After a year of fervent speculation from fans, reports of cast sightings on social media and a plethora of interviews refuting rumors he was alive; it all came down to this. When Game of Thrones lifted the gates to its newest season, it was with sights set on its latest fallen hero: Jon Snow (Kit Harrington). Unfortunately, if you were expecting closure as to the fate of one of the most hotly contested deaths in TV history, you might have felt a little shortchanged.
While Snow was incessantly displayed in his post-mortem state and several characters declared his demise several times throughout the hour, the sense that he was alive still lingered; a deep-seated doubt that unshakeably persisted. Maybe that’s denial talking, or a hope that the bread crumbs strewn so carefully throughout book author George R.R. Martin’s mythos will have not been for nothing. For now though at least, it appears he is in fact dead.
If there’s one huge drawback to the speculation-inducing storyline, it is that it’s a distractive force that pulls at the fabric of its neighboring storylines. No matter if you were at The Wall or King’s Landing, it all came circling back to that one needling question: has Snow fallen?
As a whole, Game of Thrones made its sixth landing with a palatable sense of newfound tension. It is the first season produced without one of George R.R. Martin’s published novels as a template, placing fans who have read the books and those who have not, on the same footing for the first time since the series began.
For those dying to know the next twist awaiting their favorite character, there is no Google search that will provide a definitive answer at this point. These are exciting times for Thrones fans. It’s an interesting change of pace for a show that has already established a signature “anything and anyone goes” mentality. For the first time, no one knows or can know even if they wanted to. You wouldn’t be alone in guessing that the shocks are primed to abundantly flow in now.
While there was a fair share of surprises to be found in this opener, there was also a lack of overall progress to the major plots. With a focus that has become so widespread and disjointed, it’s become impossible to move a specific storyline forward. It was an aspect heavily present last season and tonight’s premiere was indicative that the trend will only continue.
At times, “The Red Woman,” like other episodes before it, felt like a collection of vignettes rather than a fully fleshed out series centered on any semblance of core characters. Worse yet, the characters we long to see are taking a back seat to storylines that are hard to define or put a name to. What storyline required so much time that Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), the series’ best character, got only five minutes of screen time? And that’s a generous estimate.
Unlike any time in its history, Thrones appears more self-aware than it has ever been before, buttoning itself down to an obvious degree. If you didn’t know you were watching premium cable, you’d have a hard time deciphering it based on the content. Whether you are pleased to see it or not, the series appears to have fallen prey to all of the criticism heaped upon it over the last year.
Thrones is certainly not the daring show it is used to be. Gone is the first season’s tight focus on its core families and the intimate cohesion created by the hunt for its titular seat of power. The only vestige of its past that it has been allowed to maintain, is the one thing it could afford to lose some of: the violence that permeates almost every scene that transpires.
In comparison to last year’s premiere, this one was packed with a lot more action and in the series’ trademark fashion, Thrones gave viewers a watercooler moment that will undoubtedly be the topic of conversation throughout the land over the ensuing week. In a moment clearly designed to spawn a million memes, it was indicative of a show that’s savvy in knowing its audience.
Game of Thrones is a series that requires fans to weather the bad times, while giving them very few good ones to relish along the way; so judging what’s to come on just this fragment of material would be unfair. The thing to remember is that the show seldom starts off with robust plot moves. It takes its time stirring the pot before the steam lifts enough to reveal what has really been cooking. It’s a series adept at using every single episode to build towards its momentous finale. Only when you look back can you see the tapestry weaved throughout by its myriad plot threads – and most of the time, it’s been worth the wait.
Game Of Thrones isn't sitting quite as high as it used to, but we're still its loyal subjects.