Game of Thrones is a show that encompasses numerous stories, hundreds of families and thousands of people. It’s obvious when an episode opens with footage from three seasons prior what will be important and what will need to be freshest on the viewers’ minds when going into the current tale. I believe that in order for a story to be most complete, those controlling the progress (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in this case) also incorporate a level of meta-textuality to the material that gives everything a much greater satisfaction. ‘Home’, warts and all, might be the paramount in what long-form story telling can be in providing us a story about stories as well as an awareness of the form and appreciation in stick-to-itiveness.
In ‘Home’, we deal with the repercussions and causality of the stories we’ve been told for more than five years.
After more than a year, we are reacquainted with Bran as he continues to learn under the tutelage of the Three-Eyed Raven (Max Von Sydow still a great screen presence at 87 years of age). Bran witnesses the story of his father, uncle and even Hodor in a vision given by The Raven. In this vision, the biggest discovery is that Hodor used to be named Willis and could also speak normal Common Tongue like everyone else. We believe this story because of the knowing look in Hodor’s eyes when Bran confronts him with this information. Game of Thrones knows exactly how to pin you down…
… And also disarm you of your opinions.
The Mountain aka the Undead Gregor Clegane is simply a myth to everyone in the Red Keep at this point. Most have probably heard of his fall against the Red Viper during their battle but unaware as to his ultimate fate. For a character hated by most of the general audience, Game of Thrones manages to bring his ultimate return some crowd-pleasing quality mostly by drawing upon our strangely sympathetic feelings for Cersei. Amidst a crown of drunks, one of the drunkest men tells the story of Cersei seeing this particular drunk’s cock for the first time. In what feels like more of a comedy routine than truth, the drunk says that his cock is so big, Cersei actually licked her lips at the sight of it. A scene later, we see this drunk peeing in a dark corner only to be interrupted by The Undead Mountain and have his skull smashed in against the rock wall. At this moment we love The Undead Mountain because we believe Cersei deserves justice.
The High Sparrow has bought into his own tale of the poor masses aligning themselves against a tyrannical system. If we hadn’t been subject to who these people in the tyrannical system are, we’d no doubt align ourselves with the Sparrow. But Jaime Lannister has menace and hate in his eye and it can’t be long for him to summon the ability to take back power in the Red Keep. Or have his head lopped off; who knows with this show?
In Meereen, Tyrion is the most directly authorial presence in our story with his forward declaration that what he does is, “drink and know things.” He presides over an inner-circle meeting by telling Varys, Messandei and Grey Worm that dragons are smart enough to not harm those who give them respect and freedom. In what is the funniest scene of the week, Tyrion is successful in this hypothesis but reluctant to try anything like it again. This small tale in Tyrion’s life when he tamed and freed two dragons should be told to generations after his passing.
Arya, having been shown to take beatings on the regular in Braavos, finally comes to the conclusion that she is to fully accept her duty as becoming “no one”. Jaqen H’gar entices her with the privilege of sleeping with a roof, having a meal and even being restored her eyesight. This all comes as a mild shock as I’m pretty sure Jaqen has heard this story before with Arya balking in the end. Maybe he is willing to play this game until she learns. Either way, Arya is at least given clearance to her further redemption by accepting this new tale of herself.
Ramsay Snow (yes, he’s a Bolton now but I refuse to call him one. Go ahead, tell his spies. To seven hells with him.) has made a horrendous living off of his insane and insidious threats. The worst thing about Ramsay’s horror stories is that he follows them through. Ramsay has been threatened by his father, Roose, for some time that if he does not satisfy Roose’s needs, he is apt to name his probable newly born son rightful heir to the Bolton Throne and the Warden of the North. In an extension of Roose’s oversight of Ramsay’s featly to him, Roose lets it be known to Ramsay that he has just been blessed with a newborn boy and second to the throne after Ramsay. This doesn’t sit well with the bastard and Ramsay murders his father in the midst of a still angry Karstark man (I’m not sure the exact relation of the man at Ramsay’s side to the Karstark Robb Stark killed back in season three but he’s close enough to be pissed about it). The episode then gives us the epitome of tension in placing this newborn baby brother into Ramsay’s arms. He doesn’t kill him like we expect him to… only to minutes later set hunting dogs upon his step-mother and newborn baby brother. You asshole, Ramsay.
Theon must now reconcile once and for all his destiny after having taken Winterfell by telling the people that he had killed the two youngest Stark kids, Bran and Rickon. Even after all he has gone through, he doesn’t feel atoned for his sins and wants to ride off and leave Sansa, Brienne and Pod because of his guilt.
When Theon says he’s going home, we revisit the Iron Islands where his sister and father still bicker over the ruling of their house. Balon, having clearly gone mad already, stumbles out into the night onto a ramshackle bridge. Here he encounters his brother, Euron*, who claims all sorts of menacing, end-of-the-world shit and pushes Balon off the bridge to his death. Theon gets to go home to a place in no less turmoil than he was residing.
At the climax of ‘Home’, we get to see Ser Davos come to Melisandre asking for her help. At the episode’s outset, Davos, Edd, Ghost and co. were saved by the Wildings’ intervention of Ser Alliser’s intrusion upon Jon Snow’s temporary tomb (where we also got a deliciously gruesome killing of a Nights-Watchman by our Big Friendly Giant). With the Night’s Watch in the hands of the decent again, Davos entrusts his instincts by believing the things he’s seen Melisandre do during their time together. There is no love lost between the two and Davos is certainly no follower of The Lord of Light but he is a logical man who will accept the things he has witnessed first hand.
Davos goes to Melisandre and asks her to bring Jon Snow back to life. Melisandre has seen Thoros of Myr bring Beric Dondarrion back to life at least once and knows that The Lord of Light is capable of granting this power. She has never been able to wield it and is questionable of the validity of it all.
But she tries.
Melisandre cleans Jon Snow’s body and chants words and phrases. She chants them over and again, each time seemingly believing them more and more. We, as an audience sit and think about the reasons why so many different scenarios should or should not occur at this moment. We tell ourselves stories to placate the tension.
She doesn’t succeed.
Everyone leaves the room, Davos being the last to exit. Jon’s dire wolf, Ghost, is fast asleep until he feels something in the room. He awakens, seemingly a happy pup and we snap to Jon who finally takes a long-awaited gasp of air.
Much can be said of the way Jon Snow was brought back to life in this episode. Sure, it came in probably the most expected way but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the most earned. This show has been laying these pieces down for years. Time will only tell if the stories we were told tonight hold up against the ones they will continue to tell until the series ends.
Stories are the most powerful things we own and share. Game of Thrones has this art form on lock.
“I wasn’t drowning, I was home.” – Bran
Check out my reviews of previous episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’:
*in George R.R. Martin’s book, A Feast for Crows, it isn’t immediately revealed who killed Balon and is initially taken as an accident or possible suicide. This reveal is interesting in its forward nature.