Welcome Back, Jon Snow
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The notion of home is a complex question, at odds with the simplicity of the verbiage itself. In patriarchal societies, as our world largely is lest anyone be blinded by the minimal progress we have made in gender equality, the home and the hearth is strongly associated with women. Women are heralded as the bearers of that domain but in that heraldry lies a strong espousal of misogynistic social constructs. It is notable in the second episode of season six that the premier’s establishment of females at the helm of the power struggles continues to pay off in spades. From the Dosh Khaleen in Vaes Dothrak to Brienne, women are rising to gain power as the men had largely crashed and burned Westeros into the ground, diving into their graves. Their rise to power is purposefully tied to their crushing of the sexist ideals that the home and hearth have tied to their perceived gender identity. When Brienne rode to save Sansa last week, the Bolton soldiers assumed she was a woman, much like how Roose Bolton assumed it was a man that had beheaded Stannis. The respect Khal Moro displayed for Daenerys after she revealed her widowhood was a respect rooted in a belief that women were inferior, that once a woman had lost her khal, she had no individual identity of her own. She had no home of being, no home of belonging and the only home she had was one where she had to lose her identity altogether. His apology in that vein for his threats of repeated rape weren’t made out of any notion that rape is criminal, it was made because he had accidentally gone against another sexist tradition. Melisandre’s shocker at the end of last week raised a vital question of how how much of women’s progression or regression can depend on what men perceive of their physical beauty, how much a woman’s worth is reduced by patriarchy to what they look like, as if they were entirely their bodies and their bodies as vessels carried nothing else but pleasure for men.
Home provides its most powerful moment to a woman and it is the moment that is the most pivotal despite the plethora of events that preceded it, the bringing home of a life when so much death had chaotically come before. Melisandre is sitting quietly by the fire, looking into the flames that for so long had been her home, her semblance of calm resolve disappearing into the quiet dust. Davos approaches her in quiet steps, looking upon the woman he had little love for but had grown a begrudging respect for her powers, her abilities. I doubt he knows about Shireen at this juncture, but when he looks upon her sitting in a pool of wallowing despair, he sees someone who shared an equivalent strength of belief within Stannis Baratheon and now is even further adrift than he was. He approaches her on that level of companionship, buoying her belief in herself that even she no longer had. She saw so much, she interpreted so much, but even when her interpretations proved to be wrong, she could believe. Stannis’s men abandoning his army was the first blow to her faith and her seeing Jon’s cold corpse lying upon the table sealed her belief that the Lord of Light had never spoken to her, that all of her grand visions and battles had been nothing but a lie. Knowing full well that Thoros was able to bring back Beric no less than seven times, that feeling of abandonment must have been digging at Melisandre even more. There was something she was doing wrong, there was something she lacked because the Lord of Light had yet to smile upon her as he had smiled soon the Red Priest of the Riverlands. “The Lord never spoke to me,” she said quietly, her voice betraying the depth of her isolation and abandonment. “Fuck him, then,” he notes quietly, but Melisandre cannot let the object of her faith go with such impunity. She would pour all of her power into that belief, given some confidence by Davos’s unshakable faith and her faith pays off.
Bran goes home in his first appearance since the end of season four. His powers have grown considerably and we continue the journey of the characters in the present traveling into the past. Cersei broke the tradition at the beginning of season five and Bran travels far to the past here, when Winterfell had not burnt, when the flag of the Stark sigil flew proudly in the frigid cold. A young Ned was dueling with the tinier Benjen under the tutelage of a handsome Ser Rodrick, already spilling the words that an adult Ned would say in the calmest of manners. A young Lyanna rides in on a horse, displaying all of those fiery and witty qualities the future Arya would have. Ned challenges Benjen to fight with Wyllis. Bran looks upon Wyllis with a smile of warmth, a young Hodor who could move but was taken away by Old Nan from fighting because he was a stable boy. Bran is filled with a consummate amount of joy, joy that threatened to drown out in ecstasy and the Three-Eyed Raven takes him back for how beautiful the waters beneath the sea may look, there is always the risk of drowning. Drowning often can occur in homecomings, as Balon discovers. Long a running joke amidst book readers who expected his demise to come in season three, Balon is informed by his daughter Yara that the Ironborn lost Deepwood Motte, their last stronghold on the mainland. Balon is as charming as ever, snarling that the Ironborn would keep on attacking (this man is like Josef Stalin in the dogma of throwing bodies at a war) and if Yara wasn’t careful, then he would just have another heir to take his place (something no one wants to imagine, to be sure). But he instead meets his brother Euron, who immediately establishes himself as a badass. “I am the storm,” he says quietly and Pilou Asbæk’s eyes narrow as Balon realizes far too late what’s happening. He had grown hold and Euron handily throws him off of the tumultuous bridge and down into the turbulent waters below.
The turbulence of the frozen waters at Castle Black are momentous in and of themselves as the wildlings come back to reclaim the home of Jon Snow for him. Thorne’s standoff with Davos goes about as well as one would expect, considering that there was little reason to suspect that he would actually be a decent enough human being to give the men he considered traitors safe passage out of the castle gates. Davos, ever the gallant man, apologizes to the defenders of Jon’s body for the violence that was to follow but as it turns out, Davos didn’t need to really worry about that subplot at all. Wun-Wun comes crashing through the gates and takes out the one Night’s Watchmen foolish enough to take him on by grabbing him by the leg, calmly smashing his head like a drag doll against the stones. The rebellion is quashed right there and the traitors who stabbed Jon Snow find new homes within the cells. The Faith Militant created cells of their own to house their enemies, be whatever magnitude of what the archaic religious fundamentalists assumed to be sinful, immoral. Cersei is imprisoned within her home by her son, refused permission to attend the funeral of her own daughter. Tommen has yet to fin his home within the corridors of power he was seated in after Joffrey’s murder and that lack of a home is eating away at him. Jaime suggests that he talk to his mother, who lacks a home herself despite being back within the palace where she had made a home for so long. Tommen’s talk with Cersei was a tender moment, even though the implications of Tommen finding a home from where to garner tutelage with Cersei is admittedly a troubling prospect. Jaime, meanwhile, tries to sabotage the High Sparrow, who is savvy enough to surround himself with people who would set upon Jamie if he struck him down. He would spill blood in the holy place of the sept, but the High Sparrow is concerned utmost of the place after death the Faith holds onto so tightly. The happenings of the now are highly relevant but in comparison they pale.
Meereen is a city that has never been a true home to any of our protagonists. Ser Barristan Selmy was completely out of place in the massive city of Slaver’s Bay. Jorah was banished to the tune of the forlorn dragon music Ramin Djawadi ought to be extremely proud of. Misnamed is an interpreter from Astapor and Grey Worm’s true home was amongst the ranks of the Unsullied for he had never known a better future. Daario himself was too much of a mercenary to be bogged down by a specific city. Daenerys’s misfortunes in Meereen are fairly self-explanatory; hell, Slaver’s Bay outside of Meereen had collapsed back into the rule of the Masters. Now the rule of Meereen largely falls to Tyrion and Varys, who are even more of outsiders in the great city than Missandei and Grey Worm. This is not their home, but they are at the very least stuck there until a larger fleet comes along but amidst the turmoil Tyrion is able to understand one vital thing Daenerys did not know. He loved reading about dragons as a child and he even asked for one for his birthday as a child. Tywin of course crushed his dreams with the knowledge that the smallest dragon that had survived had died out a century ago. Dragons were not, as Tyrion so drunkenly and eloquently explains, meant to be chained up in dungeons or anywhere else for that matter. The Targaryens tried to control their dragons by locking them up and that slowly led to their extinction. Tyrion talks to the dragons, keeping his fear in check as he opens their chains. Dungeons with chains were no proper home for a dragon. The ramifications of this decision ought to be suitably massive, considering how quickly the entire endeavor could simply collapse in a thousand fireballs of smoke.
It is fitting on that note perhaps that a bastard rises to power in Winterfell at the hands of his own justified paranoia while the true Bastard of Winterfell awakens in the cold depths of a room in Castle Black. Ramsay and a younger Lord Karstark are standing in front of a massively disappointed Roose. Winterfell was never the true home of the Boltons and it becomes instantly clear as Ramsay digs the knife deeply into his father’s chest, twisting it and ending one of the three hurdles that stood in the pathway of his ascendancy to power. Before that knife stabs him, however, Roose expresses his discontent at Sansa having successfully escaped and Ramsay’s idea of attacking a weakened Castle Black. He derisively notes Jon as being a bastard and that word reignites a sense of righteous fury underneath Ramsay’s feet. Once the deed is done and Michael McElhatton’s tremendous performance as Roose is no longer, the hounds come out for Walda and the baby. It’s slightly incredulous that Walda is walking around with a baby so soon after giving birth, but the dramatics are tightly controlled enough that it doesn’t register as a massive shock. It’s just massively unsettling, clawing at you until the scene thankfully shifts away. That unsettling time gnawing at you is what occurs in a similar, albeit less horrifying fashion, when Melisandre agrees to try and salvage Ser Davos’s faith in her ability. She slowly washes down the dried blood from Jon’s body, trying to find a home for her faith as she recited her spells in High Valyrian. She cuts off bits of his hair and tosses them into the flames like the leeches that gave her so much credence with Stannis Baratheon. She arrives back at the body, reciting the words again and again. For a moment, it looked like her spells had worked but alas, nothing. One by one everyone shuffles out of the room, none more dejectedly so than Melisandre herself. Ser Davos closes the door in his wake and the camera moves quietly towards Jon’s body and then Ghost sleeping quietly on the ground. The camera linger as Ghost wakes up slowly, turning his eyes towards his dead companion on the stone table. Slowly the camera shifts along with Ghost’s eyes, staring intently down upon Jon before he suddenly opened his eyes, gasping for breath as if her drowning. Jon is back home and the game has changed.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“My father never talked about her.”
+“You finally show me something I care about and then drag me away.”
+Gorgeous shot of Meera overlooking the landscape. Seeing her again was quite nice, especially with the knowledge that she has a vital role to play in the future.
+“I’m not much of a fighter, so apologies for what you’re about to see.”
+Tommen under the impression that Cersei killed Trystane in revenge for Myrcella
+“Yes, she would.” Sansa smiling at Arya not wearing lady clothes was such a great, small moment.
+Sansa and Theon’s good-bye was legitimately emotional
+“Oh, the gods won’t mind. They spill more blood than the rest of us combined.”
+“We are weak, vain creatures.”
+“Everyone of us is poor and powerless. And yet together, we can overthrow an empire.”
+The fallen Harpy
+“I drink and I know things.”
+“Don’t eat the help.”
+“Next time I have an idea like that, punch me in the face.”
+Umbers, Manderlys, Karstarks
+“I prefer being an only child.”
+“Where is your kingdom?”
+“I am the Drowned God.”
+“I am the storm, brother. The first storm and the last.”
+“I’m going to feed them to the sharks while they live.”
+“Everything I believed. The great victory I saw in the flames, all of it was a lie.”
Episode Title: Home
Written by: Dave Hill
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
Image Courtesy: Hitfix