The new series of Game of Thrones is here. That oh-so familiar theme song is playing and the anticipation is running very high. But there’s also a healthy dose of anxiety.
Until now, watching HBO’s Game of Thrones has been like going for a drive using George RR Martin’s road map. Familiar book landmarks have been reached with the occasional detour devised by the show and part of the enjoyment, as a book reader, has been seeing it played out on the small screen.
Except now, we’ve gone ‘off road’ and show runners David Benioff and Dan Weiss are in the driver’s seat.
Martin has given them the broad brush strokes of his story and eventually we will reach the final destination as he imagined. But until then, we could be in for a bumpy ride.
So, how did the season six premier perform? Did it live up to the hype? Did it leave the viewer wanting more? Did it give us some answers?
Yes, yes and no.
No, we didn’t get all the answers we were hoping for. We don’t get a definitive “Jon Snow is dead. We’d better burn him before he turns into a blue-eyed ice zombie”. There is too much ambiguity.
But yes, this episode does live up to the hype and it did leave us wanting more. How can it not?
Mostly, it serves as a ‘touch base’. We move around the Seven Kingdoms, revisiting the key storylines.
We’re also given more story development.
Now, is that because we’ve gone beyond the ‘known’ universe of the books or because Martin has given them an idea of what’s to come and allowed HBO to fill in the blanks?
So, episode one spends much of its time catching up with the main players:
Daenerys is with a new Dothraki tribe and even though she reveals her lengthy title, she’s definitely not in control.
There’s no respect or reverence despite an attempted ‘this is who I am’ moment and she soon learns she’ll be off to the Temple of Dosh Khaleen, where the widows of dead Khals live out their years.
Hot on her heels is Ser Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis. The sell-sword knows Mormont is in love with Dany, which doesn’t seem to bother him. For his part, the spreading grey scale is driving Mormont to save Dany before it’s ‘too late’.
In Meereen, Tyrion and Varys are walking the streets as ‘humble’ merchants, except Tyrion as a nobleman’s ‘swagger’ that’s hard to disguise according to Varys.
The city is in a bad way after the attempted coup by The Sons of The Harpy. Chaos reigns, the people are hungry and Dany is no longer adored by all. Street graffiti reads: “Kill The Masters. Mysa is a Master”.
And to cap it off, they’ve gone and burned her fleet. How’s she going to conquer Westeros now? Maybe she’s better off with the Dothraki. Maybe the Dothraki will help her win her throne? No sign of her dragons though. Just what they had for dinner.
Jaime and Cersei are reunited. Jaime brings home the body of his niece/daughter Myrcella, poisoned by a kiss from Ellaria of Dorne. Jaime threatens revenge and blames himself for her death.
But Cersei reveals the death of her three children were foretold by a witch years ago. She seems broken and resigned to her and her children’s fate.
Ellaria and the Sand Snakes are wreaking havoc in Dorne, killing off Prince Doran as he learns what happens to the Lannister/Baratheon princess. His son is also dealt with by his cousins. It feels as if this will be the last we see of these women, which is interesting as their story is still very much of the books. Artistic license?
In Braavos, we don’t get a lot of the Arya storyline. She’s now a blind beggar, being attacked by the other trainee from the House of Black and White. Is she trying to ‘train’ Arya in the ways of the Faceless Men or just being cruel to a rival?
Methinks this is their version of Jedi training.
Big sister Sansa is faring better in the North. She and Theon/Reek survived the jump from the battlements of Winterfell. But the Bolton hunting hounds are closing in on them and all looks lost until Brienne and Podrick arrive on the scene and save the day.
Fulfilling the quest given to her by Catelyn Stark to protect her daughters, Brienne swears fealty to Sansa. Oath given, allegiance accepted. Where do they go next? To the Wall to seek the protection of the Night’s Watch?
Which brings us to the Jon Snow conundrum. Is he dead, unconscious or in some other realm?
Ser Davos and Jon’s friends hear the howls of the dire wolf Ghost. They discover his body lying in the snow. But as his body is carried away, Davos looks back at the pool of blood with a puzzled look on his face.
What’s so strange? Was there not enough blood? What does it mean????
Melisandre arrives and is shaken by Jon’s apparent death. The Lord of the Light was wrong about Stannis. Was he wrong about Jon as well? Does she even commune with the God or is she a witchy fraud?
“I saw him in the flames, fighting at Winterfell” She says.
“I can’t speak for the flames, but he is gone,” replies Davos.
Later, as Davos and Jon’s mates formulate a plan to deal with the traitors and wrest away control of the Night’s Watch, the action now centres on the Red Woman. They want her involved with the ‘plan’.
In her chamber, Melisandre stands before a mirror and undresses. Naked, she removes the red crystal choker at her throat.
A glance back at the mirror reveals an old and shrivelled woman. Is she The Crone of the Seven Gods? Has the magic of the flames sucked away her life force or is it actually sustaining her?
Melisandre is obviously powerful in some sort of magic, whether it’s divine or something else. Will this power be used to revive Jon and see him fulfil her vision?
His supposed death was the closing scene of season five and the opening scene of season six. It was also a pivotal scene of the last book; 2011’s A Dance with Dragons.
We’re still waiting for The Winds of Winter, leaving book readers as much in the dark as those who’ve only watched the show.
And that’s what makes season six the most exciting yet. We’re literally in uncharted waters. There can be no spoilers, no online leaks, no one to ruin it all in a ‘water cooler’ conversation.
Only those involved in the show know what will happen and that’s what could elevate Game of Thrones from ‘great’ to ‘truly great’.
His supposed death at the hands of his brothers of the Night’s Watch was closing scene of season 5. It was also a pivotal scene of the last book; A Dance with Dragons. The last book. As a book reader, we’re now in uncharted waters.