‘Game of Thrones’ Returns and Stays the Course

Game of Thrones

HBO’s Emmy-winning Game of Thrones returns to deliberately not answer the question on everyone’s mind

It would have been a fantastic start to Game of Thrones season six had The Red Woman Melisandre (Carice van Houten) walked into what passed for a shower there in Castle Black to find Jon Snow lathering  up. You know, like Bobby Ewing back in the controversial Dallas season where everyone thought he died but found out next season that was all a dream. I thought it would have been hilarious. Anyway…

Game of Thrones season six begins on an extremely sure foot, immediately rectifying some of the issues people had with season five’s split start. Here, you’re already getting all of the characters and story lines you want to see rather than waiting until future episodes. I suppose it’s better this way, honestly. It flows better, more consistently, even if you’re only really getting about five minutes per major plot. Even if The Big Question left from season five (Jon Snow is dead?) is somewhat unresolved, the season opener feels as accomplished and engaging as any previous season opener. Game of Thrones is back, even if Jon Snow isn’t… yet…

The best moments in the opener belong to future Emmy winner (come on Television Academy, don’t let me down now) Lena Headey. Season five ended with her good child (the sweet and innocent Mrycella) brutally murdered by Ellaria Sand’s (Indira Varma) poison kiss. As brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) sails towards King’s Landing, Cersei’s (Headey) face gradually shifts from one of joy to realization to complete despair. It’s a class act moment delivered by an underrated actress. Even better, she follows that up with a brief scene in which she describes her lament over the loss of her innocent daughter, the one nothing like her mother. Season six seems to be gearing up to broadly feature Lean Headey and give her meaty moments of revenge. Mark my words, this woman will win an Emmy one day for this role.

Woman continue to be pillars of strength in the Game of Thrones landscape. Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who largely sat out season five, saves Sansa Stark’s (Sophie Turner) in a brutal sword fight with Ramsay Bolton’s men. Ellaria Sand continues to avenge her former lover’s death by killing nearly every Dornish man in power. Arya Stark’s blindness persists but she endures the beatings of her fellow servant from the House of White and Black. Daenerys hold fast to some extremely unpleasant Dothraki sex talk as their patriarchal system may be the toughest battle she has yet to fight (where are those dragons now?). And we get to see a great deal of Melisandre as she remains tortured after aligning herself with the losing side in last season’s climatic battle. As the season opener closes, she removes the mystical necklace she’s never taken off and becomes the old lady from the tub who tried to kill Jack and Danny Torrence in The Shining. Tell me who saw that one coming…

All in all, it was a good opener to Game of Thrones. The Internet will be displeased because Jon Snow is still dead. While common thought believes he will return, it would be interesting if the series continued to confound popular opinion by leaving him dead. Still, I cannot shake the feeling that a resurrected, wiser, hardened Jon Snow would make for a fantastic late season six revelation.

Hard to tell what the writers have in store, and that’s all the fun of Game of Thrones. Perhaps the best clue remains in Cersei’s early season one quote, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

That may be all you need to know.

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