Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Game of Thrones 6.2: Home

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to week 2 of our Game of Thrones recaps. I'm joined, as always, by Ser Lockett, who still offers the GRRM perspective even though the series has gone off-book. Before we get started, last week a couple of people asked why I'd come down so hard on Margaery, and to be honest, that is an excellent question. She hasn't committed a fraction of the crimes Cersei has, and in many ways has been a victim of the game. But my issue with her is entirely a personal one. As a mom whose daughter has been dealing with a group of mean girls for the past three years, I noted quite a similarity between Margaery and the queen bee of the group, who has been tormenting my daughter and many other girls for a few years now. Margaery is a loathsome social climber, a woman with no emotional ties to anyone but her brother, who will marry and befriend purely if it helps her social status, and will claw her way through and over anyone who gets in the way. When she and her fellow worker bees were badgering Cersei last season, and ganging up on her the way these girls gang up on my daughter and others at lunchtime, I instantly despised her, and I've never stopped. So no, from the outside perspective, Margaery certainly doesn't deserve our wrath in quite the same way as Cersei. As my mental representative of all the little bullying mean girls I've had to deal with over the past few years, I want Margaery pushed off a short pier into a very deep, concrete ravine. Ahem. 

So now, without any further ado, here's Christopher to start us off! 

Christopher: The general consensus about last week’s premiere has been that it was a decent enough episode, but a slow start—which really shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been watching Game of Thrones since the beginning. Season openers have tended to be a little lugubrious, as their main job is usually to resituate us in this world after ten months away. But they always end with a bang, with a shock or a revelation: season one saw Jaime push Bran out the window, season two was the massacre of Robert Baratheon’s bastards and the realization that Gendry is one of them; in season three, Barristan the Bold saves Daenerys from assassination, Arya kills Polliver with Needle in season four, and last season saw Mance Rayder burned at the stake—and mercifully killed with an arrow by Jon Snow. And of course last week was the Melissandre reveal.

After which, we’re usually off to the races, and this week’s episode should have satisfied people’s need for action and surprise: the wildling rescue of the Jon Snow loyalists, Ser Robert Strong’s showing what happens to those who tell tales about Cersei, the appearance of Euron Greyjoy and sudden dispatch of Balon … to say nothing of everything that went down among the Boltons.

Oh, and that little ending bit.

There were also a lot of lovely moments that were by turns quiet or tense, like Tommen’s reconciliation with Cersei or Tyrion freeing the dragons. But I think I most loved where this episode began. After an entire season plus one episode away, we finally meet up with Bran & co. again, more or less where we left them, in the caves under the weirwood tree of Bran’s visions. There are any number of questions left unanswered about the timeline, though the unavoidable fact that Bran has grown since last we saw him suggests that he has spent however long last season was supposed to have lasted underground, training with the Three-Eyed Raven. (Who, we should point out, is being played now by legendary actor Max von Sydow). And whatever training he has had seems to have paid off, as he can now travel through time.

His vision of Winterfell past lends the start of this episode a sense of déjà vu, as this was where the series effectively began: with Bran in this same yard practicing his archery with the encouragement of his brothers and his father. Here he sees his father at around the age he was when the series began, sparring with Benjen. “They were all so happy,” Bran says with something like wonder in his voice. “So were you, once,” the Three-Eyed Raven reminds him, and we recall that brief moment of peace with which the series opened, shattered along with Bran’s spine at the end of episode one.

We also see the infamous Lyanna, whose abduction at the hands of Rhaegar Targaryen precipitated the end of the Dragons’ dynasty, show here young and wild and obviously more confident in the saddle than her brothers (“Stop showin’ off!” young Ned says petulantly); we see the young version of Rodrik Cassel, already rocking the mutton chops; and most touchingly and surprisingly we see Hodor when he was still called Willas and capable of speech. I love how obvious it is that, even back then, he was a gentle soul, and obviously well-loved by the Starks.

But just as we, along with Bran, become sentimental for the past, it is time to return to the troubled present. Ignoring his plea to stay longer, the Raven brings Bran back to the cold cave and his useless legs, admonishing him that such journeying is like swimming under the sea, in that “if you stay too long, you drown.”

“I wasn’t drowning,” retorts Bran. “I was home.” This episode is titled “Home,” so it’s interesting to think of the ways that motif wends its way through the story. What is home for these displaced characters? Bran has a vision of Winterfell, but all of the surviving Starks are scattered around the world, and Winterfell itself has been stolen by the Boltons. Theon decides that he must needs return to his home in the Iron Islands, Tyrion is doing his level best to adopt Meereen, and Tommen has the realization that without his mother he is missing the better part of himself. Home is a safe space, but there are vanishingly few of them in this world.

What did you think of this episode, Nikki?

Nikki: Well, now that I’ve been able to sit for a moment after dancing merrily around my house for hours, I can say this episode was a spectacular return to the action we’ve come to know and love with Game of Thrones, and as you beautifully pointed out, it does so right from the very beginning. The Bran material was well handled, and for a moment, as you mentioned, I actually thought we were back in the beginning of episode 1 of the series. I expected to see a very young and surly Arya looking out the window as she longed to be wielding a sword and not wasting her time in embroidery lessons. I loved it, and especially loved seeing a young Hodor, who reminded me of Samwell Tarly.

But then we’re back at Castle Black, and a still dead Jon Snow, with Davos behind the door as Thorne, lying through his teeth, stands outside and promises him safe passage if they simply come out with their hands up. Even Ghost isn’t buying that one. As they all unsheathe their swords as a not-so-subtle message to Thorne that they will not, in fact, go quietly into that good night, and Ghost braces himself between all of them, teeth bared and growling, Thorne has one of his men begin to break down the door. 

And just as I started to wonder if this might be the end of Davos (please no!) while at the same time REALLY looking forward to watching Ghost go straight for Ser Alliser’s throat, there’s a second banging that stops the current action and pivots everyone’s attention to the outside walls. I fist-pumped. “Wildliiiiiiiiings!” I sang quietly from the couch, tense with anticipation. And then it was even better: Wildlings + giant. And when the wiener on the parapet decided to shoot his tiny, tiny arrow that bounced off the giant’s neck with a wee little *ping* sound, what the giant did next made the Hulk’s throttling of Loki in The Avengers look amateur in comparison. And the rest of Thorne’s army dropped their weapons quickly, eliciting an almost whiny “Oh COME ON, GUYS!” from Thorne that was hilarious in its frustration and expression of broken dreams. Off to prison with Thorne and the Annoying One (Buffy reference) and... it’s over to King’s Landing.

And we open on King’s Landing with this Eric Idle type standing in the street doing his version of Monty Python’s “nudge nudge wink wink” sketch involving an unlikely story about Cersei giving him the eye, a little monologue that causes the Mountain to smash the Facebook angry dislike button so hard that even I made a noise of disgust. (“Say no more!!”) This is the most we’ve seen of the Mountain since he was raised from the dead and has turned into nothing more than a meat-based killing machine (which, granted, is only a sidestep from what he was before he died), and that thick neck, grey face, and deadened eyes behind the mask lend a particularly horrifying element to him. I hope he never takes off that mask, because it’ll give me nightmares for life. But the appearance of the Mountain and what he does here looms large over the rest of the episode, so by the time we get to the events at the end, we’re not quite so sure about this whole raising from the dead thing.

As Cersei descends from the Red Keep with the Mountain at her back, she’s stopped by King Tommen’s guards, who stand before her in a YOU SHALL NOT PASS manner and explain, heads bowed, that despite her being the king’s mother and despite her destination being the funeral of her daughter, she is not allowed to leave the Red Keep. This is possibly the lowest we ever see Cersei, and despite everything she has done, you can’t help but feel badly for a mother who cannot say goodbye to her own daughter.

The show then takes us to Jaime and Tommen, standing at Myrcella’s side. Those creepy rocks with the wide-open eyes painted on them are lying on her face, and we remember that less than two years ago, they were standing in the same spot. Only when it was Joffrey on the slab, Cersei was standing at his side, cursing Tyrion’s name and convincing her twin brother that the imp had been behind it, as Tywin put his arm around Tommen’s shoulders and led the young boy away, establishing himself as Tommen’s chief advisor. How the times have changed: Cersei has been humbled to the point where she can’t even attend the funeral, Jaime has calmed down and it’s uncertain whether he still thinks Tyrion killed Joffrey, Tommen is a reasonable king who listened to the advice given him and is still making his way through everything, and Tywin is dead, by Tyrion’s hand.

Tommen confesses to Jaime that the reason he has yet to visit his mother is simple: shame. He should have stopped what the High Sparrow did to her, he should be stopping what they’re doing to Margaery now, and he doesn’t know how to face either woman when he’s let them down so colossally. And right on cue, the High Sparrow emerges from his perch and begins to descend to where Myrcella’s cold body lay on a slab, as Jaime sends Tommen away to speak to his mother.

What did you think of the conversation between the High Sparrow and Jaime, Chris?

Christopher:  As always, I am in awe of certain actors on this show, and Jonathan Pryce is a prime example. Jaime, we can see, is coming close to a breaking point: reunited with Cersei, having seen his daughter die and his family under siege, he seems ready to return to his violent tendencies and familial retrenchment. His fury at the High Sparrow is chilling in how cold and controlled it is, but for all intents and purposes the High Sparrow calls his bluff.

Not that Jaime doesn’t call out his hypocrisies. “Your sister,” says the Sparrow, “sought the gods’ mercy and atoned for her sins.” “What about my sins?” Jaime demands, and provides a litany of his misdeeds, from the killing of the Mad King to setting Tyrion free. “What atonement do I deserve?” It is the one moment in which the High Sparrow has no answer—for what could he say to that? The subtext of this conversation is the uneven dolling out of punishment, which disproportionally hurts women, and which is more preoccupied with sexual transgression. Cersei and Margaery suffer torture and humiliation, and we’re not certain of what is being inflicted on Loras. But Jaime’s laundry-list of sins has not garnered him anything more than the label Kingslayer.

Jaime’s mistake is overplaying his hand: he should have let the silence deepen, and let the High Sparrow attempt an answer that would have further shown his hypocrisy. But Jaime is not Tyrion, and so before the High Sparrow can become properly discomfited by his question, he grasps his dagger in a threatening manner, allowing the High Sparrow to deflect his words. “You would spill blood in this holy place?” he asks. Jaime’s response, that the gods are bloodier than all mortals put together, is a nice piece of rhetoric but comes off, ultimately, as empty bravado. Better to have pointed out that he has spilled blood in the throne room of King’s Landing and bring the question back around to what atonement he deserves.

One way or another, Jaime’s implied threat effectively summons the High Sparrow’s muscle, who array themselves around the sept but do not approach. And it is here that the High Sparrow stares down the Kingslayer, daring him to kill him. The face acting between these two is on point here: Coster-Waldau has a wonderful look of surprise and consternation when he’s invited to kill his foe; and Pryce very subtly communicates an instant of trepidation in making the challenge, replaced by his mounting confidence as he looks over Jaime’s shoulder to see that his Faith Militant have arrived. The Sparrow is still in danger from Jaime Lannister, should the latter choose to roll the dice and wager that he could fight his way out of the sept; but he knows that the calculus has changed, and it is far more likely that the Kingslayer will choose to fight another day.

And more importantly, it gives him fodder for one of his speeches: “No doubt many of us would fall,” he says of the prospect of Jaime cutting his way out. “But who are we? We have no names, no family … every one of us is poor and powerless. And yet, together? We can overthrow an empire.” The look he gives Jaime as he takes his leave falls short of open disdain, but it’s clear he knows he’s just owned the Kingslayer—and Jaime knows it too.

It does seem, however, that the High Sparrow’s estimation of his nameless, poor legions of the Faith Militant will be put to the test. Heeding Jaime’s advice, Tommen visits his mother to make his own atonement. He apologizes, and in the substance of his words we see a Lannister-in-training: “I should have executed all of them. I should have pulled down the sept onto the High Sparrow’s head before I let them do that to you.” Certainly, that would have been the path taken by the late-not-quite-lamented Lord Tywin; hearing the words from Tommen emphasizes again the familial retrenchment of the Lannisters, and the danger this could pose both to themselves and to the kingdom at large. “You raised me to be strong,” he continues. “I wasn’t. But I want to be.” In this moment, Cersei gets something resembling recompense for all her humiliations, but it does raise a few questions, re: Margaery. They’re still married, after all; she is still, in fact, the queen. If Tommen is returning to his mother’s tutelage, what kind of relationship can we expect him to have with his wife, assuming he manages to break her out? Cersei’s plotting late in last season effectively turned Margaery into her devoted enemy, and Margaery is hardly someone who will humbly accept the role of submissive wife. What role does House Tyrell have in the context of the Lannister wagon-circling?

We then segue to Meereen, where Tyrion’s alcoholism elicits Varys’ disapproval, which itself provokes Tyrion to make eunuch jokes, and banter ensues. As so often happens, Tyrion has my favourite lines of the episode, the first of which I’m seriously thinking of putting on my business cards. When Missandei asks him how he knows so much about dragons, he replies, “That’s what I do. I drink, and I know things.”

But as it turns out, he does more than just drink, venturing into the dungeon to unchain the dragons … presumably because no one else was willing to do so. What did you think of our time in Meereen, Nikki?

Nikki: Tyrion and Varys were a highlight in an episode full of highlights. Just when you think you’re starting to know Tyrion, he surprises everyone with a lot of talk about dragons. He’s certainly expressed his awe of them before — witness the look on his face when he first saw Drogon flying overhead when he was in the boat with Ser Jorah. But now we discover he knows far more about them than the myths and legends: he knows how to actually take care of them. He explains that, like many animals in our world, in the wild dragons are massive creatures, but in captivity they can be quite small — he says in the great time of dragons, when they were all in captivity, they were the size of cats. (Cats!! I want a cat dragon!) And his explanation makes perfect sense. Our family actually has a pet bearded dragon. When he was little, we had to keep increasing the size of his cage or he would actually stop growing so he would never exceed his environment. I’m happy to report that at some point they do stop growing, but last year my son and I went to a reptile show, and there was a bearded dragon there from the wild that was four times the size of ours, and ours was considered full-grown. So the writers have actually culled this little fact from real-world creatures.

As Missandei, Grey Worm, and Varys look on, stunned, Tyrion explains to them that the dragons must be unchained, or they will die, and he will be the one to do it. “I am their friend!” he proclaims. “Do they know that?” Varys understandably replies.

The scene in the dungeon was so tense I could barely blink. Tyrion slowly descends the staircase as Varys stays safely by the door, and confronts the two dragons who have been left behind. Drogon, Daenerys’s favourite (and the largest of the three) is the one that’s out on the loose, and Tyrion slowly walks up to Rhaegal and Viserion. It’s interesting, in a sense, that there were three dragon siblings: Rhaegal are the smaller and more contemplative of the three, whereas Drogon is the largest and most aggressive. Tyrion’s family was the opposite: the two older ones were larger and more aggressive, while he was the smaller and more thoughtful of the three. Where Drogon, the large one, has left the nest, Tyrion, the smallest, is the one that’s been banished. And now he approaches the dragons. First we see four glowing eyes in the darkness, followed by a large head and a furnace burning brighter in the back of one of the throats... but the pilot light quickly goes out, as the dragons don’t have the energy to breathe fire at the moment. Tyrion, wide-eyed, is like a little boy coming face to face with the creatures of his wildest imagination, as he bows his head and begins speaking to them with great reverence. He is at once terrified, yet astonished to be in their presence. “I’m friends with your mother,” he tells them. “I’m here to help. Don’t eat the help.”

He explains that the only thing he ever asked for on his name day was a dragon, but everyone laughed at him. “My father told me the last dragon had died a century ago. I cried myself to sleep that night... but here you are.” He reaches out a hand and oh-so-tentatively touches its head before suddenly reaching out and grabbing the nail holding the chain together. At which point the other dragon bends its head forward, extending it so Tyrion can do the same. And the moment they are freed, the dragons lumber to the back of the cave. Tyrion stands, amazed, for one moment, before hustling it back to Varys. “Next time I have an idea like that,” he says, “punch me in the face.” It’s a brilliant, beautiful scene, where our favourite character meets our favourite creatures. Wow, what a combination they could make.

And speaking of punching in the face, a girl with no name is attacked once again by the waif, and this time the girl formerly known as Arya is pissed. She grabs that staff and swings in every direction, screaming and yelping... until the staff is suddenly stilled by the hand of Jaqen. I was thrilled to see him (I thought we’d seen the last of him) and in a very biblical moment, he tempts her with shelter, food, and even her sight if she’ll just tell him her name. “A girl has no name,” she replies, and then he leads her away. Will Arya see again? I can only imagine what Jaqen has in store for her next (but I hope she gets a good knock or two at the waif beforehand...) ;)

And then we get to the Boltons, the most depraved lot on a show filled with depravity. Once again Ramsay wants to do something drastic — in this case, storm Castle Black — because he’s thinking ahead and knows that’s where Sansa is going (and he’s right). Clearly no one has sent out a raven yet, and word that Jon Snow is dead has not been sent out as quickly as word like that usually moves (I swear the ravens in Westeros are faster than Twitter) but Roose, as usual, is cautious, and thinks moving on Castle Black is neither the right nor the politically astute choice at the moment. And just then it’s announced that Lady Walda has just given birth to a baby... boy. The child who will take the throne away from Ramsay, for a legitimate child always trumps a bastard, even if that bastard has been given his father’s last name. Roose looks to Ramsay, and embraces him, saying, “You’ll always be my first-born,” in a surprisingly touching moment... which is immediately cut down by Ramsay plunging a dagger into his father’s chest and killing him on the spot.

This moment was definitely one of the most shocking I’ve seen on the show — I didn’t see that coming at all, despite everything that had happened leading up to it. And when Ramsay calls for Lady Walda and the baby, it just gets worse. We know what he’s done to Theon, and we know what he’s done to Sansa. We know how he uses those hounds, and when he lures Lady Walda into the kennel, it’s so much worse than the fate his father endured. I couldn’t move as I watched this scene, at once horrified and hoping against hope in my mind that this one time might be the moment Ramsay lets someone go (seriously, Nikki, do you ever learn??) I imagined standing there in the same way, and how, knowing how this would play out, it would probably be more merciful to smother the child on the spot than let the hounds take him. And in the final moment we see on screen, it looks like that might be exactly what she does. Notice how she turns away from the camera and falls forward, and you never hear a baby’s scream in that scene. I was incredibly thankful the directors didn’t show us that moment.

What did you think of what happened at Winterfell, Chris? Was it a complete surprise or were you suspicious it was going to move in this direction?

Christopher: I had a brief moment of confusion when Ramsay stabbed Roose, thinking at first it was the other way around—that with the birth of a son, Roose had no need for his bastard any more. That would have been shocking, but of course it would have ended Ramsay’s storyline, and I have a slight suspicion the showrunners want him around for some time yet, and will presumably (hopefully) give him a properly gruesome death. Perhaps we can start taking odds on who gets to kill him in the end? I’m saying Jon Snow 10:1, Brienne 5:1, his own hounds 3:1. Sansa? Even money.

But no, it’s too early in the season for Ramsay to go, but not too soon for Roose. It was still a surprise, though to quote a Buffyism, as justice goes it’s not unpoetic. In the world of GoT, certain things are sacrosanct, among them the laws of hospitality and the taboo against kinslaying. In aiding and abetting the Red Wedding, Roose violated the former—and one of the reasons the Boltons’ hold on the North is precarious at best is that many of the other houses look upon the Boltons as cursed for that transgression (a point emphasized more in the novels than in the series). That Roose loses his life to the monster he has cultivated, and who—as the rest of the scene demonstrates—is quite happy to kill his kin, is about as close to justice as we’re likely to get in Westeros.

And as we have seen, things in Westeros always get worse before they get better (wait—do they ever get better?). It is doubtful that the psychotic Ramsay can hold together the alliance he will need to win the North (and potentially defend against a Lannister army), but he can do a whole lot of damage in the meantime.

Meanwhile, Brienne, Sansa, et al seem to be in a bit of a holding pattern: of all the scenes in this episode, this one feels like the most extraneous, as its main purpose seems to be for Brienne to tall Sansa about her encounter with Arya, and for Theon to announce that he’ll be leaving them. The logic behind his reasoning isn’t entirely clear, but then I don’t know that logic is necessarily going to obtain with Theon at this stage. The only thing that is clear is that after all he has done, there is only one place left for him.

When he says “Home,” we then cut to the castles of Pyke, the seat of power in the Iron Islands, where Balon Greyjoy is in the midst of an argument with Yara, Theon’s sister. The gist of their dispute is Yara’s pragmatism in the face of Balon’s stubbornness, with her pointing out that islanders are ill-equipped to take and hold mainland fortresses. He will have none of it, storming out (ha!) onto what seems to me to be a rather rickety bridge between buildings. And here we meet a new character, Balon’s younger brother Euron, whom we glean has been away for many years, sailing to the ends of the earth. His time away seems to have … well, affected him somewhat. Which is to say he’s batshit, referring to himself as both the Drowned God and the storm itself before committing this episode’s second instance of kinslaying.

I’m not sure what I think of this new story line. In the fourth novel of the series, A Feast for Crows, GRRM introduces both the Iron Islands and the Dorne subplots. Given that Feast eschewed the Jon Snow and Daenerys storylines (thus making it the least favourite of the books among fans), these new dimensions in the Ice & Fire world could be presented with an economy of storytelling (or what passes for economy of storytelling in this series); but they came to complicate book five, A Dance With Dragons, making it the most shambolic of the books so far. Reading Dance, a friend of mine said in an apt analogy, was like pulling taffy. Given the difficulty of teasing out all these threads in a novel meant that the television show was ill-suited to take all of them on, and there was a general assumption when we undertook the Dorne plot last season that the series would ignore the Iron Islands.

But here we are, and I’m worried—in part because the Dorne storyline was so clumsily mishandled, and we’re still stuck with it. And now the Iron Islands on top of it? Fingers crossed, but I’m worried we’re hitting Peak Narrative right now.

On the bright side, they will likely be mining A Feast for Crows for content, so at least there will be one storyline I’ll have an inkling about this season.

Which brings us to this episode’s final scenes, which I assume you have one or two thoughts about, Nikki. But before that, a few final thoughts on this episode:

  • Davos apologizing to the others for what they’re about to see as he draws Jon’s sword is classic, and a perfect line for that character.
  • The showrunners really want to be a bit more sparing with their deus ex machinas. Brienne riding to the rescue last week was great, but the wildlings’ appearance at Castle Black was so utterly predictable you could have set your watch to it. I found myself thinking “I wonder how many blows they’ll get on that door before Edd returns with Tormund?” Which isn’t to say it wasn’t a thrilling sequence, just that it’s not necessarily a good pattern to fall into.
  • It’s official: crushing skulls is the Mountain’s preferred method of killing. Dude doesn’t even need a sword.
  • “Next time I have an idea like that, punch me in the face” is my other favourite Tyrion line of the episode, though “Don’t eat the help!” is pretty good too.
  • I’m REALLY happy they cut away from Walda when the hounds attack, but the sound effects were almost as bad as seeing it.

That’s it for me. What did you think of the episode’s ending, Nikki?

Nikki: I’m sure there were a lot of people out there who thought the final three seconds of the episode were as predictable as it gets, but I’m not one of them. This show has thwarted hopes and expectations more often than not, and because it was so drawn out, with Melisandre making numerous attempts to raise Jon and failing every time, I thought there was a possibility that we would end with a quiet camera hold on Jon, fade to black.

Of course, that was while I was in the moment. In retrospect, fans would have stormed the HBO studios over it, and they knew that. They couldn’t have possibly gone in that direction, and so of course it had to end the way it did, but in that moment, I just wasn’t sure if they were going to go for it or not.

The final scene began with Melisandre sitting gloomily in her room listening to country music — the music of pain. (Dude, that’s three Buffy references in a single recap, this is some kind of record for us!!) Fans have been up and down with Melisandre from the beginning. I think she’s the most stunning looking person in the entire series, and I absolutely love the way the actress carries herself and speaks. Some other viwers find her grating. I found her rather unsettling in the beginning, when we first found her with Stannis, and she’s been utterly unpredictable in her actions every step of the way except in one aspect: her unwavering belief that her convictions are correct. She never questioned that the Lord of Light was leading the way, and that Stannis was his vessel on earth, and that he’d lead them all to glory. And when Stannis died, she stumbled, and went to Castle Black and said, “OK now I’ve got it right, it’s... Jon Snow!” and then Jon Snow was killed, and she doesn’t know what to believe anymore. She’s wasted so much of her life having faith in one thing that when it collapses, she has nothing more to live for. (To the point where last week, one of our readers wondered if Melisandre removed the necklace so she could lie down and die, a notion I confessed I’d also considered when I saw that scene.)

Many of us have had that feeling, whether it’s in a relationship or a job or anything you’ve been involved in for several years. But it’s one thing to say, “Aw, man, I worked at that company for 12 years and I should have moved on years ago”; it’s quite another to have devoted your entire being to worshiping a god for centuries, only to realize you were a wee bit incorrect on that one. She’s utterly despondent as she sits in her room, and the old, confident Melisandre has turned to ashes in the fire. “I assume you know why I’m here,” Davos says. “I will after you tell me,” she replies. The old Melisandre would have chided him for even questioning what she knows, and of course she would always know why he’s there.

But Davos won’t let her wallow, and he pushes her. He wants to know if she knows any magic that can bring back the dead, and she tells him that she met a man once who came back from the dead, but it shouldn’t have been possible. She knows the implications of this (anyone who’s seen any genre TV or movies knows the consequences are never good). She stares ahead, unblinking. “Everything I believed, the great victory I saw in the flames, were lies.”

Davos will have none of it. He steps forward, and tells her you know what? He’s not looking for the bloody Lord of Light, master of nothing, he’s asking for help from the woman who showed him that miracles do exist. The Lord of Light might be a lie, but she’s not. And she is pretty incredible. And with that, Melisandre finds the tiniest glimmer of hope within her, and follows him to Jon’s side. She cleans all of his wounds, like Mary washing the body of Christ, until they are just red half-moons all over his body. She cuts his hair (I’ll admit to wincing through that, like, I know you’re trying to bring him back from the dead and all, but do you really have to cut his hair?) and throws it into the fire, along with some of his blood. Ghost sleeps through the entire process, which I found a little odd: you’d think the direwolf would be standing at the ready, even knowing that Jon was dead. (And at one point I was yelling, “Put some of Ghost’s fur into the fire!”) 

She lays her hands upon him, and says the incantation, and... nothing. She tries it again, nothing. We watch the hope fade from her face as she tries it again and again. Tormund turns and walks out of the room, waving them off like he couldn’t believe he’d gotten caught up in this stupid charade in the first place, but Davos’s face remains steadfast. He doesn’t take his eyes off Jon, waiting for something to happen. Melisandre’s chant becomes more and more feeble, with less and less conviction, until finally she just gives up. Head hanging, shoulders low, she turns and leaves the room, as one by one they all leave. And only Jon and Ghost are left behind.

And then, Ghost stirs. And, I will admit, I went, “Oh my god, his spirit went into GHOST!!” but as soon as the words were out of my mouth I thought wait, no, that would just be weird. Even weirder than this show usually is. And as the camera closes in on Jon as Ghost begins making noises, we all know what’s going to happen, and it does.

Didn’t stop me from fist-pumping the air and going, “YAAAAAAAAASSSS!!” And my joy was so full that I didn’t turn to the person beside me and say, “YOU were wrong and I was right because I never wavered in my conviction that he was coming back and HA-ha ha-hahaha.” Oh wait, no... that’s totally what I did.

Thanks again for reading, and I look forward to chatting again next week!


Rufus said...

I almost expected Tyrion to say to the Dragons, 'Your Mother is missing, Fetch!' Maybe they will need a wee snack first.

Ant Hawkins said...

My thoughts on the scene with Ghost at the end are slightly different, I actually thought the opposite, not that his spirit had gone into Ghost, but that it was just returning from Ghost, having been there since before he'd died. The spirit just been waiting for his body to be brought back to some point of being habitable once again, which is what Mellisandre had achieved with her incantations. I think there might well be some flashback to before Jon's death where he wargs his spirit into Ghost for 'safekeeping'.

Anonymous said...

I thought for sure Melisandre would sacrifice herself to bring Jon back - thank god I was wrong on that one as she's always been one of my favs along with Cersei, Davos & Bronn (where IS he?).

Nikki - I get what you're saying about Margary but I think the Mean Girl stuff toward Cersei was totally in response to the way she was treated. Something like "if you ever call me sister again I'll have your tongue pulled out"? She was probably only standing her ground and showing she could give as good as she gets. I think Margary is still the only royal we ever saw giving two shits about the common folk in the city when she spent time at the orphanage after Blackwater.

As always thanks for the recap!

-Tim Alan

Marebabe said...

Arya is so tough and so determined to join the ranks of the Faceless Men, I believe she will succeed. And suddenly a troubling theory popped into my head. Sansa now knows that Arya is alive, and she hopes to somehow find her one day. And Jon Snow lives, and he may run across Arya in his travels. I’m afraid that one or both of them will be reunited with their little sister, but it will only happen AFTER a girl is truly no one. And the joyful reunion they imagined will be more like Arya staring blankly at them and saying, “Who is this Arya that you speak of?” Actually, scratch that. She will have become adept at changing her appearance, like Jaqen H’ghar. She’ll see them coming, and she won’t even have to duck around a corner. She’ll simply change her face, and her beloved family members will pass her by, none the wiser. There are many different ways that the Game of Thrones writers can rip our hearts out. I suppose they might have Arya be terribly conflicted and struggling against her recent conditioning, but I doubt it. The worse scenario, for us, will be to see that she has become as cold and emotionless as Jaquen.

Nikki Stafford said...

Ant: I LOVE that idea!!! It's clear they're linked, but this idea is fantastic.

Tim: Your logic is absolutely correct. Unfortunately the situation I'm going through now has clouded it. Margaery even LOOKS like the little girl in my daughter's class, so my judgement will, sadly, continue to be against her for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the Game of Thrones storyline. It's the equivalent of watching a show and going, "I don't know why I hate that guy. But I really hate him." ;)

Marebabe: Oh wow, how heartbreaking would that be?? I can't imagine that... But you could be so right. It's not like GRRM goes out of his way to spare our feelings on anything else! :)

Blam said...

I too loved Davos’ apology to the others — and young Hodor; great casting.

Tyrion approaching the dragon was one of those situations where I was literally saying the dialogue in my head before it happened, but mine was “I’m a friend of your mother’s” because “I’m friends with your mother” sounds inappropriately modern-colloquial for the setting.

Unfortunately, while The Continuing Tales of Arya the Hopeless Blind Panhandler doesn’t interest me any more than The Adventures of Jon Snow’s Corpse, I found myself underwhelmed by how what we hoped if not knew was going to happen actually happened.

We’re rooting for Arya when Jaqen is testing her, obviously, yet it felt too easy. I realize she’s endured more, longer, than it seems to us outside the story — just one episode to another, ten months between seasons if you didn’t rewatch notwithstanding — but since Nemesis Waif’s been coming around to fight her she knows that she hasn’t been completely forgotten by her old friends at the House of the Many-Faced God and her head’s in the game enough to know that she shouldn’t give in to temptation if she’s to have any chance left of regaining Jaquen's mentorship. Even if Arya couldn’t have known that the correct answers would get her back under his wing immediately, the fact that they did just felt like the show acknowledging it had to move on despite the quick fix.

There was nothing inherently bad in how Melisandre’s attempt to revive Jon played out, with Tormund and then Melisandre and finally Davos leaving his body there with Ghost, but it played out so predictably and with decidedly less visual flourish than I was expecting.