Game of Thrones is back. Arguably the TV event of 2016 so far, April 24th’s hotly anticipated The Red Woman saw the return of the Starks and Lannisters, in an episode that fans hoped would provide a bit of relief from the madness that was the final hour of Series Five. Since often the only relief from Game of Thrones is the deceptively merry theme song, as the opening credits rolled I wondered perhaps if this was asking too much.
Of course, the main question on everyone’s lips for this episode is what, if anything, will become of Jon Snow? His death seemed so incredulous to me that prior to watching this episode I questioned what on Earth writers David Benioff and D.B Weiss could throw at us now, given that unexpected shock.
For those of you who haven’t been sucked into Game of Thrones yet, most episodes – if you can forgive this bit of slightly cheeky reductionism – can be easily summarised using ‘three Bs’: blood, battles and boobs. Only a teeny bit of nudity this week, from the titular Melisandre (no pun intended…), but there are a few suitably gory scenes in Dorne and in the woods beyond Dreadfort that provide the ‘blood’ aspect. We also witness altercations between ‘blood’ in the familial sense – we see members of one house reuniting to find strength together, while another experiences a sudden dissolution – reminding us that the writers are never ones to appease our preconceptions, which is what makes Game of Thrones so thoroughly engaging. Bar a few sword fighting scenes, this episode is slower in pace and more tense in mood – so as to carefully set up the remainder of the series, it would appear. As we move focus from Daenerys to Arya to Jorah Mormont, I couldn’t help but succumb to the general feeling of disillusionment experienced by the characters. This helplessness is realised by Tyrion in a brilliantly off-handed line to Varys that encompasses the franchise excellently: “Wherever you are, wherever you go, someone is trying to murder you”.
Once again, the fantastic acting is offset by the beautiful range of filming locations: we travel from the sweltering plains of Essos to the chillingly bleak Castle Black, but the scenes never feel rushed, and while the CGI ‘piggy-bank’ doesn’t appear to have been dipped into excessively, I always enjoy the expert special effects that bring the fantastical elements of the show to life.
As usual, the hour long episode just never feels long enough, and as we reach the culmination of the Season Six premiere we are once again left with an unresolved ending that, irritating as they can be, wonderfully maintain that all- important intrigue.
This was a fantastic episode that hopefully will be a precedent for the rest of the series. Since the show has now overtaken George R.R Martin’s writing, I have a lot of expectation for HBO and co, and can only hope they pay the beautiful books justice, and that viewers get a suitable outcome to match expectations.
Image courtesy of www.youngofw.com.