The Red Woman
So let’s start with GoT season opener’s namesake, Melisandre. At the end of last season, we saw her return dejected from the complete annihilation of Stannis the Mannis and progeny (too soon?) Immediately, we were presented a side of this character that we have not seen before. During one of her first exchanges with Jon Snow, she states that the cold does not affect her, as the Lord of Light keeps her warm. She has a wicked self-assurance and an unwavering trust in her religion. But the Melisandre that returns to Castle Black has her shawl wrapped tightly around her, at the mercy of the elements for the first time.
Now, the internet has long supposed that she is older than she seems. What is hotly debated is her true identity, and the source of her power. The final scene of episode one can be interpreted as a woman ready to die by shedding her magical and unreal youth. But to me, the more likely explanation is that she has experienced—perhaps for the first time in a long while—doubt. I believe it can be argued that the Red Woman merely wanted to remember herself without the illusions and enchantments. Think Dorian Gray with a reality check. (Let’s just hope she gets inspired with enough time to revive our favorite brooding boy, who is prettier than both of Tormund’s daughters.)
Another amazing theory goes back to earlier seasons of GoT, (S4E7) when Lady Selyse visits Melisandre while she is bathing. Melisandre sits in the tub, without her ruby, and still looks youthful. Many believe this is a mistake on the part of the show-writers, but I contend that it was intentional. If you go back and re-watch this scene (link above), imagining Melisandre as her older self, Selyse and her reactions make more sense. She is not shy because she sees Melisandre naked, she is actually uncomfortably trying to hide her reactions to seeing the Red Woman as she truly appears. It even explains why Melisandre tells Selyse she doesn’t need to use any enchantments on her because she sees the whole truth. Selyse is a true believer, while Stannis and others need the spur of a beautiful and youthful Mel in order to have faith.
Dorne & the Waste of Warriors
The complete tossing aside of formidable fighters is no new topic to GoT. Past note-worthy examples include Ser Barristan, possibly the greatest warrior to ever tread Planetos, being stabbed by mask-wearing amateurs.
Unfortunately, David and Dan are proving that this will become a trend rather than a one-time fluke with the embarrassingly easy take-down of Areo Hotah, who many contend is a physical match for many Westerosi best, including the Cleagane brothers. Not only is his ending anti-climatic, it is done by one of a couple entirely interchangeable girls, whose only distinguishing factors are their weapons and hairstyles.
In this regard, Dorne is done a great disservice. For me, this was one of my favorite regions in the novels. It was capable of boasting both of progressive social ideas and bad-ass characters. The complex political can of worms that was opened by Myrcella going to the one kingdom in Westeros where succession is primarily influenced by age, rather than gender, is snuffed out by her random demise. Not only that, but the mastermind behind the plan to put her on the throne, Doran Martell, is also butchered in the scene wherein the best Dornish actors all spontaneously die.
Lack of Logic in Post-Jon Wall Politics
While Ser Alliser’s speech to his brothers of the Night’s Watch was well-performed, the logic in it is blatantly lacking. While Jon Snow’s assassination in the novels was just as heart-breaking as it was in the show, at least in the books it makes sense. Novel Jon was wanting to gather his fellow Night’s Watch men to attack the Boltons at Winterfell in order to retaliate; his brothers killed him for breaking his vows to sever all loyalties to your namesake. However, in the show, Alliser contends that killing Jon was for letting in the wildlings, which is something “no other Lord Commander has ever done before”. Therefore, in the show, Alliser and the other officers literally assassinate the one non-wilding that the wildlings answered to in any form…that’s not a horrible idea at all.
In other GoT storylines, Jaime and Cersei are continuing their tired trope of “us vs. the world”, which we kinda got the gyst of when Jaime tossed a boy out of a window. You know, in the first ever episode. This is particularly distressing considering Jaime has begun an upward arc by this time in the novels. He was taking his role in the Kingsguard more seriously, and he was distancing himself from the incestuous black hole that is his relationship with our dear Queen regent, who is one more mishap away from releasing her new favorite weapon on everyone. I can’t wait for the bets to start pouring in for the entire Faith Militant versus the Giant Zombie Knight. Meanwhile, Arya is getting whipped in the streets with no objections. Perhaps this is David and Dan’s odd reference to the bystander effect, and to show that Westeros isn’t immune to social psychology.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to rip on this episode of Game of Thrones entirely. However, considering the loose ends and storylines that haven’t even begun yet, and the horrifying new information we are getting that David and Dan plan to shorten the remaining seasons even more, 47 minutes was an entirely too short run-time. That being said, some scenes were pretty great: one, Dothraki Banter, two, Ser Davos at the Wall, and three, Sansa and Brienne.
For all those of us who are tired of victim Sansa, tortured Theon, and wandering Brienne, and the always awesome Podrick, of course, that scene was a beautiful mesh of three separate storylines that needed and new direction an purpose. The exchange of vows was a lovely parallel to Brienne and Lady Stark, and Podrick’s assistance with the words was very sweet. I’m curious to see where our trio get to next; I personally hope for a Hound and Arya 2.0 type renegade story, with Pod making all those prostitutes of Westeros fall in love with him. But that’s all up to HBO…