Critic’s Corner: Winter is Still Coming

If you have not watched “Game of Thrones” up until the end of season five or are just sensitive to spoilers, do not read further. You have been warned.

The end of season five featured the shocking death (at least for non-readers) of Jon Snow and left audiences with three questions: is he really dead, can he be brought back and what’s next?

With those final moments of season five, the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novels officially caught up with the source material. Though Martin has reassured fans that he is, in fact, writing the sixth and seventh novels of the series, there is still a bit of anxiety among readers that they will never get their hands on the saga’s conclusion.

With the show catching up to the novels—despite already diverging from them in a number of ways—audiences are now in uncharted territory. That means that even devout fans of the novels have no idea what is coming next, so those in your viewing group who knew all the secrets up until this point will no longer be able to hold those spoilers over your head.

It is also important to note that this season comes without the release of press screeners (except to President Obama, for some odd reason) which makes me wonder just how many earth-shattering moments are going to take place this season.

If there’s one thing to love—or hate—about HBO’s “Game of Thrones” it’s that it does not waste one second reminding you of its brutal sadism. Picking up moments after where the show left off, season six opens with Jon’s dead body lying in the snow and does a suitable job clearing up some of last season’s questions.

Season five ended with Sansa and Theon (Reek) leaping from Winterfell’s battlements to their unknown fate; Arya found herself blind after defying the Many-Faced God; Dany was last seen surrounded by Dothraki, unarmed and dragon-less; Cersei was in shambles after she was punished by the Sparrows; and Jaime was on a boat returning from Dorne with his freshly dead daughter.

Oh, and Jon Snow was murdered at the hands of his fellow Night’s Watch, which resulted in the biggest social media outcry over a television series that I’ve ever seen.

The not-so-fan-favorite Ramsey shows a bit of compassion (which is as big a twist as any on this show), but also finds himself in a tricky situation given Sansa and Theon’s escape. Jaime and Cersei deal with the death of their daughter, Myrcella, their second murdered child. Tyrion and Varys sift through the rubble of Meereen after Dany’s departure, while Daenerys herself finds herself at a loss of power and is taken prisoner by a new band of Dothraki warriors.

While there is a lot going on, this first episode does give a taste of the quality to come with a surprising amount of poignancy and violence. Of course, as premieres go, there are a few moments that could have been trimmed, particularly a brief scene with Arya that feels out of place and lasts only for a short amount of time relative to most other scenes. Cutting out minor scenes like this would have allotted more time for key characters like Tyrion, who felt almost nonexistent in the episode.

I will say that the Dorne storyline is still pretty weak. Considering that most of the characters are latecomers to the series, it’s not only hard to like them, but it’s even harder to care about or understand why so much emphasis being is put on their story. As this is a show about the “big picture” their role might become more apparent later on, but for the time being it feels forced and uninteresting.
With 10 episodes this season, and even less for the final two, things are finally going to be wrapped up in the epic “Song of Ice and Fire.” With a lot of pieces shifting in the first episode, and plenty of setups for some shocks along the way, “The Red Woman” is just enough of a taste for the carnage to come.

Scott may be reached at [email protected]