Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Game of Thrones reviews here.
“Home” was a very eventful episode of Game of Thrones. Old characters returned (in more ways than one), and perhaps just as many were killed off, as a multitude of Season 6 storylines took shape.
Let’s start at the ending, easily the biggest talking point since last season’s finale. Jon Snow is alive! Now, we all knew he had to return at some point. Yet as I expressed last week, the last thing I expected was to see him back so soon. I’m very happy to say that I was wrong.
The scene itself and everything that led up to it were excellent, beginning with Dolorous Edd returning with the wildlings (including a delightfully violent Wun Wun) and overpowering Alliser Thorne’s forces. It was refreshing to have Game of Thrones be straightforward and avoid the typical roundabout storytelling most shows manufacture to dance around the most logical solutions. “Why didn’t they just get the wildlings to help?” They did! “Why didn’t they ask Melisandre to bring back Jon Snow?” They did that too!
On that note, another strong scene was the one in which Davos asked Melisandre for her help. There was something very powerful, even touching, in seeing those two characters’ roles reversed. It used to be the fanatical Melisandre who would smugly talk down to the faithless Davos; yet here it was Davos, humbled by all the things he’d seen her do and driven by a desperate need, who lifted Mesliandre’s hopeless, broken spirit. With everything that’s happened, he ought to hate her—in fact, we all do. And it’s not just because of Jon Snow that we don’t. Her plight these past two episodes has made her strangely sympathetic. Credit to Carice van Houten, who showed her range by giving us a pitifully despondent side of Melisandre we hadn’t seen before.
This all led to the suspenseful scene that ended in Jon’s resurrection. I did not expect Melisandre’s attempt to work, and I’m confident that the show did not want me to. Even so, the scene had me and the rest of the audience on the edge of our seats, rapt with attention. The tension dissipated as the characters filed out of the room, believing they had failed. The camera then turned to Ghost, leaving us to wonder what breadcrumbs the show was teasing us with now—until Jon gasped, his eyes sprang open, and the credits rolled. It was a very well done and cleverly deceitful sequence.
Even without Jon Snow, “Home” covered a lot of ground and moved the story forward in a way that was not typical of Game of Thrones. Perhaps surpassing the books and setting a potential end point in mind has given the series a drive that is much needed in order to keep it from potentially stagnating. Whatever the case may be, it was a welcome change.
After being completely absent in Season 5, Bran returned to Game of Thrones in “Home”. His role wasn’t substantial, but it very well might be soon. He first appeared in a flashback sequence of sorts, the Three-Eyed Raven showing him scenes from his father’s childhood (including a Hodor who could speak). I don’t know the purpose of that scene, but I strongly suspect its partial goal, at least, is to refamiliarize the audience with Lyanna Stark, who was first mentioned in the series premiere and whose story I’m sure is a vital one to the series. It’s also worth noting that the Three-Eyed Raven was recast, the role now played by cinema legend Max von Sydow, which might mean that he will have a large role to play this year. In any case, Bran’s story promises to be more engaging and less plodding than it was when we left him.
Other old characters returned, including Theon’s sister Yara and his father, Balon Greyjoy—who was killed off mere minutes later by his newly-introduced brother, Euron, thus fulfilling the last of Melisandre’s prophecies from Season 3. Even though we’ve spent a lot of time away from Pyke, I’m excited by this development. With Theon making his way back home, and a kingsmoot about to take place to choose Balon’s successor, the politics of the Iron Islands could be a very interesting thread to follow. (Although it is weird that Yara knows someone murdered Balon, considering he was walking on a very accident-prone rickety bridge in the middle of a storm).
Balon’s death was far from the only one this episode—in fact, it wasn’t even the only instance of fratricide! Ramsay Bolton sunk to even lower depths and killed his father, Roose Bolton, making him the Warden of the North. Having a Karstark there to witness the murder was a smart way of telling the audience that Ramsay’s new rule will not be contested by the Boltons’ allies. And as shocking as the scene was, it made perfect sense given all that came before it, and especially for a sadistic character like Ramsay. Who went on to feed Walda Frey and his newborn baby brother to his dogs in a deeply upsetting but effectively chilling scene.
There were a few other enjoyable tidbits in “Home”. Brienne telling Sansa about Arya was long overdue, and it was sweet to see Sansa’s reaction to hearing about her little sister. And in another instance of the show moving faster than it usually would have, Arya’s days as a beggar ended when Jaqen came to take her back in, after presumbaly passing another test. As badass an assassin as I’m sure she would make, I have to wonder if her journey to truly become “no one” will cause obstacles in the future. For example, would Sansa now want to seek her out? And if so, how receptive would “no one” Arya be?
Over in King’s Landing, Jaime had a strong, well-written confrontation with the High Sparrow that seemed to indicate what the Lannisters’ story would be in the foreseeable future. This was supported by Tommen’s scene with Cersei, in which he pretty much vowed to never shy away from protecting his mother again. Taking on the Faith Militant and fixing Cersei’s blunder from last season is definitely a path I can see the Lannisters heading down.
Finally, there was a strong scene in Meereen in which Tyrion met Daenerys’s dragons. If Game of Thrones is going to keep two of its strongest characters in one of its less interesting locations, it’s a smart idea to use that location’s best assets—dragons—to its advantage. I’m not sure how Tyrion befriending the two dragons will impact his story, but I’m interested in finding out.
“Home” was a very busy installment of Game of Thrones, yet in many ways it was a setup episode too. Jon Snow’s resurrection taking place so soon meant that his return wasn’t the resolution of a past story, but the beginning of a brand new one. As for Roose Bolton and Balon Greyjoy, they were plot elements that had outlived their purpose and had to be cast aside in order to make way for the new. If the season premiere’s role was to reestablish where things stood, then “Home” was there to reshuffle the board and show us the shape of things to come.
“Home” was our first real taste of a Game of Thrones that is unshackled from the books. That prospect may have been worrisome years ago, but this week’s exciting developments and more significant story progression were strong indicators of a show that’s more full of potential than it’s ever been.
Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)
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