The wait has been excruciating: as drawn-out, messy and painful as a dagger in the eye. But finally, Game of Thrones is back on our screens.
Season Five ended with a number of characters heading making hasty retreats as battles were lost, plans were scuppered, eyesights were snatched and blood was spilled. Though the trailers and teases have given very little away, we know this: Season Six is going to see us crossing uncharted waters.
The first season to truly leap off the page and get ahead of George RR Martin’s source material (he explained in January that he’d missed not one, but two deadlines for Winds of Winter), Season Six leaves even book readers in the dark.
So with the show past its half-way point and tearing break-neck towards its inevitable end, ShortList will be recapping each episode with the biggest moments, shocking twists and the scenes that left us with our jaws hanging. Read on for details of Season Six, Episode One (The Red Woman).
If you think you can read without getting spoiled, well, you know nothing
Jon Snow’s fate is revealed
In news that will shock no one, Jon Snow is dead.
While his resurrection is a hotly-debated topic among fans who want to see the raven-haired bastard defeat the White Walkers, Kit Harrington spent this episode lying still, eyes closed, while various people touched and prodded his body.
After being woken up by Ghost’s well-timed howling, Davos Seaworth comes out his cabin to see Jon’s corpse and quickly gets the fallen Lord Commander’s supporters to bring him inside and bolt the door. Alliser Thorne and the other traitors, including Olly the Emo Orphan, hold a meeting in which they justify their behaviour to the rest of the Night’s Watch. When they find his body gone, they knock on the door and politely ask Davos to return it. He says he’ll think about it.
The confrontation at the wall seems designed purely to draw out the suspense surrounding Jon’s return (which is a bit of a dick move), but Liam Cunningham ends up delivering some wise-cracking remarks to the slightly flustered Thorne while he waits outside.
Ellaria Sand is out for blood
Given we don’t catch up on all the cast this week (notable absence: Bran Stark, who we haven’t seen since Season Four), it was a shame to have to visit Dorn - arguably one of the weakest, campest, cheesiest storylines introduced in Game of Thrones. From the hypersexual babes with weapons to the lack of development for every Dornish character introduced last year, nobody was excited to see what would happen next.
After poisoning Myrcella Baratheon on her way back to King’s Landing, Ellaria Sand, widow of Oberyn Martell, goes on to murder his brother Doran, his guard Areo Hotah, and his son Trystane (who was betrothed to Myrcella). All in the space of about four minutes. Classic GOT.
The subtext is clear: Dorne was bogging the show down and it might be wise to clean the bloated cast out. But Ellaria’s attempts to avenge her lover by wiping out the male line of his family makes no sense, especially given her bastard-born status. Will Dorne back a woman murdering her own people to avenge her own people? It’s hard to tell.
Sansa gained a new ally
Sansa and Theon’s escape across the frozen wastelands of the North was like a Westerosi homage to The Revenant – although thankfully there wasn’t a bear in sight. Despite their best efforts running through forests and across turbulent, icy rivers, they were caught by guards from House Bolton, sent by Sansa’s husband, Ramsay.
Luckily, they were all taken down by the timely arrival of Brienne, who had tried offering her services to Sansa and was rudely knocked back. Together with Pod, who is becoming pretty good with a sword, and a last-minute assist from Theon, they took out their foes and Brienne entered Sansa’s service.
It seems the group decide to head to Castle Black, where Theon tells Sansa her half-brother will protect her. If only they knew the truth.
Melisandre revealed a shocking secret
While Mel’s powers of resurrection are not yet proven (although she did learn fellow Lord of Light fanatic Thoros of Myr can resurrect the dead in Season Three) we did get a glimpse into the extent of her powers in the closing moments of the episode.
After stripping off before bed, Mel removed the ruby-studded chain around her neck and - staring at herself in the mirror - revealed that her entire appearance is a clever illusion. With the sorcery lifted, we finally saw Mel as an aged, ancient woman, with hardly any hair and sagging skin.
There have been hints in the books that Mel’s appearance is not what it seems (she is never seen eating or sleeping, for example) and she has been shown to use this appearance-altering trick – known as a ‘glamour’ – to disguise another character in the books, something that was cut from Season Five.
It's speculated Mel’s powers are augmented at the Wall, which is said to be constructed using a powerful type of magic. She tells Davos that when she was looking in the flames after Stannis’s death, she saw Jon fighting at Winterfell. Well, we saw that too – remember those on-set pictures showing a visibly upright Kit Harrington?
Daenerys goes from one hell to another
The irony of her fall from notorious slave-liberator to a slave in her own right doesn’t seem lost on the Mother of Dragons. Captured by a humongous Dothraki hoard at the end of Season Five, Dany is taken to Khal Moro, who is in charge since her husband Drogo snuffed it in Season One.
Rather than bow, she starts yelling her extensive list of accolades in Dothraki, which makes Moro realise she is a widower and does not deserve to be a bed slave. He cuts her free, before explaining that she will live her life as a dosh khaleen, a group of former khaleesi whose husband died. She’s not going to get raped or used as a slave… but she’s not going to be taken back to Meereen, either.
Meanwhile, Dario and Jorah continued their sabbatical across the plains to find their Queen, discovering the ring she dropped before being captured (which means they got there pretty quickly). But are they really going to take on tens of thousands of horselords?