For me, “Home” is certainly the best early season episode since “The Lion and the Rose” from season 4, and arguably the best early season episode since the “Pilot.” Everything in this episode was as well executed as anything Game of Thrones ever provides the viewer, as usual. “Home” was a classic episode by every metric I can think of to evaluate the show.
One of the most rewarding aspects of Game of Thrones is the exceptional balance the series is able to strike between realism, mysticism, and what I’ve always hesitated to call “magic” (more on that later). Realism, bolstered by the strength and quality of the narrative content and character development, provides a grounding mechanism for the mysticism in the series, which is part of why it’s so easy to buy into the narrative. Furthermore, the presence of the mysticism and the characters lack of understanding of it make the instances of “magic” less outlandish than they likely would be in a lesser series. Just think back to how completely believable the first major act of “magic,” Dany emerging from Drogo’s funeral pyre with the newly hatched baby dragons, was. This is crucial, because the only way events like this pay off are if they significantly impact the characters. In short, Game of Thrones thankfully refrains from using magic tricks as a deus ex machina, to the writers and showrunners’ great credit.
It’s no coincidence therefore, that the characters all have a certain deference or respect for “magic.” No one, even Melisandre or Thoros, claims to be able to harnesses magic necessarily or wield it as a weapon in the way that say, a Jedi Knight can use the Force. Appropriately, humility was a major, if not central theme in this episode. In the first part of the sequence with the meeting of what I suppose we can call Dany’s Small Council, Tyrion is brashly overconfident as usual, and charmingly so. This set up the perfect counter-note to come in Tyrion’s scene with the dragons where he is accordingly humbled by power and ferocity of the creatures. It was a really nice scene highlighting how one builds trust with animals with a touching monologue about Tyrion asking for a dragon for his “nameday” as a small child. As always, the CGI on the dragons was spectacular.
What I find especially interesting about the High Sparrow is the ways in which he expertly uses humility as a weapon, not only rhetorically, but in terms of optics as well. The fantastic scene with he and Jaime in the sept is fascinating because it features a man, the High Sparrow, who basically makes a show out of humility, uses the most opulent setting available to him to make the most overt assertion of power he has to this point (at least rhetorically) when he tells Jaime he and his followers could “overthrow an empire.”
The humility theme is especially important, I believe, when you look at the final sequence of the episode. After the finale of last season and during the ensuing debate over the fate of Jon Snow, I harbored some fears that I expressed in this space that Jon Snow would return intact through some willful, fantastical act of “magic.” The reason that I’m fairly confident that will prove unfounded is the state of Melisandre as a character leading up to her apparently successful resurrection of Jon. In the wake of the debacle she orchestrated with Stannis and the ensuing crisis of faith she suffered, Melisandre was humbled before her god and her audience as it were, her powers and abilities stripped bare as was discussed in my previous post, and as the aforementioned High Sparrow repeatedly mentions. It’s an interesting dichotomy to me that Melisandre’s most impressive, audacious, and unlikely act, something she didn’t think she was capable of, was executed when she was at her lowest point and least confident. Knowing that, I’m interested to see if this will humble her further or simply re-embolden her and her claims of “powers.”
As for the sequence itself, it must be acknowledged, first of all, that it was wonderfully constructed, anchored by the initial “tell” that was Ghost inexplicably sleeping while all this heavy shit was going on. I daresay any fellow dog owner /screenwriters would agree with me that the only reason you would have a wolf/dog-like companion sleep at a time like this is because you, the filmmaker/storyteller are going to utilize him later, and that’s where the suspense came from for me. The bottom line of the conclusion for me is a fan is that I’m just glad Jon’s back; there’s only so many Stark deaths I can handle.