Jon Snow’s fate is revealed in Game of Thrones season premiere

Arya

He’s dead, Jim…

Yes, contrary to what you might have read on various Game of Thrones blogs, or Kit Harrington Haircut-watch Tumblr pages, Jon Snow is really, truly dead. Picking up from where last season’s shocking finale ended (at least shocking to non-book readers, he said with a haughty smirk), the premiere of Season 6 of HBO’s buzziest show Game of Thrones, opens on the dead-eyed corpse of fan favorite Jon Snow.

And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move onto the repercussions of this act. Onion Knight Davos, along with a few men still loyal to Snow, quickly spirit the corpse away and lock themselves into a room as they plan how to escape a suddenly treacherous situation. Murderous co-conspirator and acting head of The Night’s Watch, Alliser Thorne offers Davos and his men safe passage to the south if they surrender their weapons peacefully. And if you believe that, I’ve got a Westorsi wedding to invite you to.

Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing, Cersei, fresh off the ultimate walk of shame, is reunited with her brother and erstwhile lover, Jamie, who comes bearing the bad news that their daughter Myrcella has been murdered by Oberyn’s lover, Ellaria. While Queen Margery continues to suffer at the hands of the High Sparrow, who encourages her to confess her sins. These two proud women, brought so low last season seem primed for a season of revenge.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the biggest moments of the series premiere occur in Dorne, an area that was pretty much universally maligned last season. After poisoning Myrcella, Ellaria (with help from the Sand Snakes) stages a palace coup, killing Prince Doran Martell, bodyguard Areo Hotah, and son, Tristane.

Sansa Stark, last seen on the run with Reek/Theon, is recaptured by Ramsey Bolton’s men, only to be rescued in heroic fashion by Brienne and Podrick Payne. In probably one of the more touching scenes of the premiere, we get to revel in a moment of actual happiness, when Brienne finally accomplishes her quest of finding Sansa and immediately swears her loyalty to her. After nearly a season of mostly staring out a window for a candle, it was nice having Brienne of Tarth jump back into action.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys has been recaptured by another Dothraki Khal, and in typical Khal fashion is told by her captors how she will be useful in producing many sons. But upon learning of her status as the widow of Khal Drogo, she is “freed” in that she is now free to go live in the temple of the dosh khaleen with the other Khal widows. And though Dany may make an appearance at the temple for an episode or two, something tells me that she will not be there long. After bogging her down in the political quagmire that was Meereen for much of last season, to do the same to the Mother of Dragons again seems unlikely.

And finally, in the biggest reveal of the episode, (literally and figuratively, this is HBO after all), the Red Witch Mellisandre shows the audience her true form, a decrepit old hag, kept youthful by virtue of some sort of dark magic. Will this magic be enough to bring the dead back to life? That remains to be seen. But it is the best hope that Snow-Heads have at this point.

Yes, all the favorites are back for the sixth season of Thrones. And though it was great to see these familiar faces playing The Game once again, the premiere also showcased what is going to continually be an issue with the show going forward. Namely, there are just too many good characters to choose from. Did I love watching Tyrion and Varys banter back and forth as they discussed the fate of Mereen in Dany’s sudden absence? Of course! And do I want to see how Arya recovers from her sudden blindness after killing Meryn Trant last season? Definitely! But there is only so much screen time to share, and far too many compelling storylines to care about.

The premiere episode, though expertly executed, essentially felt like a “Here’s what you missed on Game of Thrones,” plot summary. Of course, there is an understanding that a premiere will have to catch up viewers on what’s happened, but as these diverse characters continue to seek their own individual paths, the time allocated to each will continue to decline. This premiere already felt rushed as it jumped from story to story, and that’s before we come back to the inevitable Bran and Littlefinger storylines.

Game of Thrones has always been among the most ambitious shows on television. To somehow adapt George R.R. Martin’s voluminous tomes and condense it into a few 10-epiosode seasons always felt like a near impossible order. And though no one has ever accused Martin of being terse, there are only so many stories and characters that can be condensed or removed. And the need to maintain a brisk pace on the show is finally starting to get weighed down with the sheer number of characters we need to check in with.

Which, to be fair, is hardly a major criticism of the show or the books. It’s generally a good place to be when you have too many stories to tell. And if my biggest complaint about the new season of Game of Thrones is that there is too much good stuff going on, then I think it’s going to do just fine. But it is a concern to me when Arya gets just three minutes of screen time that consists mainly of her getting beat with a stick, especially when we already know how good she is with a Needle.

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