Game of Thrones: 602 “Home” Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
Before I delve into the episode in any real detail, I want to comment on how much of an improvement this week’s outing was in comparison to its predecessor. My main complaint with regards to last week, could as easily have been transferred to this week also with the Winterfell, Iron Islands and The Wall arguable the only locations where something actually happened. However the more compelling scenes were not the aforementioned, but the character moments elsewhere that suggests the show has rediscovered the emotional gravitas that makes it so successful.
The episode itself make an excellent decision to open on Bran’s storyline, finally reintroducing the character to us after an absence of almost two years. Doing so in a manner that made sense and fitted with the rest of the show’s chronology was always going to be a difficult task for the writers, however they managed to integrate him back into the plot seamlessly without the necessity of an information dump to fill the gaps. From what little we have seen here it is hard to discern anything too telling about where this storyline is heading. What we can assume however is that Bran’s re-involvement has opened the door to explore the rich history of the show. This new plot device could be utilised as early as next week as the trailer along with the filming reports from early in the year suggest that we could be about to see one of the most talked about events with the fans of the series: one which could confirm (or deny) one of the longest running fan theories.
Sticking with the topic of reintroductions, the narrative takes a trip to the Iron Islands to catch up with the stories of Balon Greyjoy and his daughter Yara. Given the presence that the so called War of the Five Kings has held over proceedings in the show, it was nice to see a winner of said war (if only by default) recognised within the narrative. However said war has long since been left behind as the show looks forward to the bigger battle that is yet to come. As such I feel that it was a fitting decision to remove the last remnant of the war from the show. Granted it was a little disappointing to finally revisit a character not seen for a similar timescale as Bran only to have him used as a plot device to further establish the ruthlessness of new introduction Euron Greyjoy. In what little screen time he was given, it is already clear that he is a fearsome and unsettling man. It should be interesting to see what use the writers find for him.
This week also seen another massive shift of power, this time within Winterfell itself as Ramsay finally reached the point we always knew he was going to. His brutal actions within the narrative have massive implications going forward but could potentially prove to be catastrophic in the long run for the young tyrant. Without the stability and political mind of his father he is undoubtedly more vulnerable and one who have to question the legitimacy of the support he appears to have gathered for himself. Surely the powers that be in the north are not naïve enough to pledge their full support to someone as unhinged as Ramsay, one would have to suspect that they are biding their time until such a point where Ramsay can have his just desserts for his actions this week.
Reflecting on how Ramsay has been portrayed since his introduction makes it impossible not to draw parallels with Tyrion. Consider that both where married to Sansa, and then compare the way they treated her, then consider the fact that both men are responsible for the death of their father. In Tyrion’s case he was the legitimate child that his father disowned with his last words, whereas with Ramsay the situation is quite the opposite, an illegitimate child who despite the reassurance that he would always be considered first born kills his father to seize power for himself. If the writers of the show intend Ramsay as an illustration of the worst possible human being they can present, then it can be said that Tyrion is their equivalent of a Mary Sue. This is something I hadn’t really picked up on until pointed out by a friend, and it is something that becoming an ever growing problem. This is made even worse this week as Tyrion is able to do what Daenerys before him was unable to and get the dragons under control. Potentially this scene was engineered to be suggestive that Tyrion himself may end up as one of the three dragon riders when the series does eventually draw to a close. For now however I’ll be keeping a close eye on Tyrion’s story and am hoping to see him actually make a few mistakes or questionable decisions.
Another area where this week’s narrative falters slightly is in its approach to both Stark girls. With Sansa her relationship with Theon seems to have turned on its head completely in a very short space of time. That said the scene between the two is very touching and allows Sansa to show some of the better traits of her character. There is another lovely moment too in a conversation between Brienne and Sansa about the latter’s decision not to go with her initially, this is handled very well allowing both actresses to shine. With Arya however the writers continue to avoid addressing her coming to terms with losing her sight, this makes it rather difficult to invest in the storyline as it gives the impression that they have already decided that her punishment is going to be reversed and as such are not devoting any screen time to her dealing with it.
Finally we come to the two most powerful storylines within the narrative and it no surprise that both come from the interactions between characters and the exploration of their relationships. In King’s Landing we have Jaime counsel Tommen about his guilt over what happened to Cersei last season. It’s rare that Jaime actually gets a chance to act like a parent to his children so when the narrative does deliver one it is always a moment which carries an emotional gravitas. Nikolaj is then given a chance to showcase his acting skill as moments later he is locked in a war of words with the High Sparrow in a scene which introduces a conflict threatening to spill over into all out chaos.
The other highlight of the episode is at the Wall and the focus on Melisandre relationship with both her god, and Ser Davos. Last week I mentioned Jon Snow’s fate hanging over the episode with a toxic nature, this week the writers have actually used it do drive what was in my opinion the best part of the story. Seeing the impact that recent events had on Melisandre’s faith was profound, and even more compelling was the fact it was Ser Davos (the man who was imprisoned by Stannis for advising him against trusting her) was the one who helped her restore her faith in herself. The ending too actually reflects this defeatist attitude, with Ser Davos unsurprising being the last one to accept that there was nothing to be done.
I haven’t commented on Jon Snow’s cliff-hanger resurrection in the bulk of the review because it was only revealed to the audience in the final seconds, it carried no real impact over other characters and we haven’t had a chance to see the implications of it. It terms of the rest of the episode it was an enjoyable one which hopefully represents a return to form after last week and one which sets up the rest of the series rather well. I do feel that both episodes may have benefitted from a rearrangement of what was shown when, however I am satisfied with what we got.