‘Game of Thrones’ 6.01 Recap: “We Need to Fight, But We Don’t Need to Die”

To the disappointment of the show’s many fans, the fifth season of ‘Game of Thrones’ was decidedly its weakest. As a consequence, the sixth season arrives with a lot less hype and anticipation than usual. Still, it remains a hugely popular series and viewers want it to return to glory. Can the show-runners get things back on track?

This will also be the first season where the TV adaptation progresses forward beyond author George R.R. Martin’s last published novel in the series (‘A Dance with Dragons’) and ventures into uncharted territory. Because I have not read any of the books, I can’t say which parts of the story (if any) come from Martin’s writing and which are new.

Like most seasons, the premiere episodes starts things off on a slow burn as the show catches us up with where the characters are and sets up new storylines for the remainder of the season.

Castle Black

When Jon Snow was assassinated in the Season 5 finale, disgruntled fans swore that he’d be back one way or the other, either by miraculously surviving his multitude of stab wounds or through resurrection by magic. Producer D.B. Weiss insisted that dead means dead and actor Kit Harrington claimed he wasn’t coming back for Season 6. Yet as the opening titles for the new premiere roll, there’s Harrington’s name still in the credits, and sure enough the first scene opens with the camera swooping down from an aerial view of Castle Black to find Jon Snow lying on the ground.

Well, he’s decisively dead all right. He won’t be crawling away from this one to get patched up by a maester somewhere. (Although seen again throughout the premiere, Harrington spends the entire episode as a corpse.) Ser Alliser and the other traitors left Snow’s body out to rot. His direwolf, locked up in the kennel, senses the loss and howls in anguish.

Ser Davos steps outside to investigate the commotion and sees Snow’s body. He and a small band of Jon Snow loyalists pick him up and quickly bring him inside. The witch Melisandre follows them in. While Davos certainly has no love for her, he recognizes that they’ll need any support they can get. Melisandre seems despondent. She swears that she saw Jon Snow walking through Winterfell again in the vision given to her by the God of Light. Is she losing faith in her god?

Ser Alliser gives a speech to the rest of the Night’s Watch admitting that he and the other officers have committed treason and murdered their Lord Commander. This causes quite an uproar. Alliser swears that it was necessary, because the path Snow was leading them on would end with the destruction of the Night’s Watch.

Alliser next appears at Davos’ door. He offers Davos and anyone helping him amnesty so long as they surrender and turn over Jon Snow’s body. Davos says that they’ll need time to discuss. Alliser gives them a deadline of nightfall. Davos then immediately tells the others that Alliser is lying and will kill all of them as soon as they open the door. While the Night’s Watch brothers are eager to fight and willing to die so long as they take Alliser with them, Davos urges them to be smart. He may have an idea.

Winterfell

Ramsay finds his mistress Miranda dead and Sansa missing. His father is displeased with his failure and reminds Ramsay that he cannot produce an heir without Sansa. If that should happen, and if his own pregnant wife should have a boy (which she believes she will), that child will then be the new heir, cutting Ramsay out. Ramsay sends his best trackers and hounds out to find the girl

The last we saw them, Sansa and Theon made a suicidal leap off the Winterfell castle wall. They’ve survived unharmed, though we get no explanation for that whatsoever. I guess they landed in a snowbank or something. On the run through the woods fleeing from hounds, they’re forced to cross a freezing river. Sansa is weak and frail. As the dogs get closer, Theon suggests that they should split up. He’ll lead their pursuers away and she should go north to Castle Black.

Much like a similar plan failed the cast of ‘The Walking Dead’ recently, Theon’s brilliant strategy falls completely to shit when he’s captured mere moments later. Although he tries to lie and claims that Sansa was killed in the fall and he left her behind, Ramsay’s soldiers aren’t fooled. The dogs quickly sniff her out as well.

Just as things look pretty dire, Brienne and Podrick storm in to the rescue. In a bloody fight, Brienne takes out most of the soldiers and even Podrick gets in a good kill. However, when one of the soldiers overpowers Podrick, Theon picks up a sword and saves him.

With the skirmish ended, Brienne once again swears her loyalty to Lady Sansa, who accepts this time. Prompted by reminders from Podrick of the words to say, Sansa formally knights Brienne into her service.

King’s Landing

Recovering from her public humiliation, Cersei sits in the castle and broods. When she receives news that a ship from Dorne has arrived, she allows herself a brief moment of happiness at the thought of seeing her daughter Myrcella again. That hope is quickly quashed when she sees Jaime and realizes that their daughter is dead. Rather than blame Jaime, as you’d expect would be her reaction, Cersei instead blames herself. She remembers the witch’s prophesy from her youth, in which she was told that she’d watch all of her children die. Jaimie defiantly tells her to “Fuck prophesy, fuck fate” and promises that the two of them, together, will come back stronger and take everything from the world. This would almost be a touching moment if these weren’t two horrible people whose relationship is an abomination.

Meanwhile, in the kingdom’s dungeon, Margaery suffers at the hand of the grumpy nun Septa Unella. The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) offers her a moment of comfort and urges her to confess her sins, but Margaery remains unrepentant.

Dorne

Unaware of Myrcella’s murder, Prince Doran allows Ellaria Sand back into his good graces. This is a bad idea. As soon as news arrives of the girl’s death, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes stage a coup and assassinate Doran, as well as his son and heir Trystane (the one who was engaged to Myrcella).

Meereen

Left in charge of the kingdom, Tyrion and Varys walk its street in humble garb discussing the problems they face with civil unrest. In a very funny moment, Tyrion attempts to give a coin to a poor beggar woman on the street so that her baby can eat, but his Valyrian is poor and she misunderstands him to think that he wants to eat her baby!

Suddenly, they hear a commotion and see people running away from smoke rising on the other side of the city. They move toward it until they get a good view of all the ships in the harbor burning. Someone (presumably the Sons of the Harpy) has destroyed their navy. They won’t be sailing to Westeros anytime soon.

Outside the kingdom, Jorah and Daario follow Daenerys’ trail until they see signs of where she was grabbed by a horde. Jorah finds the ring she intentionally dropped in the grass and correctly surmises that the Dothraki have her.

Indeed, Dany is a prisoner of the Dothraki, but none recognize her or have any idea whom she is. She’s brought before the new leader, Khal Moro, and sternly announces herself with her endlessly long list of titles, one of which of course is Khaleesi. He laughs at her and isn’t impressed. He says that he looks forward to breaking her like a wild horse and making her one of his wives, but his tune changes when she reveals that she’s the widow of Khal Drogo. Moro releases her bonds. A Khal’s widow is to be treated with respect. She thanks him and promises him a thousand horses if he will return her to Meereen, but Moro has no intention of doing that. Per tradition, she will be sent to the homestead of Vaes Dothrak to live the rest of her life in mourning with the other widows of fallen Khals. That’s not exactly the future Dany had planned for herself.

Braavos

Now blinded and feeling sorry for herself, Arya lives as a humble beggar on the street. The mean girl known only as The Waif from the House of Black and White approaches her and tosses her a staff, then demands that she stand up and fight. Despite Arya’s protests, the girl taunts and hits her repeatedly. Finally, she leaves and warns that she’ll be back tomorrow for more. Clearly, the intent here is to train Arya and turn her into Daredevil.

Castle Black Again

After all the other storylines have unwound, the episode returns to Castle Black at the very end to find Melisandre alone in her quarters getting ready for bed. She strips down naked save for the choker she always wears around her neck and looks at her nude body in the mirror. The choker, it seems, is magical. As she removes it, her body is revealed in its true form, a nasty, sagging old hag who looks about a thousand years old.

I have to assume that she doesn’t usually take the choker off before bed, lest someone should walk in and discover her in that state. Does her taking it off now represent a rejection of the God of Light?

Episode Verdict

I try to take detailed notes when I recap a TV show, especially when it comes to a series as densely plotted as ‘Game of Thrones’. At the end of this premiere episode, I was a little surprised to find myself with only about half as many notes as I typically take for any given episode of even a silly show like, say, ‘The Flash’ or ‘Gotham’. Is that a measure that not much happens in this episode? I didn’t feel that way when I was watching it, until the very end when I was shocked that the hour was up and the credits rolled.

I think the premiere accomplishes what it needed to accomplish, inasmuch as that every season of the show starts slowly and ramps up in intensity as it goes. However, I’m reminded that I felt this same way after the Season 5 premiere but the show largely spun its wheels for the next nine episodes. At the moment, I’m cautiously optimistic that the writers got the message from fans and will try to avoid that mistake again.

48 comments

  1. HuskerGuy

    “Prompted by reminders from Theon of the words to say, Sansa formally knights Brienne into her service.”

    I think that was actually Podrick given her the reminder. I could be wrong though.

  2. Timcharger

    Hi Josh, I would have gone with these titles:

    “You’re a greedy B, you know?”

    Under the red dress is dark and full of terrors.

    “What is better than that? (Rhetorically!)”

    • Timcharger

      “And some mutton, too. Throw in some mutton on your deal.”
      (I don’t think those are the exact words.
      But anyway.)

      Davos is great. He’s becoming one of my
      favorite characters. I hope there are scenes
      with Davos and Tyrion. The 2 best Hands of
      the King should interact.

    • Timcharger

      This is the title I would go with:
      “Seeing a woman naked, what is better than that?”

      Obviously that’s from the Dothraki scene, but that
      line has a nice/wicked double meaning with the
      Red Woman scene.

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        I believe quote was something to the effect of “Seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time…” We’ve seen Melisandre naked many times before (though I suppose you can make the argument that this is the first time we’ve seen the *real* Melisandre at all).

        • Timcharger

          Yeah, my Dothraki is rusty so I loosely
          translated that for my purposes.

          I think I will keep playing this Game of (Recap)
          Titles. I figured that since you do put some
          thought into how you select the titles your
          recaps, I’ll play along. Gotta entertain myself
          between the episodes of my Watch.

  3. Timcharger

    When Melisandre shows up and sees Jon Snow
    lying on that desk, as a viewer who like many, want Jon
    to be resurrected, I can’t help picture the scene from
    Princess Bride. I’m hoping for Melisandre to become
    Miracle Max, and tell Davos, Dolorous Edd, and those
    loyal to Jon: “Don’t worry, Jon is only MOSTLY dead.”

  4. Timcharger

    When Tyrion and Varys walk the streets of Meereen,
    dressed as common merchants, their dress drew a chuckle
    from me. A thought occurred that I can’t unsee. Both were
    wearing capes. From the back and with the height difference,
    I could only see Batman and Robin.

  5. Timcharger

    Josh: “She strips down naked save for the choker she always wears around her neck…”

    I didn’t recall this detail, but it was posted online, Apparently
    in a previous season when Melisandre was taking a bath and
    Stannis’ wife was in the bathroom with her, Melisandre was
    not wearing the choker, but looked her normal young self.

    So it might not be the choker’s magic. And plus, I’m not too
    sure how good Jon Snow would look wearing a choker, if that
    is the solution to his death.
    🙂

  6. Timcharger

    Hi Josh, I’m surprised that you didn’t write about
    the girl power theme. Just about in every locale, the season
    is setting up a rise to power by the women characters. I
    went from imagining a Ned Stark, Khal Drogo, King Robert,
    Jaime, Tywin battle royale. But now, it appears that the
    final showdown may pit Daenerys, Cersei, Sansa/Arya, and
    the Dorne women for the Iron Throne.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      That’s probably the writers reacting the complaints about the misogyny in previous seasons, especially last season.

      The way this show works, those characters will probably all be killed off before the end of the season anyway.

      • Timcharger

        I wouldn’t characterize it as misogyny.

        I would say that last season, the women were knocked
        down a peg. And that’s just storytelling methods to now
        allow for them to rise and recover. Revenge is a great
        plot device.

          • Timcharger

            I’ll give you the Dorne women since they are
            relatively newly introduced. But if Dany, Cersy,
            Ary, Sany bite the dust this season, i’d be
            surprised.

          • Timcharger

            And pls stop with that logic.

            Show rape. The show must hate women.
            Show war. The show must be pro-war.

          • Charles M

            First episodes of Game of Thrones are almost always slow. I think only season 4 started out dramatically. People should be used to this by now. It’s a hell of a lot better than starting big and then nothing good till the last episode. That’s Walking Dead’s problem, it puts all it’s big moments in a few episodes.

  7. Timcharger

    About the Dorne scenes…

    I liked them. I know that readers of the novels don’t.
    But so what. That’s the benefit they have from reading
    the books. They got to enjoy whatever plotline the TV
    show didn’t do. But that doesn’t mean the Dorne
    scenes suck. I really like the characters. I really hope
    the “Bad P” female character really becomes a show
    regular.

    —–

    I did dislike how Ellaria Sand goes against Oberyn’s
    don’t-kill-innocent-children policy. But this Season,
    the show has her go full tilt. And I like that. Her grief
    has her with a kill-them-all attitude. If your worldview
    is shattered, then go full crazy. Killing an innocent
    Myrcella doesn’t really punish the Lannisters. But
    engineering a war that can also raise House Martell
    against the Lannisters, that’s a big move on the Game
    of Thrones.

    —–

    While I was disappointed I didn’t get to see the badass
    bodyguard Areo Hotah wield his giant spear in battle.
    I’m reminded about the line Oberyn Martell said about
    how he can easily kill the Lannister soldiers who were
    carrying heavy broadswords with his quick daggers.
    So Hotah’s death at the hands of the fast Sand snake
    girl is apt.

    And that is an epic tombstone marker for Hotah:
    “Death From Bad Puss_”
    🙂

  8. Timcharger

    “What is better than that? (Rhetorically!)”

    I loved that scene. It was subtitled slapstick!
    To attempt that humor in a foreign language
    is ambitious. There’s no native Dothraki
    viewer who can cue the audience to start
    laughing. The reading delayed reaction, I
    applaud the show’s writing.

  9. Timcharger

    Damn! So this is what it feels like to watch
    week-to-week? So my Watch begins…

    (At least now, no spoiler ravens fly around me.)

    • I cut the cord after season 2 so I’ve enjoyed binge watching the past few seasons. When I found out last week that HBO Now was finally available on the Xbox One, I caved and ordered the service. And now my watch begins as well…

      • Timcharger

        No cable/satellite package for me for a
        decade now. So I’ve been waiting for the blu-rays
        to binge watch the show.

        Ned Stark and Red Redding were unspoiled for me.
        But Joffrey and Jon Snow were. Just too many
        ravens buzzing around. So this year, HBO Now for
        me, too.

        Plus, I hate double-dipping for the GoT Steelbooks,
        and that is an even longer wait for them to be
        released. So HBO Now for now, and the Steelbooks
        for later.

  10. cardpetree

    I was slightly fooled by Trystane’s cockiness. When he said he didn’t want to hurt either of the girls, I thought he might put up a decent fight. They shut the door on that pretty quickly.

    • Timcharger

      When Bronn knocked Trystane out with one punch
      last season, I wasn’t expecting much for him. I’m actually glad
      a Sand Snake babe did the deed. I figured the Lannisters would
      have had Trystane’s head on a spike rather soon, so anything to
      nullify a Lannister win, is a win to me.

    • Timcharger

      “She was such a greedy bitc_, you know that?”

      I know the show wants good girls, but it really
      needs the bad Sand Snakes.

      No, Sand Snakes, I don’t think you’re the most
      beautiful women in the world. And what are
      you going to do to me about it?
      🙂

  11. Timcharger

    About Alliser Thorne’s motivation…

    This isn’t a criticism of the show. The show is
    entitled to have stupid, irrational characters.
    Not every character should have thought out
    their actions completely.

    “I never betrayed my Lord Commander’s
    orders.” What a stupid cop out! I guess Jon
    Snow never officially gave the order to NOT
    stab him in the belly.

    The never-betrayed-an-order thing must
    refer to how Thorne authorized the opening
    of the gate at the Wall for Snow and the
    Wildlings. But that’s stupid. That would be
    the time to betray his Lord Commander.

    If Thorne fears the death of the Night’s Watch,
    he’s going to kill Snow AFTER the Wildlings
    are on this side of the Wall?

    I get that Thorne wasn’t at Hardhome to
    personally see the threat of the White Walker
    army. But every Watchmen there must have
    talked endlessly to their brothers about
    witnessing this:
    https://youtu.be/w8lztAAL7RE

    If Thorne feared what the Wildlings would do
    the Watch, he just killed the one guy who kept
    the Wildlings in check.

    I thought the show would have a Bolton (or
    someone else) conspiracy of having Thorne
    kill Jon, with a promise of aid in killing the
    Wildlings next.

  12. Shannon Nutt

    I hope Jon Snow STAYS dead. First, he’s a horribly boring character (perhaps not in the books, but I’ve never liked him in the series), and secondly – if Jon comes back, that technically means ANYONE could come back…so why not bring back someone more interesting (like, say, Ned Stark).

    • Timcharger

      While I agree with your premise,
      not the “horribly boring character” part,
      the violating the finality of death part…

      …I still want Jon back.

      —–

      Here’s what I wrote 2 episodes ago. So I agree
      somewhat with what you’re saying:

      [Begin quote.]
      I hate knowing stuff like this:
      Josh: “George R.R. Martin resurrected Catelyn Stark in the books, and the TV show refused to do that.”

      It so undermines the storytelling process of the
      TV show. Yes, I remember Beric Dondarrion,
      Thoros of Myr, and what supposedly happened
      in Season 3. But there is mystery in the TV
      show version to whether that is a resurrection
      or a superhealing magic spell/prayer that is
      administered within seconds of an injury.

      Reanimating life 3 days later, that stuff creates
      religions. Yes, I get that GoT has the
      resurrection of white walkers. It can be argued
      that the Mountain was resurrected. But if
      Catelyn Stark was resurrected, it makes us ask
      about Ned Stark? Robb Stark? Why doesn’t
      Cersei get Joffrey resurrected? Tywin would
      make sure his will has funds allocated to a
      resurrection, right?

      Yeah, I want Jon Snow back. But I fear how it
      will be done. What that would mean to the
      finality of death, and how that gives life
      meaning?
      [End quote.]

      • Shannon Nutt

        Well, my reaction to the character probably has more to do with Kit’s acting than anything else. I don’t find him particularly engaging. I suspect his post-Thrones career (be it now or later down the road) isn’t going to amount to much.

        But that’s just like my opinion, man. 😉

        • Timcharger

          And Shannon, you know nothing.
          🙂

          Look, who can predict acting careers, right? For
          every great actor you knew was going to make it,
          you get a how-does-that-guy-keep-making-movies?

          About the role of Jon Snow, let’s face it, it’s not
          one of the best roles in GoT, in the sense that it
          doesn’t have juicy lines. Many other characters
          get the wilder swings of love and hate and love-to-
          hate.

          Note what is the most famous line relating to Jon
          Snow. It isn’t a line that he says. And that’s not
          his fault.

    • I’ve always felt that being a member of the night’s watch seems too much like my real life job, so that’s why I think I haven’t been too invested in Jon Snow’s storyline. 🙂

  13. Timcharger

    Guesses on the title of Josh’s next recap:

    “I prefer being an only child.”

    “If I ever have an idea like that again, punch me in the face.”

    • Timcharger

      “I’m asking the woman who showed me that miracles exist.”

      This seems most apt for the biggest development in
      episode 2. But the line isn’t very spicy, kind of bland.

      It’s a toss up for me between “only child” and “punch in
      the face.” “Only child” was haunting. “Punch” was
      hilarious. I’d say those 2 are the best choices.

  14. Timcharger

    Rewatching in preparation of the new season…

    “Under the red dress is dark and full of terrors,” while it isn’t a line said in the episode, is my favorite title.

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