What does Home mean for the various players in the Game of Thrones?
For Dany’s dragons, home is not their current prison. For Sansa, it is being united with someone who she can trust and maybe having the chance to find her sister. For Ramsay, it is never going back to the nightmare of being a bastard, or a second son. For Arya, it is losing enough of her identity that her Faceless family will accept her again. For Cersei, home is her gilded cage: the Red Keep. For the men of the Night’s Watch, home is rebuilding their order – in the aftermath of their leader’s death. And, for Bran, home is something he must resist.
Bran Travels to a Happy Past
At the end of Season 4, one of the Children – a non-human race who originally inhabited Westeros — took Bran down under the roots of the weirwood tree to meet the Three-Eyed Raven. The Three-Eyed Raven is an ancient man whose body is entrapped in the tree’s roots.
Now, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) trains with the Three-Eyed Raven. The Three-Eyed Raven appears to be guiding his visions or dreams.
Bran dreams he is at Winterfell years before he was born. There, Bran watches his father practice sword fighting with his brother, Benjen, when they were boys. Bran’s aunt Lyanna, a teenager, rides in on a white horse, literally running circles around her brothers. Ned tells her to stop showing off.
A young Hodor, a stable boy, greets Lyanna and takes her horse. Hodor can talk, and his name is Wylis. “Wylis” helps Lyanna with her horse.
Nan is there too, but she is much younger. She is Hodor’s aunt, so she tells him to go back to the stables – and not to dabble in pursuits like sword play, which are above his station.
The Three-Eyed Raven drags Bran out of his vision.
Bran complains that he finally got to see something happy. In response, the Three-Eyed Raven passes on words of wisdom for us all: “It is beautiful beneath the sea, but if you stay too long, you will drown.”
Why does the Three-Eyed Raven show Bran this particular vision of the past? What does Bran learn from this vision that will help him in the war to come? One thing that is interesting is that the scene occurs just before Ned leaves for the Eyrie, where Jon Arryn fostered him with Robert Baratheon.
Bran goes outside to find Meera and mentions that the Three-Eyed Raven says a war is coming. Meera is unhappy, no doubt because of her brother’s death. But, she also feels they are wasting time, doing nothing with the Three-Eyed Raven.
One of the Children tells her that Bran will need her once they leave the tree.
Cersei’s Gilded Cage
A common metaphor for Cersei is the gilded cage. In the TV show, we see this metaphor reflected in variety of images, such as the cage bars whose shadow falls across her face in Season 2 (“The North Remembers”).
Cersei never chose her life. If she had her druthers, she would be a man, fighting and wielding power. Instead, she is the beautiful daughter of a powerful nobleman, who was sold into marriage with a man she rarely loved.
Although she has the most sumptuous gowns and surroundings, she has limited freedom. Cersei must play her part. The men in her life control her. First her father, then her husband, and finally her boyish son, once he becomes king. In this episode, her son confines to the Red Keep and bars her from seeing her own daughter lie in state.
Like all princesses, Cersei has a champion. But, he – like her life – has become monstrous.
Cersei’s Mountain is walking the streets of King’s Landing, ridding Cersei of her enemies in the broadest sense of the word. When the Mountain hears one of the smallfolk talking disrespectfully about his queen, he finds the man later — while he’s urinating — and smashes his skull in.
Although Cersei might find vengeance gratifying if she wasn’t so busy mourning Myrcella, she is too preoccupied to enjoy it. Tommen has ordered that Cersei be confined to the palace for her own protection, and also because he is still angry with her.
While Cersei remains trapped in the Red Keep, Jaime and Tommen pay their last respect to Myrcella, whose body lies in state in the Great Sept.
After Tommen leaves, Jaime confronts the High Sparrow and threatens to kill him.
The High Sparrow replies that the gods are waiting for Margaery’s confession so the king must as well.
The High Sparrow rejects Jaime’s notion that he is fearless. He claims he only fears the gods.
Jaime confronts the High Sparrow about Cersei’s imprisonment and threatens to kill the High Sparrow, who asks him, “You would spill blood in this holy place.”
Jaime has a great reply, “Oh the gods won’t mind. They spill more blood than the rest of us combined.”
But, the Faith Militant show up armed with war hammers and maces. They block each exit. It’s clear if Jaime kills the High Sparrow, he will never make it out alive.
But, we should pay more attention to the High Sparrow. He is telegraphing his ability to get the people to follow him – and that might not be good for the nobility. The Smallfolk could become a new player in the game of thrones.
Will the Smallfolk Rise Up?
The High Sparrow tells Jaime, “We have no names, no family. Every one of us is poor and powerless. And, yet together, we can overthrow an empire.”1
Why aren’t we paying more attention to this? The High Sparrow said something similar to Olenna Tyrell last season.
Normally, I would be applauding the people’s possible liberation, but Game of Thrones is told from the nobility’s perspective, so this feels like a threat.
Later, Tommen and Cersei make amends. Cersei is upset that she cannot see Myrcella at her wake, but relieved to see her son. Tommen also explains how impotent he feels about not being able to stop the High Sparrow. He vows to be stronger and use violence against the Faith Militant if necessary.
Tyrion & the Dragons
Fan theories about Tyrion and dragons abound. I don’t want to create spoilers for people who haven’t heard them, but this episode will add fuel to that fire.
Things are not going well without Dany. It’s confirmed. Somebody – likely the Sons of the Harpy – burned Danerys’ fleet at least 93 ships, which could carry 9300 men — nearly her whole army2 .
Now that she’s gone, Daenerys’ work to free the slaves of Slavers Bay is swiftly unravelling. Varys announces that the masters of Astapor and Yunkai, the other slave cities, retook their cities and have established slavery once more.
Possibly worse, Daenerys’ dragons aren’t eating. Will she come back and have no weapons?
According to Tyrion’s reading about the Targaryen dynasty, dragons don’t do well in captivity. Within a hundred years of captivity, the Targaryen dragons were cat-sized.
Tyrion takes it upon himself to free Daenerys’ pets, hoping they will eat.
Tyrion and Varys go down under the pyramid to free the dragons — and face possible instant immolation. He reasons they are intelligent creatures, so maybe they will sense he means to help them.
As Tyrion approaches the firebreathers, he begs them not to eat him. He tells them how much he loves dragons and how he asked for a dragon for his name day one year. “It wouldn’t even have to be a big dragon,” he told his uncle. “It could be little like me.”
The dragons are as clever as Tyrion says. Once he frees the one dragon, the other turns his neck to him, to make it easier to undo the collar.
The emancipated dragons waddle down to the other end of their holding chamber, presumably to an outdoor exit.
Will they remember Tyrion’s boon one day and repay the kindness?
Walda Gives Birth to a New Lord
While Sansa and Brienne are hoping to track Arya, the Boltons are hunting Sansa.
They assume that Sansa will head North to her brother at Castle Black. They also know that the south face of the Castle is undefended. A siege in the making? Roose cautions Ramsay against attacking Castle Black since killing its Lord Commander would alienate the North.
The maester shows up to announce that Walda gave birth to a boy.
Ramsay hugs his father to congratulate him. And, then, stabs him in the gut.
Even though Walda just gave birth, he tells the maester to summon her.
Ramsay greets Walda and then holds his little brother. It’s a terrible moment. You are just waiting for Ramsay to snap his neck, stab him, or through him on a brazier. But, Ramsay doesn’t. He gently hands his brother back to Walda. <Phew>
Ramsay tells Walda to follow him to see Lord Bolton. He even calls her “mother.”
He takes her to the dog kennel and closes the gate behind him. Oh-oh.
When Walda asks where Lord Bolton is, Ramsay tells her that she’s looking at him.
Walda begs for her life, but it’s no use.
Ramsay gives the command, his hounds charge, Walda screams, and the new lord is born.
It’s a dark and stormy night on the Iron Islands. Even though the fire is roaring, you can practically feel the damp chill in the stone hall as Yara and her father argue.
The argument erupts when Yara informs her father Balon that they lost Deepwood Motte to the Boltons.
Balon tells her that they will retake another stronghold on the mainland.
Yara argues this is foolish. They cannot hold lands in the North. On the sea, they can beat anyone, but not on land.
Balon doesn’t care. He blames Yara’s losses on the fact she disobeyed his order and tried to save Theon.
Yara stands up to him. She will not apologize for trying to rescue her baby brother. You go girl.
Balon walks out of into the rain and onto a swinging rope bridge that connects the two towers of Pyke. His younger brother Euron, whom he hasn’t seen in years, blocks his path.
Euron Greyjoy has an unsavory reputation, even by Balon’s low standards. Euron ripped out the tongues of his crew so they would not talk about his madness during a storm. He is always at sea, where he rapes and pillages like a pirate.
As the brothers get closer to each other, they begin to quarrel. Euron tells Balon that it is Euron’s time. Balon is an old man. When they meet, Balon whips out his dagger, but Euron is faster and hurls his older brother from the bridge.
The next day Yara and some other Ironborn hold Balon’s funeral. Balon is returned to the sea – “What is dead may never die.”
After the service, Yara vows to the drowned priest that she will feed her father’s killer to the sharks living.
When she swears it on the Salt throne, the drowned priest reminds her that the Ironborn have not chosen leader as their yet. While Balon may have wanted her as heir, there has to be a moot to vote upon who the next ruler will be. And, Euron is sure to give her a run for her money.
Jon Snow Lives!
It looks like the end for Davos & co, who are still holed up with Jon’s body. They are still waiting for Dolorous Edd to bring the Wildlings back to fight. This is their only chance.
It’s sundown. Alliser Thorne raps on their door and demands to know whether they will surrender. When they don’t respond, Alliser commands his man to start hammering down the door. Before the man can finish, they all hear a loud crack.
Somebody is ramming the front gate.
Wun Wun, the giant, smashes through the gate, into the courtyard.
A skirmish begins.
But, it doesn’t last long. When an archer lands an arrow in Wun Wun, the giant gets pissed off. He grabs the archer and swings him against the wall like a child’s puppet, smashing the archer’s head into bits on the stone.
Once the rebel party sees the giant’s power, they give up. Immediately.
Dolorous Edd commands they be thrown into the cells.
Later on, Davos finds Melisandre in her chamber, sitting by the fire. He asks her if she can bring Jon back with her magic.
But, Melisandre has lost faith in her abilities. She doesn’t believe she can do it. Davos, of all people, has to give her a pep talk.
Melisandre weeps and tells Davos that everything she believed was a lie: “You were right all along. The lord never spoke to me.” She tells Davos that he was right.
Davos convinces her to try bringing Jon back, but she is so doubting of herself that she doesn’t appear to but much conviction into it.
Later on, in the room where Jon’s body lies, Melisandre washes Jon’s brutal, gut wounds.
What’s interesting is she performs a very different ritual than Beric Dondarrion used. Beric speaks directly to R’hllor in the common tongue. Melisandre solemnly murmurs some words in Valyrian. She trims Jon’s hair and tosses it into the fire.
Ghost sleeps peacefully on the floor beside his master’s corpse.
And, then Jon takes a huge breathe, opens his eyes and wakes up.
Although the theme of this episode is “home” in all its various incarnations, death and self-mortification is also a big theme. Bran has to learn to give up his desire to linger in his dreams. Arya has to give up her identity to become part of a larger whole.
Yara and Euron will almost certainly come to loggerheads in the near future. Both want to rule the Ironborn.
Now that Roose is out of the way, Ramsay will almost certainly disobey Roose’s orders and attack Castle Black in an effort to get Sansa back. Ramsay probably doesn’t know about Jon’s wildling reinforcements, so this could be the new Lord Bolton’s swan song.