It’s been just under a year since we were left with the image of the men of the Night’s Watch stabbing their Lord Commander for his decisions regarding the Wildlings. Fans of the show have finally been getting on board with the theories book fans have been bandying around since they first read A Dance with Dragons. Let’s be honest, one of the most exciting parts of the experience of A Song of Ice and Fire is guessing what’s going to come next and Jon Snow’s untimely death has given plenty of opportunities to predict the future. Considering neither the book nor the TV show have explicitly solved the “mystery” of his true parents it seems ridiculous that he can actually be dead. George RR Martin likes killing off his most popular characters but it would make no sense considering the amount of emphasis he’s put onto Jon’s character. Add to this, the constant rumours about Kit Harrington appearing in costume in the places filming takes pace and you have the world’s least shocking non-death. Still, season 6 had a lot of questions to answer and threads to pick up.
Threads that are picked up pretty much immediately where they were dropped. The episode opens with the lifeless Jon Snow lying in the cold with the howls of his Direwolf, Ghost, heard in the background. Ser Davo Seaworth is the first to discover the deceased Lord Commander and, after a few of the remaining loyal Night’s Watch return, helps carry the body into his room. They must keep themselves safe from the potential violence of Alliser Thorne and his followers. They are preparing to fight whilst Edd goes off to gather Wildlings willing to fight. Enter the Red Woman who realises her predictions for Jon are in jeopardy and appears to have a crisis of faith.
Unsuprisingly, considering the title, the Wall is the main storyline of the episode but there is plenty of action elsewhere. Arya is figuring out life as a blind girl in Braavos and is faced with a future of having to fend off the Waif every day. Over in Dorne, there is a shocking death or two and a political uprising. Cersei and Jaime must start to deal with their grief over Myrcella’s murder whilst Margaery is still adjusting to life in captivity. Tyrion and Varys have a stroll through Meereen whilst Ser Jorah and Daario continue their search for their missing Queen. Who is, incidentally, in the midst of a horny Dothraki hoard and questioning how she’ll get back to the city she fled. Finally, we see the results of Theon and Sansa’s leap from the walls of Winterfell as they continue their escape from Ramsay. Thankfully, when all looks lost our favourite she-knight turns up to save the day.
There is an awful lot going on in episode 1 and the action moves around at quite a pace. The episode flies by and I couldn’t help but wish we had a bit more time to give to certain moments. The reveal of Myrcella’s death and Cersei’s reaction was over too quickly considering how fucking good Lena Headey was in that scene. Cersei’s realisation that her daughter, the only pure thing she was able to create, has been taken from was heart wrenching but glossed over to get back to another part of the realm. Similarly, the part of the episode that gave me the most feels, was also given short shrift. Brienne’s rescue of Sansa and Theon was clearly the most exciting and emotional part of the episode but we are quickly set off in another direction at exactly the point where Gwendoline Christie is doing sterling work.
The problem with this episode is that there are too many storylines to keep going and we still haven’t seen them all yet. God knows what will happen when Bran comes back and with the other missing characters still potentially returning it’s getting quite crowded. This amount of plate spinning is fine in the books but the television show is looking like a balloon ready to pop at any second. I understand the opener has to reintroduce the audience to a lot of ideas so I hope it’s a one-off and not an indication of things to come. I’d like there to be a bit of substance to each story rather than just shoehorning in as much as possible. I mean we could definitely have done without the brief Meereen segment, despite how much I love a good Varys/Tyrion session, and there was no need to include any reference to Daario and Jorah, despite how much I love a look at Iain Glenn’s face.
Still, what we did see was as good as the show has always been. It’s still really well made and the acting is top notch. It’s also nice, as a book reader, to see where the show is going now it’s not as restrained by the book narratives. I think it could be a really exciting time to get rid of a lot of the fat that clogs up Martin’s books and create a few different scenarios to play with. Don’t get me wrong, there a lot of things they’ve missed out that I’m upset about but I’m not so narrow-minded that I can’t appreciate where they’re going. I mean, if they’d followed the book completely Iain Glen wouldn’t have been cast and there would be no place in my heart for Ser Jorah Mormont.
‘The Red Woman’ is a solid opener and a lot more exciting than Season 5 Episode 1. It shows promise for the future but also raises a red flag in terms of scope. With such a short season, Game of Thrones has always have to pack themselves tightly to get through everything. I hope, now they’re getting so far ahead, that they consider slowing the pace just a little and allowing each storyline to develop itself properly. Or at the very least, give us more Brienne please.