Game of Thrones s6 ep 1

*SPOILERS*

(How long do you think they’re going to string us along for, then?)

This subdued but significant start to the season begins at the Wall, where last season ended, and the big news is that Jon Snow is still dead.

He lies there alone, out in the snow, while poor Ghost howls and claws at the door, till Davos and Jon’s few friends find the body and hole up inside a chamber in the Castle, grieving, plotting, thinking.

“I saw him in the flames,” murmurs Melisandre, “fighting at Winterfell.” “I can’t speak for the flames,” says Davos, matter-of-factly, “But he’s gone.”

For now, anyway. Till he’s back – and he IS coming back, come on – Davos is in de facto command of the tiny band of Snow loyalists, and just as well; I like Dolorous Edd a lot but, if he were in charge, everybody in Team Snow would be bleeding out next to their dead leader.

Thanks to the Onion Knight, though, they have the beginnings of a plan, the prospect of an army – “you’re not the only ones who owe your lives to Jon Snow” – and the possibility of a miracle. “There’s always the Red Woman,” after all.

Or should we be calling her the Grey Lady?

Given she’s the lunatic who had poor Shireen burned at the stake last year, it feels wrong to be pinning our hopes on Melisandre, of all people, but GOT’s raison d’être has always purported to be the subversion of traditional notions of good, evil and heroism. And at this point, it may be easier to count the number of characters we’re rooting for who haven’t committed some kind of horrific murder than the ones who have: even fan favourite Tyrion slaughtered his own girlfriend, let’s not forget. Although (insert some of my usual comments about GOT’s often questionable attitude to women and their bodies, here) the show seems to have.

Speaking of Tyrion, he and Varys are still wisecracking their way around Meereen, but things are not exactly going to plan. The Meereenese have always been hard to please – they don’t want to be slaves, they don’t want to be free, what do they want? – but they’re even less happy since Daenerys flew away on a dragon and never came back; if I were Tyrion and Varys, I’d be following Daario and perpetual sad sack Jorah Mormont right out of Dodge, before people run out of ships to burn and start looking for dwarves and eunuchs.

As usual with the Team Targaryen side of things, of course, everyone in Dany’s circle is infinitely more interesting than her, however, so while I’m infinitely relieved that she wasn’t stripped and violated by this particular Khal – Moran? Moron? Surely not – like she was by her beloved Khal Drogo (see again: “often questionable attitude to women and their bodies”) I would be overjoyed if the Dothraki did manage to pap her off to live (offscreen) with the other Dowager Khaleesis forever. Given her perpetual pouting and speechifying, however, the other Dowager Khaleesis might not be quite as pleased.

The Mhysa of Meereen meandering round the country aside, though, it’s a hugely important week for Queens in general. The distraught Cersei, in particular, may have lost her daughter, but every cloud etc: she’s also regained her estranged brother/lover’s devotion. Brienne’s benign influence and all that Lancel unpleasantness pretty much forgotten, Jaime is firmly back on Team Twins. “We’re the only ones who matter,’ he vows. “We’re going to take everything there is.” Beginning presumably with that Dornish ship still sitting happily in the harbour.

It’s the newly-minted Queen Ellaria Sand who’s doing all the taking for now, though, as she and her utterly charmless daughters take control of Dorne, sounding the death-knell not only for the remaining Martell men but also for any hope that the Dorne storyline might suddenly become watchable.

With Margaery still in a cell, then, it’s left to Sansa to remind us that not all Queens in the Seven Kingdoms are psychopaths. After a genuinely terrifying few scenes on the run from the twin threats of Ramsay “feed my girlfriend’s body to the dogs” Bolton’s men and hypothermia, she is finally rescued by Brienne and Pod (okay, Theon helps, but it’s the LEAST he could do, FFS) and the moment where she and Brienne exchange vows feels very much like a coronation; it seems like a very long time since Arya was the exciting sister, doesn’t it? If we can’t have Jon back quite yet, as least somebody is representing for the Starks. All hail Queen Sansa! And welcome back GOT.

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