loved the echo back to the original vow, and the irony of Brienne using part of her Ned's Sword Ice to save Sansa. Sophie Turner and Gwendoline Christie have been fantastic in every scene they have shared so far, and I look forward to seeing how they will interact as time goes forward. Sansa, even now, with her limited contacts, certainly seems to have the potential to be a powerful player in the North, and it will be fascinating to see how she manages her strategy going forward without Littlefinger by her side.

On a controversial basis, I was more interested to seeing the changing gender shift in the Dornish storyline. As a huge fan of the books, I was left disappointed with last year's Dornish storyline, but this year did feel like a reboot, removing the male influences and bringing forward Ellaria into the game as a major player. Besides, anything that allows the storyline to revolve around the fantastic Indira Varma is fine by me.

As a fan, the Dornish coup is what I have been looking forward to, getting new material that leaves me genuinely shocked at 2.30am UK time. I admit to jumping off my couch when Ellaria stabbed Doran, and that is surely the point of TV drama as a whole, to make you feel something, whether positive or negative ! I knew most of the key moments from Season 1-5, in advance but this was something different, a shocking moment that I didnt see coming...Anyway I digress who will Dorne turn to now? Will it become even more insular, or will it look to new allies in it's inevitable war with the Lannisters.

I found the Dany/Dothraki storyline to be enjoyable without overstaying its welcome, doing enough to introduce the new characters while giving us a refresher on the Dothraki culture and customs. What is particularly important initially is the need to show us the lack of status Dany has amongst the Dothraki before she reveals her former status besides Khal Drogo. There was a nice humour element here amongst the Dothraki but the most refereshing thing for me was to see Dany away from the stagnant Meereenese storyline.

With Dany gone, the leadership of Meereen falls in part to Tyrion and Varys, although what they are in charge of I'm not too sure. An empty, desolate city caught up in famine and war, would appear to be the answer. Someone is certainly still opposing Dany's by-proxy rule behind closed doors through, even going so far as to burn the Meereeneese fleet. If Dany does make it back to Meereen, one has to ask how or if she will ever get back to Westeros.....

Enough has been said about the final Melisandre scene elsewhere, but it certainly seemed to again add to the unpredictability of the episode and leave us none the wiser as to where she, or indeed, the Castle Black storyline, goes from here.

Perhaps, more than anything this episode felt it was about the consequences of the characters actions and not hiding from the past. Cersei has to suffer consequences for her past actions with Dorne, Melisandre seemingly shows the consequences of her years of magic, Doran has to deal with the consequences of his inaction over his siblings death's, Brienne finally gets her consequences, or in this case, closure for her vow to Catelyn, while Jon has already suffered the consequences for his action with the wildlings. Even Dany and Margaery both have to pay the price for their previous actions with the Dothraki and Faith respectively.

In the longer term, it might even be the consequences for Olly and Thorne in turning against their former commander, but for now, no Dragons or Walkers here, just pure human emotion and how people react to being put under pressure. That, is the essence of Game of Thrones, and Season 6 certainly has started in the best possible way, by going back to basics.