Season 6, Episode 2: ‘Home’
It was the surprise everyone was half expecting. At the urging of Davos, Melisandre strikes up some half-hearted incantations around the dead former Lord Commander of the Knight’s Watch. Shrugging as if to say ‘well, whatever, I tried,’ they desert the inanimate body, and moments after they close the door, the formerly deceased Jon Snow comes gasping back to life.
Technically, Jon Snow was only dead for one episode. It just seems a lot longer, due to the nine-month gap between seasons. What remains to be seen is his own reaction to this unasked-for extension on his mortal lease. Logical presumption suggests that if he isn’t deeply traumatized by non-existence, and/or the tumultuous terrors of the underworld, an outright zombification and subsequent demand for brains may be on the cards.
Speaking of returns, this week also marked the reappearance of Bran Stark after a seemingly prolonged absence from the show. Ensconced in a cave beyond the Wall, Bran continues to train his gift of preternatural vision with the aid of The Three Eyed Raven (Max Von Sydow, notably.) During an out-of-body experience in which he lives through a memory of the past, he discovers that Hodor was once named Willis.
Whether or not this revelation suggests a linkage to Gary Coleman’s character in Diff’rent Strokes remains a subject to be explored. “What’chu talkin‘ ‘bout…“
Presumably confined forever to a Dothraki convent by now, Daenerys was conspicuous only by her absence this week, while Tyrion and Lord Varys continue to deal with the fallout of her absence in Meereen. After the Sons of the Harpy attack the harbour, they learn that the slaves of Astapor and Yunkai have been retaken by their masters. Deciding that they need the power of the dragons to prevent the same happening in Meereen, Tyrion visits the vault beneath the city where they are currently imprisoned. What follows is a scene highly reminiscent of Eric Cartman petting the Great Old One, Cthulhu. Tyrian sweet talks the dragons, undoes their shackles and manages to retreat without being attacked.
Meanwhile, at stately Winterfell, Ramsay Bolton was back in fine rapscallion form, what with killing his father Roose, and feeding his mother-in-law and new-born half-brother to the dogs for good measure. What a card! With the help of Brienne, however, Sansa and Theon (née Reek) continue to evade his clutches. Brienne reveals to Sansa that Arya is very much still alive. After they decide to embark towards Castle Black, Theon decides he must leave, however, decrying himself as unworthy of her (or Jon Snow’s) forgiveness. He states his intention to return home, presumably to the Iron Islands.
On the Iron Islands, upheaval is at hand when Balon Greyjoy’s brother, Euron, returns with the intention to overthrow him. After a brief tussle, Balon is thrown from a bridge and dashed to pieces in the sea far below.
In Braavos, Arya continues her training, which mostly involves being hit repeatedly by wooden sticks. After failing her duel, Jaqen returns and Arya passes his test by refusing the temptations he offers of food, comfort, and the return of her eyesight.
Perhaps the most important lesson learned in ‘Home’, however, is that badmouthing the queen or pissing on the walls at King’s Landing is a really bad idea. A drunkard does both, in that order, and has his brains immediately dashed against the wall by Cersei’s behemoth of a guard, Gregor. In other events, antagonisms continue to grow between Jaime and the High Sparrow, and Tommen –guilt ridden over his former passivity- orders Cersei to stay inside the Red Keep for her own protection.
While season six opened in a somewhat hesitant fashion last week, episode two feels substantially more self-assured. The self-conscious exposition that came with re-introducing all the plot threads last week is gone, and the show is settling nicely in to its more natural and familiar rhythms. Most importantly, all the different plots this week were given a better sense of space and brevity, which the first episode lacked because it tried to do too much at once; dropping a few things in episode two, such as Dorne and Daenerys, freed up enough room that nothing felt unessentially compressed. Like the best of Game of Thrones, ‘Home’ worked a compelling balance between brutality and vulnerability, with enough twists and developments to make a fan impatient for episode three.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10