The Comings and Goings of “Home,” a ‘Game of Thrones’ Recap

No wonder Game of Thrones didn’t release screeners this year! Who knew the moment we’d all been theorizing for a full year would happen in the second episode?! But let’s be real: as I said last week, we all knew his return was inevitable. Even still, Jon’s big gasp of breath incited one of my own, half because those eyes! and half because I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Let’s count ourselves fortunate. This likely means we’ve got one kick ass season ahead. Remember when Joffrey met his unfortunate demise in the second episode of season four, and what a killer season that was? Benioff and Weiss seem to be choosing their timeline wisely. (And let’s also be thankful they didn’t pull a Gimple and y’know, fake the death completely and then REMOVE HIS NAME FROM THE OPENING CREDITS. #stillbitter.)

But it was just as thrilling to watch all the rest of the Castle Black goings on as it was to behold the glory of Jon Snow’s undead body. Edd stormed off last episode and left Davos to maintain the corpse sequester, and while I appreciate Davos as a man who makes things happen, even with the help of Ghost they wouldn’t have held back the faction of the Night’s Watch that wanted to do… something to Jon’s body. (Still not sure what, but narratively speaking I guess they needed to keep him in one place.) Turns out Edd’s errand was to rally the Wildlings, and their arrival at Castle Black was both perfectly timed and goddamn heartwarming. Thorne can downplay Jon’s allegiance with the Wildlings to his jealous heart’s desire, but he’s the first Lord Commander in a line of 997 before him that won their trust and respect. Tormund and company had little reason to avenge Jon’s death except out of deference for their fallen comrade. In a world that often lacks sentiment among mostly dishonorable people, this moment is one for the books. (And I just love Wun Wun, that big teddy bear! I know he’s a teddy bear who can knock down huge doors and treats basically everything life-threatening like a nuisance, and if you annoy him you’ll end up a human flyswatter, but he’s so cuddly!)

And so the mutineers were taken into custody and the loyal were left with deciding what to do with their dead friend. Melisandre, still moping around from her recent history of ill-advised leadership, is coaxed by Davos to use whatever magic she actually possesses to try and resurrect Jon. “I never had this gift,” she says. His response: “Have you ever tried?” Before we can think about the consequences of an amateur resuscitator (Qyburn, anyone?) and after lots of untranslated chanting over Jon’s still lifeless body, she and the loyalists assume she’s a hack. It’s a pity Melisandre didn’t wait around to see her first ever successful resurrection. Maybe then she’d have enough pride in herself to get herself off the proverbial couch and put a comb through that hair.

(Then again, that ruby necklace of hers that has both poison-neutralizing and anti-aging powers didn’t light up as it should if it’s working. Perhaps the reanimation of Jon Snow after her incantation was a coincidence!)

More magic is happening further up north, where we see the revival of another Stark. Bran’s back, bitches! Between an off-season and a serious growth spurt, Bran has become a pro at warging. He and the (now beardless) Three-Eyed Raven have warged back in time to see little Ned and Benjen Stark sparring in the courtyard at Winterfell. In rides big sister Lyanna and she introduces the most adorable thing on Game of Thrones since baby direwolves: Preadolescent Hodor! (Pause for squeals.) His name is Wylis AND he talks! Well, he talks using words other than the obvious.

But the novelty of time travel is apparently not what warging is for and the TER brings Bran back to the weirwood tree in the cave. After an unsuccessful attempt to get Hodor to explain what happened (c’mon, Bran) he asks for Meera, who’s busy acting like an angsty emo kid outside the cave. She’s anxious to take part in the war to come, though the eagerness feels a little misplaced. Who is she going to fight with? Particularly if this war hasn’t even started yet? There’s no way she can still be this bummed about the loss of her brother, because at least two years had to have passed because look at how big Bran is! 

Regardless, I’m hoping that the function of Bran and his warging abilities isn’t just for exposition to prove the most popular fan theory since D.B. Cooper. This does seem to be the case, at least a little bit, considering Neil Patrick Harris is playing young Ned Stark in future episodes. But all Bran’s been doing for the majority of this series is making his way to the Three-Eyed Raven. After all that, his character deserves more than just being a plot prop.

Over in Braavos, Arya is another Stark that is on the verge of being underused. Each of her scenes so far this season have consisted of getting the shit beaten out of her by the Waif. At least this week she used that trademark spunk to fight back, and she even got a couple of hits in. It’s a wonder she has any teeth left. Then in swoops Jaqen to test Arya’s commitment to being No One now that her spirit (or body, at least) has been literally beaten down. Her insistence that “a girl has no name” seems mostly born of necessity; maybe if she plays along the Waif will quit whacking at her. Or maybe Arya’s sense of self has been so crushed after five seasons of pretending to be someone else that this last indignity has succeeded in stripping her of her identity. Whatever the case, Jaqen’s reverse psychology has no effect on the blind and miserable. She passes his test and stumbles after him back to the House of B&W. The unfortunate reality of this matter is a fear I had since she arrived at Braavos: with this last test, it seems that Arya is losing her autonomy completely.

The real shame of it all is that after years of assuming she was long dead, Sansa discovers her sister has been alive. The idea of Arya not “exactly dressed like a lady” even forces a smile on Sansa’s face, just before she admits to Brienne that Littlefinger is a total twat. Okay, not quite, but basically: “I should’ve gone with you when I had the chance,” she says. Hindsight, right? Had Littlefinger not married her to Ramsay assuming Stannis would defeat the Boltons and she would become Wardeness of Winterfell, Sansa could have avoided all the anguish that befell her.

The aftershocks of Ramsay’s actions have made Theon wary of any stray sound in the surrounding woods. Theon confesses to Sansa that if he arrives with them to Castle Black, Jon will have him killed for his crimes. What crimes? Oh, like betraying Robb. Or murdering the two kids in place of Bran and Rickon. Not to mention the particularly gruesome beheading of Ser Rodrik. Even though Sansa’s sure Jon will forgive him, Theon says, “I don’t want to be forgiven.”

We should stop to appreciate Theon Greyjoy for having what is likely the most complex arc on Game of Thrones. Remember how incorrigible he was at the start? Remember how loathsome he became when he committed the aforementioned crimes, and how gleeful his retribution at the hands of Ramsay initially felt? Didn’t it feel like he deserved that punishment? And how quickly he became a pitiful mess in Reek, killing his own Ironborn to appease his master, and cowering in the dog cages. How frustrating it was to see Theon trying to peek through Reek to help Sansa, even though his conditioning prevented him from doing so. And then, with one shove, how he completely redeemed himself. By the time Sansa and Theon hug in this episode, I wanted to fucking cry.

Theon’s come so far that it’s a little baffling to hear him want to go back home to the Iron Islands. It also seems like the GOT deep track characters this episode brought out at Pyke is a bit detracting. Anytime we’ve seen other Greyjoys it was for the direct purpose of influencing Theon’s story. In season two, Theon pledges allegiance to his family, but gets so carried away that he’s captured by the Boltons. In season three, Yara decides she’s going to rescue Theon. In season four, she actually tries doing it, then fails within minutes. Then we see nothing of the Greyjoys for a season and half until this episode, where plotines were established for the Greyjoy family outside of their impact on Theon’s life. Since the show feels like it’s reaching a fever pitch (and we also know the remaining episodes are numbered) I’m worried that any unnecessary Ironborn drama may become another Dorne subplot: a whole lot of faffin’ for one minor conflict.

Also, Theon’s uncle Euron seems like one crazy asshole, and Ramsay’s level of crazy is plenty for one show. Oh, Walda. Poor, dumb Walda. How thick were your blinders, girl? To even hand Ramsay a child, not to mention the one child that threatens his Bolton legitimacy, is a rookie move. And then you follow him into the dog cages?! WHY WOULD ROOSE BE IN THERE, WALDA? USE YOUR HEAD.

Fortunately, Ramsay’s hold on reality is loosening. Well, it’s not fortunate for Walda or the baby or Roose. But even a nutso like Ramsay can go too far off the deep end, and as he’s getting desperate enough to kill his whole family, his actions are going to get increasingly more erratic. The dramatic irony is high as he’s explaining that Castle Black is hardly defended: “The few men left are barely men at all. Farm boys and thieves.” Fingers crossed that in the effort to kill Sansa, Ramsay and his new friend Harald Karstark (what is with the randos this episode?) will be defeated by a bunch of Wildlings. Or even better, let’s hope they get on Wun Wun’s bad side.

Desperation is also mounting at King’s Landing, where things are generally shitty no matter who you are. You can’t even talk shit on the Queen Mother without your head getting bashed in by Zombie Mountain. Tommen feels helpless and ineffectual. Cersei’s imprisonment and walk-o-shame have made him so nervous about his mother’s wellbeing that he forbids her from going to Myrcella’s funeral. To be fair, it’s probably the first smart thing Tommen’s ever done as king. Her children may be the only thing Cersei cares about in this world, but few would argue for returning to the place where you were recently imprisoned.

Though at this point it’s a risky move for anyone to go to the sept, because the Faith Militant seems to have no need for arrest warrants. But here’s Jaime, pushing the High Sparrow’s buttons. He lists off a slew of his worst crimes (not including sleeping with his sister, but whatevs) just to see if the weak little barefooted man will try anything. But the High Sparrow calls his bluff and soon a dozen or so other barefooted men surround them with various kinds of blunt objects. Jaime wants to inflict pain on the High Sparrow for what he did to Cersei, but it’s difficult to feel satisfaction from killing someone when your target claims no sense of self. “But who are we?” Ser Sparrow says, of himself and the rest of the Militant. “We have no names, no family. Every one of us is poor and powerless. And yet together, we can overthrow an empire.”

Jaime loses this battle of wits, and Tommen goes to see his mother for the first time since her return. Earlier, Cersei is seen pulling a thread out of her mourning dress, looking at it, then discarding it. Perhaps it’s her ordeal, or Myrcella’s death, or Tommen’s absence (likely all of the above), but Cersei is unravelling. Her demeanor, while always teeming with a muted rage, has become more like a dormant volcano. There’s definitely something going on in there. You’re just not sure how extreme the eruption will be. The one thing that seems to soothe her for a moment is Tommen’s escalating malice. “I should have executed all of them. I should have pulled down the sept onto the High Sparrow’s head before I let them do that to you,” he says, which could be a line of Joffrey’s if delivered more aggressively. And then, a plea: “You raised me to be strong, but I wasn’t. Help me.”

If this wasn’t a moment to wish for Tywin to walk in and talk sense into the both of them. His logic tended to border on ruthless, but his endgame was to keep the family line successful, so he wasn’t one for rash behavior. He would have advised Tommen to take a more diplomatic route. But alas, the only person Tommen has left for guidance is his vengeful mother who has now been given allowance to throw King’s Landing into turmoil.

Meereen, meanwhile, is still reeling from its own turmoil. With the fleet destroyed and Daenerys still MIA, the silver lining could be that our friends have stopped receiving requests for help from neighboring cities Astapor and Yunkai… if the reason weren’t because Astapor and Yunkai have regressed back into a master/slave system. The only real military advantage they have now are the remaining dragons, but Viserion and Rhaegal have been chained up in the catacombs for a season and a half (however long in actual time that’s been) and now are starving themselves in protest of their mother’s absence.

Tyrion takes drunken action to improve Meereen’s lot by becoming the new Breaker of Chains. Dragons are smart, he says. I’m their friend, he says. They have affection for their friends, he says. It’s a little dubious that Tyrion’s bedtime story about how he wanted a dragon as a boy would work to win their favor, considering they’ve never met him and oh yeah, who knew dragons could understand reason? But let’s go with it because it was kind of adorable. Once Tyrion charmed the first band off, the second presented his chains as if to say, “Do mine next, please!”

And so “Home” was an episode where a lot of little things happened and one fucking HUGE thing happened, but we have a whole eight episodes to see how things large and small culminate. Will something good happen to Sansa for once? Will Bran have more to do? Will Tommen become a Joffrey clone? What is Jon going to do to the mutineers? Now that his plan is foiled and he’s completely powerless, I’d love to hear Thorne repeat Tyrion’s last line: “Next time I have an idea like that, punch me in the face.”

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