Only read on if you’ve seen Game of Thrones Season Six, Episode Two.
Seriously, I mean it here, because some S*** WENT DOWN, people.
Oh my beloveds!
He’s alive. HE’S ALIVE!
I’m not a religious woman, but I defy Christianity to offer a narrative as joyous and fulfilling as a beloved man of questionable parentage rising from the dead.
Jon Snow has returned to me. I mean, us. You know, the Game of Thrones viewing audience. The world and all of its sensible, Jon Snow-worshipping types. But mostly me, the Beyonce to his Jay-Z (unlike that Ygritte with the good hair).
This episode was shocking and dastardly in so many ways - most of them to do with BOOO HISSS Ramsay Bolton - yet we got the happy ending we so desperately craved, an ab-tastic sequence which somehow made all the horror seem kind of okay. Of course, Jon himself looked rather shocked by it, but hey, I too would be confused if I woke up near-naked with just my foster kittens for company. ‘Cause that never happens normally. No. Never.
And Melisandre, dear, wonderful, craggy Melisandre - all is forgiven. Yes, you encouraged Stannis to burn his own daughter at the stake (something Ser Davos conveniently hasn’t seemed to have realised yet). But damnit, you’ve shown vulnerability, self-doubt and crackingly good resurrection skills. You’re OK again in my book.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The title for this episode really set up the through-line of the interweaving stories this week. For whether it was finding it, missing it, returning to it or attempting to set one up - so many of our characters were seeking the true meaning of “home”.
Also there were a lot of big dudes smashing the shit out of other dudes. And Ramsay Bolton being an utter, utter, utter, utter smegging utter utter bastard. It’s all enough to make a recappespondent swoon and have to remove her bra for medical reasons. Join me please, as I release the tension in my bosoms and shove the twin nipples of plot and character development right in your face.
Season 6, Episode 2: Home
I think the key takeaway from our long-awaited catch-up with Bran in that meth den far north of the Wall is HOLY CRAP HODOR COULD SPEAK?!
Sure, discovering that Bran’s Warg Powers not only allow him to commune with animals but mentally time-travel (a sort of interior Tardis) was a big revelation too, but gods-be-damned if it wasn’t something else to wonder what happened to that shy, gentle stable boy to turn him into a shy, gentle, stable boy who only says “Hodor”?
Of course, Hodor wasn’t telling. Well, he may have been, but despite Bran’s best “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?”, only “Hodor” was forthcoming.
That mind-blowing development was revealed to us in a mind-blowing mystical encounter featuring the Three-Eyed Raven, a sort of kindly Walter White figure who can dial in your blue sky visions with up to 99 per cent purity.
I am the one who knocks, Bran.
Transported to a Winterfell of many years past, the second-youngest Stark watched, on all two legs, as his father Ned and uncle Benjen practised their sword-fighting.
We even saw the much-discussed Lyanna Stark ride in on a white steed, dark hair flowing, all sass and sisterly love, attempting to rope young Hodor in to be Benjen’s sparring partner when Ned goes off to learn from Jon Arryn at the Eyrie.
Now here’s something. I always figured Lyanna was Ned’s younger sister, but it looked from the immersive flashback like she was a fair bit older. This may be important, it may just be an observation - certainly Nan (not “Old” just yet) didn’t much take age into account when chewing them all out for being silly buggers.
All we know for sure is that according to Bran, “They were all so happy”. “So were you, once,” replies the triple-peepered-corvus. Yep, for those first 45 minutes of season one, episode one, Bran sure was a chipper kid.
Of course, he’s not allowed to linger at this warm, familial scene, because according to Walter White Raven, if you continue to scuba without air in your tank, you drown. Bran of course wasn’t drowning, he was home. But as Homer Simpson taught us, you cannot just run away from your problems and start a new life under the sea.
Bran’s protector Meera is getting jacked off at how very boring her life has become. I imagine hanging outside while all your friends are tripping balls gets dull pretty quickly. But the intense fairy woman/Child of the Forest insists she is much needed. Bran may be home in the meth den right now, but someday soon he’s going to have to move on. And that’s when he’ll need an awesome fighting chick by his side.
Speaking of awesome fighting chicks, in the forest north of Winterfell, the much more relaxed Brienne gives Sansa an update about seeing Arya with the Hound a whole season ago. “She looked good,” came the summary, “although she wasn’t dressed like a lady.”
Sansa’s smile and retort (“No, she wouldn’t be”) were so sweet. Given this was the first confirmation Sansa has had in years that her sister is in fact alive, I wish they’d talked about it a little more. Certainly Sansa had nothing to say about her time at Winterfell, only that she wished she’d gone with Brienne the first time she’d offer to protect her. “It was a difficult choice,” Brienne responds, giving Sansa an out. I mean, yes, it was, but also, you were travelling with Petyr Baelish at the time, Sansa! Sure he saved your life at the Purple Wedding but come on, you had to be suss by the way he looked at you and (probably) smelled your hair.
Sansa is very forgiving of Theon, whose is well into his Redemption of Reek journey. The Greyjoy heir doesn’t want forgiveness of course - taking the black and joining the Night’s Watch won’t wash away the sins he committed against the Starks. He needs to make things right, and to do that, he has to go back to where it all began - the Iron Islands.
Over in Pyke, King Balon really is losing the plot. His daughter Yara - possibly the most sensible character in the series - raises the thorny issue of their strongholds on the mainland being recaptured by their original tenants, but Balon doesn’t want to hear it. “Stop disobeying my orders!” he rants, getting more boring by the second.
In the end he winds up crossing a rope bridge between two of his castles turrets, being buffeted by ferocious winds. You’d think the Iron Islanders might be used to that kind of weather and develop better bridges - or maybe trial squat, all-in-one buildings - but they’re salt people, and any opportunity to practice flailing about in a storm would no doubt be considered character building. After all, you can’t make a mistake twice if your limbs are broken on the rocks below.
At this point, Balon is bailed up by a mysterious stranger who turns out to be his brother, Euron Greyjoy. It was a bit odd to introduce Euron this way, as I couldn’t get a good look at his face, and the rain made it a bit hard to understand what they were saying. But the gist seemed to be that Euron is an insane megalomaniac who doesn’t just worship the Drowned God, believes he is the Drowned God. Oh joy, another David Koresh type. As if the Iron Islanders weren't already Waco enough.
Eventually Balon attempted to grab Euron, but instead was tossed off the rope bridge like so many horny masochists.
The death of Balon was not a total surprise, and not a total loss really. We only saw him rarely, he was just a bit of a mad old coot, and even though the introduction of his long-lost brother was a bit convenient and quick, this Euron fellow may still prove a more useful character.
Sure, Theon will get home to find his daddy gone, but he can still make amends with Yara. In fact, he may be able to help her, as it seems the Iron Islanders are a tad against a woman ruler, even if it was clear that Balon considered her his heir. Hey dudes, perhaps if you’d let a freaking woman rule you before now, you might have replaced raping and pillaging with more sensible policies such as sustainable aqua-culture and a tourism industry. Go get ‘em, Yara.
Please, tell me again how I am not qualifed to run this dump.
Let’s talk BOOOOO HISSSSSS Ramsay Bolton.
I imagine there may be some outcry over THAT scene. You know, the one where Lady Walda and her newborn baby were ripped apart by Ramsay’s bloodthirsty hunting dogs? Not on camera, of course, they left that to the imagination and the foley artist. But still, it was pretty brutal, and I can understand how it may upset some people.
However - surely as soon as the news of Lady Walda giving birth to a boy was pronounced, we knew they were both dead? When Ramsay stuck a knife in his father’s gut, just a moment after being told he would always be his first born, we knew Roose’s direct line would be snuffed out. When Ramsay asked to hold the baby, we all thought he was about to dash its brains out right there on the cobblestones.
So maybe the dogs were a bit much, but then, everything about Ramsay is a bit much. HE CUT A GUY’S KNOB OFF, PEOPLE.
Also, Game of Thrones has form on baby-maiming - remember the first episode of season two, when the City Watch in King’s Landing slaughtered all of King Robert’s bastards, including a newborn in the brothel?
Personally, I thought the Walda’s pride in her baby, her heartbreaking realisation of what was happening and her last-ditch plea for their lives were amazingly portrayed. In those moments Walda had real humanity and character, as opposed to the fairly one-dimensional role she had played in previous scenes.
If anything, it was Roose’s death that surprised me - and, I must say, moved me. Given Roose’s ability to curb Ramsay’s worst excesses, I guess part of me hoped he would come more to the fore, realise what a mistake he’d made with this psychotic hangnail of a son, and put a stop to it.
“If you act like a mad dog you will be treated like a mad dog,” the elder Bolton reasoned when Ramsay declared he wanted to march on Castle Black and kill Jon Snow, another bastard but nevertheless a potential Stark claimant to Winterfell.
From Ramsay’s perspective of course, he is setting up his home, his legacy, and hopefully with a returned Sansa, his dynasty. Sure, he’s also a nutbag who likes to kill, but there is some sense of wanting to achieve driving him. And while he is utterly without remorse or mercy, he is not without smarts. Rather than own up to his father’s murder, he orders it to be announced as a poisoning.
If he wasn’t before, he definitely is now the absolute worst character ever on Game of Thrones.
Let’s head to King’s Landing, where a skeevy Cockney geezer is regaling a crowd of barflies about that time he got his wang out and wiggled it at Queen Cersei. Sigh. There’s always one, isn’t there? So proud of it, and feels such a need to brag. Discretion is the better part of valour, gentlemen. And that doesn’t mean give it the nickname “Discretion” either, even if that is a very good nickname for it.
When this jester is later happened upon answering the call of nature by the Zombie Mountain, he manages a few errant tinkles on his colossal armour before the Mountain delivers the best review in the history of comedy - a sharp backwards shove into a brick wall.
Now, beloved Throners, my initial reaction to this violent meeting of brick and brain matter was a loud “WHOA!” followed quickly by a dissolve into giggles. For who amongst us has not wanted to throw a heckle this good? I implore you, Zombie Mountain, critique on! Can you take on name of Australian comedian deleted for legal reasons next?
Sadly Zombie Mountain has to leave his contributions to the Westeros entertainment industry for another day, as he is to accompany Cersei to Myrcella’s funeral. Unfortunately for the mourning Queen, the Lannister guards would not allow Cersei to leave the Red Keep, on King Tommen’s orders. There were about 15 guards and only one Zombie Mountain, and yet it was hilarious watching them all twitch at the slightest movement on the Zom’s part. He sure is one big half-dead intimidating murderer.
Inside the Sept of Baelor, Jaime presses his son/nephew (sophew?) Tommen on why he wouldn’t let Cersei attend. It turns out the High Sparrow told the young king that his mother would be refused entry, on pain of imprisonment, due to all that incest and sin and stuff. He also confesses that he feels guilty for not being able to save her and his wife Margaery from the nasty indulgences of the Faith Militant and the High Sparrow. The throne is his, but what has he done to deserve it? What kind of King can’t keep order in his own house?
Jaime of course is insistent Cersei will never be locked up while he’s around, and entreats Tommen to go and see her - a call that becomes more urgent after the Big Bird himself shows up. He explains that the reason for those creepy eye stones placed on every corpse in Westeros is to not fear death, and to embrace the life after.
A stand-off between Jaime and Big Bird soon arises, but the preacher has a secret weapon - poor, nameless, blindly faithful foot soldiers! You might kill me, he tells Jaime, and that’s fine, I deserve it. But religion, as it turns out, is like the Hydra - you cut off one head and three more obedient sheeple pop up in its place. Hail Hydra!
Meanwhile Tommen goes to apologise to his Mommie Dearest, who incidentally is looking rather modern with her chic pixie cut. She gives him the cold shoulder to begin with, literally turning her back on him and acting all distant and hurt. I dunno, maybe she is distant and hurt. But she is Cersei, and so it’s far more likely that she was just waiting for the inevitable grovelling apology. When it comes, she is invigorated. Hearing Tommen say lines like “I should have pulled the Sept down on the High Sparrow’s head before I let them do that to you” must have been a proud moment - that’s top notch Lannister vengeance speak right there. When he asks for her help in being strong, she embraces him. “Always,” she mutters, wrapping up her last remaining baby in her warm embrace. Tommen is home; but moreover, Cersei is home.
Home is looking a lot less secure for the gang of ne’er-do-wells in charge of Meereen. The rebellion against Daenarys is almost complete, with the Slavers taking back the cities of Astapor and Yunkai. Their fleet is now interesting ash patterns on the surface of the harbour, Dany herself has vanished, and her dragons are not eating. All in all, they live in Interesting Times.
Tyrion - He Who Drinks and Knows Things - decides to go on a little bunker reconnaissance mission to hashtag free the dragons. The look on Varys’ face as Tyrion took his brave first steps into the cellar was priceless. He may have been scared for Tyrion; he also may have been taking pity on Tyrion’s man curls.
Dragons, as it turns out, are perhaps more flame-y than cats, but both are difficult to wrangle. Tyrion manages to stave off fiery doom by regaling the draggies with a story about how he’d always wanted a pet dragon, and once entreated his father to get him a small one, just like him.
The bitterness in Tyrion’s voice as he told of how Tywin broke the news that the last dragon died a century before was just beautifully played.
Having gained some trust, Tyrion manages to slip the fastener free from the neck lock holding one of the dragons in chains. That prompts the other one to hint, hey, over here! Let me loose too! Which is something I COMPLETELY empathise with, given that you can’t pet one foster kitten without the others all clambering up and demanding their share. Honestly, life covered in kittens is hard people. It’s HARD.
So the dragons are unchained, but they’re not quite free yet. The door to their underground chamber seemed a tad small, so can we expect to see them blasting their way to the open air like Arnold Schwarzenegger blasted through bad guys in Commando? And by attempting to make their home a little more safe, has Tyrion inadvertently invited more destruction?
Arya appears to have finally gotten her groove back in Braavos. Despite another pitiful fighting attempt against The Waif (whom, by the way, it seems has no fans at all. Poor Waif. Have a sandwich), she is met by none other than Jaqen H’ghar, who seems to run her through a final test of whether she’s still clinging to her identity.
If a girl says her name he will feed her, let her inside the temple, restore her sight. Arya replies “A girl has no name” every time, seemingly confirming her willingness to renounce everything about her Stark life. But can it be for good? With Needle still hidden in rocks outside the House of Black and White, can she ever truly be at home in her new home?
As an aside, was it just me, or did Jaqen H’ghar have a little something sexy going on there? I used to think he was a massive creep, but wow, times have changed, even if that little Ginger Spice-style blond highlight hasn’t. He’s kind of mysterious and interesting. I’m also a cliche.
And so, with the rest of the episode neatly wrapped up, let us tie the bow. Let us talk all things Castle Black, and how the most successful career resurrection since Robert Downey Jr got off the smack and into the metal suit went down.
Jon Snow’s faithful friends, including the mighty and wonderful Ser Davos, vowed to fight the traitorous Night’s Watchmen who have them holed up at crossbow-point. As Ser Alliser Trump commands the door to Jon’s room be axed open, the Onion Knight and friends wait, swords drawn, to meet their doom. Did you notice Ghost’s growl at this point? It was the most chilling, other-wordly sound.
But just as the final axe blows landed, a door break of a different kind happened outside. With the heavy boom sounds, I got excited. It could only mean one thing - the HULK! I mean, the GIANT!
As our main man Tormund Giantsbane and the wildlings poured in like I would pour chocolate syrup over Jon Snow’s abs, some of the Black Brothers started dropping their weapons in defeat. When Giant Man responded to an arrow in the shoulder by grabbing the shooter and smashing him into the stone wall, the rest followed.
Seriously though, did you see that bit where the giant smashed that dude into the wall? Oh man, so good.
So in killing Jon Snow to stop the Wildlings from taking over Castle Black, Ser Alliser ended up guaranteeing it. However it wasn’t apparent if he truly appreciated that Valeryian irony, folded over and over. Now he gets to enjoy it from the comfort of a cell - along with Olly, who was very satisfyingly shut down when he attempted to go all stabby-stabby. Take THAT, you horrible metaphor for corrupted childhood.
Jon, of course, was dead through all of this, and Melisandre was busy moping in front of a fire, game face back on.
It was Ser Davos who approached her with the simple question - does the Lord Commander absolutely positively HAVE to be dead? Surely Kate Bush has some spooky dance/priestess powers that would bring him back? Maybe an acapella rendition of Wuthering Heights? “Jon Snow, it’s me, Meli, now come home, you’re so co-oh-oh-old”?
Mutter, mutter, grumble, grumble, went the Red Woman. It’s not possible, it may have happened somewhere else but shouldn’t have, everything she saw was a lie, she’s shit, blah blah blah. Honestly she sounds like someone I know - wait, me! When I’m having a bad day, I totally get into Melisandramatic moods. She probably just needs some fresh cream sponge cake and kitten time.
Anyway, Davos in this moment gets his Oprah on, telling Kate Bush “F* the gods! I’m asking the woman who showed me miracles exist,” which is not quite “You get a car!” but enough to convince Melisandre to give it a red hot go.
And so we are treated to the sight of Jon Snow, stripped to naked except for modesty slip of muslin, his “junk mound” (a phrase tweeted at me after today’s episode and one that I would now like to enshrine in recap lore) spectacularly visible.
Can you spot the junk mound? #junkmound
Under the watchful eye of Davos, Dolorous Edd (who acquitted himself marvellously in shutting down Ser Alliser’s stunt), Tormund and others, Melisandre washes his wounds, cuts off strands of his hair, then lays her palms on his chest and utters what we assume are holy words of the god R’hllor, or perhaps catchy new lyrics she’s working on.
She repeats the phrase a number of times, even drops in a desperate “please”, but with no effect. Gradually all of Jon’s friends leave the room, no doubt getting the funeral pyre reading for a bonfire and marshmell-Snow roast.
Eventually Davos is the last one remaining, but even he seems to give up.
You know who didn’t give up. ME.
And yeah, also Ghost.
I loved that Ghost stirred first. I desperately wanted it to happen that way, and I was so delighted when his red eyes opened and the hair on the back of his neck shifted.
We then cut to that face, that beautiful face, and watched as the eyes flung open. BAM! And he inhaled. GASP! And I fainted. THUMP! And then teared up. SOB!
Of course, this opens up a bunch of new questions. But for now, let us just celebrate.
He’s home, everyone. Jon Snow is home.
Yay! Best Moments
Clearly the very final few seconds in which Ghost stirred, then Jon Snow breathed his first.
But that literal comedy smackdown by the Zombie Mountain was pure genius.
Zing! Best Lines
“I’m here to help. Don’t eat the help.” Tyrion to the dragons.
“If I ever have another idea like that, punch me in the face.” Tyrion to Varys after leaving the dragons’ lair.
Ramsay obviously takes this one again, but I also want to send a big I’M VERY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU to the Karstarks and other northern lords who have abandoned the Starks and hooked up with the Flayed Men. OK, fine, Robb Stark cut off your Dad’s head but COME ON. Surely Ramsay Bolton is a sub-optimal option?
No Daenarys this week, but that’s probably understandable given her Vaes Dothrak storyline has the hallmarks of one that might need to be stretched out a tad.
There’s still no Littlefinger, but more importantly, where is Sam Tarly? I need to make sure he’s OK. For reasons that are entirely plot-related and not just because I may have a secret crush on him.
Thank you so much for joining me again this week. I can't wait to read your comments and thoughts, either here on the 'Burger, or via my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/nataliesthrone
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Valar Morghulis (except, in this case it seems, for Jon Snow!)