The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Domain


EP601: The Red Woman

Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa

The fate of Jon Snow is revealed. Daenerys is brought before Khal Moro. Tyrion gets used to living in Meereen. Ramsay sends his dogs after Theon and Sansa. Ellaria and the Sand Snakes make their move. Cersei mourns for Myrcella.



During the previous five seasons, the episode analysis has been done by Elio, but as he is not watching the sixth season I have decided to make the attempt. I am nowhere near as avid a TV watcher as Elio, or as familiar with TV reviewing styles, but we’ll see what I can make of it. Going into this season, my intention is to first and foremost produce a book-to-screen and a video for each episode, but if it works out well with the written analysis I hope to keep doing that too.

The Red Woman is very much a season opener and it suffers from the same issues that have plagued other first episodes as the writers feel a need to catch up with far too many of the different storylines. This is evidenced by some rather light-weight scenes that clearly serve little other purpose than to say “hello, remember this character?” instead of actually doing something worthwhile with said character. There are also some curious omissions where storylines speed along faster than one might have expected, suggesting that the showrunners are heading for that finishing line as fast as possible. There are a couple of storylines that hold together well enough, but they don’t compensate enough for the ones that don’t—especially not for the glaring misstep that Dorne is proving to be—to make this a good episode.

The storyline on the Wall, which picks up in the immediate aftermath of Jon’s murder—his dead body is there for all to see, though for how much longer he remains as such is a different matter—and shows the dilemma of those still loyal to him as Thorne gathers the rest of the Watch around himself and explains that he did what was necessary. Liam Cunningham is, as always, strong as Davos Seaworth, and Ben Crompton as Dolorous Edd is given a bit more room than before. One of the genuinely funny lines of the episode comes towards the end, when Davos says that Edd is their only chance and the response is,  “It’s a sad fucking statement if Dolorous Edd is our only chance.”

The very last scene of the Wall storyline also concludes the episode as a whole; the revelation that apparently Melisandre is using a glamour to hide her true appearance. It is a visually strong, shocking finish that underscores the crisis of faith that Melisandre is now experiencing. That she is much older than she appears has been a long-held theory of book readers, though whether this means that her true appearance shows that age or not has been up for debate. Sadly, the writers once again go out of their way in the “Inside the Episode” video to confirm that Martin had told them she was “several centuries old”, even though they recently said that they had learned their lesson regarding confirming spoilers from GRRM. Given the unusual situation of the show passing the books, the writers’ continued disregard for the book readers is quite astonishing.

In the North we also get reacquainted with Ramsay, and the writers continue to show that they are unfortunately entirely too fond of Iwan Rheon, giving his character far too much room. The idea of Ramsay mourning his psychopathic girlfriend rings false, though his decision to feed her to the dogs even so does not. The interplay between him and Roose is also growing predictable, with Roose seeming to delight in baiting his unstable son, a practice that is unlikely to be good for his long-term health given Ramsay’s expression as Roose talks about his and Walda’s child.

Down south, in King’s Landing, Jaime’s reunion with Cersei focuses entirely on their shared grief over Myrcella, with no direct mention at all of Cersei’s ordeal which presumably was discussed off-camera. Our feelings about Cersei’s portrayal on the show have always been quite negative and much of that centers around how they keep wanting to make her a sympathetic figure. Here we have Cersei tearfully admitting that Myrcella was so pure, so good, that she thought that maybe it meant she wasn’t such a monster if she had given birth to her. The idea that Cersei Lannister would describe herself as a monster is utterly laughable. However, it is unfortunately consistent with their depiction of the character. Worse is that their depiction of Jaime Lannister, who for three seasons seemed set to be one of the more faithful adaptations, continues to deteriorate. They seem completely unwilling to break up the Jaime and Cersei pairing and have thrown all character growth and self insight from Jaime out the window. He appears fully supportive of his sister and declares they they are the only ones that matter and that they will take everything back that has been taken from them. His speech is, unfortunately, very reminiscent of what he tells her in season 1, which supports that there’s a disturbing lack of character development.

And yet, this pales in comparison to how the writers decide to continue the story in Dorne. In one of the most remarkable feats of teleportation yet on the show, word of Myrcella’s death reaches Dorne apparently soon after the ship’s arrival in King’s Landing. With their nefarious plot uncovered, Ellaria and Tyene immediately strike to murder Prince Doran, his captain of the guard Areo Hotah and the maester who brought word; all of this takes place while his guardsmen stand still as statues. Ellaria then gives a speech about how all of Dorne hates him and how Dorne will never be ruled by weak men again. In the next scene, Obara and Nym show upon the aforementioned ship in King’s Landing to murder Trystane, who apparently has been sitting in his cabin since they got there.

But even disregarding that the chain of events is nonsensical, the whole scenario shows once again that often the writers get an idea about a desired end point and then simply force everything there, logic be damned. Why are the guards standing by during the murder, the same guards who arrested the Sand Snakes not long ago? Even if all of Dorne hates Doran, why does Ellaria think they will accept her ruling Dorne? It is as if there’s a complete vacuum around the characters shown on the show. And I have not even touched upon the characterisation of Ellaria and her daughters because it is just too painful to consider.

Across the sea, in Essos, we have four storylines to catch up with. Arya’s piece in Braavos is fine, but could have been left for the second episode to allow some other part of the story a bit more fleshing out. The situation in Meereen following Daenerys’s departure does need to be established, but the scene itself is a lightweight excuse for some quipping between Varys and Tyrion with a backdrop of a Red Priestess preaching to the former slaves about how they need to save themselves now that the Mother of Dragons is gone. It ends with the alarm being raised that the fleet has been set on fire, setting up a similar dilemma for Daenerys as she faces in the books.

Meanwhile, Daario and Jorah (the show does love its various buddy couples and this is a new constellation) searches for the missing Daenerys and of course the find The One Ring—that is, the ring Daenerys so “cleverly” dropped last season in the middle of the Dothraki Sea as a clue for possible rescuers… But this sort of silly coincidence is becoming the rule rather than the exception. There’s at least a nice bit in the exchange between Daario and Jorah where Daario notes that sometimes he looks at Jorah and realises that is him when he grows old. “If you grow old” is the the response from Jorah, and even Daario has to concede to that.

As for the object of their search, Daenerys is being marched with the khalasar to be given as a gift to its khal. It would appear she has forgotten all about how matters work among the Dothraki as she tries to throw her titles at them to be escorted back to Meereen, something which of course is laughed off. This is yet another misguided attempt at having Daenerys act as a ruler, and all she does is come off as petulant. When that tactic fails, she reveals herself as the widow of Khal Drogo and somehow appears surprised and troubled as it is then said that she must join the other widowed khaleesi among the Dosh Khaleen.

The episode will undoubtedly be praised by some for the “strong” women that they feel it presents. But what do these “strong” women do? Brienne rescues Sansa, yes, but the character remains a sad shadow of Brienne in the books. A meeting between Brienne of the books—who essentially is Sansa in armour, still holding onto tarnished dreams of chivalry—and Sansa would have been quite intriguing, but now it is a scenario that holds much less interest as Brienne is little more than a tough, savvy killer. Sansa, meanwhile, goes from having jumped off a wall to escape Ramsay to fearing to cross a river, and yet once Brienne has arrived she suddenly pulls herself together again. Brienne then swears fealty to her just as she once swore fealty to her mother, and that at least is a nice touch.

As for the other women in the episode, I fail to see what is so interesting about their actions. Daenerys’s attempt at proving herself to the Dothraki with her speech is obviously setup to be a failure, but its simply not a reasonable action on her part. I am hoping (but probably in vain) that no one who is praising the “strong” women is thinking of the horrendous acts of kinslaying performed by Ellaria and her daughters. Yes, this caricature of Ellaria from the books may crow about how weak men will no longer rule Dorne, but I would rather take weak men over such deceit and disloyalty any day. What the writers have done with Dorne, at a guess in the name of “shock”, is unforgivable and one of the great tragedies of the show.

Book to Screen

Given the very different circumstances of the adaptation from this season and onwards, the format of the book-to-screen has been altered. Each significant storyline is touched upon and sorted under one of three headings: inspired by the books, possible developments in future books and entirely different.

    Inspired by the Books
    • Winterfell: Ramsay’s concern for Walda’s pregnancy, already noted last season, is an element consistent with the novels where Lord Roose notes the likelihood that none of his children will survive should he die.
    • The North: Theon and Sansa’s successful escape is inspired by A Dance with Dragons, where Theon and Jeyne Poole (the false Arya) escape Winterfell and fall into the hands of supporters of Stannis.
    • King’s Landing: Margaery is imprisoned by the Faith and kept under harsh conditions, as depicted.
    • Meereen: The destruction of the Meereenese fleet—whose existence as being under Daenerys’s control is a show development, as in the novels the ships all set sail before she seizes the city and remain opposed to her—sets the situation to how it is in the novel, where Daenerys does not have ships to transport the majority of her followers.
    • Dothraki Sea: Daenerys does encounter the Dothraki at the end of A Dance with Dragons, although it is likely the outcome will be rather different due to the fact Drogon is by her side. Her bloodriders search for her after her departure, so Daario and Jorah seem to be fulfilling that aspect of the story.
    • Braavos: Arya’s blindness is from the novels, and it is combined with a period in which she wears the face of an ugly little beggar girl. She does practice fighting while blind, as shown last season as well, but those lessons are always in the House of Black and White.
    Possible Developments in Future Books
    • The Wall: Many have speculated that Jon Snow is indeed killed at the end of A Dance with Dragons. The aftermath of that death, especially in terms of divisions within the Night’s Watch and the general unrest as the assassins justify their actions, seems a probable outcome of the conflict
    • Melisandre: Many have speculated that in the novels Melisandre is much older than she appears, a fact apparently confirmed by the showrunners (who, yet again, go out of their way to state something is specifically from GRRM despite having stated in an interview that they’d learned their lesson and wouldn’t be doing it again…) although the precise manner of it has been uncertain; some speculate she uses magic to maintain eternal youth, while others suppose she has extended her life with magic but that she uses a glamour to hide signs of age.
    • The North: Brienne’s search for Sansa could potentially continue following whatever events await her in The Winds of Winter, and it may well be she will enter into Sansa’s service.
    • Meereen: Though Tyrion is a mercenary outside of the walls of the city in A Dance with Dragons, he is in position to potentially have a role in the rule or defense of the city against its enemies.
    Entirely Different
    • The Wall: Ghost is silent in the novels, a detail already noted as a deviation in the series. Davos is not present at the Wall at Jon’s death, so is unlikely to play a role in the immediate aftermath. Castle Black is empty of wildlings on the show, whereas Jon’s death takes place during a large gathering of wildling chieftains.
    • The North: Brienne is not present in the North in the novels, nor is Podrick; when last seen, they were in the riverlands. Sansa, for that matter, remains in the Vale by the end of A Dance with Dragons.
    • King’s Landing: Jaime and Cersei’s relationship is substantially different from that in the novels, where Cersei keeps Jaime at spiteful distance and does her best to keep him out of her way. Cersei remains a very different character than that of the novel. Trystane does not go to King’s Landing—a detail noted last season—and is certainly not murdered by his own cousins.
    • Dorne: The deaths of Doran, Areo Hotah, and Trystane are without precedent in the novels, and even if they were to die in the novels it is extremely unlikely to happen at the hands of Ellaria or the Sand Snakes as depicted by George R.R. Martin. Dorne is the largest departure from the novels. The detail that Doran is hated in Dorne is another change, as while his followers are uneasy about the lack of vengeance, all signs suggest that the smallfolk and a significant portion of the nobility accept Martell rule unquestioned. The logistics of a prince’s paramour and her kinslaying illegitimate daughter taking over Dorne remains a mystery.
    • Meereen: In the novels, Tyrion is a part of a mercenary company rather than acting as a custodian for Meereen while Daenerys is gone. Varys is in King’s Landing at the end of A Dance with Dragons, and there is no evidence to suggest he intends to relocate.
    • Dothraki Sea: Daenerys is not likely to be treated quite as she is treated on the show, due to Drogon’s presence. Daario is a hostage of the Yunkai’i host in A Dance with Dragons, while Jorah Mormont is a sellsword outside of the walls.