‘Game of Thrones’ Episode 601 Recap: “The Red Woman”

Well, you know what they say: “The night is dark and full of–whoa! Terrors, indeed.

But we’ll get to that.

As a faithful page-flipper and dedicated member of Team The-Books-Are-Better (come on, they always are) I was hesitant to dive into this season. While the five seasons of the show aren’t exactly square with the five volumes of George R. R. Martin’s source material, there was no doubt that the sixth season would take things far beyond what we’ve read on the page.

That said, I think we’re dealing with two very different animals here, and my initial hesitancy may have been unfounded. Yes, some things are going to get spoiled in my preferred medium; yes, maybe even the endgame. But between Martin’s glacial writing pace and the idea that there may only be 13-15 episodes left in the show’s run, I’m hoping there will be enough differences to make it worth diving into the spoiler waters of season six. Or, you know, maybe I’ll have forgotten everything that happens by the time the books are all finished … in 2029.

Until then, we need to talk about women. Captured women, dead women, living women, blind women, running women, searching women, imprisoned women, murdering women, mourning women, and really, really old women.

When you think of fantasy literature, women probably aren’t the first thing that come to mind. You think knights, castles, battles, heroes, horses, and kings — all of which Game of Thrones has in spades. But you’ll also think of damsels in distress. And while distress is a circumstance in which many of Thrones’ ladies have found themselves at various points, the truth of the series’ long-game plot is that, one way or another, women end up calling a lot of the shots.

Let’s start with the one in the title: she of the “red” persuasion, Melisandre, the shadowbinder from Asshai. The one we didn’t think was all that elderly. Whoops. She’s old. Really, really old.

While this truth in itself isn’t all that shocking, the implications could be large. How long has she been alive? What has she seen and witnessed? Does she remember the last time the white walkers rose up, making her knowledge that much more crucial? Which infomercial did that youth-preserving necklace come from? How many easy payments of $19.99 will it take to get one?

All very important questions, obviously.

Almost as important as how she’s going to play into the Jon Snow debacle. Jon, as you know, bit the dust in season five’s finale thanks to some enterprising members of the Night’s Watch. Ser Davos brings his body inside — with the help of every last person still loyal to Jon Snow, coincidentally enough. Dolorous Edd rides off, presumably to come storming back with Tormund and a host of wildlings to avenge Jon.

A little bit farther south, the (so they think) heir to Winterfell and the (so they … think?) heir to the Iron Islands escape Ramsay Bolton, who hopes to someday be the ruler of the north. Brienne and Podrick to the rescue! Sansa’s willingness to accept the protection of Brienne has changed since last season’s attempt at the inn. Funny how fleeing for your life from a sadistic husband will do that to you.

In King’s Landing, things are not going well for our two queens. Margaery is cowed by the mean septa after asking after her brother. Cersei gets Jaime back, but only after he brings back their daughter’s body from Dorne. Poor Myrcella. She was the one sweet thing Cersei ever produced, but she’s as dead as the cruel Joffrey.

Continuing south, it’s like the showrunners heard all the complaints about Dorne and decided to shake things up. And shake things up they did. Doran Martell, Areo Hotah, and Trystane Martell all dead in a matter of minutes. I’m still skeptical about the impact of Dorne on this series, but at the least the sandy region can’t be accused of standing pat. Big things are starting to shake out down south.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Arya is still blind and reduced to begging. The waif shows up and beats her with a stick, promising more on the morrow. I could ask rhetorical questions about where this is going, but we all know she’s going to be amazing with that stick in a few episodes.

Jorah and Daario are on the trail of Daenerys, who has ended up in the khalasar of Khal Moro. She’s reduced to walking, which is a sign of shame and disgrace among the Dothraki. Turns out her status as a khal’s widow is enough to grant her protection enough to be escorted to Vaes Dothrak to live with other widowed khaleesis. Taking her there is somewhat of a holy obligation for other khalasars. Fine and dandy, but when do we get some more Drogon?

In the city she left behind, the vandalism is starting to get out of hand. Tyrion and Varys walk through a fearfully quiet Meereen, only to discover that the boats! The boats! The boats are on fire! We don’t need no water let that — never mind. Suffice to say, it looks like getting back to Westeros is going to be even harder now.

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that “The Red Woman” was uneven, it was certainly a little bit shallow. I guess that’s what happen when you need to touch on seven or eight locales and even more characters.

For all that, we still haven’t seen Bran since season four, or any hint of what’s going on at the Iron Islands. Maybe next week. We’ll also get Jaime versus the High Sparrow, Brienne and co. talking about Arya, and Tyrion poking around the dragons.

Stray Observations

– Sounded like Ghost howling right at the beginning. Or am I crazy? Because Ghost is the quiet type. He doesn’t tend to howl.

– Ser Alliser sure managed to get the brother of the Night’s Watch out of the courtyard quickly and efficiently considering he just led the murder of his Lord Commander.

“Hey, you just brutally stabbed the Lord Commander!”

“Let’s just go back to the chow hall, where the other officers and I will calmly talk you through our treasons with a few sentences.”

“Oh, okay.”

Brains are clearly not a requirement of being a sworn brother. Speaking of…

– Dear mutinous members of the Night’s Watch: if you want them out, just burn the building down. Or storm the room. It’s not all that hard. You have the numbers.

– Yelling, “It’s a bloody woman!” isn’t as effective a defense as actually putting up your sword, Bolton stooge.

– Of course Pod knows the words to the vow. Is there anything this guy can’t do?

– AREO!!! NO!!!

– I expect Jorah and Daario to give up the search and form a traveling country western group. First hit single? “There’s No Escaping Men Like Us,” out this summer on Dothrak Records.

– Are we sure it’s greyscale Jorah has? Looks suspiciously like a henna tattoo.

– A blue-eyed Daenerys? Given the lengths to which Martin has gone to always describe the purple eyes of the Targaryens, this seemed like an odd detail to include.

– Davos has a sense of humor I can get behind. Next time I’m negotiating anything, I’ll be asking for some mutton.

Thanks for reading. See you next week for “Home”. Valar dohaeris.

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