Game of Thrones took its sweet time bringing Jon Snow back from the dead, but we got there eventually. “Home” was another plot-filled episode of Game of Thrones Season 6 that perhaps spread itself a little too thin by ambitiously addressing so many storylines. However, there was enough development here to keep us engaged — and a check-in with Bran Stark, the first we’ve seen of the weirwood-dwelling seer since Season 4, helped to make this episode another solid installment in Game of Thrones canon.
Castle Black is just as we left it last episode: with the traitors of the Night’s Watch locked outside of the room holding Davos, Ghost, the Night’s Watch members who are loyal to Jon Snow, and Jon Snow’s dead (for now) body. Alliser Thorne has given Davos until night’s fall to open the door. He has made promises that no one will be harmed. This is a thinly-veiled ruse. The men on both sides of the door know that Alliser will kill anyone who was loyal to Jon Snow. It’s the only way to ensure his rule of the Night’s Watch goes unchallenged.
When it becomes clear that Davos will not surrender, Alliser orders his men to break down the door, and they probably would have, too, if Edd hadn’t returned with the wildling army — you know, the one Jon Snow saved from the White Walkers. Remember, kids: Sometimes, it pays to fight zombies. They break down the door of Castle Black — well, Wun Wun breaks down the door of Castle Black — and the men of the Night’s Watch quickly surrender. Without Jon Snow, a.k.a. their best fighter, they are clearly outmatched for a wildling army that comes with its very own giant.
I would have liked to see Game of Thrones play the novelty of this moment for a bit more emotional heft. It wasn’t so long that we were largely (if not conflictingly) rooting against the wildlings. It wasn’t so long ago that the wildlings never would have mobilized to seek vengeance for the traitorous likes of Jon Snow. Alliser laments that fact that Castle Black has fallen to a wildling army, but it’s more complicated than that, isn’t it? In this dark, winter-encroaching time, the wildling army not only represents humanity’s best chance at survival, but justice for Jon Snow, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Well, former Lord Commander, Melisandre is sure to point out to Davos. “Does he have to be?” Davos answers in reply, and he is every audience member in this moment. Audience surrogate shouldn’t be an unfamiliar role for Davos. He has played it before. Here, he must pep talk Melisandre into trying to bring Jon Snow back from the dead. And when did Melisandre and Davos become one of my favorite dynamics on this show? Theirs is a complicated relationship. They have been through a lot together, though always tenuously aligned. Davos doesn’t know that it was Melisandre who killed sweet, innocent, kind Shereen — someone Davos loved. Would he still be asking her for help if he did? Maybe. But he probably wouldn’t be doing it with so much relative warmth.
No, I would not call these two friends, but they do have the air of soldiers who have served in war together. Just as we left her last week, Melisandre is so, so tired — not only physically (she is one billion years old), but emotionally. She is a soldier in the war between darkness and light who has lost her faith. It is a weary place to be. But Davos has always had a pragmatic determination to him, and he shares a little bit of that desire for survival with Melisandre here. Davos doesn’t care. “Fuck him then. Fuck all of them,” Davos tells Melisandre, gloriously free in his godlessness. “I’m not asking the Lord of Light for help. I’m asking the woman who showed me that miracles exist.”
Melisandre begrudgingly decides to at least try to bring Jon Snow back from the dead, and it is hilariously entertaining to watch someone perform a resurrection spell so half-heartedly. Davos and Tormund look on with bated breath as Melisandre works her magic. Nothing happens (well, other than a sponge bath), and they leave. But Ghost, Jon Snow’s stalwart companion, stays so he is the only one there to witness Jon Snow’s gasping back to life. It doesn’t look particularly pleasant.
“If you want to help him, leave him be,” Melisandre told Davos when he first asked her to resurrect Jon. Being alive in Westeros has never been a particularly pleasant experience, but is it about to be even worse for Jon Snow? What does it mean that he is back from the dead? Is he alive or some kind of other-creature, caught somewhere between life and death? Game of Thrones feels like it could take the Buffy the Vampire Slayer route with this one — tearing Jon from a comparatively pleasant afterlife back into the harsh realities of living. Whatever Jon Snow’s thoughts on being alive, I, for one, am glad he is back.
Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, the common folk are reminiscing about that time the Faith Militant made Cersei walk naked through the streets of the city while men and women used the opportunity to throw things at her, call her names, and flash their own naked bodies in not-solidarity. Cersei’s mysterious guard (a.k.a. The Mountain) doesn’t take kindly to these gossipers, smashing the head of one particularly loud storyteller to pieces. Good to see that Qyburn’s experiments on Gregor haven’t changed his murderous nature.
Elsewhere in King’s Landing, it is the funeral of Myrcella. It is a pretty poorly attended funeral, especially given that Tommen forbids his own mother from attending. This is partially in an effort to keep her safe and partially in an effort to avoid her. Tommen is still pretty embarrassed that he failed so hard (and continues to fail) at keeping his mother and sister safe. “You raised me to be strong, but I wasn’t. Help me,” Tommen pleads with his mother, after he eventually works up the courage to apologize. “Always,” Cersei tells him, pulling Tommen into a hug. Activating Sarah Connor mode… now.
This week’s episode also gives us the introduction of Jaime and the High Sparrow. Jaime more or less threatens the religious leader’s life, but he doesn’t seem too concerned: “Go on then. I deserve it. We all do. We are weak, vain creatures. We live only by the mother’s mercy,” the High Sparrow tells Jaime. His reverse psychology doesn’t work on the Kingslayer, but the Faith Militant’s appearance does. If Jaime killed the High Sparrow, he probably wouldn’t escape with his life.
Jaime might not have the chance to take the High Sparrow’s life, but that doesn’t mean he misses the opportunity to take a stab at the Faith Militant’s hypocrisy — specifically, the aggressively subjective manner of who they choose to go after. Some might even call it political?
In a total Lee Adama Battlestar Galactica moment (everyone knows Jaime is basically the Lee Adama of this show), Jaime delivers his own mini-Crossroads Part 2 speech: “What about my sins? I broke a sacred oath and stabbed my king in the back. I killed my own cousin. When the gods judged my brother guilty, I helped him escape that justice. What atonement do I deserve?” Let’s not go tempting fate, Jaime. Not on this show.
Speaking of both Jaime’s brother and tempting fate, Tyrion has a particularly crazy idea this week. The kind of crazy idea that comes about when you feel like you have nothing else to lose and you understand that, in this cruel, cruel world, death could come swiftly and painfully at any moment. With Daenerys still MIA, Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm, and Missandei must make some moves if they hope to keep the city under control.
Game of Thrones continues to do a relatively abysmal job at creating a complex context for the city of Meereen. This week, however, they distract us from that fact with dragons, which — as far as narrative distractions go — is a pretty excellent one.
Tyrion, a fan of dragon lore since the time he was a little boy, knows that dragons in captivity cannot survive. He also know that, without dragons, Daenerys will make a pretty dismal Queen of Dragons. Thusly, he takes his own life into his hands and decides to venture into the dark, dangerous crypt where Daenerys has locked up two of her dragons. His plan? Recognize the dragons’ intelligence, name-drop Dany, and release them from their shackles. Somehow, it works, and Tyrion lives to fight (and drink and know things) another day.
We don’t get much development on the Arya front this week. Poor girl is still blind and still in the midst of her Daredevil training. This week, she seems to pass some kind of terrible test when Jaqen offers her shelter, food, then her eyesight back in exchange for her identifying herself as Arya Stark. A girl does not fall for this trick. Instead, she stays cold, hungry, and blind. But the determination does earn A Girl a ticket off of the streets and back into the House of Black and White. Well, presumably that’s where Jaqen is leading her. I guess we’ll have to wait until next week to find out…
Just when you think Ramsay Bolton can’t get any worse, he goes and offs his father, his stepmother, and newborn brother. I guess Roose Bolton should have hoped for a girl? I don’t feel too bad for Roose. (I still haven’t forgiven the man for the Red Wedding. Also, he apparently raised The Monster Known As Ramsay Bolton, so…), but Walda Frey seemed like a nice enough lady. Even if she wasn’t no one deserves to be ripped apart by dogs while holding their newborn child. Even Ramsay had to look away from this one. On a show filled with vile human beings, Ramsay Bolton is the vilest.
Somewhere between Winterfell and Castle Black
It’s a good thing Jon Snow is back from the dead because Sansa is heading that way to seek protection from Ramsay Bolton and his vileness. Sadly, Theon will not be going with her. He doesn’t seem to think he deserves to stay with the Starks any longer. Not after he betrayed them. I’m sad to see these two split up. It’s been nice to see some of the original Stark family (if you count Theon as part of the honorary Stark clan, which I do) back together — even if for a little while. And with the way Sansa clung to Theon when he told her of his plans to return “home,” presumably to the Iron Islands, she enjoyed it, too.
Of course Sansa is left in the more-than-capable hands of Brienne (um, Pod will be there, too), who has also told Sansa of Arya’s continued survival. It would have been nice to spend a bit more time on this moment — this is the first news Sansa has had of her sister in a long, long time — but it was nice to get what we got. Sansa laughs at the news that Arya is dressed as a boy. Even after all of this time, Sansa is able to play the exasperated older sister (though now with a considerably higher degree of fondness).
It’s hard to imagine what kind of greeting Theon will receive when he returns home to Pyke. On the one hand, Yara did try to save her brother. On the other hand, she found a broken Reek in his place, and lost many of her men in the failed attempt to rescue him from Ramsay’s clutches. She told everyone her brother was dead.
Not that Yara will necessarily be the one who gets to decide Theon’s fate should he make it back to Pyke. Euron Greyjoy offed his brother Balon, which feels both random and appropriately malicious for an episode that also included Ramsay killing his closest blood relative to secure his right to rule. I can’t say I’m going to miss Balon, but Euron doesn’t seem like the nicest guy, either. Long live, Lord Yara?
In what was perhaps the most intriguing storyline in tonight’s episode, we caught back up with Bran Stark for the first time since Season 4. He is still camped out in the weirwood tree, along with Hodor, Meera, a Child of the Forest, and the three-eyed raven. As we learn from a disgruntled, grieving Meera, Bran has been conducting his training in warging with a heart tree. This gives him the ability to see into the past, present, and future.
This week, we go back to Ned Stark’s childhood at Winterfell. It is a relatively happy time. Ned, his brother Benjen, and his sister Lyanna are alive, well, and spend their days learning how to fight. Hodor is there, too, though he is much younger and called Willis. Most shockingly, Willis is able to speak, begging the question: What happened to Willis to turn him into Hodor? Bran asks Hodor, but the man either cannot or will not answer the question.
I would have liked to spend more time exploring Bran’s ability (not to mention hanging with The Child of the Forest), as well as exploring more of Westeros’ past. There are still many mysteries left to solve — most mysteriously, perhaps, the question of Jon Snow’s true parentage. Another episode, perhaps? For now, it is enough to check in with Bran after so long away from this storyline and character.
Rating: ★★★ Good
“It is beautiful beneath the sea,s but if you stay too long, you’ll drown.” “I wasn’t drowning. I was home.” R.I.P., Winterfell as a place filled with love and laughter vs. weekly hounds-feedings.
“It’s not safe outside the cave.” “It’s not safe anywhere.” Meera knows what’s up. She obviously spent Season 5 binge-watching the entire show.
“She grew up.” “Almost.” Stop breaking my heart, Jaime Lannister.
“The gods won’t mind. They spill more blood than the rest of us combined.”
“Did they put her in the red gown of the gold?” “Gold” “Good, that was always her color.” A Lannister always pays their debts… and wears their best color to their own funeral.
“He makes dwarf jokes. I make eunuch jokes.” “I do not make dwarf jokes.” I wish there were more Varys on this show.
“I am their friend.” “Do they know that?”
“I’m friends with your mother. I’m here to help. Don’t eat the help.”
“Next time I have an idea like that, punch me in the face.” Tyrion and Varys could seriously have their own spinoff show.
“If you acquire a reputation as a mad dog, you’ll be treated like one.” That ship has already sailed, Roose Bolton.
“I preferred being an only child.” Ramsay may be vile, but he has good one-liners.
“I would have taken you all the way to the wall. I would have died to get you there.”
“Perhaps you’ll be the first woman in history to rule the Ironborn. And perhaps not.” But… perhaps?
“I assume you know why I’m here.” “I will when you tell me.” Snarky Melisandre is my favorite Melisandre. She is so over this whole caring thing.