Game of Thrones
This week’s Game of Thrones is an hour-long exercise in provocation that doesn’t fully provoke. It is a series of occasionally plodding scenes that depict sudden deaths, dragon liberation, monotonous conversation (who else nodded off during that conversation between Jamie and the Sparrow?), and one extremely significant reincarnation (hooray for that!). “Home” didn’t make me feel most of the things it seemingly aimed to elicit, like shock or deep revulsion. It isn’t even much of a surprise that Jesus Christ — er, I mean, Jon Snow — lives and breathes again.
Was anyone genuinely stunned when Jon Snow opened his eyes in that final, climactic moment? Even for those who managed to avoid all season six spoilers, the execution of that final sequence makes it pretty obvious that he would snap open those peepers like Jack Shephard in the first scene of Lost.
Nevertheless, his resurrection — brought about by Melisandre’s mutterings and her ability to wipe the bloody scars from Jon’s abdomen as if he were a human dry-erase board — is a welcome moment, which will surely bring many narrative implications. For starters: Thorne, Ollie, and the rest of the now-imprisoned Night’s Watch traitors are at a double disadvantage, with the Wildlings back in the fold and the leader they murdered alive once again. Sansa and Ramsay also seem to have “Pay Jon Snow a visit” at the top of their to-do lists, and if they both wind up at Castle Black at the same time, some wacky, not-at-all-disturbing shenanigans will undoubtedly ensue. Yes, the fact that Melisandre’s magic brought Frosty the Jon Snowman back to life (“Hap-py birthday!”) is an exciting, if entirely foreseeable turn of events. But it still isn’t enough to save “Home” from its more cumbersome moments, or the fact that the episode would have benefited from a tighter edit. (Was it necessary to watch that drunken commoner brag about wagging his penis at Cersei, then see him get annihilated by the Kingsguard Formerly Known as the Mountain? We already knew that he vowed to protect Cersei and can squash people like bugs, so I’m going to say … no, we didn’t need that.)
When the credits began to roll, I struggled to sum up my feelings about this episode in a single word. The only word I could muster? Hodor.
“Aside from the Jon Snow part, how did you feel about this episode, Jen?”
“Wait, does that mean you liked it or didn’t like it?”
“Okay, what about the dragons? You have to admit: That was pretty cool.”
“Come on: Surely you were floored by that moment when Ramsay Bolton killed his father and, later, went all Mr. Burns on Lady Walder and her helpless newborn infant. Surely that made you gasp in utter shock and horror in that thrilling way that only Game of Thrones can, right?”
“Uh … Hodor?”
Actually, my favorite moment in this episode is the reveal, by way of Bran’s wargian flashback, that Hodor’s actual name is Wylis, which suggests that when Wylis eventually started saying nothing but the word Hodor, at least one person must have asked, “Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, Wylis?” I doubt that the Game of Thrones writers — whose use of the name Wylis deviates from George R.R. Martin’s text — were trying to evoke thoughts of Arnold Jackson, Todd Bridges, or Diff’rent Strokes in this moment. Then again, given that they’re trying to do so damn many things in this episode, anything is possible.
“Home” essentially suffers from the same epidemic that infected much of season five: It lays a lot of narrative groundwork without breaking much new ground. Even though big things happen — Balon Greyjoy plummets to his death, Ramsay stabs his way to the head of House Bolton, Bran returns having aged nearly as much as Melisandre when she’s sans necklace — it feels like we’re treading a tiny bit of water. It certainly doesn’t help that some of the major story lines from the season premiere — Daenerys and the Dothraki, as well as all the Dorne stuff everyone loved so much — are totally back-burnered.
Meanwhile, Bran is back in the Game for the first time since the end of season four, when the Three-Eyed Raven told him he might fly, even if he would never walk again. Aside from the brief vision he and the Three-Eyed Raven (welcome aboard, Max von Sydow!) share of the young Starks, plus a conversation Bran has with Meera about how “there’s a war coming,” he doesn’t do much. Given the hype surrounding his reemergence, this is a letdown.
As for all that business with the Boltons: When Ramsay slid that knife into his father’s torso, there was a brief moment when it wasn’t clear who was stabbing whom. For a half-second, it seemed like Ramsay was the one who had taken the hit. But if Ramsay had died, we wouldn’t have been able to watch him sic a pack of hounds on Lady Walda and his tiny baby brother. And we couldn’t have that, could we?
That moment is typical Game of Thrones: violent, unsparing, gasp-inducing. (And heavy-handed, too. Ramsay was warned by his late father not to behave like a mad dog, so he naturally heads straight for the maddest dogs at his disposal.) But after the horrible things we’ve already seen Ramsay do — including, but not limited to, raping Sansa and grotesquely torturing Theon — I’ve become somewhat desensitized to his horrors.
To be clear: Babies should never be fed to wild animals, even if said feeding mercifully occurs offscreen. Many viewers are probably disgusted by this scene, as they should be. I was more disgusted by the fact that Game of Thrones was straining to extract that exact reaction from its viewers. It’s well established that Ramsay is a diabolical psychopath. Seeing him continue to prove his villainy, over and over again, just feels played out. In summary, Ramsay Bolton has become the Coldplay of evil, and I’m pretty much over it.
Other things I’m over: watching poor, blind Arya Stark attempting to kick the ass of thin air. After reuniting with Jaqen H’ghar — or whoever happens to be assuming his form at the moment — she passes an important test by refusing to identify herself by name. Hopefully that means she can move on to another stage in her training or, better yet, get out of Braavos altogether.
It’s easy to get so bogged down in all the overwhelming details in Game of Thrones — Jesus, I forgot there was so many Greyjoys — that one loses track of the big picture. In addition to the sight of Jon Snow’s lustrous hair (don’t you dare cut a single additional lock, Melisandre) and the drunken quips of dragon whisperer Tyrion Lannister (“I drink and I know things” — it’s true, he really does!), one of the key reasons why I keep tuning into this show is the prospect of seeing the Stark offspring finally reunite. The idea that, at some point, we may witness Bran, Arya, Sansa, and Jon together again interests me far more than who will wind up sitting on the Iron Throne. (Rickon is welcome to the family reunion, too, wherever he is.)
I was reminded of that in the scene where Brienne tells Sansa that she previously came in contact with Arya. “She looked good,” Brienne says, adding, “She wasn’t exactly dressed like a lady.” “No, she wouldn’t be,” Sansa replies. Then she smiles, and with a small flicker across her lips, Sophie Turner telegraphs two things: Sansa still remembers how much her sister’s feistiness used to bug her, and she desperately misses it now that she’s freezing in the woods while trying to escape her Cujo of a husband. It’s a lovely, subtle moment, one that made me feel something. Game of Thrones is still capable of doing that. I just wish, at least this week, that it had done so more often.
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