Following a rousing return to the Seven Kingdoms last week, many questions are already upon the breath about the directions Game of Thrones Season 6 may travel in.
The climax of “The Red Woman” (full review here) served up a pivotal shock at Castle Black where the body of the Lord Commander now lays silently. However as the next hour in Westeros proves, there is plenty more twists and turns where that came from.
“Home” is the show at its busiest and best; an untameable beast that surges forward, crippling everything in its fearful path. Within just two hours of programming, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have set the world alight once again.
The Title: “Home”
What Does It Mean?
A direct quote from two Northerners, the title is predominately referential to that of the returning Bran Stark who is found North of the Wall training with the Three-Eyed Raven.
The young warg is amidst a vision of his father and uncles play-fighting in Winterfell. Aunt Lyanna is there too, as is a young but enlarged stable boy Willas who is able to speak more words than merely the one we have all come to love; “Hodor”.
Peaceful within his surroundings, the familiarities of the North are comforting. Times in this moment seem happier, more wholesome. Blood is not shed and quarrels are absent. Instead, those enduring the long Winter seem content.
The Three-Eyed Raven pulls Bran from the vision and back into bitterly cold and uncertain reality. A place where he remains a paraplegic. A place where the White Walkers are never further than a horse ride away. His trainer informs the young Stark that “It is beautiful beneath the sea, but stay too long and you’ll drown.”
Pushing his frame forward, he shoots back with certainty: “I wasn’t drowning. I was home.”
The title is also referring to Theon Greyjoy who makes the devastating decision to leave Lady Sansa Stark, Brienne of Tarth and Podrick as they venture onwards to the Lord Commander.
Most Shocking Moment:
The snow remains crisp under heavy footsteps as we evaluate the episode’s biggest shocks. In an episode featuring a number of startling moments, it’s difficult to select a single scene, so we are going to cheat and provide two.
The first comes from Winterfell as news breaks that Roose Bolton and Lady Walda’s baby has arrived safety. A young boy. The news an unhinged Ramsay feared most.
Moments prior, he, Roose and Torrhen Karstark had been plotting a attack mechanism following the slaughter orchestrated by Brienne. A gun-ho Ramsay wants to storm Castle Black and eliminate Jon Snow, to which Roose finds preposterous.
A Maester delivers the news about Ramsay’s baby brother. Dread colours the face. “Don’t worry, you’ll always be my first born” proclaims Roose. “Thank you father,” Ramsay replies. “That means so much to me”.
He embraces his father and in true Kylo Ren fashion, buries a blade deep into his stomach, killing him. Roose was “poisoned by our enemies” orders the bastard. Then he must tie loose ends. He takes Lady Walda and his newborn sibling outside and into Winterfell’s hound keep. You can predict what happens when he lets the hungry dogs out…
Meanwhile back in Castle Black, a desperate Ser Davos (likely one of Season 6’s MVPs…) calls for Melisandre to practice her magic upon Jon Snow’s lifeless body. He recalls many unfathomable events he has witnessed at her power, and how she must defy the Lord of Light. Time is of the essence as soon he will be burnt.
Apprehensive, she takes to the corpse and begins washing away the stained claret upon. Declaring a spell, she removes pieces of his hair and beard, tossing them into open flames. Following a tense encounter in front of Ser Davos, Edd Tollett and the returned Wildling boss Tormund Giantsbane, all hope seems lost.
They leave him be. After moments of suffocating silence, Ghost awakes from slumber; ears pricked, eyes wide. He senses something. Before he has time to scramble upon all fours, Jon Snow’s eyes snap open and he dramatically inhales.
A debt will always be paid, regardless of its currency. As power continues to flail between social spheres in Westeros, those now downtrodden are starting to regain footing in the tumultuous lands.
A shamed and scarred Cersei Lannister is unable to attend her daughter Myrcella’s funeral by royal request. Now armed with her zombie-knight, the resurrected Gregor Clegane (“The Mountain”), the pair put up a valiant stand against the Kingsmen before returning to The Red Keep.
Brother Jaime speaks to King Tommen Baratheon at the funeral and orders him to go and see his mother before the intrusive arrival of the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant. Tommen heads to Cersei’s “cell” (a pretty nice holding space by King’s Landing standards) and begs her for forgiveness, expressing his deepest sorrow.
It’s clear the young King felt under pressure and in situations way over his head. He knows how Cersei would have moved Heaven and Earth to keep him safe, and protect his honour. He knows he must repay her greatly. He asks of his mother to make him “strong”, to help him remove the High Sparrow’s religion-enthused justice across the land.
Despite her weakened state, the Queen Mother now has her brother and son allied, as well as the most fearsome specimen in the Iron Throne’s homeland. It’s likely that “The Mountain” will reenter a Trial by Combat situation, and the results will almost certainly turn the tables…
Best Overall Moment:
In an entirely Daenerys-absent episode, her influence and impact across Meereen is still very much present. The city is divided, the streets are unsafe. As Tyrion Lannister made apparent last week, “Wherever you go, someone wants to murder you.”
Two glasses down the hatch, Tyrion chats informally about next steps with Varys, Missandei and Grey Worm. He comments on the two remaining dragons – Rhaegel and Viserion – which remain locked underneath the Pyramid. Dragons cannot withstand captivity. They need to eat, they need to grow. He comically explains that chained dragons become no bigger than cats.
His plan is simple. Dangerous, but simple: free the dragons. They’re intelligent creatures, he reasons, and they’ll realise he’s their friend. “How do you know this?” asks Missandei. “That’s what I do,” Tyrion replies. “I drink and I know things.”
Torch in hand, he heads downwards into the swallowing darkness. The ever-smart Varys stays firmly above ground and watches on. In the flicker of the flame, an assortment of white razors appear. “I’m here to help,” he tells the captives. “Don’t eat the help.”
After a tender dialogue exchange which profiles his youthful affection for the flying beasts, the tension continues to crank, the sweat continues to bead. But suddenly, the dragons lean into the Imp and allow him to remove their chains. Whilst it was unlikely that Tyrion would make for a bite-sized meal, you can never be too sure with Game of Thrones, and the symphonic blend of humour and horror makes for a spectacular sequence.
It is also capped off with the sharpest line of dialogue in the episode too. “If I ever have another idea like that, punch me in the face…” he tells Varys.
Building on the dense and thematically rich opener, “Home” serves up an hour of truly exceptional Thrones. It’s the show at its most captivating, catastrophic and calculating; a beguiling web spun with inch-perfect precision.
As we press forward to the third episode, who knows what shocks and thrills will be in store, but the world will be hoping that the newly-risen Jon Snow and the Wildlings have something to say about the traitorous and vile Alliser Thorne…