Review: Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 1 (2016)

It's finally back, but did the season opener live up to expectations?

And we’re back. Season six of Game of Thrones, that small show you’ve probably never heard of.

The fantasy epic has gone from strength to strength over the past six years, but smug reading nerds still point to the books and say things like ‘Don’t get attached’ or, even more smugly, ‘I’ve read the books, so I know what happens’. Until now! Because author George RR Martin has been writing a book every two or three years at no rush, and the TV show has caught up, changed some stuff around and we’re now in the new realms of possibility that know-it-all bookworms can’t spoil.

This season’s opener essentially reminded us what’s going on in Westeros by showing all the characters and what they’re up to, which isn’t a lot as it turns out. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is still dead but him and his curly hair are still there. Snow’s murderers, the men formerly under his command, have all admitted to killing him and there is obviously going to be a showdown at some point, but not yet.

This theme of ‘not yet’ persists through the episode. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) returns to Kings Landing to tell Cerci (Lena Headey) that their daughter is dead and that’s that. We see Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) in a cell, reminding us that Natalie Dormer looks great even after a spot of solitary, and also that the Sparrows are still around. This continues with most of the characters – they appear, we’re reminded that they exist, and then they’re gone. There’s more to this episode of course, teasers of what will happen throughout the remainder of the series, but not a lot of substance. Hey, it’s the first episode back, so that’s fine.

Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) is being held captive by the Dothraki, but her two suitors, Sir Jorah Mormont (Iain Glenn) and Daario (Michiel Huisman), are on the trail. The Sons of the Harpy are still running amok in Mereen, and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) have come to the conclusion that someone more powerful is behind them. Arya (Maisie Williams) is still blind and living on the streets, and the Boltons are getting ready for war.

Now down to things that have happened. Theon (Alfie Allen) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) are still escaping, presumably after landing on very soft snow below them when they jumped off the castle at the end of last season. They don’t get far before they’re attacked, but Brienne of Tarth (Gwendaline Christie) and Pod (Daniel Portman) show up to save the day, and they go off on their way. It is also mentioned that Stannis (Stephen Dillane) died, so, knowing Game of Thrones, Stannis is probably alive.

The episode’s finale is what the internet went crazy about – presumably because not much else happened in the episode – when the Red Woman (Carice van Houten), the title of the episode, is revealed to be an old woman with all the droopy bits. It’s her special necklace that transforms her into a stone-cold hottie. More interestingly, she seems to be questioning her faith and her visions, in which she saw Jon Snow fighting at Winterfell.

I was also hoping to see more of Alexander Siddig, who plays Prince Doran of Dorne, but he is immediately killed off. The Dorne storylines always felt a bit forced and this seemed like the TV show writers culling a part of the books that they didn’t like. It was sudden and shocking in a Game of Thrones way, but as we’ve not really explored the inner workings of Dorne, it’s not something that holds a lot of meaning for the audience.

One of the issues with Game of Thrones is the sheer number of characters and stories. The show has expanded so massively that it’s hard to keep it all going. Where once you had three stories in season one – King’s Landing, the Wall, and Daenarys and her brother – we now have side characters like the Red Woman whose storylines have developed. Every character is equally compelling, and they have remained where in other TV shows they may have been written out. This season will no doubt see the show’s storylines streamlined again.

This episode was a great start. There is enough intrigue to keep watching the show, as there always is. The show’s creators have stated that this will most likely be the last ten-episode season due to the scale of the task, and that there will be about 13 episodes after that, resulting in some of the story moving forward, potentially with a feature-length ending.

For now, the show continues with its grand scale and excellent storytelling, and it’ll be interesting to know where the story goes without having those book nerds being so smug about it.

Oh, and one last thing: where is Gendry (Joe Dempsie)? Is he coming back? #whereisgendry

Character Development
Things actually happening
Discussion feed

Up next in tv