A tense and dramatic episode…
Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO’s programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And this year, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros, continuing with the tense and dramatic season six episode Home…
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven…
Home is an episode packed with tension and drama from beginning to end; after a solid season six opener, it builds on the momentum as the machinations of King’s Landing grow, Tyrion faces some brave choices in Mereen, Ramsey strikes a killing blow, another leader in the War of the Five Kings exits the game and Bran makes a surprise return to the show after a season long absence.
Looking considerably older, Isaac Hempstead Wright returns to Game of Thrones as Bran continues his studies under the current Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow). After the flashback to Cersei’s childhood last season, the show begins to explore its past more fully as Bran witnesses his father Ned Stark as a boy with brother Benjen and sister Lyanna. While this sets up some bigger revelations concerning his aunt, it’s the grim foreshadowing of Hodor’s fate as Bran discovers he could talk as a boy, that really stands out on retrospect. It is these excursions into the past by Bran that will be Hodor’s undoing.
Ser Robert, the monster to Qyburn’s Doctor Frankenstein, adds a real sense of horror to the instability of King’s Landing as he brutally crushes a man’s skull after he mocked Cersei and her walk of shame. This monster it seems, is ready to do anything at Cersei’s bidding leading to a rather tense moment as the Kings Guard block Cersei’s departure from the Red Keep at King Tommen’s instance, threatening bloodshed which would only see Ser Robert the victor.
Poor Tommen continues to feel lost as the boy king of Westeros, revealing his shame to Jamie at not being able to protect his wide or mother. His demands to the High Sparrow to allow him to see Margaery fall on deaf ears, leaving him utterly powerless. More dangerous though is Jamie’s first encounter with the High Sparrow, the threat of murder from the Lannister it turn threatening all out bloody war with the Faith Militant. Cersei’s desire to dominate over Margeray last season led her to giving the Sparrows power and her with nothing, at least not yet. Her actions to rid King’s Landing of the High Sparrow and his flock will result in drastic measures come the season’s end.
There are some much needed laughs and sharp dialogue in the form of Tyrion as he attempts to hold the small council of Mereen together in the light of Daenerys’s absence. It’s a perilous situation with the slavers retaking Yunkai and Astapor and the queen’s fleet burned. Tyrion is quick to ascertain that drastic change is needed, leading to the fabulous line “That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.” If there was ever a Tyrion quote to put on a T-shirt (and I’m sure one exists) this is it.
His subsequent attempt to venture down into the chamber where Daenerys’s dragons are held is another nail biting moment as he slowly, carefully releases them from their chains, trying desperately not to be incinerated. Based on this moment, I’m still holding hope that he might ride her remaining dragon come season eight. He also has another terrific line as he tells Varys, when it’s all over “If I ever have another idea like that again, punch me in the face.”
Ramsey also steps up his villainy as he finally acts against his father – not that the death of Roose Bolton is anything to mourn. The threat of Walda’s son as a potential new heir has been a noose over Ramsey’s neck for some time, but Roose overplays his hand when Ramsey commits patricide, eliminating another key player from the board. Still, nothing is quite as horrific as the moment he lures poor Walda and her infant child into the kennels. It’s a real sickness in your gut moment as they step inside; you know what is coming but the outcome is still one of the cruellest deaths in the show’s history. Her realisation and desperation as she knows she and her baby are going to die horribly is palatable; fortunately the visual act is spared as the camera focuses on Ramsey, the screams and sounds of the dogs ripping them apart, coupled with our own imagination is terrible enough.
There is some well-needed progression on several fronts. Arya gives up her name as she is visited by Jaqen Hagar and leaves her brief life as a blind beggar behind. Sansa learns that Arya is alive from Brienne and Balon Greyjoy ends his life with a deadly encounter with dangerous pirate brother Euron (Pilou Asbæk making an ominous debut on the show). But the real drama lies at Castle Black – bookending the episode with two intense scenes. The uneasy treaty between Alliser Thorne and Davos in light of Jon’s murder is broken with the surprise arrival of the Wildlings led by Tormund, not to pillage and kill but to defeat those that murdered their ally Jon Snow. With Eddison taking a more prominent lead and Alliser in the cells, the stage is set for the resurrection attempt we all hoped was coming.
Death is usually final in Game of Thrones and heroes die as much – if not more – than the villains. Based on all the murders that came before him, Jon should have stayed dead, but his resurrection at Melisandre’s hands is a welcome deux-ex-machina. The spell to resurrect Jon is as much a struggle for her, the death of Stannis draining her of her hopes and beliefs. And that’s what makes the ending to Home so good; Melisandre doesn’t believe she can resurrect Jon, so why should we? The sense of defeat is palatable as the lingering shots of Jon’s corpse never see him come back to life. It is a real hold your breath moment each time, ending with the departure of Melisandre, Eddison, Tormund and Davos, all losing hope one by one. That final lingering shot feels impossibly long, his gasp for breath a mere second before the credits feels like it will never come.
Jon’s resurrection is a major turning point, though it still remains to be seen what his role will be in the final episodes to come. It caps a surprisingly strong episode, the best since Hardhome as a number of tense sequences keep the audience on their toes. And between Jon’s return and Ramsey’s murder of his father, the stage is set for the bloody battle to come in the season’s infamous ninth episode…
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