Game of Thrones Recap: “Home”
And so our national nightmare is over. At least one of them, anyway, the one not including the presidential election. This is a recap, folks, so if you're not caught up with Game of Thrones, stop reading. Okay, let's begin with the end—Jon Snow's alive! And nobody's surprised!
After a moving pep talk from Davos, who tells Melisandre he isn't asking the Lord of Light for help but the Red Queen herself, our favorite secret crone dug deep and performed a ritual of some sort over Jon Snow's dead body, cleaning his wounds and repeating an incantation. In the room with her are Ghost (sleeping adorably beneath Jon's body), Davos, Tormund and Dolorous Edd. After several minutes of sweet, sweet body cleansing and incantation repeating, Jon remains stubbornly dead. Tormund leaves in disgust, followed by Edd and then Melisandre herself, who no doubt is chalking the whole experience up to another one of her epic fails. I'm starting to worry about her, actually. Anyway, our front runner for season 6 MVP, Davos, lingers, and director Jeremy Podeswa has some fun at our expense by having the camera linger as well, hanging over Jon's prone body as we join Davos in anticipation of Jon waking up. Jon doesn't wake up. Davos leaves. And then, as we hover there above Jon, an eye to the clock telling us this episode's going to end in seconds, what we've been waiting for, as a country, as a people, finally happens—Jon Snow wakes up, gasping for breath. (Note to Davos and crew—maybe wait just a little bit longer before you conclude a magical woman's spell hasn't worked before storming off in a huff? Also, you just knew it would be Ghost who'd sense whether Jon was alive again or not. Aww.)
That the decision to wake up Jon Snow by the end of episode two was a decision made by show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff and not one already scripted by George R. R. Martin in one of his books is a big deal for GoT fans, because, to my eye, it proves that these guys have become very comfortable managing the expansive world of Westeros. Instead of keeping us guessing about Jon's fate and using it as a lure, they decided, rightly, that Jon's worth was vastly more important as an active character engaged in the outcome of the Seven Kingdoms rather than a dead pawn. Plus, waiting around for what we were all fairly certain was going to happen anyway (Kit Harrington having been seen filming scenes for this season—how thrilled must he be now that he can get a haircut in peace without launching 10,000 blog posts about what it means for his GoT character's fate) would have gotten a little infuriating. How much more fascinating will it be now to see what the resurrected Jon does in episode three and beyond? What kind of change has he undergone during his days long death slumber? How will the rest of the Night's Watch, including Thorne and Ollie, now imprisoned after Tormund returned with Wun Wun the giant and a Wildling army, respond to the second coming of Jon Snow. (Note to future opponents of Wun Wun the giant; arrows aren't going to bring him down, they're only going to draw his attention to whoever shot them—you got what you deserved, witless archer.) What special powers might he have now? Will he be able to warg? Will his stint in the afterlife make him able to deal with the White Walkers in some new and improved way? Will he be less emotional? Will he know something rather than nothing? Will he be able to command the dead, like the Night's King? Will his breath be intolerable? Who knows! But these questions are far more fun to ask yourself then "When he's going to wake up?"
Also, it offers another intriguing potential alliance between Jon and Melisandre, now that she's officially his reviver-in-chief. We already knew she had skills (birthing a smoke assassin) and we already knew she could be, um, unflinching (burning children at the stake), and although she has been mopey since Stannis got killed and most of her visions turned out to be bunk, might this magical Stella have gotten her superpower groove back with this Jon resurrection? And might this make her and Jon something of a pair now? Wouldn't they be the most formidable couple in Westeros? The second coming of the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch and his death-defying magical Red Queen? They'd be on my dinner party guest list, that's for sure.
Isaac Hempstead Wright. photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO
So back to the beginning of the episode—teenage Bran! The young Stark has had a growth spurt since we last spent time with him in season 4. Now taller and leaner, but still very much a paraplegic, we spend time with Bran and the three-eyed raven (in the form of Max Von Sydow) as they hang out in a rosy Winterfell of the past, with a child Ned Stark getting some sword fighting lessons. What's that? The young Hodor could speak? And his name was Wyllis? (!!) Granted, I wasn't really burning to know Hodor's backstory, and had never considered that he might have been able to say more than "Hodor" at one point, but one imagines they didn't drop this little detail in for no reason. Anyway, during this vision Bran also sees his aunt Lyanna Stark. Lyanna died before GoT's timeline began, but now that we've been introduced to her she's likely to have some sort of role going forward. But then Bran is sucked back out of the vision by the three-eyed raven, and returns to the crappy, freezing world beyond the wall where he really is. Bran seemed to enjoy this vision a little too much, suggesting that they might become an issue down the line, if Bran prefers spending time in the happy past rather than dealing with the seriously unhappy present.
Patrick Malahide, Pilou Asbӕk. photo: courtesy of HBO
Then we're whisked to the lovely seaside hamlets of the Iron Islands. Sweet lord of the light is there a more depressing location in all of the Seven Kingdoms than these storm ravaged rock piles? No wonder the Ironborn are so glum all the time. And once again we're reminded that there's nothing quite so dangerous in the world of GoT than having a son or a brother. Balon Greyjoy, precisely as sunny as his name suggests, gets tossed off a bridge. This is Theon and Yara's father, folks, the king of the Ironborn. His murderer? Naturally his brother, Euron, who will likely claim the now vacated throne that Yara rightly feels is her own. The Iron Islands are a little like a darker, wetter Dorne—you know they're probably important to the larger narrative, but they're also deeply uninteresting, for some reason. At least the Iron Islands are visually interesting. It's fun watching characters suffer in the rain and mud and look freezing when you're warm on your couch. Dorne, by contrast, is oppressively sunny and verdant, and everything that happens there is made all the more boring because it's going down in the nicest garden you've ever seen. (Balon, by the way, was the last living "leech king" from Melisandre's season 3 liason with Gendry. The other two were Robb Stark (dead) and Joffrey Baratheon (dead). I got this from the New York Times, so I can't cop to remembering this, but I guess it means that after a rough stretch, everything's coming up Melisandre these days).
The Waif treats the blind Arya to fresh beatdown. This was getting a little stale, for my tastes, so it was a welcome relief when Jaqen H'ghar arrived, asked Arya a few leading questions and, satisfied with her refusal to proffer her name in return for some shelter AND HER VISION, leads our long-suffering and littlest Stark to what we hope is a nice Bed and Breakfast in Braavos's toniest neighborhood.
Michael McElhatton, Iwan Rheon. photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO
And then we come to Winterfell, where Ramsay Bolton does a bunch of Ramsay Boltonian things, like, say, kill his father, Roose. Sorry, Roose, but you've got no one to blame but yourself. When you accepted this psychopath as your son, then kept him around in perpetual angst over whether or not he would be your rightful heir, constantly poking him with verbal insults, you signed your death warrant. What part of your son flaying people alive and feeding people to his dogs didn't give you pause and force to you consider the possibility he might turn on you? He's UNHINGED, man. You think killing his father would be an issue? Oh sure, Ramsay seemed a bit taken aback by his filicide, but it was, as it always is with this monster, only the appetizer to the grotesque feast of horror that is perpetually raging inside Ramsay. He then fed his stepmother and infant half-brother to his dogs. This is just Ramsay being Ramsay. And honestly, aren't we all deeply tired of Ramsay? We get it, he's capital E-EVIL. There is no sadistic, stomach-turning thing he will not do. He's got exactly one note—psychopathy—and we've heard it over and over and over again. And now that Ramsay's Lord Bolton, we all but demand he lead his men to Castle Black and into direct confrontation with Jon Snow 2.0 and Ghost, and then Ghost will eat Ramsay's face off. Ramsay faceless and crying, now THAT would be a new note.
Let's get a palate cleanser, and who better to wipe away the awful taste of Ramay Bolton than…
Peter Dinklage. photo: courtesy of HBO
Tyrion! Is there anything he can't do? With Dany off being homeschooled by the horse lords, it was up to Tyrion to set her dragons free, and so he did it himself, despite the very likely event they would turn him into a wine-soaked snack. Tyrion told the two dragons a story about how when he was a little boy he desperately wanted one of their kind, but his killjoy father Tywin told him they were all dead. But look, here you are! As he's telling them this little tale, he's slowly releasing their chains. An aside, but if Tyrion can release their chains with little more than flick of the wrist, then how were these two giant dragons not able to break free themselves? Discuss. Anyway, it was a fun moment. The CGI on the dragons is mighty impressive (they look way more feral and interesting these days), but the most impressive trick remains Peter Dinklage's consistently engaging performance. I am not responsible for the damage I will do to my TV screen if Tyrion is killed. (Also, Slate has a great theory on why the dragons seemed to not just tolerate Tyrion, but perhaps know him—might Tyrion be half Targaryen? There have been hints in the past that Tywin was not his father (Tywin himself believed this)—so perhaps the mad king (Dany's father) slept with Tyrion's mother (or raped her) who died giving birth to Tyrion himself. As Slate points out, Targaryen's are known for having difficult childbirths. Hmm…
And then there's King's Landing. There was a long set-up with some drunken peasant bragging about exposing his junk to a humiliated (and in his telling, desirous) Cersei, which you knew was just a windup to his death. And sure enough, it was—The Giant Mutant Formerly Known as the Mountain smashes his head against a wall. Meanwhile, Jamie looked about ready to run his sword through the High Sparrow's self righteous face, but, alas, the High Sparrow always seems a step or two ahead—he has Jamie surrounded by his little sparrows, and gives Jamie one of his speeches about the power of the poor many over the rich few. Jonathan Pryce is a great actor, and the High Sparrow has been an interesting foil for Cersei and the Lannister's, but honestly, it's probably time they were taught about humility themselves, right?
Right now, it seems like all roads are leading back to Castle Black. Sansa, Brienne and Podrick are headed there (Theon, however, is going home to the Iron Islands, no doubt inadvertently walking into a complicated situation with his sister and uncle, one he's likely unprepared to deal with in his reduced state), and we hope Ramsay Bolton heads there, too. Here's to mud in your eye, Ramsay. Also a sword.