If last Sunday was a bit on the short side and concerned mainly with setting the stage, this Sunday definitely moved all the characters forward in real and occasionally shocking ways. I can’t tell you all how much I wanted to call this recap “Four Funerals and a Resurrection.” But I also didn’t want the Entire Internet to yell at me about spoilers. So here we are. “Home” gave us a lot of new directions to explore for our characters, some anticipated and some not. It was, overall, an excellent episode.
Spoilers to follow the dragons:
Bran’s training with the Three Eyed Raven is giving us deep cuts of Stark history. I understand why the show didn’t tie their seeing to the weirwoods even though I liked that detail from the books. It cast an entirely different light on the fact that all the great houses of the North had a godswood built around a weirwood. We see Lyanna for the first time, a young girl riding astride through the yard without a care or concern in the world. We also get a reference to “when Ned goes off to the Eyrie”, a healthy Hodor, and a very young Rodrik Cassel. Clearly Bran will be our window into the past this season, though Leaf tells Meera that he will not stay in the cave forever. How he will leave is anyone’s guess, but I’m betting it won’t be in his own body. It looks like next week we’ll be headed to the Tower of Joy with Ned Stark and Howland Reed.
The hour of truth has come for Jon Snow’s Kingsguard (YEAH, I SAID IT) as Alliser Thorne prepares to take the body. Luckily, the Wildlings show up just in time, and take the castle with a single death via giant. In the end, as Tormund points out, it is Thorne who loses The Wall to the control of the Wildlings. The 999th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch ends his reign in the cells.
Back in King’s Landing The Mountain is still up to his old habits of smashing heads like overripe melons, and Cersei has gone from being trapped in the Sept to being trapped in the Red Keep. She’s not even able to attend Myrcella’s funeral due to Tommen’s fear that The Faith would take her prisoner again. Tommen himself seems to be trying to find his mettle at this trying time in his rule, and a Lannister aspiring to be more brutal would be worrisome if I was’t so sure that he’s not going to survive the season. We also see some overt statements of political revolution from The High Sparrow. I get suspicious of anyone stating their goals with such confidence, because this show does not appreciate hubris.
In Meereen, Tyrion gets a chance to show off his skills in knowing things (while also showing off his skills in drinking) when he has expert knowledge of dragon history that he can use to help Rhaegal and Viserion, who have been refusing to eat. The sequence where Tyrion descends into the bowels of the pyramid to unchain the dragons is incredibly tense and beautiful at the same time. Some people have suspected that Tyrion might take the place of Quentyn on the bad end of a dragon barbecue and it was hard to shake that thought as he tentatively approached the dragons, talking to comfort himself as he went. The moment when he reaches Rhaegal at the point in the story when he’s describing how he cried when he was told that all the dragons were gone was simply gorgeous. Through his fear, and all his better sense, he reaches out a hand to stroke the side of the beast’s neck and whispers “but here you are” to his dream come true. I wonder if this is silent confirmation of another long-standing book theory; that Tyrion is secretly a Targaryen and Daenerys’s older brother between Rhaegar and Viserys. Or, it could just be that the dragons were weak, and wouldn’t attack without provocation. Despite Tyrion’s instructions that Varys should “punch him in the face” if he ever gets an idea like that again, I don’t think he’ll be able to keep away from those dragons. And I don’t think he really wants to either.
Arya seems to be moving into the next stage of her training in Braavos. Like I said before, I think it’s significant in the books that Arya is able to progress because of her very Stark trait of warging, I think it says something about how likely she is to become “faceless” in the future. But perhaps the show has a different path for her to take to a similar goal.
Ramsay’s sudden and bloody ascent to the title of Lord Bolton came as a shock and may be one of the biggest mistakes he’s made so far. By and large Roose protected his son from feeling the effects of his many sins, but with Roose gone Ramsay’s proclivities have no check. With the death of Lady Walda, it’s likely he will loose any favor with the Freys. He has the Karstarks with him, as retribution for the death of Lord Rickard, but his faith that the Umbers and Manderlys will follow seems a big assumption. And Ramsay has no fear, only anger. As Roose himself told Reek “Fear is what keeps a man alive in this world of treachery and deceit. … Ramsay should fear them all, as I do.” Ramsay may ride high for a time, but he will never rule a peaceful land or a quiet people. (Roose’s death also puts a nail in the coffin of the theory that Roose is a vampire. Not a theory I ever bought into, but might as well address it.) I also miss the change to introduce Barbrey Dustin here, just because she gives a very different perspective on the Starks than most characters. She also gives us some context for the political situation that led to Robert’s Rebellion, the consolidation of power among the great houses particularly through the Starks and Baratheons. But perhaps I speak too soon, and she will make an appearance as we explore Ramsay’s efforts to rule the North. Next week we see a contingent of maybe-Umbers bringing Ramsay a gift. I think we’re supposed to think it’s Rickon. But after Theon left Sansa, Brienne, and Pod in this episode, I think he’ll end up back at Winterfell.
In this episode we finally come to the long-awaited death of Balon Greyjoy. I doubt anyone will miss him, least of all his two surviving children. The show has decided to officially make Euron his killer, even though the book heavily implies that it’s a Faceless Man (possibly Jaqen, who would go onto Oldtown and become Pate). And we will be getting a Kingsmoot because I know what all of you have really been missing from the show is the tedious political maneuvering of tertiary characters. The introduction of Euron is pretty impressive, though. Here’s hoping he injects some life into the Pyke storyline. And perhaps Balon’s death was pushed back so far to serve another purpose; to complete one of Melisandre’s blood spells immediately before she tries her biggest one yet.
Back at The Wall, Davos takes on the task of restoring Melisandre’s faith, a faith he typically finds abhorrent even as he admits that what she has done could be described as miracles. She reluctantly agrees to try, and we get a very slow and deliberate scene of her preparing Jon’s body; cleaning the blood, trimming his hair, washing his head, while chanting in Valyrian. She finally lays her hands on him, and repeats the spell over and over again as desperation creeps into her voice, before she pleads, and finally gives up. Tormund is the first to leave the room, with Mel following, Edd after her, and Davos last after a final close look at Jon’s body. Once the room is empty, Ghost begins to stir, and Jon gasps back to life on the table. It’s a moment we’ve all be anticipating, but one that’s still deeply satisfying. Now we wait to see if Jon will take his place as the 1,000th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, or try to claim Winterfell in the name of the man he presumes to be his father.