This discussion of Game of Thrones may contain spoilers and will not take the books into consideration.
Game of Thrones is back. The season premiere — titled “The Red Woman” — followed a familiar trajectory where everyone goes up in a zeppelin and the zeppelin explodes in the season finale and then we’re brought back to earth as the ground work of many storylines is laid for the season.
The episode does some heavy lifting while trying to still be entertaining and provide a little of the shock that is incumbent upon the show (Melisandre at the end and the Sand Snakes dealing out some serious deaths).
1. Jon Snow Seems Pretty Dead
Before the season started Kit Harrington said that he did some scenes and was nothing more than a corpse, despite the insistence of many that you know nothing Kit Harrington, Jon Snow will never die.
A corpse is pretty much what we got here. Snow doesn’t become a white walker, he doesn’t live on in his direwolf. He was only kind of stabbed 49 times but still has life in him. Melisandre doesn’t bring him back as a vessel of R’hllor.
But there is something strange that happens. When Snow’s body is taken away by those still loyal to him, Ser Davos pauses to look at the blood stain Snow left in the snow. The camera lingers a minute, really making a point of Davos’s confusion.
I’m not sure what we’re seeing, but there’s something happening here. The camera gives too much pause in this moment for it to be devoid of meaning.
Helping all the conspirators keep Roswell alive? Melisandre says she saw Jon fighting at Winterfell and we discover that her connection with R’hllor is very real at the end of the episode. The Truth is Out There.
2. The Bolton’s Gamble
The death of “the kennel master’s daughter” is playing a bigger role than we might have guessed. Ramsay — who has the empathetic capacity of Joffrey sans the loving upbringing by Cersei — seems genuinely upset about her death and set on seeking revenge for it.
In Ramsay’s brief screen time we also see him chided by his father Roose for his treatment of Sansa Stark and its impact on their play against the Throne. Without Sansa, who has escaped, they don’t have the support of the North. Without the support of the North, the war is lost.
There’s so much torture for viewers, having to watch horrible people do horrible things and get away with it. To see Ramsay’s treatment of Sansa come back and bite him feels pretty good.
3. Brienne + Sansa Forever
And Podrick has really developed some killer sword skills, even he needs a little help from castrated Theon.
4. Cersei’s Redemption
Outside of Joffrey, there isn’t anyone on Game of Thrones more maligned than Cersei Lannister. But her appearance here produces more empathy for her than any other episode has managed. She’s vulnerable, power evaporated in a storm of death and shame.
Every action she took bred the terrible things that happened to her. Even when she was marched naked through King’s Landing at the end of last season, it felt like she had it coming. The death of Myrcella is the first time that she is pitiable and innocent. Tyrion sent Myrcella away, Jamie went to bring her back to her family, and now she’s dead.
In many ways Myrcella felt like Cersei’s last chance at redemption. Tommen is still unspoiled, but the relationship there is. Cersei had his wife imprisoned, and it makes any pain Cersei feels from that relationship feel as though she has at least played her part in bringing that pain upon herself.
Not so with Myrcella.
In that moment Jamie talks like a man ready to get killed by the laws. Cersei talks of the prophesy that is coming true with the death of a second child.
“Fuck prophesy,” Jamie says. “Everything they’ve taken from us, we’re going to take back and more.”
That’s the exact kind of thing a TV character says a couple episodes before a prophesy gets finished up. But it’s
5. Speaking of Gruesome Deaths
Dorne and the Sand Snakes are moving to the foreground after debuting last season, only to be pushed aside for the most part. Doran Martell became another in a long list of Game of Thrones-ers who have learned that secrets can concentrate power, but they can also be your undoing.
Not informing the Sand Snakes of his plans was the end of him and his son Trystane.
Thus ends all the hopes that an alliance between Daenerys Targaryen and Dorne would be how Daenerys comes to Westeros and how we finally see the fall of the Lannisters.
6. No Way Home
That’s just one way that things are looking bleak for Daenerys. Her fleet is burned and she’s captured by Dothrakis who intend on sending her to a home the widows of Khals.
6. Tyrion the Baby Eater
7. Who Has Power?
The transient nature of power and a massive vacuum of consolidated power was at the center of the season premiere. Who actually has power any more?
The Lannisters have been shamed and are weakened, despite still technically being the rulers of Westeros. Their queen isn’t loved by the family and is imprisoned by the Sparrows. Those Sparrows seem to have some power, but it’s only inside a small sphere.
The Prince and heir of Dorne are murdered.
Stannis is dead, his army is gone.
Jon Snow lost the Night’s Watch, but brought the wildlings through the wall. Alliser Thorne has control of the Night’s Watch — though he doesn’t appear to officially be lord commander — but with the wildlings on their side of the wall, his power is delicate at best.
The Boltons defeated Stannis, but are also in defiance of the throne and have lost the heir to Winterfell and the heir to the Iron Islands.
Sansa has a knight now, but she’s hardly one with power.
Daenerys’s city is imploding and she’s no where to be found. Tyrion has gained power there, but he’s not really recognized as anything more than the babysitter of a city ready to tear itself apart.
Ser Jorah? Things have really improved for him, less that whole greyscale thing that’s going to kill him in due time.
Where is Littlefinger?
Samwell Tarly isn’t in this episode, but he’s not the one who has power.
Arya Stark was getting things together until her sight was taken from her. Now she’s getting beat up and begging for money in the streets.
Melisandre is revealed to really have the power of R’hllor at the end of the episode when we discover that she’s actually a frail old woman. But she looks beaten back and unsure of her powers. It appears that she has misinterpreted her visions and that she doesn’t know what that means.
There’s a lot of power up for grabs this season.
Where in previous seasons there were competing factions playing the “Game of Thrones,” gathering their power to attack or play intricate games of political chess, here there is no superpower. We’ve reached a point where it’s not clear who is in power and how these stories will meet again other than the need to band together when Winter truly comes.