Holy. Crap. This week’s episode of Game of Thrones blew me away. I was expecting good things from “Home,” but not an hour of television that delivered on virtually every level and that ranks up there with the series’ finest outings. If this is what the show looks like without the books, then count me in.
“Home” gave us the return of several long-lost characters, including Bran Stark, who has been chilling in that magical mystery cave since we left him in Season 4. Through his visions, we get a glimpse into what Winterfell was like back when Ned Stark was a child and still had his head very much attached. Game of Thrones has always had an aversion to flashbacks, meaning a massive amount of backstory has been conveyed through dialogue, but now Bran has given David Benioff and D.B. Weiss the excuse they needed to explore some of these events. Never have superpowers been so convenient.
In particular, our focus is drawn to Lyanna Stark, who is almost certainly Jon Snow’s real mother. There’s also the reveal that Hodor used to be able to talk and that his name is Willis, though if his real name was common knowledge, I’m not sure why Ned didn’t tell any of his kids that. These flashbacks are enjoyable both as a way of conveying information and of demonstrating Bran’s desire to return to the past, although it’s a bit awkward the way he has to identify everyone who appears just so the viewer won’t be lost. “That’s Lyanna! And that’s Hodor! And in case you forgot, I’m Bran, son of Ned Stark. You may remember me from seasons 1 through 4.”
It seems this is what Bran has been up to since we last saw him, and although his future has been unclear to book readers, the show confirms through Leaf that Bran won’t be staying in this cave forever, however fun a cave it may be. Bran will evidently have a much more significant role in the endgame of this series than any of us would have guessed back in Season 1. And to think he was almost murdered for catching Jaime doing it.
Cersei, Jaime and Tommen
I hope this is the start of a recurring scene where every week, Robert Strong murders a random enemy of Cersei. Here we have a dude is bragging about flashing Cersei during the Walk of Shame before suddenly being approached by Robert. The ungodly Frankenstein monster, without uttering a word, smashes the guy’s head into the wall and instantly kills him. I could not stop laughing, and the timing of it had to have been intentionally comedic.
Cersei is unable to attend Myrcella’s funeral, as has been commanded by King Tommen. He’s both scared to face his mom after failing her last season and afraid that something else might happen if she is allowed to roam King’s Landing. A lot of us were wondering what the hell Tommen was doing while his mother and wife were being imprisoned by the Faith Militant, and that becomes a part of the plot here. Tommen apologizes, while Cersei tries to keep her distance at first, knowing full well that Tommen is doomed based on the prophecy. But she can’t hold back forever, finally giving in and embracing him at the scene’s conclusion.
If Game of Thrones is going to finally start establishing a healthy mother-son relationship between these two, that basically confirms that Tommen is a goner, right? This show rarely lets anything positive occur without it swiftly being followed by something horrible (See: Myrcella’s death scene).
Over in Meereen, we have this fantastic extended set piece with Tyrion, in which he is able to fulfill a childhood dream while also realizing how utterly terrifying the reality of it is. Watching him interact with the dragons, we get the sense that he feels he might conceivably die at any moment but that it would honestly be worth it.
It’s particularly suspenseful for book fans, as in the novels a character named Quentyn, who has been cut from the show, approaches Dany’s dragons around this time in the story only to be burnt alive. I don’t think anyone realistically believed that Tyrion would die by randomly being incinerated in the second episode of Season 6, but it was still a hilarious instance of the showrunners messing with the expectations of book fans.
Many are taking this as confirmation of the theory that Tyrion is a secret Targaryen, which I personally hope isn’t the case. It’s all but confirmed that Jon is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen, and it would be a bit much if two of the primary characters have been Targaryens all along without us knowing it. Not to mention that it would severely diminish the impact of Tywin claiming Tyrion isn’t his son if that statement is literally true.
Just when I thought this was going to be another Theon Season 3 situation, where we just watch one of our main characters be injured every single episode, Jaqen H’ghar finally steps in to move things along. I was honestly prepared for this full season’s story to be Arya blind on the streets of Bravoos, so the fact that she’s already headed back to the House of Black and White is certainly reassuring. Maisie Williams did say her plot this year isn’t particularly great, though, so let’s not get our hopes up too high.
Roose and Ramsay
In an episode centered around a twist we all saw coming, here’s one that was truly shocking. Ramsay’s wife Walda has given birth to a boy, which is a serious threat to Ramsay’s claim to the North, and so he suddenly murders Roose, Walda and the newborn child. I love the way this scene is shot where it’s a bit at first unclear who did the stabbing. For a brief moment, we see the two embracing and hear only the knife’s impact, and we’re unsure who killed who. If only it were the other way around.
I can’t blame those who are upset about Ramsay’s murder of Walda and the baby, but I honestly was a fan. Well, not a fan of what happened, but the buildup was so insane and effective that I couldn’t look away, and it’s such a tease when Ramsay picks up the child right in the vicinity of a burning fire. It would have been far more effective if we had cut away right as the hounds’ cage was opened, but at least we didn’t have to witness the murder on screen.
Sansa, Brienne, Theon and Podrick
Sansa knows that Arya is alive! She offers a slight smile after Brienne observes that her sister “wasn’t exactly dressed like a lady,” and this might be the first time any Stark has been given anything resembling good news in literally years. I smiled along with her.
Theon says his goodbyes, as he feels Brienne will keep Sansa safe more than he could. After all, he’s the man who betrayed Sansa’s family, and he believes he will never be able to make amends. As the two hugged, this was the first Game of Thrones moment in a while to make me tear up.
I would have taken you all the way to the wall. I would have died to get you there.
It was particularly emotional because I can’t but worry that the two will never see each other again. This might be it, and we’re witnessing these young adults who grew up together and have been through so much express love for one another one final time. Let’s move on because it’s getting dusty in the room.
Yara, Balon and Euron
I love that this is a show where we can have characters appear after being gone for literally years and it’s not even that big of a deal that they’re back. Balon Grejoy brags about winning the War of the Five Kings by default, only to immediately be killed by his brother, Euron. Now the Iron Islands needs a new king, and so the Kingsmoot is set to begin, which should be a nice precursor to the upcoming Republican National Convention. Presumably, Theon will arrive at the Iron Islands thinking he’s escaping all the shit he’s been through, only to find his father has been murdered and his home is in chaos. Welcome back, kid!
Davos, Melisandre and Jon
Picking up where we left off last week, Davos and Jon’s friends unsheathe their swords and prepare to fight, but they’re all interrupted by Edd returning with a massive horde of wildlings, who begin beating the shit out of all these damn traitors. Most of them immediately give up except for this one guy who apparently think it’s a wise idea to shoot an arrow into Wun Wun, a giant for whom getting shot in an arrow is like being pinched. In the first incredible death of the episode, he’s smashed up against the wall and killed instantly. That would bring us to two wall-smashes this week. It would have been nice if one of those were Olly, but hey, you can’t win them all.
Olly and Alliser and thrown into the cells, where they will await Jon’s judgement next week. Will Jon behead Alliser but spare Olly, seeing as the latter was just a kid? Will he give up his Night’s Watch vows and therefore not even have that authority to make this decision? Will he be much more vengeance driven post-death, and so he’ll just sort of go crazy on all of them?
We all know what this is leading up to, and the episode makes no attempt of hiding it, giving us about a million closeups of Jon’s body. Finally, Davos asks Melisandre if there might be some sort of resurrection magic that can save the Lord Commander. We were all 99% sure Jon was coming back, but viewers everywhere breathe a sigh of relief as it becomes perfectly clear what direction this is going in.
Davos: I assume you know why I’m here…it’s about the Lord Commander.
Melisandre: The former Lord Commander.
Davos: Does he have to be?
Just like Thoros of Myr, Melisandre has lost all hope, but she performs this spell as one last ditch effort. Boy, I can not wait to see the look on her face as Jon stumbles out of the room and walks around Castle Black half-naked.
The sequence itself is wonderfully done, with so many shots of Jon’s body that the audience becomes incredibly uncomfortable. We all know it’s leading to him opening his eyes and taking a breath, but we cringe in anticipation as if waiting for a jump scare in a horror film. As everyone leaves the room, Ghost lights up, obviously aware that something has changed. We cut to Jon’s body and…hold for several more seconds than the audience would expect before, yes, he’s back.
Sure, it wasn’t unexpected, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying. If Game of Thrones can keep up the quality of “Home” throughout the year, we may be in for the finest season the show has produced thus far.