Every week this season, Indiewire will be bringing you a unique collection of viewpoints on “Game of Thrones,” as it is a show that elicits a unique sort of reactions. Our writers are, to varying degrees, well-versed in the world of the show and the culture surrounding it, and we look forward to seeing how their opinions fare in the cutthroat world of Westeros… Sorry, that is, the cutthroat world of television criticism.
So Jon Snow’s no longer dead! But other things happened, including Ramsey Snow murdering many family members, Bran Stark fully exploring his warg powers and Tyrion Lannister trying to become the surrogate father of dragons. We also got a glimpse at the previous generation of Starks, including an articulate Hodor! There were many families floundering this week, in the absence of loved ones — which is best prepared to win the ongoing battle for power? We’ll find out in future weeks… While also waiting to discover just what state Jon Snow is now in.
Eric Deggans’s Review
TV Critic, NPR (@deggans)
Count me among those most hopeless of “GOT” fans: people who somehow, someway, still root for the show to let the good guys win, at least sometimes. So it was a pleasure to find that the Internet seems to have gotten this one right, and Jon Snow is finally awakened from the dead – likely after his consciousness spent some time sitting inside his direwolf. It was a genuine “holy crap” moment where, for once, the absolute worst outcome didn’t befall someone who seems something of a hero. But, since the show essentially strung out Snow’s resurrection through the entire episode, we’re still left to wonder: Will they use him better now? Will we get a character whose actions and accomplishments warrant all this head-fakery and delay?
Aside from the Snow-surrection, the most captivating moment in this episode was Ramsay Bolton finally letting his inner sadist take flight against his family. Why his father couldn’t imagine that Ramsay might take him out to avoid being disowned or sidelined is tough to imagine. But watching Ramsay allow dogs to tear his newborn brother to bits took the character to new depths as a villain – in the best way possible. Still, I fear a pattern is being set by this season, in which episodes are mostly filled with “table setting” scenes to move various plotlines along, with jolting moments placed midway through the episode and at the end to get the social media mavens buzzing. Perhaps it’s time for “Game of Thrones” to worry less about catching us up with every character who is in play – this week, for instance, we got a taste of Bran Stark’s circumstances and no Daenerys – and focus a bit more time on a select number of plots which can be explored substantially and meaningfully. Starting, of course, with everyone’s favorite, frizzy-haired hero.
Jay Bushman’s Review
Award-Winning Multiplatform Writer/Producer (@jaybushman)
I’m so glad we finally got Jon’s resurrection out of the way and can finally dispense with all the PR kabuki. Even with gaining one on the table, this episode was particularly bloodthirsty. I’ve never really agreed with the complaints about all the ways the show chooses to depict Ramsay being eeeeevil, but even I’m not sure we needed that kennel scene.
Apart from the Ramsay overkill, there were so many exciting moments this week that thrilled, and most of them were small ones. First, getting a glimpse of past Winterfell through Bran’s flashback feels huge. Lyanna Stark has loomed so largely over the history of this world, and it was great to finally get to see her, as well as young and verbal Hodor, Old Nan, and Roderik Cassel just starting his sideburns. Also, there was Sansa, learning Arya is alive. Tyrion, touching the dragons. Tommen asking Cersei to help him become a real Lannister.
On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure why Theon thinks going back to the Iron Islands is a good idea; that feels like the show moving pieces where it needs them. Especially since things are finally moving in Pyke again, with Balon’s long-overdue death––it’s been several seasons since Melisandre’s routine with the leeches-in-the-fire that presaged Joffrey’s and Robb’s deaths, and having Balon hanging out there was a weird flaw in the Red God’s magical powers. Then again, as we saw at the end of the episode, sometimes R’hllor’s work takes a minute to set in.
Sarah Mesle’s Review
Senior Humanities Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books (@sunsetandecho)
C’mon now: this was some good “Game of Thrones”! I am hugely impressed that “Home” managed to wrangle a suspenseful and even moving resurrection scene out of last season’s faux cliffhanger. I’d spent all year being irritated about how over-determined Jon Snow’s “death” felt; I’d dreaded the screen time we’d have to spend on it this season. There seemed to be no good storytelling options available: leaving Jon dead would kill too much of our interest in the story, while letting Melisandre bring him back would, I thought, feel like a cheap ploy. Melisandre has always been such a flat character, and I worried that evoking her magic here would just be an invitation to indulge her one-dimensional plotlines. But this was great! It was great because of the show’s willingness to make Melisandre human, and to let Jon’s resurrection be as much about Melisandre’s own experience, and about her relationship with Davos, as it was about Jon. We have Jon back now — and what’s more, we have a dynamic and character-rich world for him to re-enter.
And Jon’s quivering awakening was just one of this show’s many riveting moments: this episode was full of them, from the giant’s fantastic smash-bang of the traitorous Night’s Watch archer, to the camera’s careful attention to Cersei’s fingers sewing the cuff of her own sleeve, to the elegant stretch of the dragon’s neck as it offered itself to Tyrion’s aid. I’m a little concerned about what’s going to happen to poor Theon, and I’m not terribly eager to see what new varieties of sadism Ramsey gets up to now that he’s a patricide on top of just being a dick. But let’s not look a gift episode in the mouth: in concept and execution, “Home” was the best “Game of Thrones” we’ve had in a long time.
Hanh Nguyen’s Review
Contributor: The Hollywood Reporter, LA Weekly, GameSpot, Tech Republic (@hanhonymous)
Well, that resurrection was easy and anticlimactic. I never doubted Jon Snow would return, and I’m just glad the hype and misdirection is over with. This was a stronger episode than the premiere, mainly because it put into motion a grand convergence at The Wall with Sansa & Co. and the new Lord Bolton seeking Jon. Speaking of the former bastard, Ramsay provided the other most discussed scene of the night when he fed his dogs “good meat” yet again. We’ve known that he’s hunted live humans before, but more than hinting at the horror, this time he seemed to have crossed a line deliberately. I feel that “Game of Thrones” is manipulating viewers to abhor Ramsay more than usual, probably to kill him off in a grisly (and by my theory, fitting) way.
We also delved into the past, first with Bran’s flashback vision that laid the groundwork for the R+L = J theory and, to my delight, everybody’s favorite stableboy Hodor. If we learn what changed him and that he indeed has giant’s blood, that could have implications for the wildlings and the war. Through Tyrion’s always heartbreaking storytelling, we also learned of his childhood dreams of being a tiny Targaryen… and it appears he actually has Dragon Whispering. Game of Thrones, do NOT tease me about possibly seeing Tyrion a-dragonback. The Imp must fly!
I have yet to care about Cersei’s hatchetman, Arya’s training, or anything Pyke, but at least there were no infuriating Sand Snakes!
This one may not have been a total game-changer, but did include enough important moments to make us excited for what’s to come — especially given the fact that we don’t know exactly what’s in store for Jon Snow. And hey, dragons!
Final Grade: B+
“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO. Coming next week…