Monday, May 2, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Home

Hey there. Remember Bran Stark? Well he's back. And he's apparently somewhere around 24. Ok well not really but his aging is quite noticeable. The show creators said that after this season they only think that they need maybe another 13 episodes to complete the story. They had better hurry because Bran and to a lesser extent Arya are really growing up quickly. I have a friend who is a bit perturbed that Bran's big plan seems to be to become a tree. Well there's more to it than that I hope but that is where we open up this episode. Bran and his creepy sensei the Three Eyed Raven (Max Von Sydow) are in the weirwood tree roots. They are exploring the past together. Bran and the Three Eyed Raven watch a young Ned and Benjen Stark in the courtyard of Winterfell spar as their older brother Brandon offers pointers. Their sister Lyanna rides in to show off her equestrian skills before trying to get a young Hodor to practice with her brothers. It seems that Hodor was always large and good natured but he wasn't always simple. His name is Willas. He can speak as well as anyone. Old Nan puts the kibosh to Lyanna's idea, saying that Willas is just a stablehand and needs to focus on that. Bran wants to stay in the past longer and find out what happened to Willas/Hodor but the Three Eyed Raven pulls him back to the present. The Three Eyed Raven says there is danger in remaining for too long in the past. Meera is sitting outside, no doubt upset about her brother's death. Bran asks after her but Meera doesn't want to be bothered with Bran at the moment, even as a feral looking Child of the Forest girl tells her that Bran needs her. At Castle Black it's showdown time. Thorne tells the diehard Snow loyalists that either they come out or he's coming in. Davos and crew draw their swords. Ghost bares his very long and very sharp teeth. Thorne has his people start to break down the door. It's a very tense scene. But just as Thorne and company are about to kick through the damaged door, Dolorous Edd, Tormund and the wildlings arrive. They brought along one of their giant friends (Wun-Wun?) in case anyone starts to act stupid. Actually, someone does act stupid but after the giant decides to play racquetball with that man's head just about everyone else gets with the program. There's some skirmishes but Dolorous Edd orders Thorne and Olly and a few other people sent to the cells. Upon seeing Jon Snow's corpse a saddened Tormund says he will burn it.

In King's Landing some peasant low lives are talking about seeing Queen Cersei naked. One man boasts about exposing himself to her and goes on at length about what he would do to her and how much she would like it. Ser Robert Strong (the modified and reanimated Mountain) tracks down that man and kills him. Right. Because no one in the slums noticed an eight fool tall zombie Kingsguard wandering around. Cersei is prevented on Tommen's orders from attending Myrcella's funeral, a command that almost causes some Lannister-on-Lannister violence. But as we see both with Jaime and later with Cersei, it's not disdain for his mother which inspired Tommen's order. It's guilt and self-hate. He can't face her. Tommen is very angry with himself for not standing up to the Church and preventing his mother and wife from being imprisoned and mocked. In fact he's so furious that he's starting to channel some of his brother Joffrey. Tommen is ready to start chopping heads and burning people. Tommen apologizes to his mother for being weak and begs her to help him to be strong. In the chapel there is a showdown between Jaime and the High Sparrow. When the High Sparrow gives his spiel about Margaery and Cersei needing to repent for their sins, an enraged Jaime steps into the High Sparrow's personal space and asks him "What about my sins?"  In short you're dealing with a full grown man now. Jaime has his hand on his sword. Gangster move. But the High Sparrow is not intimidated. Not only does he appear to be unafraid to die he points out to Jaime that the High Sparrow's bodyguards are actually all around them. Jaime wouldn't make it out alive. The High Sparrow can't resist boasting that the numbers of the faithful mean they could overthrow an empire. Hmm. The pride seems pretty strong with this one. Well you know what the Bible says about pride.

In Meereen Tyrion is drinking and listening to a litany of bad news provided by Missandei (looking quite fetching), Varys and Grey Worm. Because they didn't receive any help from Daenerys her loyalists in Astapor and Yunkai have been crushed. Those cities have re-instituted slavery. No one knows who burned Daenerys' ships. And the two chained dragons, Rhaegal and Viserion, aren't eating. On this last Tyrion thinks he can provide a solution. His research has convinced him that chained dragons will refuse to eat and ultimately become weak and even possibly die. He decides to free the dragons. He theorizes that they are smart enough to know he means them no harm. It's touch and go for a while as the dragons are apparently considering whether to make a quick snack of Tyrion but as Varys watches from a safe distance the dragons apparently smell enough of Daenerys on Tyrion to trust his intentions. Or maybe as Tyrion surmised they're just smart. Either way, after some threat displays, they allow Tyrion to remove the bolts from their chains. In Braavos Arya is attacked by the waif again, and doesn't do much better than before. However this time Jaqen H'ghar comes to her after the attack. He offers all sorts of inducements for Arya to claim her identity again. But Arya says she's no one. Not even the promised of returned eyesight will tempt Arya. Pleased, Jaqen tells her to follow him and leave the beggar's bowl behind.

At Winterfell Roose, Ramsay and the new Lord Karstark are having a meeting. They deduce that Sansa will probably go to Castle Black. Ramsay wants to attack Castle Black and kill Jon Snow. After all if The Crown can legitimize Ramsay then who's to say that something similar couldn't be done for Jon Snow. If the North has a male Stark to rally around there's no telling what could happen. It's better to kill Snow now and take that possibility off the table. This idea is too much even for an evil old dude like Roose. He says that killing the Lord Commander is a stupid idea. All the other families will line up against us Sonny!! Roose tells Ramsay that if Ramsay doesn't do something about his growing mad dog reputation, eventually he'll be put down like a mad dog. Ramsay counters that as long as the Boltons have the largest families in the North they can do what they want. This meeting is interrupted by the Bolton maester who brings news that Lady Walda has given birth to a healthy baby boy. Roose is a new father. Roose is happy to hear this. Karstark, being a slimy toad of a kissa$$ offers his insincere congratulation. Ramsay's congratulations are even less believable. But he hugs his father. He also stabs him right in the gut. Roose dies just like Robb Stark. Lord Karstark seamlessly switches his alliance to Ramsay. Ramsay tells the maester to tell everyone that Roose was poisoned and by the way send for his stepmother and new half-brother. In a scene that has a very strong horror movie vibe Ramsay slowly walks with Walda and the baby into the kennels as Walda keeps asking where Roose is. Ramsay silently opens the kennels but has trained his dogs so well that they won't leave their cages. It's finally starting to dawn on Lady Walda what went down.  Ramsay says that he is Lord Bolton. Walda begs for her life and that of Ramsay's baby brother. But Ramsay is merciless. He whistles and the dogs attack their prey. Thankfully this is kept offscreen. 

Brienne and Sansa catch up as Podrick does his best to try to light a fire despite Theon's fears that a fire will draw unwelcome attention. It could be inferred that Brienne knows Sansa was raped as Sansa looks away and doesn't say anything when Brienne asks what happened at Winterfell. But that's up to the viewer. Sansa is, well maybe excited is the wrong word, but relieved to be going to Castle Black and seeing someone from her shattered family again. Theon is not so sanguine. He points out that Jon Snow would kill him on sight. Sansa says she would tell Jon that Theon didn't really murder Bran and Rickon but Theon isn't having it. He asks Sansa what about those children he did murder? He feels he's done too much wrong to ever be forgiven by the Starks. And though he's glad he helped Sansa he doesn't think he can make amends. He's going home--to the Iron Islands. At the Iron Islands Yara tells her father Balon of all their losses. The Iron Islanders have officially been ejected from the North. Balon isn't happy to hear all this bad news. He and his daughter trade insults before Balon pulls the "I'm your father so shut the f*** up and do what I say!" card. Patriarchal peace thus restored Balon leaves the tower by way of a rope bridge. But who should be at the end of that bridge but Balon's crazy younger brother Euron. There's apparently a kinslaying/regicide fever in Westeros because after a few insults and allusions to past events Euron throws Balon over the side. At the funeral Yara swears vengeance by the Salt Throne on whoever killed Balon but the head priest (I believe this is another uncle) sharply rebukes her. The Salt Throne is not hers to swear by. There must be an election or Kingsmoot. Maybe Yara will be the first woman to lead this band of Cthulhu worshipping Vikings and maybe she won't. That's not important. What's important is that proper procedures are followed.

Davos goes to see Melisandre (attired again in her normal incredibly resilient/revealing gown) to ask if she can bring Jon back. Melisandre is rather obviously dealing with a serious crisis of faith. She thinks that everything she's done has been lies. Davos disagrees and reminds her of some magic he's seen her do. Melisandre still doesn't think she can bring Jon back. She has given up on faith. She's a broken woman. But Davos is insistent. He tells her he's not asking the Lord of Light. He's asking her. So Melisandre decides to try. In a scene which I suppose almost by definition has Biblical allusions, Melisandre gently washes the blood and muck from Snow's corpse and cuts his hair. Tormund, Dolorous Edd, and Davos all watch. Ghost lies down and closes his eyes. Melisandre prays over the body and/or casts her spell. She burns some of Jon's hair This goes on for a while. The ritual reaches a crescendo and then comes to an end. 
Jon Snow is dead.
Melisandre says the words again and looks pleadingly at Jon's corpse and at Davos.
Dead is dead. 
Wash, rinse and repeat. Melisandra says "Pleeeeeeeeeeease!"
There's silence. Tormund is the first one to leave the room. With some sad glances Melisandre and then Dolorous Edd leave. Davos stays for a while longer. He can't believe that it didn't work.How could this be. With a sigh he too finally leaves. During all this time Ghost has been lying on the floor unmoving and quiet with his eyes closed. It's almost as if he was dead.
The camera zooms in on Ghost. Ghost wakes up and opens his eyes.
And so does Jon Snow!

What I liked

  • Jon Snow is back. And he has a list of who's been naughty and who's been nice.
  • IIRC Thoros of Myr also said that he was able to resurrect Beric when he was at his lowest ebb spiritually. So Melisandre being in that same valley of doubt was a nice touch.
  • I'm looking forward to learning if Jon Snow will be the same or will he be a completely different character.
  • Tommen's anger and doubt were nicely done. I think everyone has had some confrontations when they didn't say or do what they wanted to do. I don't think Tommen will have too many more of those.
  • For all the High Sparrow's talk about piety and faith and the people, he's clearly a man who loves power and control. I think that is going to harm him soon. He's made enemies of the two largest and most powerful families in Westeros.
  • No Dorne
  • I think that the Red Wedding made a lot of people think that none of the rules applied anymore. We have had multiple acts of regicide and kinslaying. I like that the show is showing how throwing out the rules can have negative unforeseen consequences. I think the execution could be a little better but all in all there are reasons for rules against kinslaying and murdering guests.

What I didn't like

  • I try not to compare the books to the show but Book!Roose was a cold and calculating man whose default behavior was paranoia. He didn't eat anything unless other people ate it first. He had body doubles posing as him to divert any assassination attempts. He had his own people pretending to be Ramsay's friends to keep an eye on Ramsay. So it just seemed a little out of character for him ever to let his guard down around Ramsay. He was fully aware of Ramsay's nature. I did appreciate that Roose died the same way he murdered Robb Stark.
  • Murdering Walda makes an enemy of the Freys, which as Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark and Edmure Tully could tell you, is not a very wise idea.
  • I appreciate Davos' loyalty to Jon but where does it come from? Shouldn't he be more interested in finding out about how Stannis, Shireen and Selyse died?
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