On Sunday night, 10.7 million viewers tuned in for the highly anticipated return of “Game of Thrones,” which aired the first episode of its sixth season. As HBO static ripped through the screen, fans held their breath in anticipation for answers, but one was particularly important: The fate of Jon Snow (Kit Harrington, “Pompeii”), who was brutally and unexpectedly murdered during last season’s finale.
Unfortunately for the fans, Jon did not jump up from the dead. Instead, the scene opens with Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham, “Let Us Prey”) and Jon’s allies on the Night’s Watch — along with Ghost, Jon’s Direwolf — hovering around his corpse in preparation for a civil war against the leaders of the watch. Although the revenge for Jon’s untimely demise feels just, this division amongst brothers serves to highlight the underlying problems of the Night’s Watch. Mostly, how Lord Commander Thorne (Owen Teale, “Stella”) lusts for a dictatorship in an army that is supposed to be founded on brotherhood and mutual trust.
Meanwhile in the dirty streets, blinded and alone after a betrayal against the House of Black and White, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams, “Doctor Who”) falls from glory. Previously nominated as the most likely to avenge her father’s death, Ayra has reached rock bottom. And as if coping without one of her senses was not punishment enough, the Faceless Man’s favorite pupil comes around to beat her senseless with a wooden stick, likely as a continuation of her training. While an action such as this may seem extreme under the circumstances, we start to see the fight coming back to Arya, along with a renewed will to live.
However, as strong as Arya has been over the past couple of seasons, we are finally getting a glimpse into Sansa’s (Sophie Turner, “Another Me”) ferocity as she flees from her abusive relationship with Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon, “Misfits”). Led by Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen, “John Wick”), the two dodge ravaging dogs, iced-over waterfalls and an ambush before they are saved by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), where Sansa finally accepts her services as a protector. As it was shown in her oath to Brienne, Sansa seems to be coming into her duties as a proper Lady, no doubt thanks to her time with Ramsay, which has molded her character into a model of maturity that she previously flaunted, but never fully possessed. Perhaps the strength of the Stark family will be propagated by Arya and Sansa when Winterfell is returned to the Starks, as Melisandre (Carice van Houten, “Black Death”) revealed in her vision.
Across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke, “Terminator Genisys”) faces the Dothraki people and the other end of another Khal’s lust for her exotic nature. However, the fear is short-lived when they realize that she is a widow to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”), and no man can touch her. You would expect some relief to come from this revelation, but we learn that Dany will be sent to live with the widows of deceased Khals in some far-off temple until she dies of old age. Meanwhile, in her absence, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, “Pixels”) rules Meereen, a city torn apart with fear and chaos at the loss of their Mhysa, Dany. The city itself has mainly served as a test for Dany’s fitness to rule before she takes the Iron Throne. So far, her decisions, which are mostly led by emotion, have caused an uprising among her people and setbacks in her journey to King’s Landing. If “Game of Thrones” has taught us anything, it’s that experience molds the characters. Hopefully time with the widows will give Dany a new perspective on ruling, otherwise she might not make it in the race for the Iron Throne, especially if she cannot escape from the temple.
Still, the Lannisters are appearing less tethered to the throne as the family faces the death of Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free, “Broken”) and the imprisonment of Westeros’s queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer, “Elementary”) by the religious group The Faith of the Seven. While their family is weakening at the hinges, the Stark family is coming back stronger than ever, along with an iron will to regain control of the North. The sixth season looks promising, as alliances are formed and bonds are tested in the ultimate fight for the throne. And while we are still left with many questions (like what’s up with Melisandre’s sudden old age?), we’re getting closer to the answers. Until the finale, Valar Morghulis.