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This will be the EUGOTSOC Committee review of Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 2: ‘Home’ written by myself – Alexander Petkov: Publicity Officer.

When the show-runners announced that after the end of this season they’ll have material left for approximately 13 episodes more, I could not envision this being the case unless every single episode of series 6 had a strong overall plot-propelling nature heading directly into the endgame. Well, it’s been only 2 episodes but that is exactly what we got so far. Episode 2: ‘Home’ was all I could hope for at this early stage in the season and yet it was not what I was expecting. Usually the second episode of each Game of Thrones season is burdened by the task of being a ‘season-opener’ for all the characters not addressed in the premiere. I cannot be happier that that is not the case with S6E2. Especially with a title like ‘Home’ I would have expected to see Sam reuniting with his family at Horn Hill, Daenerys reaching Vaes Dothrak and probably a peak at ‘Blackfish’ Tully in the Riverlands (who I think is going to be in this season). Also still missing from this season are key players in King’s Landing like the Queen of Thorns and Littlefinger. Instead Episode 2 continued the trend started by ‘The Red Woman’ by giving us a brutal, funny, heartfelt episode which not only accelerates the overall arc of the story immensely but also giving the notion of ‘home’ a deeper meaning.

The episode opens with Bran sharing a vision of Winterfell years ago with the Three-eyed Raven. We see them observing the courtyard much like Ned and Catelyn did in the Season 1 pilot. In fact invoking imagery from previous seasons of the show is a recurring theme throughout this episode. We also get a nice mirror of Jon Snow training Olly in S5E1 (‘The Wars to Come’) in Ned Stark sparring with Benjen, made complete by the line that both Ned and Jon say: ‘Put your shield up or I’ll ring your head like a bell’. I have a feeling that this character parallel will only get more reinforced this season when we see more of Ned Stark during Robert’s Rebellion in Bran’s visions. We also get a glimpse of Lyanna Stark and a young talking Hodor. This raises the question if the show is going to address the character’s transition to his current state in this season. This whole scene as seen from Bran’s perspective perfectly describes the running theme of this episode. Even though the sight of Winterfell decades ago is not something we’ve seen before, there is this warm nostalgic, familiar feeling about it. When put into perspective you can see why the showrunners have stated that the theme of the season is ‘Homecoming’. This introduces the character’s metaphorical ‘Return Home’ which is part of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ and marks the beginning of the final third act of the overall story arc.

The same idea can be seen in the King’s Landing scenes as well. Jaime’s character seems to have gone full circle. His confrontational scene with the High Sparrow in Baelor’s sept shows the ruthless and smartly impulsive side of Jamie that we haven’t seen much of since Season 1. His assassination of the Mad King is once again referenced in the show, which probably implies that this past event still may come to affect the show’s present (especially now when as show-spectators we may witness it through Bran’s perspective). Another character who deserves some attention is Cersei. She’s lost most of the power she’s accumulated since the first season. Last episode we saw her acknowledge the inevitability of her fate and nowhere is this better manifested than in the scene where she decides to obey her son the King’s orders to remain in the Red Keep restricting her from attending her own daughter’s funeral (Ser Robert Strong is amazing). She’s back to a position of little influence around a powerless king (Her husband Robert in Season 1 and now her son Tommen). This time around, however, her quiet calculating nature is more due to this newfound nihilistic take on life. This really makes me curious as to what will push her over the edge this season when she decides to ‘choose violence’ (as in the trailers) as her character is currently nowhere near that stage. Even though she’s at a completely different state in her development this season from how she started out as, there’s still that nostalgic air around her scenes which is to an extent also due to the brilliant pacing of her scenes which I can’t help but feel is meant to mirror that of Season 1.

The invocation of the imagery of ‘home’ in the context of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ has also some more tragic implications when associated with Theon’s character. His decision to return to the Iron Islands is in perfect contrast to the reminiscing that Sansa and Brianne have together in that same scene. Theon’s character has gone through a lot of change over the series and he’s long since reached the point of considering the Starks to be his true family. Now finally free of Ramsey’s control he decides that he should leave the people he cares most about because he believes he deserves no redemption for the wrong he’s done to them. The only option he sees for his future is to return to the Iron Islands where he knows he would not be welcomed well. This ‘home’ is a metaphorical grave for his character.

In light of what’s going on at the Iron Islands, however, this part of his ‘Hero’s Journey’ is more likely to end up in an endgame call to action (but we’ll have to wait and see). As I started, in Pyke we finally witness the long over-due death of Balon Greyjoy and get introduced to Euron (who I’m really excited to see more of as soon as possible). This scene in particular shows another face of the episode – the incredibly clever and snappy rhetoric that the characters exchanged (In this case mostly Yara and Balon).

Nowhere, however, is the enjoyably clever dialogue more prominent than in the Mereeen scenes with Tyrion and Varys. These two work off each other so brilliantly both in their rhetoric as well as their fascial expressions. If there’s something this episode was abundant in, it was quotable lines such as: ‘That’s what I do, I drink and I know things’ and ‘Don’t eat the help’. (There were also some perfect lines delivered by Melisandre later in the episode but I’ll get to those later). It should be noted that Tyrion’s interaction with the dragons is absolutely priceless as it was both funny and touching. One huge thing that the Tyrion scene accomplished is the freeing the two remaining Viserion and Rhaegal which should have interesting consequences in the future.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Game of Thrones episode without some unapologetic death and violence and this episode has plenty of that as well. Starting from Wun Wun causing some mayhem at Castle Black during the defence of Jon’s body, to Ser Robert Strong being awesome and finally to the events at Winterfell. Ramsey murders his father when the news is delivered that Walda has given birth to a boy. From the lack of reaction of the Lord of House Karstark at the sight of this event it’s safe to assume that this has been Ramsey’s completely thought out plan. Now that he’s in control of Winterfell and has no one to answer to we can only expect his actions this seasons to get crazier and crazier. In the context of the character’s psyche to be ‘home’ is to be alone (or ‘ an only child’ as he puts it to Walda just before setting loose his hounds on her and her baby) and free. This will certainly accelerate the plot in the North so I’m looking forward to see how this unfolds.

Ramsey, however, is not the only character whose storyline this week has a distorted concept of ‘home’ attached to it. In Braavos Arya has had enough time to contemplate and understand what is required from her in order to be ‘no one’ as she passes Jaqen H’ghar’s test and appears to have cast aside her identity completely. Whether that is indeed the case we’ll have to wait and see (Needle is still hidden away safely). Her return to the House of Black and White is not a ‘Return Home’ but rather a return to ‘taking charge’. Arya understands the rules of the world she’s submerged in and is ready to continue forward.

Finally, it’s time to address the elephant in the room – Jon Snow’s resurrection. Even without the last scene the episode is quite eventful so I have to admit I was not expecting the ending. The long lingering shots of Jon’s body are confirmation enough that he’s not going to just remain dead but still bringing him back this early into the season is a nice surprise. Jon’s importance to the story is also underlined by Davos and Melisandre’s discussion of resurrection (in which Melisandre has some great quotes such as ‘You interrupt nothing’).  Carice van Houten’s performance of a Melisandre sans-faith is extremely good and emotional. If we draw the parallel to Thoros of Myr, who could only resurrect Beric Dondarrion once he’d lost his belief in the Lord of Light we’d expect that having her faith shaken is what Melisandre would need in order to perform this miracle – bringing Jon back to life. I have to admit that even with that in mind I was expecting her first attempt to be unsuccessful. The fact that it wasn’t in my opinion only testifies to the large amount of story that the show will be aiming to cover this season. The resurrection scene itself is perfectly executed, the long still shots of Jon’s body feel tense and somewhat uncomfortable. Him taking his first breath is such an amazing reveal to end the episode on that I truly believe it’s going to remain one of the most iconic moments on the show. Also it is a nice touch that Jon Snow’s resurrection was perfectly timed with the Orthodox Easter.

Overall this is an absolutely superb episode. I genuinely feel afraid to rank it as it was so good yet it’s just the second episode and I have high hopes for the direction this season is going in and I expect ‘Home’ to be topped pretty soon.

In this episode we see a lot of characters facing the changing world around them and managing to find a familiar ‘place’. You can certainly feel how the show is steadily approaching its endgame and yet in all of the ways it invokes imagery from its first seasons it feels like, well, it feels like home.

Thank you for reading my review of ‘Home’ and I hope you are as excited as I am for the coming episodes.

 

Alexander Petkov

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