Game of Thrones 6×02 ‘Home’: Back from the grave

GoT 6x02 Cover

Game of Thrones is a miserable show.  It’s a show that I have always had a tough time with, not just because it’s bleak, but because of the tone of the show.  It seems to take glee in its brutality, but more than that, it seems to position this brutality as a part of existence.  It’s the same way that The Walking Dead seems to preach it’s own brutality as truth, which is somewhat facetious, even when depicting something resembling an anarchical state.  Horrible things happen, and these things are more horrible than we can imagine, but are they this bad?  Are they?  Especially in a place like Westeros that does have a government?  And if they are this bad, why take this tone that, frankly, is a little condescending?

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

It also begs the question: How much of my analysis is impacted by the way that I want to stay distanced from horror?  The scene that prompts my reaction is when Ramsay feeds Lady Walda and her baby to his dogs, and you get an audio clip of them screaming as they’re torn apart.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been so distasteful if Ramsay didn’t utter that stupid, stupid line (“I prefer to be an only child”), but I do wonder how much of this we as the viewers need to see.  Why not just have Lady Walda disappear and imply her death?  But…why shy away from horror when the show so directly discusses the way that governments inflict horror onto people? It’s a delicate balance, and one that the show doesn’t really know how to handle.  Shock value and exploitation is a tactic that Game of Thrones has used since Season 1, so it’s difficult to justify it trying to do anything different.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

Despite this criticism, “Home” was actually one of the cheerier episodes of Game of Thrones, if only for the ending (JON SNOW IS ALIVE!!!!!!!!) and maybe that one scene where Zombie Clegane smashes that man’s face against the wall (which was glorious).  Much of this cheerier tone comes from the idea of people overthrowing power structures that have oppressed them (even though some of this overthrowing is doing more harm than good).  The dragons are unchained by Tyrion, who knows that they’ll starve if they live in captivity.  Cersei begins to flex her new power now that she has Zombie Clegane at her disposal.  Arya answers Jaqen’s questions correctly and is allowed to come back with him.  And, of course, Jon is able to overcome the mutiny and the dark political history of the north, as he is resurrected from the dead and Alliser is imprisoned for his actions.  There are some real triumphs in this episode, as people finally begin to overthrow authority that they don’t deem inclusive to them.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

However, some of this authority is overthrown by those who have perverted power for their own gains.  Once he learns that his power is threatened by a new child, Ramsay kills Roose Bolton and slaughters Lady Walda and the baby, essentially consolidating power all for himself.  In King’s Landing, the Sparrows continue to exercise increasing control over the Lannisters, keeping Cersei from Myrcella’s funeral and threatening Jamie when he thinks he sees an opportunity to threaten the High Sparrow.  Euron (a new character that I forgot was in the books, and somebody who I don’t think the show even bothers to name), kills Balon Greyjoy and opens up a power struggle within the Iron Islands.  This speaks to the cycle of governmental change within countries and territories, the way that some people long for something better, some want  something better only for themselves, and most people want somewhere between the two.  There is no perfect system, and government inevitably breaks itself because of the changing landscape of human development.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

On purely a thematic level, most of this is fantastic.  But there is a LOT of plot to cover, and it can make storylines like Bran or the Greyjoys kind of difficult to grab onto.  In the 110 minutes of television over these first two episodes, Daenerys got maybe 4 minutes of screen time, Tyrion maybe 6.  Benioff and Weiss tackle this massive undertaking with a fairly masterful brushstroke, but it still can’t help but make some storylines feel more tangential than others.  Who knows how the Greyjoys will fit into the struggle in the North?  Who knows how Bran fits into the battle against the White Walkers?  Who knows how Arya’s training will impact the broad scope of the series?  It’s great to get these personal stories, but they need to have some connection to the overall story.  While I’m sure Benioff and Weiss are playing a long game, it can be tough to latch on in the meantime.

But man, watching Roose die, watching Jon Snow come back…it is an immensely exciting time to watch Game of Thrones.  Things are happening that are pushing towards the endgame, and while their importance isn’t apparent yet, it’s certainly coming this season.  While Season 5 was one that dragged because the show was stalling and moving pieces around the board, Season 6 is starting to finalize this process, positioning everything for a climactic showdown.  And if these climaxes are anywhere as good as Hardhome, I’m willing to stick through some of these more plodding moments.

What did you think of “Home”?  Did it live up to your expectations?  What major character is going to be the next to go?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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