Everybody’s blind. That seems to be the enduring lesson of the Game of Thrones season 6 premiere. This is a particularly apt lesson, given that most story lines have now overtaken the books. Now, even those of us who love the books are flying blind, just like everyone else.
So, Jon Snow’s dead, everybody. I mean, well and truly dead. There is, of course, a magical woman who worships a god who occasionally raises people from the dead, but more on that in a bit.
When last I wrote this column, my feeling was that plots were moving too quickly to sustain any real quality character development. For the most part, this criticism did not hold for episode 1. The big exception to this was the Dornish plot. The sand vipers killed Doran, his loyal protector, and his son. However, they did such a shitty job of establishing character a year ago that the impact of that coup was lost. It became just some more carnage to start your season with. Huzzah.
At the far opposite end of the spectrum, Jaime and Cersei had a completely riveting scene in which nothing happens. They discuss Myrcella’s death, and Jaime more or less promises revenge on all who have done them harm. What they don’t seem to be able to see is how much their power has been curtailed by the Sparrows and the Tyrells at home, the Boltons in the North, and the Dornish in the South. Still, if the Kingslayer ever figures out how to fight with his off hand, a lot of people will be in trouble. And, in a weird twist of fate, I find myself rooting for a couple of murderous, treacherous, incestuous liars. Ew.
Varys and Tyrion got the band back together in Mereen, which bodes well for that plot line. I would watch Tyrion and Varys talk about almost anything. If you told me that Tyrion and Varys were going to spend three minutes talking about the consistency of their shits, I would say, “Well, I’m sure they’ll find a way to make that subject resonate with a message of grand import about the realities of practical politics in a world that favors brutality over compassion. Oh, and Tyrion will make a dick joke. I’m in!” And that’s what we get on their walk through Mereen. They are the only ones really trying to see things clearly, as they leave their cloistered tower to somehow, vaguely connect with the people.
Arya is training to be Daredevil and the other novice from the House of Black and White is her Stick. With full recognition to the fact that the books are only source material and not a rigid guide for the show, I still hope that Arya succeeds by warging out into cats, because that is cooler and more consistent with the show than if she simply cultivates supernatural hearing ability. Either way, she must see and observe before she acts, which is a good lesson for her, even if the teaching method is a bit grotesque.
And then there’s Brienne of Tarth. Man, is it good to have someone to really cheer for on this show. Which, of course, means that she’ll be dead in two weeks. When she roared onto the screen, sword swinging, horse galloping, I damn near shouted, “Get him, girl!” That is at once out of keeping with the show’s mood and a perfectly reasonable response to a story so joyless. She finally finds Sansa, Reek actually takes decisive action, and their little crew is proceeding nicely.
The big reveal at the end, that Melisandre uses glamour magic to hide her age, is kind of disappointing. She’s just another witch hiding her ugliness, which happens so often and in so many contexts that it’s become expected. At least this explains why she wants to be naked all the time. If you knew that you were a hundred-year-old hag, but you looked like a hot, powerful temptress, wouldn’t you wanna look at yourself naked all the time? Even so, she does nothing. Why not? Is there something else we’re not seeing about her or the situation? Is there another use of glamour about to occur? We will have to find out.
All in all, not much happened in this episode, but pieces were set in motion. Daenerys is moved to the Dothraki, Arya is becoming a blind warrior, Sansa has a posse, Jaime’s on the warpath, Castle Black is about to tear itself apart with the help of the Wildlings, and the Boltons are crazy and evil (crevil?). Oh, and the Dornish are about to act like giant dicks.
All men must die.