Well, that didn’t take very long … relatively speaking.
After almost a year of speculation as to how Game of Thrones would deal with Jon Snow’s fate — Would he be resurrected? Was he dead for good? Would he be reborn as a dragon? — it only took until the end of Season six’s second episode to get a firm answer to one of the biggest cliffhangers of our time. Jon Snow has officially returned to the land of the living and fans can now rejoice that they will get to continue seeing Kit Harington’s perfectly-quaffed hair on a weekly basis for the foreseeable future.
Even setting aside the Jon Snow reveal, “Home” is a great episode of television. Unlike the Season six premiere, “The Red Woman,” “Home” doesn’t feel disorienting or deliberately withholding. Rather than check-in on every single major character, this episode leaves out certain characters in favor of giving more time to specific storylines and overall does a much better job of advancing the plot than last week’s premiere, which felt like an extended “previously on” montage at times. And though “Home” ventures into extremely dark territory thanks to another display of outright sadism from the always reliable Ramsey Bolton, it also feels like the first episode in a long time that actually has an air of hope to it. Westeros is due for a lot more pain and suffering before the end, but “Home” reintroduces a shred of optimism into the proceedings that goes a long way in injecting some life into a show that far too often feels overwhelmingly bleak.
That isn’t to say that this hopefulness isn’t also tinged with quite a heavy dose of melancholy. We get reintroduced to Bran Stark while he’s in the middle of a vision of his father as a young boy at Winterfell, a sight that he’s eager to hold onto as “they’re all so happy.” Bran’s teacher, the Three-Eyed Raven (Max Von Sydow), warns his pupil to be wary of delving too far into the past, as he explains that “It is beautiful beneath the sea; but if you stay too long, you’ll drown.” Game of Thrones may be concerned with conjuring up visions of the past in order to inform the present (we’ll probably be seeing the Tower of Joy scene as early as next week), but it also has its sights set firmly on the future, which looks precipitous indeed. As Bran’s protector Meera protests, spending time in visions is all well and good, but war is still coming.
Checking in with the Lannisters, it seems that Cersei’s infamous walk of shame has opened Tommen’s eyes to his own failures as a ruler and reinforced the need for caution in light of the High Sparrow’s hold on King’s Landing. Barring Cersei from attending Myrcella’s funeral out of concern for her safety was a little unsatisfying (why didn’t she just go with Ser Robert Strong AND the Kingsguard for protection?), but it at least led to a rather heartwarming conversation between Tommen and his mother. Admittedly, this storyline did more wheel-spinning that actual development this week, but at least it looks like we’ll be getting a much more pragmatic and confident Tommen going forward … which probably doesn’t bode well for his fate.
There is still quite a bit of uncertainty with Sansa’s story, as Theon’s departure comes as a bit of a surprise. Although Theon’s reasoning for leaving Sansa makes sense, as he very likely would be sentenced to death by Jon Snow for his actions in Winterfell — it’s disappointing to see this pair split up so quickly after it took so long for their relationship to heal over the last Season. Then again, Theon’s return to the Iron Islands could make for an interesting turn, as the character has really come full circle from his last visit to his homeland. However, given how tumultuous the current power structure is in Pyke, it’s difficult to see where Theon will fit in with both his sister and terrifying uncle Euron both vying for the crown.
That’s right, “Home” finally introduces the Kingsmoot plot from George R.R. Martin’s source material, as well as the long-awaited death of Balon Greyjoy, who, if you’ll recall, was the only remaining usurper left alive from Melisandre’s leech-sacrifice from Season three. It’s interesting to see Game of Thrones reintroduce the Greyjoys and Iron Islands at a time when they are more disconnected than ever from the larger narrative (Yara practically mentions this out loud when she argues with her father that the Ironborn can’t compete with those who live on the mainland). Although this week’s Iron Islands scenes are intriguing, it’s difficult to gauge how this story will affect the “more important’ storylines going forward, but it’s hard not to want to see more of Euron Greyjoy and his craziness after a debut like that.
Speaking of unhinged characters, “Home” accomplishes the seemingly impossible feat of making Ramsey into even more of a monster this week. In hindsight, we probably should have known that Ramsey would succeed in killing his newborn baby brother, but it’s actually shocking how quickly he accomplishes this task. Ramsey’s murder of Roose Bolton also came as quite a surprise, mostly because it always seemed like Roose was the one person who Ramsey actually feared. Without his much more pragmatic father reigning him in, Ramsey will almost surely become a “mad dog” and lash out at every corner of the North that doesn’t heel to his will. With Jon Snow back and the Wildlings likely to follow him, it looks like we’re headed for a “Bastard Bowl” showdown after all in the coming weeks and frankly, there’s no one who deserves a swift butchering more than Ramsey.
Which brings us to the happenings at Castle Black this week. The perfectly-timed arrival of the Wildling army was both gratifying because it helped wipe the smirk off of Ser Aliiser Thorne’s smug face, but also somewhat disappointing because it resolved things way too quickly, with only one guy getting killed by a giant (which was admittedly still pretty cool). The fact that Thorne, Olly, and the rest of Jon Snow’s murderers are left alive is a strange decision on Tormund’s part, as you just know that this group will cause more trouble down the road, but at least it helps fast track the scene every Thrones fan has been waiting with baited breath to see. It’s hard not to feel a jolt of excitement when Davos rather bluntly brings up the idea of resurrecting Jon to Melisandre, as if he’s the mouthpiece for millions of viewers who just-want-this-thing-to-happen-already, dammit!
Still, you have to give the show credit for the way the resurrection scene is teased out. Melisandre seems to work as painfully slow as possible, drawing out the tension to a fever pitch. Then, as each successive character leaves the room in dejection, hope turns to despair as it looks increasingly unlikely that Jon will come back. But of course, he has to; he’s much too important to the mythology of this show to disappear from the narrative altogether, as pretty much every major plot point involves him in some way (not to mention all of that “Hero of Light” business, which seems to be all but confirmed at this point). Jon Snow’s resurrection is definitely satisfying on an emotional level, but it’s also disappointing in the sense that its swift resolution makes it feel redundant from a storytelling perspective. It remains to be seen whether Jon Snow 2.0 has any different abilities from before, but if he doesn’t, than his cliffhanger death will feel like a cheap plot device in hindsight, like a brief annoyance rather than a significant turning point for the show.
Then again, it’s hard to be upset by a development that injects some actual optimism into a story that was getting difficult to watch due to its overwhelming bleakness and pessimism. While “Home” still suffers from some familar issues — Arya’s storyline has the slimmest bit of progression possible to justify its inclusion this week — it makes up for its shortcomings by simply allowing hope to exist in the Game of Thrones universe again, which is something we haven’t really had since the first Season. Of course, Game of Thrones isn’t going to just suddenly transition into some idealistic fantasy story where the good guys always win, but at this moment, at least it looks like they finally have a chance.
Other Events This Week:
- Hodor used to have a vocabulary! Forget Jon’s resurrection, this is the most mind-blowing development of the episode.
- In another life, Tyrion would have been a great Dragon tamer for the Targaryens
- We guess we’ll have to wait to see how bad Davos really is with a sword
- Arya’s not a beggar anymore! That’s great, but can we just get to the point with all this already?
- RIP Walda Frey and Baby Bolton. Sorry you had the misfortune of being in Ramsey’s orbit.
- A young Lyanna Stark makes an appearance here. We must be close to a firm R+L=J reveal at this point, right?
- Jaime is totally going to kill some Sparrows soon
A good episode of Game of Thrones is elevated by a surprising revelation.