'Game of Thrones' Season 6 Premiere: 'The Red Woman' Reveals an Ancient Secret

Game of Thrones-melisandre-H 2016
Helen Sloan/HBO

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season-six premiere of HBO's Game of Thrones.]

Melisandre (Carice van Houten) might have backed the wrong horse in the late Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane). Her predictions about Jon Snow (Kit Harington) battling at Winterfell might not have been accurate. But if anyone ever questioned the Red Priestess of Asshai's magical powers, the season-six premiere of Game of Thrones put those doubts to bed.

The premiere, titled "The Red Woman," picks up the pieces from countless season-five cliffhangers, including the fates of Lord Commander Snow, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), her blind sister Arya (Maisie Williams), the Lannister twins Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), their exiled brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and missing queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke).

It also ended with a jaw-dropping reveal: Melisandre, consistently one of the most seductive characters on the show, holds an ancient secret beneath her glamorous exterior. Here's how the episode played out, leading up to that shocking ending.

At the Wall
The opening shot of the season makes no bones about it: Jon Snow is dead. His direwolf Ghost wails nearby, drawing the attention of Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton) and other Snow supporters. They bring Jon's body to a private chamber, and Edd immediately declares Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) as the murderer. Davos asks Edd who he can trust. Edd looks around and solemnly swears: "The people in this room." 

On cue, another person joins the party: Melisandre. Already devastated over the loss of Stannis, the titular Red Woman looks even more crushed to see Jon dead. "I saw him in the flames, fighting at Winterfell," she whispers. 

"I can't speak for the flames," Davos shoots back, "but he's gone."

Meanwhile, Alliser Thorne calls the Night's Watch together to confirm the rumors spreading throughout Castle Black. He confesses to treason, but adds a big asterisk, saying Jon's unprecedented decision to allow wildlings to settle in lands they have "raped and pillaged" across centuries would have destroyed the Watch. "I have no doubt Jon thought what he was doing was right," says Thorne, "but what he thought was right would have been our end."

Even as momentum gathers on Thorne's side, the defenders of Jon Snow's body remain steadfast, to the point that Edd declares this as the day he will die — just as long as he takes Thorne out first. But Davos tells Edd he can still fight without having to die; all he needs to do is reach the other people outside the Night's Watch who owe Jon their lives. Edd understands, and immediately leaves to find the wildlings.

In the North
Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) mourns the death of Myranda (Charlotte Hope), thrown off the towers of Winterfell by Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). He stands over her corpse and remembers the first time they met, when she was an 11-year-old who "smelled like dogs," and was unafraid of Ramsay's cruel reputation. When a servant asks Ramsay if he would like Myranda's body buried or burned, Ramsay responds: "It's perfectly good meat. Feed her to the dogs."

Of course, Ramsay has another reason for agitation: Sansa Stark has left Winterfell, and House Bolton's entire political capital left with her. Roose (Michael McElhatton) warns that if Ramsay can't get her back and produce an heir, things won't be pleasant for the Bastard of Bolton.

Things are not pleasant for Sansa and Theon, running through brutal winter conditions, pursued by the Boltons' finest hounds. They're eventually cornered by Ramsay's men, but just before they're recaptured, in comes a not-quite knight in shining armor: Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who dispatches the Bolton loyalists with help from Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) and, eventually, even Theon.

Having already offered her services early on in season five, Brienne once again pledges fealty to Sansa. This time, the rightful Lady of Winterfell accepts Brienne's offer, and while their future direction is unclear, at least these four brave souls are no longer alone.

In King's Landing
A ship arrives from Dorne, the first welcome news Cersei has received since her traumatic walk of shame. Of course, the return of Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) is not at all what she expected. She begins obsessing over the decomposing state of her only daughter, a girl so sweet that Cersei does not even know "where she came from … she's nothing like me." The death of a second daughter convinces Cersei that Maggy the Frog's prophecy will come true, and her third child, Tommen, is now doomed. For his part, Cersei's brother and lover Jaime has a different outlook.

"F— prophecy, f— fate and f— everyone who isn't us," he growls, the Jaime of old reemerging as he promises that the Lannisters will destroy everyone who stands in their way. "We're going to take everything there is."

Elsewhere in the city, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) remains in the High Sparrow's (Jonathan Pryce) custody, refusing to confess to any crimes she has not committed. Perhaps High Sparrow gains some ground, however, telling Margaery that she's nearing the right path, but still has many miles to travel: "Only confession can purge sin."

In Dorne
If it wasn't enough that Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) orchestrated Myrcella Baratheon's assassination, Oberyn Martell's widow kicks things into higher gear by killing Prince Doran (Alexander Siddig) and his faithful bodyguard Areo Hotah (DeObia Oparei). As Doran bleeds out on the ground, Ellaria ridicules the dying man for not avenging the Red Viper, among other acts of weakness. Before he dies, Doran begs Ellaria to spare his son, Trystane (Toby Sebastian), but she's having none of it: "Weak men will never rule Dorne again."

With that, the action turns to Trystane, sailing on a ship alongside two stowaway Sand Snakes. Nymeria (Jessica Henwick) tells Trystane that they're here to kill him, and he has a choice: "Her or me," referring to her sister Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes). Trystane, reluctantly, chooses: "You." As he readies himself for battle against Nymeria, Obara pulls an Indiana Jones and shoves her spear directly through Trystane's face. 

Nymeria is not amused by her sister: "You're such a greedy bitch," she says, a line that received uproarious uncomfortable laughter at the season-six premiere screening in Hollywood.

The Meereenese Knot
Tyrion and Varys (Conleth Hill), charged with running Meereen while Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) search for Daenerys, survey the city they've inherited. Tyrion tries to give money to an impoverished woman so her baby may eat, but she mistakes his poor High Valyrian and thinks he wants to pay to eat her baby — not exactly on the menu, but a rare moment of levity all the same. It's especially rare given everything else going on in Meereen, from Red Priests taking the opportunity to preach the teachings of R'hllor to civilians setting portions of the city on fire.

Outside Meereen, Jorah and Daario continue their quest to find Dany. Along the way, they trade notes about their respective love toward the Breaker of Chains, with Daario commenting that he wants to live long enough to see the world conquered by Daenerys. Jorah couldn't agree more; unfortunately, the lethal Greyscale on his arm is spreading fast. There's good news, at least, albeit hidden in bad news: Jorah and Daario find Dany's ring at the center of a ring of hoofmarks, signaling that she's been captured by a Dothraki horde.

Indeed, that's exactly what's happened to Dany, whipped and taunted by Dothraki warriors with an ugly amount of interest in her "silver hair." She eventually meets Khal Moro (Joe Naufahu), a man with two wives who claims that seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time is the greatest joy in life. (After some bickering with his bloodriders, Moro concedes: "It's one of the five best things in life.") At first, it appears Moro is going to treat Dany like a slave, but when she starts speaking Dothraki and identifies herself as Khal Drogo's widow, Moro is immediately moved. He declares her safe from all harm, but with a caveat: Daenerys must be taken to the city of Vaes Dothrak, where she will live out her days among other widowed khaleesis.

In Braavos
Arya Stark, impoverished and blind, wordlessly begs for money on the side of a street, palpably traumatized by her loss of sight. If her poor state wasn't bad enough, in walks the Waif (Faye Marsay), carrying two fighting sticks, challenging Arya to combat. The typically ruthless Arya can't strike a single blow, but receives plenty, laid out on her back by the Waif's brutal attacks. "See you tomorrow," the Faceless woman whispers before sauntering off, leaving Arya alone.

Back at the Wall
Hours have passed since Jon Snow's death, and Alliser Thorne's men are on standby waiting for Davos and his fellows to step outside and relinquish the Lord Commander's corpse. Thorne promises amnesty for all men inside, and even offers Davos safe passage (and, reluctantly, some food) on his journey south. Davos pretends that he'll entertain the offer, but instead is buying time until Edd's return with the wildlings; besides, he believes Thorne will just kill everyone inside anyway. 

If Edd doesn't return in time, Davos announces a backup plan: Melisandre. "What use is one woman against 40 armed men," one of the brothers mutters. Davos shoots back that these men have not seen Melisandre in action like he has; that whole "shadow baby" thing is a mental image that stays with you.

In the men's defense, not even Davos — or anyone that we know, for that matter — have seen Melisandre in her true form. As the episode draws to a close, the red priestess disrobes in front of a mirror, an image all too familiar for Game of Thrones viewers. Then, she removes the glowing red amulet she keeps at her throat, and the true Melisandre stands revealed, unknowably ancient, her hair hanging in great gray clumps. Defeated and naked, the elderly red woman crawls into bed, unable to help anyone, let alone herself.

What did you think of the Game of Thrones season-six premiere? Click here for our deep dive with Cunningham and stay tuned to THR.com/GameOfThrones for full coverage all season long, including interviews, video and analysis.