Home

“Fuck him then. Fuck all of them. I’m not a devout man, obviously. Seven Gods, Drowned Gods, Tree Gods. It’s all the same.” – Ser Davos Seaworth

jaime
If you were wondering who has the power in this scene, may I direct you to the big bright religious symbol dominating the frame?

Ser Davos says this to Melisandre to rouse her from despondency as he tries to convince her to resurrect Jon Snow. She’s on the verge of despair as she tells Davos that the Lord never spoke to her and that her visions were a lie. But while Melisandre may have lost her faith in her religion, Davos has not lost faith in her. With good reason, too – as he reminds her, he’s seen her do things that have left him awestruck, things that no mere mortal should have any right to do, things that no god has done.

His appeal seems to do the trick. And while these lines are primarily a motivational tactic designed to stir Mel into action, they present a view of religion that the show itself seems to support. Throughout the course of the narrative, the ways in which the various religious factions in the Seven Kingdoms and beyond interact and intersect have become increasingly significant and constitute one of the major thematic concerns of the story. The way that Game of Thrones portrays religion, especially in this episode, lends credence to Davos’ position and seems to suggest that the Onion Knight may be on to something.

“Home” gives us a glimpse at several of the major religions of Westeros and the episode adopts a range of techniques to underline the inherent similarities between them. It’s apparent from the start: we’re given our first look at the powers associated with the Children of the Forest and, by extension the Old Gods, as we see Bran and the Three-Eyed Crow observing a scene from the past in the Winterfell courtyard. As Bloodraven forces them to re-emerge back in ‘reality’ in the cave, it’s worth pausing on what he says after Bran moans at him for not allowing them to stay longer:

It is beautiful beneath the sea; but if you stay too long, you’ll drown.”

It’s a neat way of expressing for the process and dangers of warging [as well as potentially foreshadowing the reason behind why Jon will be so changed – Bran and Jon both wake up and open their eyes in this episode] and acts as a cautionary metaphor for becoming swallowed up by your memories. After all, this is a story obsessed with the significance of the past – like most tragedies, the inciting incident is a death that occurs off-screen before the narrative begins, and we’re left watching everyone pick up the pieces. In an episode where we’re re-introduced to the existence of the Drowned God, the reference to drowning is especially noteworthy. As Balon Greyjoy’s body is floated out to sea, we see the burial ritual and funeral rites of the Ironborn. The shared terminology ties the two religions together despite the vast gulf in geographical location.

What’s perhaps more interesting is that Bloodraven’s analogy is reflected in Euron Greyjoy’s exclamation to his brother that he is “the Drowned God”. Bookreaders have postulated a connection between Euron and Bloodraven [centred around their shared iconography, including Euron’s personal sigil euron_greyjoy_wallpaper_by_siriuscrane-d8x9hpband his nickname of Crow’s Eye; references to Euron opening his ‘third eye’, and the description of a dream that recalls one that Bran had in AGoT], so if it ends up playing out that way, this could end up being a hint towards that connection.

Next, we have the extended confrontation between Jaime and the High Sparrow in the Sept Baelor. The scene opens on a shot of Myrcella lying in state with the funeral stones covering her eyes. It’s a striking image, and one that anticipates and prepares us for the final shot of the entire episode. Both Myrcella and Jon have their pallid bodies laid out on display with their eyes open: one metaphorical, the other literal. It’s a parallel that’s underscored by the High Sparrow’s explanation of the stones – that they’re there to serve as a reminder that as we close our eyes on one life, we open them on another, pointing us towards the idea that Jon’s resurrection is going to serve as a second life for him.

myrcella2jpgjonmyrcellajon2

The way the Sparrow describes his followers as people with “no names, no family, poor and powerless” also has a touch of the Faceless Men about it. Later in the episode, Arya is questioned by both the Waif and Jaqen [Are they the same person? Who even knows at this point.] about her identity and it’s easy to see the way the two vastly disparate belief systems share some principles – that being nobody has its own power.

Similarly, we have Melisandre’s resurrection ritual, which is eerily reminiscent of the way we saw Arya preparing the bodies in the House of Black and White last season. Both tenderly wash the flesh and clean the hair of the deceased, use the same tools and both are shot in similar ways. They even share similar musical scores [I think, admittedly I don’t have a great ear for these things], another way in which the show presents the similarities between different beliefs.

Thefour different religions we see are portrayed as having distinct similarities through shared terminology, imagery, musical scores and conceptions of the afterlife. But so what? What conclusions can we draw from this cross-pollination of religious beliefs? Although Davos’ view that they’re all ultimately the same is a dismissive one, there’s an interpretation that the text itself offers that is potentially more useful.

Jaqen H’ghar introduces Arya to a similar notion when he is explaining the Faceless Men to her. He states that there is only one god and that is death, reflecting the idea that all religions have a representation of darkness and death as part of their iconography.

In the light of ‘Home’, their belief that the different religions of the world are all underpinned by the same shared figure of a god of death and are therefore just various manifestations of the same thing seems all the more plausible. This is especially true considering that the similarities we see in this episode revolve around the way each religion prepares their dead for the afterlife: Melisandre and the Faceless Men washing hair; Myrcella and Jon laid out on a table with a focus on their eyes; Balon having his faced covered by seaweed before being floated out recalling the eyestones of the Seven – these are essentially the same process and being unified in their treatment of the dead might just suggest that the one true god is the god of death.

balon2
Balon getting a pretty intense facial

Melisandre’s arc in the first few episodes of this season has turned into a quiet, thoughtful meditation on the nature of faith and what happens when someone’s relationship to a fundamental part of their identity is called into question. Carice van Houten has added depth and range to a character that has always been haughtily removed from us. It’s jarring to see her teary-eyed, thousand yard stare as she’s huddled in front of the fire with the fur wrapped around her shoulders and it helps develop a sense of doubt over whether her attempt to bring Jon back will be successful. This sense of doubt is balanced out by the fact that we see Balon snuff it just before, confirming her power by killing off the last survivor of her leech curse. Combined with the fact that she’s back in her red robes and the inspiring theme playing in the background [we’ll come back to that] encourages us to believe that her magic is going to work. When it seems like it fails, our inflated expectations make the anticlimax sting even more.

Jon only returns once Mel had given up her incantation and begged for it to work, hopelessly muttering “please” under her breath.That’s noteworthy.The Lord of Light likes to operate in these moments of sincerity and true grief it seems, once the showmanship and pretense has completely evaporated. It’s how it worked for Thoros and Beric and the link between the situations seems clearer than ever: Mel explicitly mentions her meeting with the Brotherhood Without Banners to Davos. It’s a meeting that doesn’t take place in the books, so its inclusion in the show flagged up its importance and now its relevance is evident.

Tidbits:

  • Suddenly all the preoccupation with the state of Kit Harington’s hair in the off-season makes sense. It looked like quite a relaxing way of having your haircut in fairness, might have to find a Shadowbinder next time I need a trim.

  • In the previous episode, I mentioned how it seems like a lot of characters were in a position where they were revisiting the past. This is made literal this week with Brand and his warging, taking us back to an earlier point in this story. This scene also recalls a scene in the Winterfell courtyard from Season One, so in a sense the show is going back to the start as well.
  • How fitting that Roose dies in a similar manner to the way he killed Robb Stark – stabbed in the heart by someone you trust in a moment of vulnerability. Desperately sad that the Bolt-On theory is toast now, though. 😦

  • The Rooster did warn Ramsay that if he continues to act like a “mad dog” that he’d end up being dealt with like one. Ramsay is frequently associated with dogs, and they sort of work as an emblem of the animalistic rage and cruelty bubbling under a potentially restrained and civil surface. You see this with the way the dogs switch from calm to ferocious at his signal during his scene in kennels with Walda and his newborn brother. That’s Ramsay in a nutshell, really.

  • The new Lord Bolton shows his naivety a bit with his characterisation of the remaining forces at Castle Black as “farm boys and thieves”. Last time I checked, they had a band of Wildlings, a giant and an undead Lord Commander. That arrogant oversight could be his downfall.

  • In sprawling narratives with big ensemble casts, one of the best ways to create a sense of cohesion is to find ways to mirror and reflect aspects of one storyline in other seemingly unconnected strands of the story. There’s plenty of that going on here:

      • Wun Wun and Ser Robert Strong going fullblown HULKSMASH on some puny idiots in back to back scenes is clearly supposed to draw a comparison between the strength of both these behemoths. Wun Wun only smashes the Night’s Watchman after he shoots him with a crossbow bolt, whereas Strong pulverises the mouthy drunkard for slandering Cersei in public. This distinction serves to highlight the petty and unhinged nature of the Mountain, as well as indicating that the giant isn’t just a mindless beast.

      • Contrast the cartoony splat-violence of these two supernatural figures with the more visceral, gruesome violence inflicted by Ramsay and Euron in the episode. Humans are the greatest monsters of all in Westeros and the show finds a way of communicating that.
      • “I am Lord Bolton/The Drowned God/The Storm” – both Ramsay and Euron have these bold declarative assertions using the same sentence structure. Both of them are kinslaying usurpers who kill their brothers to consolidate their own position. I’m not sure that the connection goes any deeper than that, but the parallel use of similar words implicitly ties the two together, and signals to the audience that Euron is probably bad news.

        ramsay
        Do not let this man take your dogs for a walk
  • Hearing the metallic ping of the mouthy drunkard pissing on Ser Robert Strong’s shinguards was a solid comedy moment. You can see it coming a mile off, but it still makes me laugh.

  • Actually, there was a lot of great sound design/ musical choices in the episode. It’s a showcase of the multitude of ways you can use a score to create and deflate tension. A few examples:

      • In the showdown between the Lannister guards and Cersei and her King’s Guard, the score builds ominously in the background, ramping up the tension as the situation escalates to the point where the music is loud and conflict seems inevitable… and then Cersei decides to back off and the score drops away, reflecting the palpable sense of relief for the soldiers.

      • Contrast that with Tyrion’s venture into Viserion and Rhaegal’s enclosure. There’s no background score at all; the only sounds are the crackling of the torch, the echoing footsteps of Tyrion and the low thrum of the dragon’s snarls. The lack of background noise helps to create a sense of isolation and reflects the feeling of being exposed. The result is equally as tense as the Cersei situation, but it’s achieved in a different way.

        tyrion
        Hello darkness my old friend

         

      • Finally, at the end of the episode, Mel’s theme rises in strength and volume as she forcefully repeats the words of her ritual. As it builds and builds, it creates the expectation of a moment of triumph. We reach the crescendo and then nothing occurs. The musically abruptly fades away and we’re left with silence. The sound reflects and manipulates our emotions during this pivotal scene, and it’s an effective example of how evocative music can be.

  • Theon’s conversation with Sansa is a pretty on the nose reference to the episode’s title, as he tells her he intends to leave her in Pod and Brienne’s capable hands while he heads back to the Iron Islands[Or perhaps not. The cut to Pyke could be misleading – Winterfell was his home for just as long…]. He’s not the only Greyjoy to be returning to the nest though. The title has a range of other applications throughout as we see a range of homecomings of different sorts: Tommen finally visits his mother and they’re reunited after he implores her to help him be strong [please don’t be Joffrey 2.0]; Arya is offered the chance to regain her eyesight, have some food and a roof over her head if she admits her name but she rejects this opportunity to essentially reclaim her home; Bran sees a vision of his father in his family home and, of course, we have Jon returning ‘home’ to the land of living from whatever purgatorial post-life existence he’s just been experiencing. What exactly ‘home’ is, and its relationship with ideas of family and history and lineage, is central to several stories in the show. No more so than with Daenerys, whose entire plotline revolves around her returning home to Westeros to reclaim her perceived birthright. Her absence from this episode is a little strange.

  • Carrying on last week, this episode made effective use of lighting on the sets at the Wall. The way they manage to light different characters in either red or blue tinted lights helps to establish binaries and plays nicely into the ice/fire theme of the story. I really enjoyed this shot, showing the vast contrast between Jon and Tormund. Jon is very clearly dead here.

    tormund

  • The show continues to do a solid job of visually communicating Arya’s blindness during her fights with the Waif by using lots of quick cuts to odd angles. It leaves you feeling a bit disorientated as you can’t quite get a grip on your bearings.

  • Cersei is seen pulling at a lose thread in her sleeve before she’s visited by the FrankenMountain. I don’t think we can pull any significance of this until we know where her story ends up this season, but it’s a moment that’s lingered on. Depending on your persepctive, you could see this as things beginning to unravel for her and the Lannisters, or you could see this as Cersei starting to take control again, pulling this apart at the seams. Come the end of the season, this’ll be worth revisiting. There’s a long mythological tradition of weaving and spinning thread being connected with ideas of fate and destiny. Given how preoccupied Cersei is with prophecy and the effects of it on her life, this image seem fitting somehow. [A notable namesake is even associated with a loom. Martin has debunked this connection, but fuck him.]

    thread

  • As Tyrion and Varys talk about how Astapor and Yunkai have both been reclaimed by the ousted slave masters, the camera cuts to Missandei and Grey Worm, who glance at each other. It stands out in the scene as it feels a little disconnected to everything else. Probably too early to figure out the significance of it as yet. Of course, it could just be that, as they are both former slaves, they are naturally concerned with a state of affairs that sees slavery regimes back in charge of liberated cities. Alternatively, they could be suggesting that one or both of them are involved somehow, perhaps setting them up as the mastermind behind the Sons of the Harpy too. We’ll have to wait and see.

    grey worm
    Suspicious…
  • Consider me totally invested in HODOR:ORIGINS. As long as he doesn’t turn out to be a horse

  • I’m less keen on the CotF redesign. Took me a while to figure it out.

  • I enjoyed how fucking damp and miserable this shot makes Balon’s chamber look. The wet floor makes it seem so cold and uninviting. I’ve got trench foot just looking at it. Can’t fault that Kraken fireplace though. It’s crackin’ [sorry].

balon

  • Cool nods from the books:

      • Yara Greyjoy questions the wisdom of her father’s plans to continue their invasion, suggesting that all that the mainland will yield for them would be more “acorns and stones”. During the Kingsmoot, when other candidates try to win over the Ironborn with pledges of treasure and plunder, Yara empties chests full of acorns and stones to emphasise the futility of a misguided conquest of the North. It remains to be seen what shape the KM takes in the show, but including this reference here suggests it might be slightly tweaked.

      • Cersei asking Tommen whether they chose the red or the gold dress and then being thoroughly unsurprised when he says gold [gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds…] was a nice little character moment. There’s no escaping prophecy.
      • Ramsay and Harald Karstark namedrop the Umbers and the Manderleys. Great Northern Conspiracy: confirmed. ‘The North Remembers’ speech: confirmed. Get. Hype.

      • Probably not what most people were expecting when they said that they wanted Benjen back, but we’ll take what we can get, I suppose.

  • Funny lines:

      • “I heard Jaime Lannister’s half an inch short of an inch”. Ouch.

      • “That’s what I do; I drink and I know things” – Tyrion Lannister’s mission statement right there.

      • “If you want to help him, leave him be” – this is practically Martin’s philosophy to bringing people back from the dead in one line. We’ve already seen one example of the horrors that can occur from playing god in Ser Robert Strong. Who’s to say Jon will be any different?

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2 thoughts on “Home

  1. “I’m not a devout man, OBVIOUSLY” is something I’d want on a tee-shirt.

    Great recap, it’s so detailed, I’d spend all day replying (but I have to go to work.)

    As happy as I am that Jon is back, I’m equally happy that Balon is dead, since Robb outlived him in the books. I understand why they staged the death now, since they didn’t want to get wrapped up in a kingsmoot earlier, but the Ironborn withdrawal from the North in order to participate in the kingsmoots (where everyone left a skeleton crew of their lamest guys in Westeros) is a much better rationale than “Lulz, we suck on land” reasoning that was given on the show, since the Ironborn once dominated the heart of the mainland, the Riverlands, before Balerion the Dread burninated Harrenhal.

    I’ll wrap up by complimenting your spot-on association between Ramsay and Euron, who took similar actions and had their declarative “I AM” moments.

    My favorite is still Joffrey and his insistent I am THE KING! Which never played well when Tywin was about. Had Joffrey not been poisoned, I wonder if he’d have been the one to crossbow Tywin on the privy one night.

    1. Cheers man, appreciate that.

      Haha, agreed about their rationale for withdrawing from the North, but I guess they had to cut corners somewhere. Balon has been living on borrowed time for faaaaaaaaaar too long.

      I was originally a bit annoyed that they left out the Kingsmoot, but I totally understand why they’ve pushed it back to now. Dany doesn’t get to Meereen until the start of season 4 [just after Robb dies and just before Joffrey does]. If Balon had snuffed it at a similar time and they’d jumped straight into the KM, they would have had to find basically a whole season of filler for the Ironborn [or do what they did with Bran], which is quite a hard ask. At least this way they can jump straight over to Meereen and Dany is at a point in the story where she can use them.

      What did you make of Euron? The scene didn’t quite work for me – it sort of felt like he was just delivering his famous lines that were only vaguely connected with his conversation with his brother. I liked that they did the super close-up thing in a similar way to the Roose/Ramsay scene so you can’t quite tell who stabs who at first.

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