Game of Thrones Recap - Season 6, Episode 1: "The Red Woman"

I've written several "Binge Guides" for Game of Thrones, and here is an excerpt from the new book, the recap of the first episode of season six. The Binge Guide for Season 6 is available now on Amazon Kindle. For more information on my GoT Binge Guides, go here.

Episode One – “The Red Woman”

Episode Number: S06E01
Original Air Date: April 24, 2016
Time: 50 minutes

Opening Credits

The animated map during the credits shows several important locations: King’s Landing, Winterfell, the Wall; across the Narrow Sea, Braavos and Meereen; and far to the south, Dorne.

Castle Black

Outside the walls of Castle Black, the direwolf Ghost howls in the night. Jon Snow lays dead in the snow, stabbed by his fellow rangers for allowing wildlings south of the wall. Davos Seaworth hears Ghost and investigates, finding Jon Snow murdered and surrounded in blood. He and other rangers take Jon back to his room. Edd checks the wounds and is devastated to see his friend—and the Lord Commander—is dead, blaming Alliser Thorne. Melisandre, the Red Woman, arrives and sees Jon Snow has been killed. She doesn’t understand—she saw him in a vision, fighting at Winterfell. 
Alliser Thorne calls the men of Castle Black together. He tells them that he killed Jon Snow, with the help of the other officers, for befriending the wildlings and betraying the Night’s Watch. Back in Jon’s chambers, Edd has freed Ghost, who lays next to Jon. Davos and the others discuss how long it will be before Thorne comes for them. Davos says they need reinforcements, reminding the men that Jon Snow has helped others.
Quotes: Alliser Thorne: “You all know why you're here. Jon Snow is dead.”  Night's Watch man: “Who killed him?”  Alliser: “I did. And Bowen Marsh and Othell Yarwyck and the other officers in this castle.”  Night's Watch Men: “Murderers! Traitors!”  Alliser: “You're right! We've committed treason, all of us. Jon Snow was my Lord Commander. I had no love for him. That was no secret. But I never once disobeyed an order. Loyalty is the foundation on which the Night's Watch is built. And the Watch means everything to me. I have given my life, we have all given our lives to the Night's Watch. Jon Snow was going to destroy the Night's Watch. He let the wildlings through our gates as no Lord Commander has ever done before. He gave them the very land on which they reaved and raped and murdered. Lord Commander Snow did what he thought was right, I've no doubt about that. And what he thought was right would have been the end of us. He thrust a terrible choice upon us. And we made it.”

Winterfell

Ramsey Bolton seems to be saddened by the death of his lover Myranda, remembering how they met. He seems genuinely angered that someone has killed her, almost coming to tears, but then tells the maester that it’s “good meat” and should be fed to the hounds.
Roose Bolton, his father, praises Ramsey for leading the cavalry and mentions that Stannis Baratheon has died in the battle. Roose wonders who struck the killing blow, saying he’d “reward the man.” But Roose is angry with Ramsey—Sansa Stark has escaped, and without her, the Bolton’s cannot hold control of the North. She and Theon have both escaped Winterfell. Ramsey says he has people searching for them. 
Notes: Roose assumes it was a man who killed Stannis; in fact, it was Lady Brienne of Tarth.

Near Winterfell

Chased by dogs and searching men, Theon Greyjoy and Sansa Stark run away from Winterfell, crossing a freezing river to throw off the hounds. Theon leads her to a clearing and some meager shelter under an uprooted tree, but Sansa is shivering and weak. As more dogs approach, Theon offers to lead them away. He tells her to go north to Castle Black, where Jon is Lord Commander. Bolton’s men find and surround them, dogs baying at Sansa, when Brienne of Tarth and Pod arrive on horseback, attacking Bolton’s men and killing them with Theon’s help. Brienne again offers her service to Sansa, who accepts with gratitude this time, repeating the words (with a little help from Pod) that her mother Catelyn Stark said when Brienne entered her service.
Notes: Brienne swore an oath to protect Catelyn Stark in S02E05, just after the death of King Renly Baratheon. Brienne offered her protection to Sansa at the Inn of the Crossroads in S05E02, but Sansa remained loyal to Petyr Baelish—to her detriment. 
Goofs: Many viewers have pointed out how lucky Theon and Sansa were to survive the long fall from Winterfell’s walls. No explanation was given. And not really a goof, but a curious happening: there are at least six Bolton men and two dogs surrounding Sansa and Theon. Brienne kills two, Pod kills one and Theon killed one. What happened to the other two men—and their dogs?

King’s Landing

Cersei Lannister rests in the Red Keep in King’s Landing, still traumatized by her “walk of atonement” through the streets of the city, naked and berated by the townsfolk. She is pleased to hear that a ship from Dorne is sailing into the harbor—Cersei hopes it is her daughter Myrcella Lannister returning. Racing to the harbor, Cersei sees a ship rowing ashore—but it her brother Jaime Lannister—and a body, covered in a sheet. Myrcella was murdered by Ellaria Sand with a poison called The Long Goodbye. 
Cersei is heartbroken. Later, Jaime blames himself for failing to save Myrcella, who was his daughter, but Cersei blames a witch’s prophecy from when Cersei was a child. The witch told her she’d have three children—“Gold will be their crowns,” the witch said, foreseeing the incestuous affair with Jaime—and that each would die.
Notes: The massive guard at the dock standing behind Cersei is Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, or what’s left of him—he was fatally poisoned in the “trial by combat” with Prince Oberyn Martell in S04E08, and Qyburn asked to care for him afterward. He used unsanctioned arts to reanimate the man and add him to Cersei’s guard. Cersei and the witch’s prophecy were shown in S05E01, one of the very rare flashbacks on the show.

Sept of Baelor

In her prison cell, Queen Margaery Tyrell asks to see her brother Loras. The woman guard, Septa Unella, tells her to confess. The High Sparrow arrives and comforts Margaery, telling her that her husband King Tommen misses her dearly. He urges her to confess.

Water Gardens

In the Water Gardens of Dorne, Prince Doran Martell walks with Ellaria Sand. They discuss his brother Oberyn, her former lover, who was killed by the Lannisters in King’s Landing. Prince Doran receives word that Princess Myrcella, recently under Ellaria’s care, has been murdered. Ellaria and her daughter Tyene fall upon the prince and his guard, Areo Hotah, killing them both. Ellaria explains that he was weak, and “weak men will never rule Dorne again.”
Notes: Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane killed Prince Oberyn Martell in the “trial by combat” in S04E08. According to IMDB, “The scenes at Dorne were shot along with the rest of the season 5 Dorne scenes at Seville, so the crew wouldn't have to go back to that location for the scenes for this season.”
Quotes: Ellaria Sand: “When was the last time you left this palace? You don't know your own people. Their disgust for you. Elia Martell raped and murdered, and you did nothing. Oberyn Martell butchered, and you did nothing. You're not a Dornishman. You're not our prince.”  Doran Martell: “My son Trystane...”  Ellaria: “Your son is weak just like you. And weak men will never rule Dorne again.”

King’s Landing

Trystane Martell is aboard the Dorne ship that has sailed to King’s Landing to return Myrcella’s body. The other two Sand Snakes ambush him in his cabin and kill him.
Goofs: In the last episode, all the sand snakes were on shore with Ellaria Sand when the boat left for King’s Landing. No explanation is given for how two of the sand snakes made it onto the same ship that was carrying Trystane, Myrcella and Jaime Lannister.

Slaver’s Bay

Tyrion Lannister and Lord Varys walk through the city streets dressed as common merchants. Tyrion’s convinced he can’t solve the city’s problems from the top of the tallest pyramid. Varys is unconvinced—he thinks Tyrion walks like “a rich person.” In the harbor, they find dozens of ships on fire—the Meereenese fleet has been burned.
In the mountains, Jorah and Daario search to find Daenerys, finding evidence that Drogon, her dragon, has been in this area. They also find evidence of a passing Dothraki horde, and Jorah finds a ring that Daenerys has intentionally left behind.  
A distance away, hundreds of Dothraki march through an arid land to make camp. Daenerys is among them, whipped and laughed at by horsemen of the Dothraki. They discuss her, not knowing she speaks Dothrak, and wonders why her hair is gold. She is brought before the Khal Moro, who starts to undress her. Daenerys refuses, telling him and the others who she is, but they don’t believe her. She speaks of Khal Drogo and how she burned his body. Khal Moro begs forgiveness, believing her, but says her place isn’t in Meereen—it’s in Vaes Dothrak, to live out the rest of her days with the other widowed khaleesis.
Notes: According to IMDB, “Tyrion and Varys' scenes in Meereen were filmed in Castillo de Peniscola in Spain. In order to film these scenes, portions of the castle were sectioned off from the public and some guests staying in hotels overlooking these sections were relocated.” And Dany seems to imply here that she cannot bear children, probably as a result of the black magic that killed her child in S01E09, the same episode where Eddard Stark lost his head.
Quotes: Daenerys Targaryen: “Do not touch me. I am Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen. The First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khalisee of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.”  Khal Moro: “You are nobody, the millionth of your name, Queen of Nothing, slave of Khal Moro. Tonight I will lie with you, and if the Great Stallion is kind, you will give me a son. Do you understand?”  Daenerys Targaryen: “I will not lie with you. And I will bear no children, for you, or anyone else. Not until the sun rises in the west, and sets in the east.”

Braavos

In Braavos, Arya Stark is blind and begging in the streets for food. She was struck blind for taking the wrong life and betraying Jaqen, her teacher, and the many-faced god. The Waif appears, offering her a weapon. They duel, but the Waif easily beats her. “See you tomorrow,” she says.
Notes: According to IMDB, “In order to play Arya Stark as blind, actress Maisie Williams wears large 16 millimeter contacts that she cannot see through.”

Castle Black

Alliser Thorne and his followers in Castle Black prepare to move on the few men who sided with Jon Snow. Thorne speaks through the door to Davos, telling him to surrender by nightfall. And in her chambers, Melisandre, the Red Woman is sad—she knows Stannis has fallen, and with it, her plans. She takes off her dress to prepare for a bath—and removes her glowy necklace. Suddenly Melisandre is a very old and very naked woman—apparently, the necklace creates the illusion of youth and beauty.
Notes: According to IMDB, “Melisandre's true aged appearance was achieved using prosthetics on Carice van Houten and superimposing her face onto the body of an older actress also enhanced with old age prosthetics and full body make up. ”

-------------------------------------—

Critique: 

Wow. Okay, so Jon Snow is really dead. That clears that up, right? I don’t know if you remember, but all throughout the fall and winter of 2015 and the spring of 2016, everyone was talking about this. “Is Jon Snow really dead?” “Are they really gonna kill off Jon Snow?” It was ubiquitous and rampant enough to seep into mainstream pop culture, something akin to the whole “Who Shot J.R.?” phenomenon on the TV show Dallas back in the 1980s. 
Yup, he’d dead. There had been much speculation that he had somehow “transferred” his “spirit” into Ghost, his direwolf, or that he wasn’t really dead, or that the cold and snow would keep him alive enough to allow someone to revive him. And there was MUCH speculation about the blood seeping out of his body. “Is it in the shape of a bird? Or a wolf?”
Turned out none of that mattered—he’s dead, spread out on the table in his room with his little doggie whining at his feet. And Ser Davos and the other loyal Night’s Watch are in for trouble—Alliser Thorn’s at the door. Davos’ laughable request for mutton— “I’m not much of a hunter”—might have confused Thorn, but he’ll be back.
Catching up on the other storylines, we learn that Dorne has new leadership—that’s what a “hostile takeover” looks like. Stabbing a man in his chair while your daughter stabs his guard. And all the other Dornish guards? “Oh, I’m just gonna wait over here to see how all this plays out.” They weren’t very loyal to Doran, were they?
Arya’s begging for scraps and still getting the crap kicked out of her; Cersei gets more bad news; and Margaery tries to make a friend. I don’t see how she can even hold her nose and pretend to trust the High Sparrow—he and Unella and the others are all on a power trip.
Best part of the episode? As usual, I’m going with Brienne of Tarth. Shows up at just the right moment, kicks some serious Bolton booty, gets in one of her trademark bear-like grunts, and saves the day. And Pod got to kill someone! When it was all over, Brienne dropped to her knee and pledged her sword to Sansa, who looked more shocked than honored. Anyone else shouting at the TV when that happened? I don’t remember what I yelled, but it was something along the lines of “YOU BETTER ACCEPT HER! HAVEN’T YOU LEARNED YET?”
Great reveal at the end—I’m assuming the necklace is some kind of “glamour,” an old word for a magical device that changes a person’s appearance. According to the dictionary, a “glamour” is a magic charm or spell affecting the eye, making objects appear different from what they really are. That fits—with the necklace, the camera pans slowly over her naked body. Without it, she looks like Gollum’s mother.

Episode Notes: 

The title of the episode refers to Melisandre, the Red Woman, and the revelation of her true appearance at the end of the episode.
According to IMDB, “U.S. President Barack Obama was the first viewer to see this episode after he requested and was given a screener copy by the show runners before the Los Angeles premiere event on April 10 when most of the media and series cast and crew viewed it for the first time.”
There was some controversy about the necklace as Melisandre is seen without it in S04E07, when she takes a bath in the presence of Stannis Baratheon’s wife, Selyse. 
As for storylines that have been untouched lately, we went all of season five without any word on Bran or Rickon Stark, and we still don’t see an update. Bran we last saw in S04E10 when he talked to the three-eyed raven under the weirwood tree. We haven’t seen Rickon since Osha took him off to find the Last Hearth in S03E09, the same episode that saw the Red Wedding and the deaths of Robb and Catelyn Stark.  And let’s not forget Gendry—no updates on him since he sailed off in a canoe in S03E10.

Nudity and Violence: 

The Witch—Melisandre prepares to take a bath, so we see her boobs and butt. (52:02) AND then her face changes and we see a much older naked woman topless (53:00) and fully nude (53:15) and (53:35) before she climbs into bed. 

References:

Game of Thrones Wiki, several pages. http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Game_of_Thrones_Wiki (accessed February 15, 2017)

HBO Game of Thrones Episode Synopsis.  http://www.hbo.com/game-of-thrones/episodes/6/51-the-red-woman/synopsis.html (accessed February 15, 2017)
IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3658014 (accessed February 15, 2017)