Game of ThronesRecap

Game of Thrones: Season 6 Episode 2 – Home

There seems to be a lot of belief floating around in Westeros.

Almost like the climax of the first Matrix film, ‘Home’ was very much concerned with characters who are now starting to believe. Believe in themselves, in their cause, in others, or in some higher order to their world that gives their actions meaning. It’s a logical follow-on from last week’s episode, where everyone seemed to be in search of meaning. Here, they’ve started to find it.

Let’s begin with the obvious: Jon Snow. Complementing the first episode of the season, ‘Home’ also decided to bookend the major action of the episode with scenes at Castle Black. Just that fact alone, the prominence they have given the fate of Jon Snow, should reveal how integral his storyline is to the mythological underpinnings of the series. When that is considered alongside Daenerys’ omission from this episode, and brief check-in last week, there’s a handover going on here in the storytelling. Daenerys might have appeared to be the front-runner for the Iron Throne, but that cause seems token and insignificant to Jon’s self-sacrificing narrative at and north of the Wall.

Having already established a merry band of outcasts who still hold a flame for Jon, despite his death, the arrival of the Wildlings at Edd’s call only further strengthens just how prominently we should view the late Lord Commander, given that he has seemingly united the loyalist Night’s Watchmen, the Wildlings in all their various hues, as well as Melisandre and Davos, who in a very short amount of time see far more promise in his cause than they ever did in Stannis.

His revival is not unexpected, nor unearned. Careful plotting since pretty much Season 1 has led to this moment, drawn out in a series of ever-lengthening pauses on his lifeless form, pulling the tension to its absolute limit before his gasping resuscitation. It’s not strange that TV viewers felt that he was truly dead after the finale of Season 5, while book readers could smell a rat when they saw it as a cliffhanger in the most recent novel. But ultimately what is of greater interest isn’t that he has come back to life, it’s in what state he is in.

Beric Dondarrion spoke of losing parts of himself each time he came back, and clearly the Mountain isn’t doing too great in holding onto what little cognition he had before he died. When this is added to the ever-growing army of the dead north of the Wall, we do have to have serious concerns about how much of Jon is still Jon, and what – if any – side effects are present. We shall see.

Additionally, his revival was perfectly timed at the moment all his band of followers seemed to have given up all hope. Melisandre was already doubting any self-belief she still had after Stannis’ loss, and Tormund clearly thought her effort to restore Jon was in vain. But as hinted at in the preview for the next episode, Jon’s return will not only unite those two and Davos, but the entire Watch in a new life that seems destined for more than just leading those who take the black.

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In keeping with this new-found clarity, Tyrion sees through all the political nonsense of Meereen and looses Daenerys’ dragons. Since knocking off his father, Tyrion’s character seems to have lacked purpose and relevance, taking a backseat to Jorah’s quest for Daenerys’ acceptance last season. Having kept all the power-players separate for so long, it’s worth wondering how the show is going to handle their increasing proximity to one another. Tyrion and Daenerys didn’t share much screen time last season, and don’t seem to be close to doing the same this season, but her absence certainly allows him a chance to have agency once again, and potentially impart some meaningful action on the story. In any case, this was his most confident action in a long time, and shows him at his most optimistic – realising a childhood dream that all doubted and dismissed, he can now show everyone up as a new friend of the dragons.

The two check-ins with the Stark sisters show more of the same belief. Sansa is renewed in her purpose: get to Jon and plan revenge. It’s perfectly timed, even if we only realise that after Jon starts breathing again, but the fact that two of the Starks (Jon’s parentage notwithstanding) are so close to being united must bring us some hope. In some way, Sansa’s optimism despite her ordeal rubs off on Theon, who vows to get back what he lost when he betrayed the Starks, and is heading home. Whether that means the Iron Islands, to stake a claim for the newly vacated throne, or to Winterfell to orchestrate revenge on Ramsay, it’s anyone’s guess. But there’s hope.

Arya is the most intriguing. Her storyline so far runs the risk of feeling like a retread from last season, but for one glaring difference: she’s changed. The killing of Ser Meryn, and the loss of her eyes has wounded her in a way that nothing else has in the past. The irony is obvious. She finally sees what her path is to becoming no-one. Whatever she is going to learn from Jaqen H’ghar, it won’t be the same as we’ve already seen. She is walking the path now, serving the Many-Faced God instead of her own insignificant cause.

So too is Bran, though Meera Reed grows impatient. His warging with the Three-Eyed Raven promises much for this season, particularly in the tantalising glimpses of Lyanna Stark, but Meera knows Bran will be integral in the war to come. He, Sansa, Arya and Jon are now seemingly all apace, and united despite their separation. The threads are coming together.

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For the other three strands of the story – Pyke, King’s Landing and Winterfell – this notion of everyone getting their ducks in a row seems just as strong. It’s well-told, but the series confounded newcomers in the early seasons with its willingness to dispatch major characters. But to think this was just casual disregard for the rules of conventional storytelling was to ignore all the major signals along the way. This series was never about Ned, or Robert, or Robb or Catelyn or Tywin or Renly or Stannis, just as much as the Night’s Watch was never going to be led onwards by Jeor Mormont, or as we see in Pyke, was Balon Greyjoy going to lead the Ironborn.

The series has been one long handover to the younger generation. And from there, it’s not an atypical story. Jon’s rebirth was obvious to some, but only because it’s conventional. That it has come in Season 6 speaks to the fact that this is a series that has built its backstory into the story proper. Sansa and Arya’s motivation – the deaths of their parents and brother – is not uncommon, the shocking thing is we saw those deaths in realtime rather than learning about them retrospectively. Think of J.K. Rowling beginning Harry Potter not with Harry’s arrival as an orphan, but during Voldemort’s first reign of terror.

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So now Balon Greyjoy is gone and the throne is left to be scrapped over between Yara, Theon and newly-arrived Euron, who articulates the whole damn message that it’s time for someone younger to have a go. Ramsay sees the writing on the wall and comes into his own, in a wholly unpleasant yet predictable way.

For Cersei and Jaime, their plight is somewhat more tragic. They are in-between generations, neither belonging here or there, symbolic of their compromised morality and fidelity. The characters we invest in here aren’t any of their children – Tommen is surely not long for this world – and so we’re stuck with them and they’re stuck being the story. It’s strange for the viewer because we are so clearly directed to not sympathise with High Sparrow and the Faith Militant, but we can never truly get on board with the Lannisters, despite the efforts to humanise Jaime along the way. This lends the King’s Landing scenes some of the inertia that Meereen had, as I don’t think we really care about any of them. The only intrigue is how the Lannisters can stay relevant as antagonists when they clearly stand no chance against the White Walkers.

Anyhow, Tommen certainly believes he is king once more, and this ties Cersei to him more closely, even though we know this won’t end well for either of them. If this drives Jaime further away from the Lannister fold remains to be seen, but I do worry that the capital will struggle for relevance now that the series’ overall purpose in the North is out in the open.

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