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Game Of Thrones, Season 6 Premiere Recap: "A Terrible Choice"

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.

I'm sorry to say this, but Jon Snow seems very, very dead.

When we last left Game of Thrones, our favourite curly-haired Lord Commander was lying in the snow, his blood staining it red.

As "The Red Woman" dawns, he's still sprawled on the ground. Ghost, chained up, is howling for his master.

The dire wolf's cries alert Ser Davos, who runs out to find Jon Snow dead. (Until further notice, I'm going to have to assume that HBO has been telling the truth for the last 10 months.) Davos and the remaining brothers loyal to Jon bring their leader inside and lay him on a table while they figure out what to do.
Melisandre is there, grieving after seeing Stannis' death in the flames. She touches Jon's cheek. A sign of a resurrection to come?

Meanwhile, Ser Alliser Thorne is dealing with the fallout of his treason. He proudly owns up to killing Jon Snow. "He thrust a terrible choice upon us, and we made it," he says, amid cries of dissent.

The premiere episode did a good job wrapping up plot lines from last season's finale. Each character got some screen time (minus Bran — seriously, where is he?), so let's break it down that way.

The Boltons
Back at Winterfell, Ramsay Bolton is mourning Myranda. In a rare show of sentimentality, he remembers the first time he saw her, back when he was an 11-year-old psychopath in training. Is that a tear I spy? Nope, just the regular gleam of evil. Wiping his eyes, he instructs the Maester to feed his beloved to the hounds.

But all is not well with Ramsay. He has lost his Stark, and with that, his claim to the North. Daddy Bolton is not pleased.

Sansa & Theon
Speaking of Sansa, somehow (and I really hope we find out how) she and Theon survived the perilous jump from Winterfell's highest wall. On the run from Ramsay's hounds, they must cross a freezing river. Sansa fears she'll die from the cold, but Theon urges her on, grabbing her hand. Just as Rose promised to Jack, Theon never lets go.

The shivery crossing isn't enough to throw off the chase, though. The hounds are coming. Theon tries to do the noble thing, but you know, hounds have noses. They find Sansa.

But then — Brienne to the rescue! She and Pod do away with the Bolton men, and in an emotional moment, Brienne pledges herself to Sansa's service. It's really satisfying to see her finally save one of the Stark girls after many, many seasons of searching. Lady Catelyn would be proud.

Equally satisfying is Sansa's answer: "I vow that you shall always have a place at my hearth and..." Here, she hesitates — and Pod helps. "Meat and mead at my table," he finishes.

Sansa may have started the episode a runaway bride, but I get the sense that we'll be seeing her come into her own this season, with a little help from her Iron-born backbone.

Cersei & Jaime
Our first glimpse of Cersei is a sad one. She is told that a barge from Dorne is approaching the city, and her face lights up. She believes she is about to be reunited with her daughter. We know she's about to see her corpse. In the end, it's all very hush-hush. The barge arrives, carrying only dashed hopes and dreams. Without even a word from Jaime, she knows. She can see it in his face.

I had been looking forward to an emotionally wrenching scene between Jaime and Cersei in which he breaks the news that their daughter is dead.

What we get is even better. We never actually see Jaime telling Cersei about the death. Their scene takes place in the quiet aftermath, a sign of how far they have both come, for better or worse.

With Myrcella's death, Cersei has lost the only thing pushing her to be a better person. "I don't know where she came from. She was nothing like me," she tells Jaime. She used to think, maybe, just maybe, "If I could make something so good, so pure, maybe I'm not a monster."

Golden boy Jaime Lannister would have scoffed at such a display. He might have soothed or seduced. This Jaime has lost too much. He wants revenge. He will take everything back, and more, he tells her. Gotta trust the Kingslayer.

Margaery is still locked up, being prayed at by evil Septa Unella. When the queen asks her see her brother, the answer comes swiftly: "Confess." Getting some Cersei flashbacks here.
The Dornish
Things are shaky down in Dorne. A messenger brings Prince Doran news of of Myrcella's death. I was 100% certain that Ellaria Sand was a goner, but nope. She and her daughter stage a coup and stab the ruler to death. "Elia Martell, raped and murdered and you did nothing," Ellaria says, echoing her lover's last words. "Oberyn Martell butchered, and you did nothing." Doran asks about his son. "Weak men will never rule Dorne again," she replies.

As promised, the scene cuts to the remaining Sand Snakes attacking Trystane. With a well-placed spear to the head, the Dornish dynasty ends. TBH, I saw none of this coming, but given the calls for revenge coming from both sides, a war between the Lannisters and Dorne seems all but inevitable.

Tyrion & Varys
We first spy our favorite duo on a walk through Meereen, because as Tyrion puts it, you can't rule people from an 800-foot pyramid. This is why they put him in charge.

Meereen is not a happy city. With their savior gone, the former slaves are restless. (Back-alley graffiti shows that "Kill the Masters" has been replaced with "Mhysa is a master." Mysa means mother, as in "of dragons.") Interestingly enough, it looks like those former slaves might be filling the void with the Lord of Light. Will Khaleesi follow in Stannis' footsteps?

Tyrion and Varys' delightful banter is interrupted by a horde of civilians running from something. Turns out it's the harbour, where every single ship has caught (or been set?) on fire. Uh-oh.

Jorah & Daario
Jorah and Daario's bro trip to rescue their lady love is going well. They've found the remains of a lamb, burnt to a crisp, indicating dragon activity.

Jorah's greyscale is getting worse. Coming across a weird circular pattern in the grass, he recognises the tell-tale signs of a khalasar. In the middle: Daenerys' ring.

"They have her," he says. They sure do.

Daenerys has fallen a long way since her last encounter with the Dothraki. She is being led — on foot, the ultimate Dothraki insult — toward her captor, a new khal. Her guards casually joke about raping her. She stays silent, even though we know she understands them.

That is, until the new khal tries to touch her. Slapping his hand away, she explains that she is Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, Queen of Mereen, and so on and so forth (she has so many titles by now, it's hard to keep track). Her many exploits fail to impress the khal; she is forced to name-drop Drogo.

That works. Apparently, it is forbidden to lie with a khal's widow. Chastened, the khal promises not to "lie with her." Instead, he wants to ship off to Vaes Dothrak, to live out her days with the rest of the widowed wives of expired khals. It is known.

Our Arya is in bad shape. Still blind, she has to resort to begging on the street for coins. Her hearing is getting sharper, though. Could this be part of her training?

The Faceless Man's blond apprentice girl sneaks up on her and hands Arya a stick. Time to fight. Arya loses. "See you tomorrow," the apprentice says, leaving Arya to bleed and beg.

That girl really likes to beat up Arya, but this seems more Mr. Miyagi than aimless bullying.

There's no shortage of surprising moments in this episode. This is Game of Thrones, after all. Shock and awe is the name of the proverbial game. But nothing, nothing, is as horrifying as the sight of Melisandre undressing in front of a mirror.

Here lies the meaning of the episode's name. Her beliefs led to Stannis' downfall. The Lord of Light, to whom she so devoutly pledged her faith, has failed her. After a long pause, she removes her bejewelled necklace and looks back at her reflection: The Red Woman is no longer. In her place, an old crone stares hauntingly back.

Like Alliser Thorne, she has made a terrible choice. And the gods only know where it will lead.

Holy shit, guys, Game of Thrones is back.