Author’s Note: First off: this review is Spoilerific, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Game of Thrones is now off-book. As a reader of the series, this season represents the first real set of “surprises” beyond consolidations and cuts from the massive cannon.
Episode 1, “The Red Woman,” set the tone of the new normal for our favorite (and less so) bases of power: King’s Landing, Winterfell, The Wall, Mereen, and Dorne. Episode 2, “Home,” undermined this new normal with three surprises: two deaths and a life.
Several plotlines were touched-on with little significance. In Mereen, Tyrion had the bright idea to befriend Danerys’ dragons and release them so that they could thrive. Be free, “little” dragons! Did anyone tell Tyrion that she had locked them up because they were “thriving” by eating people: specifically children? Does he intend to use the dragons as a symbol of power to stave off a coup by the Masters like their two neighboring cities? Either way, Tyrion got exactly what he wanted. The dragons didn’t roast him and he got to release them. Despite this, the punch line (wait for it…) of the scene was that, should he have any similar ideas in the future, Varys should slug him in the face (ba-zing!). I usually like the cynical, world-weary, and darkly funny banter of Tyrion and Varys, but this one didn’t land. Hadn’t Tyrion gotten exactly what he wanted? If the dragons had roasted the ground in front of him and scared him off, then I would understand him telling Varys to punch him should he dare think outside the box again. But he got what he wanted! Does he think it was a mistake already?
Anyway, besides a rather lame scene in Mereen, we also got a lame scene in Bravos. Poor Essos, when will your plotlines get back on track? Arya was still blind. She got clobbered several more times by the waif. Then she got taken back into the fold once again. It occurred to me about three minutes into this scene that we have been watching Arya train at the Temple of the Faceless God for more than a full season now. These people are really investing a lot of time into her! Anyway, I’m hopeful at some point something will happen besides the devout berating her for having a name and magicking her when she dares show a shred of personality.
In King’s Landing we learned that gold was always Myrcella’s color: good to know. Also, Tommen wants to be brave and mean just like mommy. Cute! Frankenmountain appears to be Cersei’s censor now. I can see the adage forming already: “Be careful what you say about the Queen, children, or Frankenmountain will smash your head.”
On to the main course. Death and resurrection. Ramsay Bolton killed his father in what must’ve been the worst-telegraphed betrayal of all time. Anyone in that room could see the fear and anger Ramsay was feeling upon learning he had a new half-brother. Roose had already threatened to take away his inheritance once and had just called him out for behaving like a rabid dog. Don’t worry, though. Hugs time! Yeah, he stabbed his dad. I was shocked Roose didn’t die with an eye-roll, because that’s what this treachery deserved. Compare that “shocking moment” with the horror of the Red Wedding. I’m just saying, if Ramsay hopes to assassinate anyone else he’d better take an online course from Walder Frey. Maybe he’ll learn how to plan a proper ambush. Never mind, people are so stupid that they’ll follow Ramsay into his rabid dog kennel and wait while he unleashes all of his hounds on them. Maybe try calling for help or rattling the gate next time. Just saying.
Next death: Balon Greyjoy. Remember him? No? Hmm, it’s been awhile. He’s Theon’s dad and ruler of the Iron Islands. Eh, whatever, you remember his daughter and Theon’s sister Yara. She’s spunky! Anyway, Balon is confronted by a stranger on one of the perilous rope bridge between towers. Said stranger confesses to be his brother and then gives off lots of crazy vibes. Balon gets a little stabby himself, but he forgets to go in for the hug first, so he is thrown off the bridge instead. Whoops! Yara then makes some noise about wanting to lead her people out of their losing foreign wars, but is reminded that the next leader of the Iron Islands will be chosen at a King’s Moot (key term!). This is so far the one major plot point that come from the books, and it actually is an interesting medieval fantasy political debate. Stay tuned.
And then there was a life. Jon Snow’s. No one believed Jon Snow was really dead dead. We got that he was dead; the camera couldn’t stop lingering over his lifeless face as if to taunt us: haha, we killed him too, and he’s still dead! Until he wasn’t. Melisandre got called in by Davos, gave the corpse a magic haircut and scrub, and then left in defeat when that didn’t seem to do the trick and reverse death, for some reason. In fact, everyone got to leave the room because while they were in perpetual mourning Dolores Edd actually did something useful and brought in the wildlings to retake Castle Black. It was a great moment when the giant smashes the attacker against the tower wall and then hurls him onto the ground in a bloody smear. Anyway, the final scene of the episode pans onto Ghost, sleeping peacefully next to Jon Snow’s body. Ghost then wakes up, looks over, and Jon Snow gasps awake. Yay (perhaps it’s telling that the females seemed more excited by this than the males in the room).
In a show where all of the major players seem very death-prone, it is interesting to see one character return from the beyond. Maybe they will develop this later, but it seemed strangely easy. What was the cost? Melisandre didn’t need to burn ten king’s born or bleed Ollie (which no one would’ve minded and they probably should’ve suggested she try). Nope, she just needed to do some chanting, hair-cutting, and scrubbing. Maybe it wasn’t even her that resurrected him. Maybe Ghost did it. Heck, maybe Bran did it (wouldn’t it be nice if he did something useful with his abilities?)!
I just want to point out that to get some fairly decent, if vague, prophecies in the flames Melisandre had to bleed a king’s bastard with sexual leeches. To murder a king she had to sleep with his brother, take in his shadow assassin baby seed, and birth it near the king’s camp in a cramped boat. Resurrection, by comparison, seemed downright easy! Melisandre wasn’t even feeling it. She looked over at Davos skeptically several times while she worked and gave up pretty fast. In a world where magic has been established to be both dangerous and expensive, why did they make resurrection appear so cheap and easy? Can fan devotion alone be enough to cross the ether and bring characters back from death? Well then Game of Thrones is no better than the average soap opera. “Home” left me waiting for the cost, justification, or explanation of what should’ve been a triumphant moment.
In summation, while providing a good viewing experience, as always, “Home” never reached beyond that. The storylines seemed stuck without clear purpose or stakes. Remember when Robb Stark wanted revenge on the tyrant Joffrey for flippantly killing his father and kidnapping his sister? Now that was a cause we could clearly identify with and get behind. Everything this week was cruising in neutral. Someone hit the gas, already!