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Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 Episode 1, ‘The Red Woman,’ Finds New Sparks In Familiar Territory

Review: 'Game of Thrones' Season 6 Episode 1, 'The Red Woman,' Finds New Sparks In Familiar Territory

One of the most striking aspects of “The Red Woman,” the premiere episode of “Game of Thrones” Season 6, is that it’s funny. And it’s funny in multiple ways, from turning a minor character’s death at the hands of the Sand Snakes into a punchline, to Tyrion’s attempts to connect with a beggar being skewed by mistranslations, to an extended Dothraki comedy bit about beautiful women. 

READ MORE: ‘Game of Thrones’: Meet Indiewire’s Panel of Critics For Season 6

That levity is welcome, in an episode that’s not immune to the show’s legendary darkness (including a huge number of deaths within the Martell house), but does feel somehow lighter than where we left off in Season 5. The bodies still pile up in a sprawling episode full of ongoing storylines, but there’s a definite sense that there’s hope for some of these hopeless sorts. 

This sense began surprisingly early in the episode: Anyone whose soul didn’t thrill with triumph as Brienne of Tarth burst onto the scene to protect Sansa and Theon honestly might not have much of a soul. (Especially given the tenderness Theon and Sansa share just when all seems lost.) Beyond the acting and the choreography of the action, this is why we’re here. These are the sorts of scenes that make the brutality of “Game of Thrones” bearable — even though we know, all too well, that this sort of victory is often fleeting. 

How much this is connected to the fact that as of Season 6, creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are no longer full-on adapting previously published books, but operating on their own terms, is an intriguing question. For, elsewhere in the seven kingdoms, the stage is set here for a number of exciting storylines. Varys and Tyrion have always made for one of the show’s most compelling pairings, so bringing them together for some power brokering should be a great deal of fun. Returning Daenerys to the world of the Dothraki, after many episodes of watching her struggle to lead cities and armies, also feels like a nice return to basics. 

And while Cersei Lannister is not everyone’s favorite character, there’s nothing more thrilling than a comeback story, for which the stage is currently set. Honestly, I’m on board. The most important aspect of Cersei as a character was the revelation we got early i the show’s run, that she would have made an excellent king. Every terrible choice she’s made over the course of the show (well, with the exception of her weird incestual fixation on Jaime, which is its own separate therapy session) has come from that place of frustrated ambition. How that drives her scheming this season is undeniably a delicious thing to contemplate, especially as she’s now recoupled with Jaime with the determination to “fuck them all.” 

It’s also a relief that Arya is getting a second chance with the folks at the House of Black and White, as her involvement with them didn’t feel complete at the end of last season. (If only because we don’t yet fully understand what House of Black and White even is.) It makes you contemplate the emotional heft of a second chance on a show like “Game of Thrones,” where there are rarely takebacks on bad decisions. Arya remains on the short list of series regular characters who remain relatively likeable, despite all the bloodshed for which she is personally responsible. Her journey, as a young woman in a severely patriarchal society, has always been extremely compelling, but with every season, she gets more agency and strength, and becomes even more captivating. 

READ MORE: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 Burning Questions: Jon Snow, White Walkers and Much More

To bring up the dead body in the room: Jon Snow’s eternal fate is still up in the air, thanks to Kit Harington’s physical presence in the first episode, in close proximity to Melisandre (who is a devotee of the Lord of Light, a god who has proven resurrection abilities). As a critic, I’m already on the record as believing that as much as I like Harington as an actor, really for real killing Jon is an exciting move for the show. But if resurrecting Jon is what the “Game of Thrones” writers are planning, it’s interesting that they’re playing it slow, establishing that there are legitimate reasons for them attempting such a move. Honestly, I’d be happy to be convinced that he should be brought back to life. 

It’s funny, writing casually about the notion that a show might resurrect a character who got hella stabbed and is now lying dead on a slab. But it just speaks to how “Game of Thrones” has evolved since its premiere. In sharp contrast to the first season, the world of Westeros and beyond is now one where the supernatural feels like a natural extension of the universe. Take this episode’s final, striking moments — revealing that Melisandre’s attractive form comes courtesy of her pre-established magical powers. This revelation is far from the most fantastical or jaw-dropping of the show’s history. But choosing to end “The Red Woman” with the fact that she’s actually quite grey, as opposed to a more dramatic plot point, feels like a wholehearted embrace of the show’s fantasy roots. 

Which, if you’ve been waiting your whole life to see genre storytelling taken seriously, feels like a triumph. Fifteen years ago, the most wonderous thing that would happen on an HBO series would be a Tony Soprano dream sequence. Now, a prestige drama audience is showing up every week for a TV show about dragons. 

There’s real magic, in that. 

Grade: A- 

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Uh, what exactly about her ruling style makes you think Cercei would have been a good King? Her father would have been a good king. She would have been terrible – as evidenced by literally being wrong on every major policy decision she’s ever made when she’s in power. Ending with giving power and arms to the Faith – which is why she’s in the predicament she’s in now.


Really does not appreciate the way David and Dan handles the Dorne story line. It is such an intriguing and multi-layered story that we are all expecting to know more about in the next book yet the show runners somehow deems it completely insignificant. Maybe the characters will go out like this in the book but at least let us see some more plot before rushing to the resolutions.


i like your input, I know this get written quickly. Please add an ‘N’ to the following sentence. "The most important aspect of Cersei as a character was the revelation we got early i the show’s run, that she would have made an excellent king."

sara wayne

Watch Game

sara wayne

Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 1 Online and download


Cersei would have been a horrible king. So would Jaime. I don’t like what the showrunners have done with the Dorne chapter at all. The Red Woman is much more complicated and deserves more than just showing her as a very old woman with pendulous breasts, very little hair and sagging skin. Disappointed in many aspects of the story tonight.


Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 1 Online and download


One of the things I was happiest seeing was the significant improvement of the lighting and cinematography over previous seasons. This season, the lighting looked more diffused and natural. Even the "sets" didn’t look like sets. It was the first time ever watching the show where it actually had the visual quality of a film. Great episode. Anyone else notice this as well?


Quite the joyful reviewer


Areo Hotah killed like that? The second kill I don’t like, firs Sir Barristan Selmy and now Hotah? Two great warriors with great histories killed like that humm seems like they are cropping the entire story to fit well in their planned 73 hours

Mike lygnos

Alot of people are missing something about the television show getting into new ground not covered by the books. The book story needed some pruning. Some storyline went on forever and would not play well on television. But GR has written many chapters that have not been published. These chapters are apparently not ready for publication but GRR may have finished enough of his next installment so that it could be providing the plot lines for this season. GRR has released so many chapters early, maybe he has shared his "finished" chapters with the showrunners. I mean to say that maybe the show is following the as yet unpublished chapters relatively close and the show and the books will not be as different for this season, anyway,


This episode did have some humor, but everything else fell flat for me. It started strong with Brienne. The Daenerys storyline was already chore to keep up with, but now she is back where she started! Yay! (ugh) Don’t really care about Cersai and to be honest she would make a terrible ruler. The Arya storyline wasn’t interesting at all. You didn’t mention on what happened in Dorne and the sand snakes, which was absolutely god awful.


I completely disagree with just about everything said here. I am starting to get really sick and tired of D and D’s bumbling writing flaws and brainless plot points being give endless praise from a mindless audience. One of my biggest issues with the article would be the point made in the opening paragraph: "one of the most striking aspects of the red woman is that it is funny." Believe me when I say that no one enjoys watching characters like Tyrion make witty remarks more then me, but to be honest, I have never considered the comedy in GoT to be one of its strongest points. And when the author of this article says that she thought "turning a minor characters death at the hands of the sandsnakes into a punchline" was funny, I just cringe. To start, the sandsnakes are not funny, and no matter how much screentime is needlessly thrown at them, I can guarantee I will never enjoy watching them. Also, while Trystane may have been a minor character to people watching the show, his importance is heavily underemphasized in this article. Furthermore, I’m surprised that anyone found the dothraki humor funny. It was drawn out far longer than it should have been, and really wasn’t that funny to begin with. Reading down the article, I begin to see a lot of problems popping up. One of these is when the author says: "Returning Daenerys to the world of the dothraki also feels like a nice return to the basics." With 2 seasons left, returning to the basics is the last thing the writers should be doing, particularly with a character like daenerys whose story needs so much work to get her to where she needs to be. Honestly Im finding daenarys’ story to be so far behind the rest of the show that wasting prescious time on something as irrellevant as this is not a good move and the show will pay for it in time. It isnt like the books where a large amount of plot points can be explored, the show needs to use the time it has well. Another obvious issue is when the author said cersei would be a good king, but thats already been addressed and frankly, I cannot believe someone who has seen the show all the way through could think this, let alone someone who is writing reviews on it. My final issue with this review is when the writer talks about arya and says her big problem with arya’s story last season was that she really didnt know what the house of black and white is. Look, I get it, Aryas story can get boring and you may find yourself uninterested in it because of that. Fine. But surely enough of an explanation has been given that you know or at least suspect why she’s there. No? Ok. But this is my problem with people who watch the show, who haven’t read the books. They have this constant need for entertainment and as soon as they don’t have that, they shut out, with no patience for what is coming, and when something does come, they’re all like: "what is this? this was never explained! I don’t get it!" This is why I believe that the reason most people love the show, but have never read the books isnt a lack of time, but rather just people who can’t deal with something that isn’t constantly keeping there attention with overused characters who they are obsessed with and repetitive sex scenes which often degrade and oversexualise good characters like melisandre. That’s me done, I’m tired and I’m starting to get bored of complaining as it appears to get both me and the show nowhere. Maybe I should learn to seperate the books and the show better and not worry about the direcrion the show takes and just be a mindless viewer like so many others seem to be.

Fred Findley

Loved Game of Thrones last night! It was great seeing that after seeing a great movie like Nina this weekend.

Joyce Sherman

Did anyone else notice how long Davos studied the pattern of blood on the snow after Jon’s body was moved? I can’t seem to get the DVR stopped at the right place to look at the pattern closely, but does it look like the outline of a dragon?


Worst part of Dorne was that Areo Hotah ended up doing nothing.
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