Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 1 recap


We’re back! And we’re having a coming out party for the women of Westeros. When we began this series the story was dominated by men and women were too often pawns, manipulating or sexing their way to power with little real agency of their own. Now, however, with many of the men we started with dead, the ladies are taking over. In Dorne, there is an actual uprising of women, as Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes assassinate Doran Martell and his son Trystane. So who is ruling Dorne now? Ellaria? Acceptable. Also, that Dornish ship that bore Myrcella Baratheon home needs to get the f*ck out of King’s Landing like yesterday.

The battle between Cersei and Margaery Tyrell is ongoing, and with no Tywin or Tyrion, Cersei is suddenly the politicking Lannister in King’s Landing. This means Cersei’s chief adversaries for the season are Ellaria and Margaery, none of whom have a male figure telling them what to do. Roose Bolton is gearing up for Lannister retaliation in the North, but he might find that Cersei doesn’t rate him as highly as Tywin did, as a foe. One wonders how chauvinistic Roose will handle it when he realizes no Lannister is coming because Cersei would rather eviscerate Ellaria Sand.

But Roose does have a problem and her name is Sansa Stark—f*ck off with this “Lady Bolton” crap. That is the Queen in the North, and she’s a bloody Stark. Sansa and Theon are on the run—she did not apparently land on him when jumping from Winterfell’s walls—and Brienne of Tarth FINALLY connects with Sansa in a meaningful way when she and Podd rescue her from Bolton men. It might irk some to watch Sansa cower while even f*cking Theon gets a heroic moment in the fight, but you have to remember that Sansa isn’t a fighter. She isn’t Arya, training on the streets to be a blind assassin. Sansa has spent the whole series being groomed to be a Cersei/Catelyn style plotter. I don’t expect swordplay from her. What I do expect is for her to unite the North and oust the Boltons from Winterfell.

We do get to see some of the lessons Daenerys has learned in action, though. The last time she was with the Dothraki, she was property exchanging hands, forced to submit to a husband that basically purchased her. This time, though her fear and uncertainty are plain, she refuses to cower and she dictates terms to Khal Moro, who at least respects her position as a Khaleesi enough to ensure Daenerys’s physical safety. Unfortunately, this means he’s taking her to the Khaleesi nunnery to while away her days and die, as is Dothraki tradition (one step up from being burnt in your husband’s funeral pyre, I guess).

She could just whistle down Drogon and fly the f*ck away, but the judicious application of magical beasts on Thrones is a product of budgetary limitations. It irks me, though, that we have to pretend like Daenerys doesn’t have dragons because the producers/directors can’t be bothered to solve the dragon problem without CGI. For a show dubbed Tits and Dragons we’re remarkably short on dragons.

But not tits! We learn a secret about Melisandre that is both intriguing and subversive. Jon Snow is dead and his loyal friends at Castle Black are already talking about ways to bring him back. Ser Davos tells them he has seen Melisandre do incredible things, and we cut to Melisandre, disrobing. It’s a classic Game of Thrones tit-shot, except our point of view revolves until we’re staring at Melisandre’s reflection and we see that she is, in fact, a crone.

You will never again see Melisandre’s naked body without thinking of the “real” Melisandre underneath the sexy glamour, but it also widens the definition of what feminine power looks like. Savior of Jon Snow or not, Melisandre is clearly a powerful witch, and her true form is a wizened old woman. Amongst all the moments of feminine power in this episode—Brienne cutting down men, Ellaria seizing power, blinded Arya picking up a staff, Sansa accepting her first subject, Daenerys staring down her captor—here is one that strips away traditional female beauty and equates age with power.

But what the f*ck is she doing? Is this Melisandre hiding? Or does her granny nap somehow factor into potentially resurrecting Jon Snow? I don’t expect to see Jon Snow alive again right away, so we may not know for a while. Right now it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Thrones subverted the expectation they nurtured over the years, that the female body will be objectified for the male gaze, and turned it on its ear. We’re off to a good start.

Attached - Natalie Dormer participating in the 2016 Virgin London Marathon in London, England on the weekend.