Game of Thrones

HBO's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' TV Show

Episodes

EP602: Home

Written by Dave Hill
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa
IMDB

Bran trains with the Three-Eyed Raven. Jaime advises Tommen. Tyrion demands good news but has to make his own. The Night’s Watch stands behind Thorne. Ramsay Bolton proposes a plan. Balon Greyjoy entertains other proposals.



Index

Analysis

The second episode does not suffer from the same structural flaws as the first one; there are fewer storylines and though two of them feature a number of individual scenes, these are at least kept together so that one transitions into the next and creates a sense of cohesion. An intriguing opening draws the viewer in, even though the contents of Bran’s first vision of the past are relatively tame save for the revelation that Hodor was once a normal stableboy whose name was Wylis (yet another of the show’s perplexing name changes due to similarities; in the books, his true name is Walder). There’s a typical Thrones-style shocker in the latter half of the episode, as Ramsay gets rid of his father, step-mother and newborn half-brother, but the biggest moment is saved for the very end as we get to the rather unsurprising resurrection of Jon Snow.

Between the visit to the past, the slaughter in Winterfell and Jon’s return, the episode certainly does not lack attention-grabbing material, but it is unfortunate that such moments have a tendency to mask problems with these scenes themselves and with other scenes. While this episode does not feature anything as nonsensical as the Dornish assassinations of last week, it does show underscore a growing problem with how storylines are advanced: things are made to happen rather than occurring out of organic growth towards them.

The worst offender in this regard is the lead-up to the resurrection of Jon. The storyline conveniently glosses over questions such as why the men with Jon’s body appear so attached to his quite dead body (and in retrospect, one can wonder why Thorne simply left it lying around after the murder, if there was a concern about the body being used as a symbol). However, one might not have noticed that hand-waving if it was not for the strangeness of concluding the matter (once the mutineers are in custody) by having Davos approach Melisandre to ask her if she knows of a way to resurrect Jon. Given that Davos is the one who in the first episode tells Melisandre that Jon is definitely dead when she mentions her visions of him at Winterfell, it seems like quite a sudden reversal for him to now push for a magical solution. But because they decided to have Melisandre caught in a crisis of faith, they needed someone else to tell her to make the attempt, and so Davos was co-opted for this. To me this is evidence of them stitching together the storyline in a rather hap-hazard way.

It also seems to indicate a certain haste (while this is pure speculation, I don’t expect Jon to be resurrected until well into The Winds of Winter rather than early on), and this may also be evidenced by the streamlining of the Bolton storyline by killing off Roose, Walda and their child. Granted, I’ve speculated that Roose may be dead in the books by the time that Ramsay writes the “Pink Letter”, so it is probably not too early as such. However, I am concerned that it is also a way to up the Ramsay screentime even further, as it appears the writers have decided that we need a central villain that gets plenty of exposure.

King’s Landing centres around the Lannister family dynamics. Tommen has prevented Cersei from attending Myrcella’s funeral out of fear for her safety and he has avoided speaking to her because he feels ashamed for not protecting her. At the same time, he apparently holds no illusions about what Cersei is capable of as he assumed that she had Trystane killed. Jaime is the one who tries to protest, but he too seems to believe it is very plausible. And even though Tommen knows this about Cersei, he goes to her and asks for her help to be a strong ruler. I find it hard to reconcile these two statements of Tommen’s, but clearly the writers wanted a tearful scene between mother and son. King’s Landing also contains a confrontation between the High Sparrow and Jaime, which does include some rather Jaime-like lines. I am starting to worry about these lectures from the High Sparrow, however, and I hope they won’t become one of those elements that they insist on revisiting too many times.

Another such example would be Tyrion being funny (or rather, attempting to have fun with his more dour companions), which appears to be a necessary ingredient for a scene in Meereen. I am finding myself increasingly bored with Dinklage’s performance and even when he goes to see the dragons and delivers a moving speech about how he wanted a dragon as a child, there’s just something lacking from how he comes across. The dragons themselves are, of course, as magnificent as ever and I do continue to be awed by the production side of the show. 

The final storyline worth a more detailed mentioned (Aryas simply consists of a follow-up to last week’s scene and these two could easily have been reduced to one) is the Iron Isles. Patrick Malahide’s Balon Greyjoy is a sour, unpleasant man, just the way he should be, but unfortunately the introduction of his brother Euron leaves something to be desired. It is a wonderfully staged scene, a meeting amidst a storm on one of the precarious rope bridges of Pyke, but the first impressions of Pilou Asbæk’s Euron were a touch underwhelming, and while they used lines from the novels their context has been changed considerably. The Iron Isles segment concludes with Balon’s burial and Asha learning she cannot simply claim the Salt Throne (what was wrong with the Seastone Chair?) but that a Kingsmoot is needed.

Overall, the episode holds together pretty well as an episode, but some elements feel rushed and happen because of forced character motivations. If this season keeps speeding along in the same fashion as the first two episodes, HBO will clearly have to settle for the amount of episodes the showrunners want to give them, as they seem determined to wrap matters up as quickly as possible.

Book to Screen

Inspired by the Books

  • Bran: Bran’s vision of Winterfell during Eddard’s childhood is inspired—but not directly drawn from—the novels. The key differences are that while Bran does see his father and other kinsmen, all of his visions are scenes that happened in the godswood of Winterfell within sight of the heart tree because it’s through the tree that he can “see”.
  • The North: Ramsay speaking of attacking the Night’s Watch and killing Jon Snow draws from A Dance with Dragons.
  • Meereen: Astapor coming under the control of the masters of Slaver’s Bay is an event that takes place in A Dance with Dragons, as is the Yunkai’i preparing to raise arms against Daenerys. Tyrion’s recollection of having asked for a dragon when he was young is also taken almost verbatim from the same novel.
  • The Iron Islands: Deepwood Motte is lost to the ironborn in A Dance with Dragons, but taken by Stannis Baratheon and his host and Northern supporters. Balon is indeed assassinated in the novels, thrown off a rope bridge. Some of Euron’s dialog is directly from A Feast for Crows. Balon’s assassin in the novels is strongly implied to be a Faceless Man hired by Euron.
  • Braavos: Arya’s blindness is from the novels, and it is combined with a period in which she wears the face of an ugly little beggar girl. She does practice fighting while blind, as shown last season as well, but those lessons are always in the House of Black and White.

Possible Developments in Future Books

  • the Wall: That the wildlings may have a role in re-establishing order at the Wall seems plausible, given Tormund Giantsbane’s friendship with Jon Snow and the presence of himself and a number of other wildlings chieftains and warriors in Castle Black. If Jon Snow is dead in the novels—as seems very likely—then the wide speculation is that he will be resurrected in some manner. However, the manner of resurrection as imagined by fans is a topic of debate, and it’s unclear if it will be as straightforward as Melisandre bringing him back with a simple ceremony.
  • King’s Landing: It is at least somewhat plausible that Cersei will use Ser Robert Strong to revenge herself against those who’ve wronged her, in her own eyes. That said, there’s no sign that she will send him after nameless commoners who mocked her during her walk.
  • The North: It seems very probable in the novels that Ramsay will kill his father, or at least to do so, given the dynamics between the characters in A Dance with Dragons. It’s also possible that at some point in the novels, Sansa will learn that Arya escaped King’s Landing alive, although whether Brienne will be the source of this information or not is unknown. Finally, the novels set up the possibility of Theon having some role in events on the Iron Islands, although it is unclear whether it will really happen or not.
  • Meereen: There is a deal of speculation that Tyrion, potentially half-Targaryen if theories about his parentage are true, might have an affinity for dragons thanks to his blood. The show appears to be downplaying that angle, but his getting along with them could be a nod in that direction.

Entirely Different

  • Bran: In the novels, Hodor’s real name is Walder, not Wylis. This change is probably in keeping with the show’s habit of avoiding duplicate or even very similar names.
  • King’s Landing: Tommen is much younger in the books, and is unlikely to try and command any decisive actions against the Faith or anyone else, for that matter.
  • Meereen: At the end of A Dance with Dragons, both Viserion and Rhaegal are loose in the city of Meereen, having escaped their captivity following an attempt to steal them. While Martin has remarked that dragons may be intelligent, it is not a human intelligence, and it’s unlikely any maesters would argue they were more intelligent than men.
  • Braavos: Arya is no longer blind in the novels when she spends time as a beggar, and in that case her disguise was due to a specific task set before her. The show has combined elements to make something new, and rather different. The waif in the novels does not spend time attacking or sparring Arya, as well; it is the kindly man (in a role now filled by Jaqen) who would do that.
  • The North: In the novels, Lord Karstark’s execution leaves Karhold without a confirmed lord, his heir a prisoner of the Lannisters and his uncle acting as castellan. The TV show has killed Karstark’s sons and appears to have ignored the existence of a daughter, Alys, that plays a role in events in A Dance with Dragons. The present Karstark might represent Eddard Karstark—killed in A Game of Thrones along with his brother Torrehn, but not mentioned as dead on the show—although is named Harald according to casting notices. Finally, Roose Bolton refers to Ramsay as his “first born” child, which is a deviation from the novels where Roose had an adult son named Domeric who died under mysterious circumstances after striking up a relationship with his father’s bastard son. Domeric is mentioned in the show, but appears to have been turned into Roose’s second-born son.
  • The Iron Islands: In the novels, Asha Greyjoy is captured by Stannis’s forces when Deepwood Motte falls. The “Salt Throne” is an invention of the show—the Greyjoys rule from the Seastone Chair—doubtless to more easily identify it as a royal seat along the lines of the Iron Throne. Finally, an unknown person insists on the kingmoot as a legal requirement, but in the novels the kingsmoot is an old, dead tradition that Aeron Damphair insists upon.

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