Game of Thrones Recap - Season 6 Episode 2: Home
This is a recap, so there are spoilers all over the place. Beware!
There’s a familiar pattern to how Game of Thrones paces itself early in a season. The show tends to reestablish existing relationships and power structures before fundamentally altering and changing them with ruthless efficiency. “Home” manages this feat with such raw power that feel like I’ve been smacked in the face. Westeros has never seemed more exciting to me. Last week, I said that the show had waned a bit for me. Now? I’m working on my time machine so I can see next week’s episode.
For such a shocking episode, “Home” starts off rather tame. It opens with some random dude beyond the Wall. Oh wait, that’s Bran Stark! He’s back after a whole season off camera. I’d make some snarky remark about how much Issac Hempstead Wright has aged but the great length away from the character actually makes it feel appropriate. Bran’s story was a weak link in previous seasons, but there’s a good push and pull between mysticism and the practical at play in this scene. Bran walks through a vision of the past alongside the Three Eyed Raven (now played by Max Von Sydow). He is in Winterfell, spying on a young Ned Stark and elder brother Brandon. Life in Winterfell seems idllyic. We see the renowned Lyanna Stark and even see Hodor, young and cogent.
It cannot last long and he is brought back to reality by the Three Eyed Raven. Outside their cave, Meera Reed seems less taken in by the magic around her. However, a child of the forest assures her that Bran Stark will not stay put forever. He will be needed elsewhere. It’s just small enough of a tease for my curiosity to be piqued. Whatever knowledge Bran will gain beyond the Wall could pay major dividends later on. Winter, we are always told, is coming. While it might be hard to imagine exactly what Bran will do to help stop it, I’ve no doubt he will play a huge factor.
A bit further south, Davos and the loyal brothers of the Night’s Watch maintain their vigil over Jon Snow’s corpse. Time is up and Ser Alliser’s men begin to bang down the door. This is the first of many tense scenes in Home: there’s a rhythm throughout the episode. Like a slowly rising heartbeat. Tump, thump. This is where it starts: with bangs on a barricaded door and drawn swords. The affair ends rather quickly when Edd and the Wildlings come to the rescue. It is a strange and wonderful thing to see Tormund Giantsbane breaking down the gates. The Wildlings were once a great threat. Now? They get to be Big Damn Heroes. For once, something actually goes right in this show. It’s bittersweet. Jon is still dead. But at least Alliser is deposed.
There’s a bit of a diversion here that stunts the episode’s pace but it ends with a nice beat. In King’s Landing, we have a random drunkard making crass remarks about Cersei and Jamie. Ser Robert Strong (aka Totally Not The Mountain) shows up and kills the dude with a single punch to the head. It’s a good reminder not to mess with this guy and an even better reminder that Cersei is not helpless. And when she is stopped from leaving to see Myrcella’s dead body, Ser Strong nearly fights his way through his fellow Kingsguard. Thump, thump.
Jamie and Tommen stand over Myrcella’s body. Tommen makes brief mention of Trystane Martell’s death and I’m only writing about it to say that I accidentally called him Tristan in my last write up. Don’t care. Dorne’s still silly. What’s not silly? Tommen, actually. He’s pretty damn self aware and very judgemental of himself in a way that Patron Saint of Assholes King Joffrey never was. At Jamie’s behest, he leaves to reconcile with Cersei. This means that Jamie and the High Sparrow are left alone. It is another stand off. Will Jamie kill the High Sparrow on holy ground? “The gods won’t mind; they’ve spilt more blood than the rest of us combined.” Thump, thump. Thump, thump. No, he won’t. But the Lannisters and the Faith Militant are on a clear crash course.
But what of Cersei herself? It’s hard to judge exactly where she stands with Tommen. Part of it feels like the true anguish of a mother reconciling with her child but I’m also worried. Tommen’s got the backbone of a jellyfish and Cersei’s an able manipulator. When the young king begs for his mother to help him, a part of my heart sinks. There’s a real chance for the Lannisters to be something better between Tommen and Jamie but I fear the family’s recent loss will drag them back to their cruel old ways.
Our time in Mereen has Tyrion doing what he does best: “drink and know things”. In this case, he and those council members still in the city take the risk of unchaining Dany’s dragons. Tyrion’s descent into the crypt to loose their shackles is as brave as it is… well, not smart. Though his monologue about wishing for a dragon when he was little is sweet, the constant threat of dragonfire is overwhelming. Thump, thump. Miraculously, he frees the dragons. “Next time I have an idea like that, punch me in the face.”
Arya remains on the streets of Braavos, getting her ass kicked once more. She gets knocked down but gets up again and again. Clearly a fan of Chumbawumba. She is soon tempted by Jaqen H’ghar. If she says her name, he will give her a roof. If she says her name, he will give her food. If her says her name, he will give her sight again. “A girl has no name.” And so, a man and a girl walk off.
I wasn’t too excited to return to Winterfell after this. I’m never excited to cut to anyone after a scene with Arya. Remember that part about changing things with ruthless efficiency? Here’s the turning point. Ramsay plans to attack Castle Black to get Sansa back, not knowing that Jon Snow is dead. Ever taciturn, Roose says such an action would turn the whole North against them. Strategy time is broken up by news that Roose’s wife has produced a male heir. Poor news for Ramsay. But before I could even take in the news, the bastard stabs and kills his father. The great betrayer who made the Red Wedding possible is killed by his raging son. I expected Roose to stay around longer this season.
Everything that follows with Ramsay is just tortuous. From the moment he asks to hold his baby brother all the way to when he finally released his hounds on the child and her mother, that tension smothered everything. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. In the end, Winterfell’s new lord stood ready for further debauchery.
A soft talk in the snow between Brienne and Sansa offers some respite and some reflection. “What happened at Winterfell?” To some extent, it feels like the show is talking to itself, wondering aloud at the unsettling rape scene between Ramsay and Sansa last season. In general, season six seems to have a more subversive idea of femininity than before. Well, as much as you can have for Game of Thrones. This small moment and last episode’s subversion of Mellisandre’s sexual objectification have offered a different approach to sexuality and the female form than we’ve previously seen.
Theon intends to leave for home, but just how are things on the Iron Islands? Not particularly great. Balon Greyjoy might be the last living king who made it through the War of the Five Kings but he’s losing all his holdings. Yara doesn’t respect the old creep. And it’s raining all the time.
Which means it’s a prefect time to cross a crummy rope bridge. The moment he stepped on that thing, I knew he was dead. Each step was punctuated with that dread sound. Thump, thump. I just didn’t know how. Turns out, it’s at the hands of his zealous brother Euron Greyjoy. Euron makes one hell of an impression, that’s for sure. With Balon dead, the Iron Islands will hold a moot to see who will lead them. No doubt we’ll see a lot of politicking between Yara and Euron but with Theon returning who knows what might happen.
We end at Castle Black. Davos comes to Melisandre and asks if she can bring Jon back to life. She doubts it. She doubts everything. Her faith is crushed. Her god abandoned her. Davos puts it in perspective: Fuck ‘em, then... I’m not asking the lord of light for help. I’m asking the woman who showed me miracles exist.”
I didn’t know I could be so conflicted about a scene. We’ve reached the apex of that drumming heartbeat but I couldn’t believe it would happen. “She’s not going to bring Jon back. Heroes don’t get second chances.” “If she does bring him back, he’ll come back wrong. Damaged and twisted.” Even if the miraculous happened, I wasn’t willing to believe it. For a moment, the show had me. The ritual doesn’t seem to work. I sat watching my television screen, waiting for the cruel cut to black. But it didn’t happen.
He’s back. Jon Snow is back. And with that said, Game of Thrones just dropped the mic. It was a tense episode. Perhaps a bit too functional but the twists and turns were phenomenal. What the episode lacked in emotional depth, it made up with with unrelenting pressure. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. A heartbeat. Jon Snow lives.