Well, after a slow series premiere, Game of Thrones has come back with a vengeance. And the quality isn't the only thing that's come back. Much was accomplished in this episode and propelled many of our characters in the directions they'll be going in this season. Let's recap everything that happened:
That’s So Three-Eyed Raven
We start out with Bran, back on-screen after a season's absence, training in a tangle of branches with the mysterious Three-Eyed Raven. And we get...
Winterfell flashbacks! Bran watches his father and uncle spar as children and for the first time in ages the show brings us a moment of actual happiness. Bran clearly feels the same as we do. Ned is alive! Benjen is alive! Lyanna is alive! There are carefree Starks in an unscathed Winterfell and it's beautiful!
The interplay between the Stark children echoes the early Winterfell scenes of the first season. It’s achingly familiar and speaks to the timelessness of Winterfell, before it was ravaged. Then, Hodor! Talking, pre-teen, "Willas" Hodor! Shortly admonished by Young Old Nan! Like Bran, I don’t want to leave.
But the Three-Eyed Raven draws him back and Bran complains about his training, like any good Luke Skywalker archetype.
A surprisingly large amount of focus is given to Hodor’s origin story and how he became the Hodor we knew. It's nice to pause and acknowledge this long-running and oft taken for granted character.
Meera is restless outside and Bran tries to engage with her. She's clearly his connection to humanity in this very surreal environment. It's impossible not to think of her brother, looking out onto the ice plain where he was killed. She's feeling a little cooped up, understandably, and likely questioning what Jojen died for.
I would have expected the Children of the Forest to want to draw Bran deeper into their world and away from his humanity, but one of them tells Meera he won’t be in the cave forever and he will need her then.
Balls to the Wall
The Night's Watchmen pound on Davos and Company's door and nicely demand they come out, once again. There's lots of building anticipation until the giant Wun-Wun bursts through the gate and here come the Wildlings to save the day in Jon Snow’s honor!
Wun-Wun straight up trashes a dude and the Night's Watchmen surrender. Edd faces almost the entire Night's Watch and calls them traitors, with an army of wildlings at his back. I know he's on the good side, but I get where the Night's Watch is coming from. The wildlings and Snow loyalists toss everyone else in the cells.
For the 10,000th time, characters stare at Jon’s dead body. Has there been any corpse more lingered upon in the history of television?
Peasants are engaging in some inappropriate locker-room talk about Cersei. Apparently, the Zombie Mountain roams the streets eavesdropping, smashing the heads of anyone besmirching Cersei’s honor.
Soldiers keep Cersei from exiting the Red Keep to attend her daughter's funeral— on her son's orders. This season continues to explore how sympathetic we can feel towards a character like Cersei. After being brought so low last season and losing her daughter, she's been solemn and nearly humble.
Jaime and Tommen stand vigil at Myrcella's funeral. Hopefully this goes better than the last time we saw a Lannister-"Baratheon" child buried.
Tommen says his sister grew up and Jaime replies, “Almost.” It's a good line and possibly the most emotion show has managed to elicit on behalf of Myrcella, considering how intwined she was with the Dorne storyline.
Jaime urges Tommen to reach out to Cersei and the little king reveals that he’s ashamed he wasn't able to stop the Faith and feels powerless. Tommen has been sweet and demure so far, but we know an insecure Lannister in search of power is typically a thing to be wary of.
The High Sparrow enters, and essentially says the king is not above the gods. In other words, your crown is no good here, kid.
Jaime asks the High Sparrow what reparations he deserves for his own sins. Oh, yeah, once upon a time, Jaime was truly reflective about the things he had done. I truly don't know what they're doing with this character at this point.
Jaime threatens the Sparrow, who dares Jaime to do it, knowing that his followers would swarm him and enact justice as soon as he did. The Sparrow says they may a bunch of nobodies, but they’re a mob of nobodies and they can overthrow the elites in power. Game of Thrones seems to have accidentally tapped into issues relevant to the current US election (which doesn't really bode well for America).
Tommen apologizes to his mother, and she is very calm and soft, more so than we've ever seen her. Tommen regrets his weakness and his general lack of Lannister ferocity and asks for her help in destroying their enemies. Cersei, who must be wondering if she's asleep, because this is her greatest dream, embraces him. Presumably, here comes her revenge on the Sparrows.
Tyrion, Varys, Missendei, and Grey Worm are having a strategy meeting. The fleet is burnt and the Slave Masters have retaken the cities Dany had freed. As always with Dany, it's one step forward, a thousand steps back.
The conversation moves to dragons. “I drink and I know things,” says Tyrion, which feels like a shadow of his early dialogue.
He does have book knowledge on the subject from his lifelong studies, but does that really give him confidence to walk into a dragon den with no way of defending himself? Book readers should know there are high stakes here, though I doubt anyone was actually worried for Tyrion.
This scene was satisfying, if puzzling. Why is he met with nothing more than harmless spurts of flame and light growls? Does he think the dragons understand English and light anecdotes? Do they? He tells them he's a friend of their mother's and shares a story about wanting nothing more than to have a dragon as a child. Can they somehow be as instantly endeared to Tyrion as we are? It’s moving to see him so touched by the realization of his childhood dream, when he's been met with so much disappointment in his life. But what confidence does he have that leads him to unchain them?? And they just stay in the cave and they're good with that?
On a different note, the special effects are terrific and the dragons look really impressive.
Blind Beatings in Braavos
Again, Arya is blind and being subjected to ruthless beatings.
Jaquen appears now (his aesthetic growing increasingly Jesus) and tempts Arya— if she says her name he’ll give her food, comfort, and the use of her eyes. She refuses to take the bait. She is No One. He takes her back to the House of Black and White and says that she’s not a beggar anymore.
It's good to see Arya exhibiting conscious choice over her path. Before, we didn't know if she was willingly subjecting herself to this, but after refusing the return of her sight, it's clear that she's purposefully remained in this position to further her training.
Roose, Ramsay, and a Karstark lord assume Sansa is heading to Jon at the Wall. Roose dismisses Jon as a bastard, and Ramsay reminds him that so was he. The tension between the two, centered around Ramsay's insecurity over his place as a son and rightful heir, continues to build.
Ramsay suggests attacking Castle Black and killing Jon Snow to secure their hold on the North and believes that as long as they have the support of the key Houses of Manderly, Umber, and Karstark, they don't need the rest of the North behind them. Do they have the support of these families already, or will we see them courting them this season?
Roose lightly threatens Ramsay, in that fatherly way of his, calling him a mad dog and implying he may need to be put down. A well timed announcement arrives— Walda has given birth to a son.
The men embrace in tense congratulations, but the last time Roose stood this close to someone, there was a stabbing. He tells Ramsay, “You'll always be my first born,” but he does not say he'd always be his heir.
And there's that stabbing! Ramsay murders his father in front of the maester and Karstark. Roose, you should have listened to your own advice and not have let your mad dog loose. Seems like there wasn't a lot of foresight in making this move, but he gets away with it by relying on intimidation to pressure the maester into spreading the story that Ramsay was poisoned by their enemies. It still seems like he'll have a hard time inspiring loyalty, but he's apparently planning on swinging for the fences.
He then sends for Walda and the baby and we cut away, and I initially thought we'd be spared that scene. But oh yeah, it's Game of Thrones, and we must watch with mounting dread to the awful conclusion. Walda introduces the brothers, until she realizes what's happened to Roose and is about to happen to her. She begs for their lives with dignity, appealing to Ramsay's sense of family, before he sends the hounds to rip them both apart.
Unbreakable Sansa Stark
Brienne and Sansa cut straight to the chase— Arya. Brienne couldn't find her again, but she did seem alright, though, “She wasn't dressed like a lady.” Sansa's smile is sweet and once again, the sting of Stark separation pierces all our hearts.
Theon makes it clear that he doesn't plan to join them on their journey to the Wall, believing Jon will kill him when he arrives. Sansa says she will protect him from Jon by revealing that Bran and Rickon are alive. Theon, rightly, brings up his other crimes. He doesn't want forgiveness; he doesn't think he deserves it.
They're both upset and they embrace in tears. Even after everything, Theon is still the closest thing Sansa has left to home.
Theon resolves to go to his home, surprisingly willing to face his family (not the most comforting bunch) after everything.
Yara and her father are arguing about the future of the Ironborn. She asserts that they cannot win land battles (but they have a great fleet, hey, Dany!), but he stubbornly insists that they keep trying. He reminds us that he's somehow the only one of the kings of the War of the Five Kings still standing.
Balon basically says to Yara, “Someday you will rule the Iron Islands, my heir," and we cut immediately to a very rickety, storm-thrashed bridge where this heir business is about to become very relevant. A cloaked figure appears, revealed to be Balon's brother, and he's pretty explicit with his intentions.
It's dark, but the casting is commendable; there's a resemblance between Euron and Theon.
It's an effective introduction and very Game of Thrones, as Euron says things like, "I am the Drowned God," and, "I am the storm." In the span of a few minutes, we learn that he's been at sea for years, went mad and cut the tongues out of his crew, has been generally pirating, and is back to usurp his brother. He flings him off the bridge— a dose of fratricide to follow up the patricide from earlier.
Hopefully Euron becomes this season's Oberyn— an intriguing and dangerous new character who captivates us.
Yara automatically suspects murder, not accident, which I feel like she'll have to put together pretty quickly when Euron turns up immediately to claim the Seastone Chair. Yara's unsupportive priest brings up the Kingsmoot, the semi-democratic process of choosing the next leader of the Ironborn. He mentions that she could be chosen as their first woman leader, in a way that sounds like he believes she most certainly won't be. More unintentional allusions to the US election season.
Davos asks Mope-isandre what we're all thinking: can she bring Jon back to life? I'm in favor, of course, of Davos advocating for this, but his determination seems a little strange, considering he and Jon were not at all close, not like, say, the recently deceased king that Davos devoted his life and service to for decades.
Mel is all out of faith. She’s even wrapped in a big, fur cloak, implying she's cold, which is something we've never seen before. Davos gives her a pep talk that's basically, "You’re Melisandre! I've seen you do some truly terrible things!" He says to forget religion, and yet he still asks her for a miracle, which feels like a bit of a contradiction.
And here it is.
Jon Snow Jesus lies on the table and Melisandre meticulously cleans his wounds and cuts his hair, sprinkling it in the flames. She begins to speak in Valyrian and the music builds as she repeats, putting more effort in every time. She pleads, but the music dwindles and the moment seems to pass. Which of course is the perfect time for him to wake up! She takes her hands off…Everyone looks sad— perfect time for him to wake up, right?
There's a money shot of Jon's body from above. Everyone slowly walks out of the room. The camera cuts between the money shot and Ghost on the floor for an agonizing amount of time and then— Jon's eyes open and he gasps awake!
The wait is over, folks. Jon Snow is alive.
It's deeply satisfying to see Jon return after almost a year of everyone involved in the show vehemently trying to perpetuate the idea that he wouldn't. We were all waiting for it (it probably would have been more shocking if it had cut to black ten seconds sooner), but it was still extremely gratifying to get. What sort of Jon will we see now? Beric made it clear that "less of you" comes back, but we don't know the particulars of this specific resurrection, or if there were any other factors at play.
"Home" was definitely the best episode the show has delivered in a while, progressing every storyline forward in ways both small and big. Next week promises to be massively revealing as well, as we're due to see (through Bran's eyes) the fateful encounter between Ned and Arthur Dayne at the Tower of Joy and, presumably, Lyanna's death. We could potentially have two massively game-changing Jon Snow episodes in a row, if the prevailing theory about Jon's connection to that scene is true.