The Red Woman
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
Written by: David Benioff & D B. Weiss
Okay so this is a cheat because JON SNOW IS DEAD, people. Say it with me. Dead. As a doornail. And all of you who expected him to rise from the flames by the end of this episode? Think again. That’s me included, by the way. Jon (Kit Harington) is the first person we see thanks to a lovely crane shot past the Wall (foreshadowing the fact it’s coming down soon, maybe?) into Castle Black, before the Greatest Man in Westeros (*citation needed) aka Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) pops up to do what he always does – protect and serve. Only this time he’s protecting the right man, not a false king like Stannis the (dead) Mannis, and facing the corruption of the dastardly Ser Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) as he begins his own move for Night’s Watch power with some remarkable honesty. By the end, you just want Davos to stave in his smug Geordie face with a cartload of mutton.
The women of the North move around the men in varying degrees of mystery and badass(ery). First you’ve got the very dead, ex-batshit crazy Myranda (Charlotte Hope) being mourned, sort of, by Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) at Winterfell who just when you think might actually care about someone reminds us he’s bonkers by feeding his lover to the dogs. Father Roose (Michael McElhatton) makes a good point to him though; think Stannis was easy? Just wait until a Lannister army is bearing down your back. Oh how little they realise the Lannister’s aren’t even remotely what they should be afraid of right now. To be fair though, Ramsay can’t even send half-decent men to recover flighty Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), surrounded by an increasing crew of awesome people – first Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) aka Reek Reek it rhymes with Greek, who continues his redemptive journey; and secondly the amazing Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who rides in with sidekick Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) to save their bacon. A touching moment reunites them, and reminds us briefly of the Queen Sansa should have been and, who knows… might still be?
Let’s not forget the titular ‘red woman’ of course. No, not flame haired Sansa. No, not the justifiably crimson-faced Cersei. Rather, temptress of Assha’i, the Lady Melisandre (Carice van Houten), very much in a funk after everything she believes in came crashing down around her. First, Stannis—her nominated Azor Ahai reborn—cut down in his prime (*citation needed) and now Jon, who she saw in the flames “in battle at Winterfell”. Now come on, how many of us are expecting her to breathe some fire back into Jon’s cold lungs? First, maybe, she needs to recover her mojo, her belief, and after a reassuring bit of boobs and bum in a remarkably clothed episode all round, Melisandre pulls a hell of a rug from under us, both metaphorically and literally! Let’s just say, if you’ve ever seen a certain bath scene in The Shining, you’re on the right track. We always knew she had some secrets but this one is maybe an even bigger surprise than we expected her to pull.
Down south, it’s not all shits and giggles for the women-folk either. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) looks a bit more human after her ordeal at the hands of the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), and practically skips for joy when Jaime Lannister (Nikolai Coster-Waldau) drops anchor after his European Vacation in Dorne, and a well-conveyed look between them takes the wind out of her sails – yes, she’s lost yet another child. Cersei & Jaime’s subsequent pledge that they will not just avenge, but take, further cements Cersei as driven by rage, loss and prophecy – she knew this would happen since childhood, but what will she do now? A similar question can be asked of Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), stripped of her titles and left to rot by the Faith Militant, facing conversion or a cold cell for the rest of her days – will they break her from the saucy manipulator we previously knew? And when exactly will Diana Rigg sail back in and kick some butt?
The reverberations begin from the Lannister tragedy back in Dorne meanwhile, as Ellaria (Indira Varma) and the Sand Snakes decide enough is enough and it’s time to take gout-filled, well tanned Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) out of play. As is standard with Dorne now, we race through events as the geo-politics changes without any real sense of emotion, but the possibilities of a Dorne thirsting for vengeance and fully entering the game are worth it – will they march on Kings Landing and cause Cersei even more trouble? Close by across the Narrow Sea, if not entirely connected, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) continues her training in brief but effective scenes – like a would-be Matt Murdock, she’s blind, beaten and bloodied by the Waif (Faye Marsay) on the streets of Braavos, looking to push her to fight without seeing. Will Arya end up Game of Thrones‘ own Daredevil, sailing from rooftops to kill without mercy? We can hope!
Lastly, we come to our lovely Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). Oh Dany. How you can remain forever awesome by a mere glance or calm word. Captured by the Dothraki horde loyal to a new Khal, Moro (Joe Naufahu), she is whipped as a slave and leered at by Dothraki warriors eager to ‘f’ her in the ‘a’ (literally), all the while giving them no idea until the last possible moment she can hear their disdain. Don’t they know who she is? Moro rightly laughs in her face at the declaration of her full Westerosi-hybrid title, but perhaps swallows quite quickly that she’s the widow of the respected Drogo – more time to breathe would have allowed the show not to make that so easy for her. Nonetheless, her journey full circle looks far from over.
Nor too the heroes rescue by her loyal steeds, Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) and Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), and quite how Jorah didn’t punch Daario’s smug features as, under the guise of brotherhood, rubs in Jorah’s face that he’s the guy who gets to bang Dany every night while Jorah knocks one off no doubt with his grayscale palm. One can hope he gets the opportunity, before the Stone Men disease gets him. Back in Meereen, it’s almost a shame we can’t have a full spin-off called ‘The Eunuch & the Dwarf’, as any time with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Lord Varys (Conleith Hill) is a pure joy, both bantering as they look upon a city they have no idea how to communicate with, let alone run, at least Tyrion doesn’t yet. Like insurgent terrorists, those dastardly Sons of the Harpy give him another headache by the end and leave you wondering – how can Tyrion possibly save Meereen from falling into the abyss?
Altogether, a solid premiere which sets the chess pieces back on the board, moves a few people close to each other (Game of Thrones gets characters mixing *much* faster these days) and ends with a creepy, almost bizarre final scene which further edges us closer to where we must inevitably be heading. Just remember, Jon Snow is still dead ok? Still dead. Definitely. Uh huh… let’s see what next week brings…
SEXINESS TALLY (in lieu of the Hodor Count):
2 boobs (1 pair)
1 female bottom
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