At the end of Season 5, Game of Thrones delivered its greatest headline-grabbing twist yet: Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, bastard son of Ned Stark, true lineage still unknown, greatest hope in the North to fight back against the army of the dead, slain at the hands of his own men.
As cliffhangers go, it was a no ropes, no safety harness job. If it the twisting blade wasn’t gasp-worthy enough, scrutiny over the plot was heightened as tight-lipped readers of George RR Martin’s hefty fantasy tomes confessed that, for once, they didn’t know what was coming next. The closing pages of A Dance with Dragons saw Snow meet the same fate – bleeding out in the grounds of Castle Black – without confirmation over whether he’d drawn his last breath.
In Season 6 we’re into uncharted waters, moving ahead of Martin’s books – with showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss having to face up to the magnitude of the ‘Is Jon Snow Dead?’ hype-storm. How would they handle it?
With business as usual, as it turns out. Episode 1, The Red Woman, avoided the temptation to capitalise on the media attention that shocking new twists and grisly events provide, and instead performed the usual season opener drill: spending a few minutes with each character, reminding us of their predicaments, edging their pieces across the playing board, and hinting at the directions their paths will take in the coming weeks.
Despite the lack of huge revelations, it was a strong episode, setting up some exciting new pairings, more power-shifts, and a healthy quotient of the series’ three mainstays: gore, nudity, and dragons.
Without giving anything away, the Dorne storyline, so stagnant in Season 5, became instantly more exciting within the space of five minutes, while the episode’s fan theory-baiting title led to a final scene that was chilling and unsettling rather than revelatory. Anyone who saw recent folktale horror The Witch should beware for some haunting flashbacks.
Meanwhile Arya’s story, which again fell flat last time around, showed increasing promise, and Sansa’s long-overdue upswing in luck finally seems to be coming around.
With the focus largely on the goings-on in the human camps, the big-picture arc (you know, that pesky army of rabid corpses making its way down the continent) didn’t come into play – but its time will come.
It will be interesting to see how the show develops in the coming weeks without Martin’s blueprint (though Benioff and Weiss do know how his novels will progress). The Red Woman was a well-balanced piece that opened and closed with the most gripping storyline, but brought no grandstanding moments – the eloquent dialogue exchanges that bring the show’s most cuttingly emotional or bitingly acidic scenes.
Still, it’s early days, and it’s comforting to see that the shiny allure of media attention hasn’t gone to Benioff and Weiss’ heads. There’ll be plenty of time over the next nine episodes to shake the board up, and exercising restraint early on feels like a confident move – without beheading anyone or going for shock-and-awe in Episode 1, it seems Game of Thrones is content to simply be the richest, most enthralling show on TV.
Watch The Inside Take Here :
And Episode 2 Preview :