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HE LIVES! JON SNOW LIVES! SEND RAVENS TO ALL CORNERS OF THE REALM!
Nothing else happened this episode. Nothing else matters. The only important thing is that Jon Snow is alive.
Okay, A LOT of important things happened this episode, but Jon Snow being resurrected stole the whole show. I knew it was coming -- some spoiler images leaked from set months ago -- and it still took me 10 minutes to compose myself when it was all over. Even though many of us pieced together how it would happen, it was still wonderful to watch, brilliantly executed by director Jeremy Podeswa and the actors in that small room.
“Home” was a solid, exciting episode by any standards. It set the tone for what’s sure to be a violent season across all story lines, yet still managed to squeeze in a couple of touching, smaller moments. And, of course, it delivered on the hopes and dreams of millions of Jon Snow Truthers.
Lest we never get to the rest of the episode, let’s jump in.
The Real North
From a shot of darkness, and as a crow cries, we peer inside a cave we haven’t seen in almost two years: the weirwood tree-home of the Three Eyed Raven. Bran is back as well, chilling at the edge of the roots, tapped into the tree and seeing into the past.
We’re taken to Winterfell, but this isn’t the grim stronghold of the Boltons; instead, this is the Winterfell of decades ago.
From the ramparts, Bran and the Three Eyed Raven watch a young Ned Stark practicing swordplay with his brother Benjen (who we also haven’t seen since Season 1; only old gods know where he is now). As a young Ser Rodrick coaches them, a girl rides up and taunts them. This is Lyanna Stark, the lady who would go on to be kidnapped by Rhaegar Targaryen and inadvertently start a war.
But this is long before that conflict. Ned asks a young Hodor (whose real name is, apparently, Wylis) to come fight with them. Hodor talks! In complete sentences! Using words besides “Hodor!”
But before Bran gets to learn more about his family, the Three Eyed Raven pulls him back to their hideaway in the present. Bran complains that “you finally show me something I care about, and then you drag me away.” But the old man insists it’s for the best that they didn’t stay too long.
Outside, Meera Reed is too busy brooding to care about what Bran saw. She doesn’t see the use of them staying in this cave, gazing into the past. The little girl who rescued them back in Season 4 (one of the Children of the Forest, whose makeup has been updated to show she’s definitely not a human) assures Meera that they won’t be there forever. Bran is in training, but for what?
The siege of Davos & Co. by Thorne’s men continues, but it won’t last for much longer. Thorne tries one last time to talk the men out, saying that they won’t be harmed. He even offers to release Ghost north of the Wall, “where it belongs,” but Davos doesn’t respond.
Instead, he grabs Longclaw, Jon’s valyrian-steel sword, and delivers one of his best lines: “I’ve never been much of a fighter. Apologies for what you’re about to see.” The men draw their swords and prepare to go down fighting.
Sensing that negotiations have concluded, Thorne signals for the door to be smashed. As his man slams a huge hammer into the door over and over, we hear another banging noise, a much larger banging noise.
They all turn towards the gate just before Wun Wun the giant smashes it down. The wildlings have come! The Night’s Watchmen turn as their old foes storm into the castle.
Thorne yells at them to fight, but most just stand and quaver. One idiot shoots Wun Wun in the back -- like that would hurt -- and the giant responds by casually going all Hulk-like and smashing him into a wall.
Thorne is dumbfounded as his men lay down their arms. Lil’ Punk Olly makes a run at Tormund but is easily thrown aside by the bulking wildling. Thorne and some of his allies are locked up; there’s a new sheriff (sheriffs?) in town.
Watching Wun Wun smash down that gate was pure delight. Much like with Brienne and Pod riding to the rescue last episode, I was yelling and pounding my fists with excitement.
And all of this was just over 10 minutes into the episode.
Back down south, a group of peasants are laughing it up as a dirty fellow recounts how Queen Cersei once winked at his manhood. The whole time I was waiting for the FrankenMountain to walk up and smash his head in. Turns out that would happen a few moments later -- as the dirty fellow peed on him. A couple of deaths in and this is already a head-smashing sort of episode.
Later, Cersei is unfazed by the blood on her loyal bodyguard as they try to leave the Red Keep for Myrcella’s funeral. However, they’re stopped by a small army of Lannister soldiers. Their leader informs her that King Tommen has commanded that she not leave the castle. Rather than fight their way out -- much to the relief of that commander -- Cersei decides to stay.
At the Sept of Baelor, Tommen and Jaime look over Myrcella’s body. Tommen reveals why he won’t let Cersei leave the Red Keep: he’s afraid she’d be arrested again if she set foot in the sept, and he’s ashamed how he let the Faith Militant run over him with his mother and Margaery. Don’t worry, man, we’re all ashamed of you and your whiny ways, too.
The High Sparrow cuts his rant short, strolling down the stairs and informing the king he still can’t go and see his wife. Jaime tells him to run along to his mother; he wants to have a little chat with the humble high priest.
Jonathan Pryce’s High Sparrow is practically dripping with self-righteousness as he explains why Cersei had to “atone” for her sins.
Jaime can barely contain his anger with him, revealing some of his own sins (killing a king, killing his cousin, freeing Tyrion after the “gods” had judged him guilty) and asking why he shouldn’t be punished. Of course, the High Sparrow says they all deserved to be punished as Jaime begins to draw his dagger.
As much as he wants to, Jaime doesn’t make a move on him. Even so, at least a dozen armed men of the Faith Militant enter the sept. The High Sparrow explains the position of strength his men hold, saying, “everyone of us is poor and powerless. But together, we can overthrow an empire.”
This is the closest the High Sparrow has come to revealing his motives, as if they were ever in doubt. If he and his movement are going to overthrow an empire, though, they still have a lot of ground to cover -- and a host of Tyrell men to deal with soon (next episode?).
Tommen returns to the Red Keep to see his mother for the first time since her shaming. She’s cold to him, detachedly saying she’s glad to see him without ever looking at him. Cersei asks what color dress Myrcella wore; he tells her gold -- perhaps in an allusion to the prophesy that haunts Cersei’s every move.
He apologizes to her profusely for his inaction, ticking off a list of thing he should’ve done; violent things that she would’ve done in that situation. She finally turns to face him before he asks for her help. Hugging him, she responds, “always.”
Let the real manipulation begin.
Up in the great pyramid, our favorite dwarf is making jokes about drinking and, ahem, manhood. Of course. But there are serious matters for Daenerys’ new small council to discuss.
Things have taken a turn for the worse. Besides the royal fleet being destroyed, the cities of Astapor and Yunkai have once again fallen under control of the slave-driving masters. And once again, I’m begging Dany to forget about these retched cities and turn towards Westeros. Those cities are draining the young queen of energy and resources -- and time. They were never her destiny; it’s time she prioritize.
Then again, she’s technically still missing. In the meantime, Tyrion is concerned about the wellbeing of the two dragons they have in captivity: Rhaegal and Viserion. They haven’t been eating since Dany left, a much-healthier Grey Worm informs us. Tyrion decides it’s time they do.
Soon, he’s is in the catacombs about to confront beasts he’s only ever dreamed of meeting. Tyrion explained earlier that dragons are supposedly smarter than people, able to tell friend and foe. From the expression on his face as the dragons appear before him, he really hopes he’s right.
He cautiously tells them that he’s there to help -- “don’t eat the help,” he only half-jokes. He shares an adorable story with them about how he once wanted a dragon for his birthday as a child and that he cried to sleep when told all the dragons were gone. As he talks, Tyrion slowly walks toward one of them. He reaches up, laying a small hand carefully on the beast’s neck before pulling out the pin of the dragon’s collar.
The other dragon (with the lighting, I couldn’t tell which was which), seeing his brother freed from his chains, almost hilariously extends his neck to Tyrion and shoves his collar towards the man. After Tyrion unchains him, both Rhaegal and Viserion turn back into the shadows -- and a gobsmacked Tyrion shuffles quickly up the stairs to a bemused Varys.
All you Tyrion Truthers out there, eat your heart out.
There’s not much to report here. Arya is still getting beaten up. She tries to fight back, bless her heart, but still gets her butt handed to her. Jaqen (or the faceless man who would be Jaqen) appears and tests her resolve to be “no one.” She passes, and he invites her to come back and no longer get beaten up on the street. Hooray. Moving on.
Roose Bolton and Ramsay and getting a report from the new Lord Karstark that the men sent after Sansa and Theon are dead. Ramsay says the most obvious place for Sansa to go is Castle Black, where her brother is (as far as they know) the lord commander. He suggests they storm the castle and kill Jon, eliminating another threat to their rule, but Roose won’t have it. Despite having the Karstarks, Umbers and Manderlys on their side, he won’t risk the other houses turning on them.
As if on cue, their bumbling maester reports that Lady Walda has given birth to Roose’s child. It’s a son. Ramsay glares at his father; it’s his worst nightmare, a potential threat to his budding power. He gives his father an awkward hug (I mean, a Lord Voldemort-level awkward hug), congratulates him -- and stabs him in the gut. Roose falls to the ground, dead.
This coup by Ramsay might seem shocking, but it was inevitable.
For someone who’s irrational and desperate to secure his place, the threat of daddy revoking his position was always too much. Especially since he’d taught his son how to seize power, Roose was doomed to die.
Lady Walda and her newborn son were also doomed to die. It was difficult watching her walk across the courtyard, suspecting that something was amiss. Of all the Frey family, she was perhaps the only one that got my sympathy. Was it surprising that Ramsay had her and her baby torn to shreds by his dogs? Perhaps not; I’ve never put such horrific means past him. Was I glad they didn’t actually show it? Very, although the sounds were still almost too much.
Elsewhere, far from that bloodbath, Brienne shares with Sansa that she saw Arya outside of the Vale. Unfortunately, she’s got no idea where she went, but at least now Sansa know’s her sister is likely alive.
Theon seems a little on edge, though, even for Theon. He tells Sansa that he can’t go with them to Castle Black -- Jon will kill him for his crimes, he says, and even if he doesn’t, Theon doesn’t want forgiveness. Instead, he wants to go home.
Ah, the Iron Isles. I haven’t missed them, to be honest, mostly because I cannot stand “King” Balon Greyjoy.
Yara, Theon’s older sister, tells him that they’ve lost their last stronghold on the mainland. To call crusty old Balon hardheaded would be an understatement; his resolve to conquer the North is strong. She tries to deter him, but he’s naturally undeterred.
Since it’s stormy as could be outside, Balon decides it’s a great time to cross a shaky bridge between two of Pyke’s towers. Much to his annoyance, someone blocks his way. Much to his surprise, that someone is Euron, the brother he thought to be dead.
Euron is perhaps a quintessential Iron Islander: rough, cocky and violent. “I am the Drowned God,” he tells his brother, and it’s time for that god to take his throne.
Euron tells Balon it’s time for new leadership -- and time for Balon to go. To his credit, Balon tries to kill him first. Euron is too fast, though, and tosses him into the stormy depths far below.
At Balon’s funeral, Yara says she’ll avenge her father, assuming she’s in command now. She’s put back in her place by the head priest: to have a new king, the Iron Islands must have a kingsmoot to elect one. I wonder who’ll put his name into the running ...
Yes, yes, all that was fine and dandy. Now let’s get to the real stuff.
Davos walks into Melisandre’s room, where she’s gazing into the fire (and thankfully wearing that choker again; gods know how Davos would’ve reacted to the real-deal Mel). He gets straight to the point and asks if she can bring Jon back. “Leave him be,” she says, thinking that it’s probably in his best interest anyway.
She knows it’s possible for some to bring back the dead, but she lacks confidence in herself to do it. Davos lists the things he’s seen her do -- survive poison, birth a shadow baby -- but she’s still shaken by how her visions lied and her god abandoned her.
Davos couldn’t care less about faith, though. “I’m not asking the Lord of Light to help,” he says. “I’m asking the woman who showed me that miracles exist.”
Finally, she gives in. Back in pro-Jon HQ, Jon’s body lays almost naked on the table as Melisandre begins to wipe his wounds clean. Davos is there, as is Edd and Tormund, undoubtedly thinking this is a waste of time. Ghost rests by the table as if he couldn’t be bothered to care -- IF YOU ONLY KNEW, GHOST, YOU’D ACT A LITTLE MORE EXCITED HERE. COME ON!
Anyway, as Melisandre begins to pray in High Valyrian, she trims off bits of Jon’s hair and beard and tosses them into a fire. She washes his hair and lays her hands on his body, saying the words all the while. Her voice gets a little louder, the music builds a little more, the faces get more intense, we’re all on the edge of our seats. A minute goes by.
Melisandre exhales. “Please.”
The music ceases. Melisandre stops. All stare at the body.
Tormund walks out, his thoughts about this whole endeavor proven correct. Melisandre quickly follows suit, now knowing that her god has abandoned her to the cold. Even Edd follows her out. Davos lingers, looking at Jon, the fire, Ghost. Eventually, though, even he decides to let the dead be, shutting the door on his way out. We sink back into our couches, dejected.
And yet, the shot goes back to Jon’s body. He’s still dead, but Ghost is still by his side. After a few excruciating seconds, the direwolf gets up. We see Jon again, then ...
Jon is ALIVE.
Even though most of us knew -- via spoilers or by sheer faith -- that Jon would come back, those few minutes were some of the most intense of the series.
On the great chessboard that is Thrones, “Home” moved more than a few pieces around. Several conflicts are on the verge of eruption; battle lines are being drawn in the North, while the Faith Militant will doubtless have to defend its hold on King’s Landing soon.
With Jon’s return, will he stay with the Night’s Watch. As many have pointed out, the oath of the Night’s Watch says men are released upon death, technically giving Jon a way out. Furthermore, I just don’t think Jon would want to stay at Castle Black much longer; there are others who could benefit more from his leadership south of the Wall. But will he choose that route?
Once again, the waiting game begins.