Posted on Monday, May 2nd, 2016 by Jacob Hall
After last week’s patient season premiere, Game of Thrones launched itself into action with “Home,” a truly tremendous hour of television that reacted to last week’s careful table-setting by overturning the table entirely. Major characters died. Power structures were radically changed. And Jon Snow…well, that would be a spoiler. Let’s run down the most important stuff that happened, shall we?
Bran Visits the Past
In true Game of Thrones fashion, Bran Stark’s first psychic voyage to the past was all about laying the groundwork and setting the stage for something much Bigger and More Important. That didn’t minimize the pleasures of taking a peek at a much more pleasant time, though. Plus, seeing one of the Stark kids look legitimately happy for the first time in about five seasons was a nice change of pace.
Getting the chance to visit the Winterfell of a few decades ago and having the chance to spy on a young Eddard Stark and a few other long-dead characters was a wonderful moment, a respite from the bloodbath that is the rest of the “Home.” Most of the scene is slice-of-life stuff: young Ned trains with young Benjen while young Rodrik Cassel, whose beard hasn’t reached tying length yet and must settle for sideburns, looks on. The series even gives us our first look at Lyanna Stark, a figure who has been the subject of many conversations on the show, as her abduction by Rheagar Targaryen lights the fuse of Robert’s Rebellion. We even see Hodor back before he was simple-minded, back when he was a stableboy named Wylis.
But why do we see this? Why does Bran take a journey into a pleasant flashback with the help of the Three-Eyed Raven (now played by the legendary Max Von Sydow) when there are surely bigger fish to fry and bigger memories to observe? It’s simple, really – this season is going to find Bran visiting far more important moments in the history of Westeros and several definitive moments in the history of the Stark family. This sequence wasn’t just about re-introducing Bran, the Three-Eyed Raven, Hodor, Leaf, and Meera. It was about cleverly re-introducing Ned and Lyanna and Benjen and other characters whose full roles in past events haven’t been explored yet. If the scenes from the next episode are any indication, the pay-off to this table-setting will occur next week. Brace yourselves.
The Wildlings Take Castle Black
As the siege between the Night’s Watch mutineers and the men protecting Jon Snow’s dead body reached its climax, Edd arrived in the nick of time with a small army of wildlings, including Tormund and Wun-Wun the giant (who turns one member of the Watch into red paste against the side of the castle). And like that, the dynamics at at Castle Black have changed forever. The wildlings are in control of the best route to the far north, but they’ve acted in the interest of a “crow.” Alliser Thorne, who conspired to murder Jon in the first place, has been locked up. Now, the rest of the brothers in black can only look on as their home is occupied by the “enemy” they’ve been fighting against for as long as anyone can remember.
We do not see the immediate aftermath of this monumental event in “Home,” but the fact that it happened at all is huge. Jon’s alliance with Tormund has finally paid off, even if it came after his death. Thorne has finally got what’s been coming to him, although whether he’s forgiven or executed for his crimes remains unknown. And then there’s Olly, poor, stupid, traitorous, punchable little Olly, whose understandable rage against the Free Folk has been cancelled out by the fact that he was one of the many to plunge a dagger into the body of the Lord Commander. In a weird way, it’s actually a good thing that the wildlings are here. They have the numbers, the grit, and the determination to actually defend the realm. The Night’s Watch has never been more broken and their numbers never so low.
The Mountain Cleans Up
He may go by Ser Robert Strong, but his height and ferocity give him away to anyone who cares to take a second look. The newest member of the Kingsguard, the one whose “vow of silence” keeps him nice and quiet and whose helm hides a disfigured face, is Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, who returned to the world of the living after Qyburn spent an entire season experimenting on his dying body following that duel with Oberyn Martell. It’s not clear exactly what he is anymore (a reanimated corse? A medieval fantasy Frankenstein’s monster?), but it is clear that he takes orders from Cersei and Cersei alone…and that she has him doing all of her dirty work for her.
When the Mountain corners a random peasant who has been telling filthy tales of the Queen Mother’s walk of shame and turns his head into goo against the side of an alley wall, his role this season comes into crystal clear focus. Like the late King Joffrey cutting out the tongue of a bard who has been singing filthy songs about the royal family back in season one, Cersei isn’t going to tolerate dissent of any kind from commoners. She’s taking her conversation with Jaime in the season premiere seriously: “Fuck everyone who isn’t us.” And she has an unstoppable giant assassin willing to assist her in this matter. This moment was a small one, but it teaches us an important lesson: we need to fear “Ser Robert Strong.” After all, an entire team of Lannister guards flinch when he simply looks their way.