To paraphrase Joe Biden: Roose Bolton and Balon Greyjoy are dead, and Jon Snow is alive!
I think we all saw this coming. At this point, George R.R. Martin killing off major characters in shocking and abrupt fashion is a cliché unto itself, so resurrecting them in equally abrupt fashion (Only took two episodes!) seems the next obvious step. On top of that, Daenerys has three dragons, so that presumes two more dragon riders. The internet has been awash with rumors forever that Jon is actually a Targaryen — the product of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, the latter we also saw for the first time last night in Bran’s vision of the past. So had Jon stayed dead, there really wouldn’t be any other immediate candidates.
After all that talk by Melisandre about her lack of power, it felt a bit obligatory that she got Jon’s resurrection right on the first try. Though obviously she doesn’t know it yet. It seems like something that momentous should cost the characters more, but perhaps the other shoe is yet to drop for Melisandre and Jon both?
(Aside: As a friend of mine noted, Sunday was Easter for Orthodox Christians, and the show picked that night to resurrect a dude with a beard and a stab wound in his stomach. Coincidence?)
This episode also threw a ton of meat to another internet theory, that Tyrion is in fact the son of Rhaegar’s father, the Mad King, who may have raped Tywin’s wife. That would make him a Targaryen, and thus also a dragon rider. Tyrion’s hair-brained plot to make friendly with the beasts was impetuous, half-assed and highly dangerous compared to his usual scheming — based merely on some educated guess work from history books — and the kind of obvious way lesser characters die. (Honestly, the show heavily implied Tyrion was drunk.) Which made it fun to see how shaken Tyrion himself was even after the whole thing paid off and the dragon’s actually let him unshackle them.
Perhaps there’s more going on here than Westeros’ premiere schemer just getting lucky? And remember the farm boy Drogon burned and ate a season or two ago? Let’s hope the whole countryside outside of Meereen doesn’t pay for Tyrion’s gamble.
Such a jam-packed episode really should have felt breathtakingly exciting. But to be honest, there was a certain “thank God (or the Gods), we can finally get on with things” feel to it all. For five seasons now, the show has labored under Martin’s methodical pacing and mammoth world-building. That served the author well for the first three books, then things went off the rails in books four and five, as the plot lines splintered further apart rather than converging: Arya off in Bravos, Daenerys bogged down in Meereen, Cersei wasting away in the dungeons of the Sept, and Jaime doing god-knows-what. Finally, with no more written source material, and presumably free to adapt Martin’s mere sketches of what comes next, the show feels like a dog with a car to chase that’s suddenly been let off the leash — surging forward at almost uncontrolled speed.
Ramsey knifing his own father in the gut was a long time coming. Or at least one of them knifing the other in the gut — it wasn’t clear for a moment who was on which end of the blade. Ramsey’s future had hung on his capacity to provide an heir and on Roose’s good graces for at least a season. And his psychopathy has always operated in the bubble of protection afforded by his father’s power. So it will be interesting to see how well (or poorly) Ramsey performs now that he’s stepping out into the wider world on his own. (But really, HBO, couldn’t we have done the whole feeding-Walda-Frey-and-her-child-to-the-hounds business off screen?)
Meanwhile, Arya is already seemingly back in the trust of the Faceless Men, after making it clear she will give up not just her identity but her eyesight. So we’ve been spared (hopefully) from what looked like another season of Arya-in-training. Assuming she ever makes it back to Westerns, and Jon’s resuscitation sticks, what will these two make of each other now?
As for the Ironborn, Martin actually gave us a good bit of them in the fourth and fifth books, but David Benioff and D.B. Weiss shoved them aside to keep the show trimmed down. It was an understandable move. But it did lose us the Ironborn’s Drowned God and their Kingsmoot to choose Balon’s successor — some of Martin’s most fascinating ethnography. And Yara Greyjoy has always been one of the shows more unusual and sympathetic characters, despite being woefully underused. So having Balon get pitched off the bridge by his newly-introduced brother Yuron Greyjoy opens up another new front in the storytelling, and it’s encouraging to see Yara at the head of this new subplot.
The most interesting part of last night’s episode — appropriately titled “Home” — was the sense of returning to where we started from but with a new generation. And not just because we finally saw a very-far-into-puberty Bran under the tutelage of the Three-Eyed Raven (Hullo, Max Von Sydow!) going back in time to see his own birthplace and parents. It was more subtle than that: We met Tywin Lannister when he was already an ammoral powerbroker, but seeing sweet-natured Tommen go to Cersei and apologize for not slaughtering the Sparrows when he had the chance gives us a glimpse into how Tywin got that way. Surely the Lannister patriarch was a ruddy-cheeked and innocent youngster himself at one point. Moreover, we’re possibly seeing the new generation of dragon riders take shape. And, perhaps, seeing how Sansa turns into a version of her mother?
At any rate, the show is certainly freeing itself of the mire of books four and five as quickly as possible. Hopefully it doesn’t throw off the pacing of the first few seasons along with it. The slow burn is a great aspect of Game of Thrones, and there still seems far too much to get through to be done in just another season or two.