TV Recap: Game of Thrones, ‘Home’

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Game of Thrones “Home” Plot Summary:

Plot: Bran returns to the scene with a vision of the past via the Three Eyed Raven and hint at what’s to come in the future via the Children of the Forest. Tommen finally reaches out to his mother while Jaime takes a stand against the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant. Tyrion takes a page from Daenerys’ book and becomes a breaker of chains in his own right. Theon departs from Sansa, Brienne, and Podrick and vows to return home. Back on the Iron Islands, another king meets his end and a new arrival stakes his claim. Ramsay Snow surprises his father with the most horrific baby shower of all time. At Castle Black, Davos enlists the help of Wildlings to defeat Thorne and Melisandre works her magic.

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

“I wasn’t drowning, I was home.” So asserts Brandon Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright, seemingly grown three feet since his last appearance back in season four) upon the abrupt end of his visit with the Ghost of Winterfell Past. While Bran’s joyful vision of the once happy Stark family (complete with our first ever glimpse of Ned’s sister, Lyanna, and a lucid, verbal Wylis aka Hodor) is a fascinating opening scene and one that likely portends some significant revelations, his remark also ties back to the man of the hour, Jon Snow, who finally springs back to life in the closing moments of “Home.” Just as Bran was pulled back to reality by the Three Eyed Raven (the debut of Max Von Sydow), Jon is snapped back into being with the help of Melisandre (Carice van Houten). Though we finally have the answer we’ve been waiting for since last year’s cliffhanger finale, what exactly happened to Snow during his short-lived death still remains to be seen – was he merely drowning until saved by the Red Woman’s magic or did something much more transcendent occur?

As mentioned above, “Home” gets off to a riveting start with the long overdue return of Bran, whose ongoing training with the Three Eyed Raven is finally starting to provide some illuminating insight. Bran complains (as a bit of exposition that lets us know how he’s been spending his days since we’ve seen him last) that the visions he’s been shown up to this point have held little interest but here, he gets a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Winterfell’s salad days, when Ned and his brother Benjen are just little boys learning to fight in the courtyard. The relatively idyllic setting and bustling atmosphere of their ancestral homestead instantly induces nostalgia in both Bran and the audience, recalling the brief moment of Stark family happiness last seen in the series’ premiere and it was a smart, organic choice to stage this flashback through Bran’s eyes. Similarly, we’re also sharing Bran’s first glimpse of his doomed aunt Lyanna (even in the novels she’s only been mentioned in passing) and her introduction, bursting through the gates on horseback and riding circles around her brothers, instantly casts her as a spirited, vibrant girl and gives her more life than she’s had thus far in George R.R. Martin’s sprawling pages. The reveal that Hodor wasn’t always a monosyllabic simpleton was also intriguing and left me wanting to know the answer to a question I hadn’t really considered before – why does Hodor Hodor?

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Back at Castle Black, nightfall has arrived and Thorne (Owen Teale) and his mutinous contingent are preparing to break down the door behind which Davos and crew stand watch over Jon Snow’s body. Fortunately, Davos’ (Liam Cunningham) plan to enlist the help of the Wildlings works like a charm, as Thorne’s men – likely still wary from the high toll of the Battle of Castle Black and probably not all that supportive of their traitorous new Lord Commander – quickly give up the fight once the giant Wun Wun smashes a bold archer against the wall like a mere pesky fly.

Over in King’s Landing, another giant of sorts is smashing heads, as the Cersei-commissioned Mountain-stein avenges his queen against a drunken, shit-talking buffoon. This new incarnation of The Mountain never speaks a word nor removes his helmet, yet the fear he instills in all but Cersei (Lena Headey) is palpable. The entire Kingsguard breathes a sigh of relief when Cersei refrains from unleashing him upon them after they inform her that Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) has barred her from attending Myrcella’s funeral. That Cersei is now solely keeping company with an actual monster is telling, particularly after her admission last week that Myrcella’s death represented the death of her last ounce of goodness. She’s gone over completely to the dark side now, a fact which makes Tommen’s eventual turning to her for guidance all the more troublesome – what will become of the sweet, gentle boy King under the tutelage of his increasingly evil mother?

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Yet the biggest threat facing King’s Landing isn’t The Mountain, but another monster of Cersei’s own making, the Faith Militant led by the imperviously pious High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). When an incensed Jaime faces off against the High Sparrow at Myrcella’s wake, he quickly learns that the Sparrow won’t be cowed by his strength or power. When Jaime approaches him, sword bared, The Sparrow doesn’t balk and a cadre of the Faith Militant step forward from the shadows, not so much as a show of intimidation, but as a display of the Faith Militant’s nihilistic mission statement. “Go ahead,” he tells Jaime, just as willing to die as the men standing in his defense. “I deserve it. We all do.”  To the Sparrow and his followers, every man is a sinner equally deserving of the gods’ punishment and as such, they can’t be individually intimidated or collectively destroyed simply by taking out their leader. “Every one of us is poor and powerless,” the Sparrow smirks. “And yet together, we can overthrow an empire.” The Faith Militant can’t be beheaded and destroyed like so many previous challengers to the Lannister empire – their ideology is a many-headed serpent that likely poses the biggest risk the lions of Casterly Rock have faced so far.

Meanwhile, back in Winterfell, another monster bares his teeth as Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) somehow outdoes himself in the field of psychotic villainy once again. Immediately after giving his up-jumped bastard a dressing down over his handling of the Sansa / Theon situation and threatening him over his “mad dog” plans to attack the Nights Watch, Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) is informed of the birth of his new son. Ramsay offers his father a congratulatory hug and then sends his regards ala Jaime Lannister via a knife to his father’s heart. Due to the purposely ambiguous staging of the scene, for a brief moment I thought that Roose had stabbed Ramsay, but alas, Bolton’s bastard lives to kill another day and in the wrenching ensuing scene, hits new heights of evil by leading poor Fat Walda and her newborn son into the kennels and having them torn apart by his hounds. At this point, Ramsay has far surpassed Joffrey in terms of loathsomeness and the only solace I take in last night’s events is that when his death inevitably arrives, it’s going to be much more torturous than a knife to the heart and make the Purple Wedding seem like a slice of lemon cake in comparison.

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/HBO

Elsewhere, Meara (Ellie Kendrick), frustrated by her lack of action, is assured by one of the Children of the Forest that she is quite necessary in the battle to come. Past Wintefell, Sansa (Sophie Turner), Brienne (Gwedoline Christie), and Podrick (Daniel Portman) continue on towards Castle Black, while Theon (Alfie Allen) takes his leave to return home. On the Iron Islands, Yara’s (Gemma Whelan) arguments with her father prove irrelevant, as her uncle Euron arrives (a great debut by Pilou Asbaek, who already sparked more interest in the Greyjoy family drama in one minute than Martin had in a seeming million pages), tosses the crotchety Balon (Patrick Malahide) off a bridge and ushers in the coming Greyjoy version of election day, the Kingsmoot. In a thankfully brief scene featuring a lazily easy-test of the will, Arya (Maisie Williams) takes another step forward in her training. In a phenomenal scene (which I wish I could devote more time to), Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) proves that, in addition to his talents in the arts of drinking and knowing things, his prodigious smooth-talking gifts extend to dragons, as well, soothing and then releasing Rhaegal and Viserion from their chains and realizing a lifelong dream in the process.

Obviously, the biggest moment of “Home” was Melisandre’s resurrection of the late Lord Commander Jon Snow. Ever since reading Martin’s “A Dance With Dragons” back in 2011, which ended on the very same cliffhanger that closed season five, I’ve been confidently counting down the moments to Snow’s return. So while the final moments of last night’s episode weren’t a shock to me, I was slightly surprised by how we got there. Melisandre’s conveniently timed arrival back at Castle Black at the end of last season (something that had not happened at that point in the books) led to a lot of fan speculation that she would play a direct role in Snow’s resurrection. Though I couldn’t ignore the coincidence of her return so soon before the ensuing mutiny, I was convinced Jon would rise again due to something other than Melisandre’s often-misguided magic and that she was simply there to witness the actual rebirth of Azor Ahai in a completely different way than the Stannis-based prophecy she had foreseen. I was still assured of that belief when Davos chose to set aside their differences and enlist the help of a crestfallen, doubtful Melisandre, whose hair-cutting and invocations initially do nothing to rouse the fallen Lord Commander. It’s not until after the last of the believers give up hope and go to collect wood for the funeral pyre, leaving only Ghost to sit Shiva, that Snow comes gasping back to life. Were those the gasps of a man who had nearly drowned, but was pulled to shore by the Red priestess? Were they the guttural cries of a monster unnaturally raised from the dead a la The Mountain?  Or did they represent something else entirely – the return of Jon Snow by a magic of his own accord? Though “Home” certainly brought to close the series’ biggest cliffhanger to date, it left plenty of unanswered questions and I cannot wait to learn the answers in the weeks to come.

Rating: 9.5 of 10

Photo Courtesy of HBO
Photo Courtesy of HBO