Well, well, well. Whoever had episode two on their ‘when is Jon coming back’ bingo, congratulations! You’ve won…exactly the same as the rest of us. But yes, in an effort to avoid only talking about that, given book readers have devoted five years, and show watchers have devoted one, to that discussion, let’s get it out the way first.
From what we can see, Jon really is back. By which I mean, he’s not a resurrected Wight, he hasn’t turned into a White Walker, and he hasn’t warged into Ghost. His eyes opened, looking normal, and he most certainly inhaled. It might not be the most cutting edge analysis I can offer, but that already narrows down what comes next.
In terms of the extended scene itself, I have to say I honestly didn’t see that ending coming. The whole drama of Melisandre trying to exploit her magic was laid on so thick – with the dramatic shots of Jon, and with that beautifully eerie musical motif that accompanies her growing in the background – that it wouldn’t have felt quite right for it work. And in that sense, the show very cleverly subverted expectations – twice. Because as well as the failed ‘resurrection scene’, the final shot of Jon was – pre-awakening – very, very similar to the final shot from last season, and it felt like a case of ‘better luck next week’. But no!I mentioned last week about how Jon’s absence invigorated the rest of the cast up there, and for last week I stand by that. This week however, I think we’ve found that Tormund needs Jon to work. His input in ‘Home’ was to stab one person and otherwise stand around brooding and mourning. It’s not the fault of Kristofer Hivju, but it just feels like the writers didn’t know quite what to do with him before the big return. I’m not even going to try to guess what happens next – maybe we open with a montage of Jon clips to the backing of Skylar Grey singing ‘I’m coming home’, who knows. Like I said, there’s been five years of discussion on this, and I’m looking forward to just finding out next week.
That said, it wasn’t like the episode was lacking in shock value. It was an erratic instalment – the quality was more consistent than last week, but those shocking plot developments were balanced against incredibly predictable dialogue; I’m having a hard time remembering the last time I was able to guess the lines so successfully, and so often.
The first shock wasn’t really a shock, but this was still the episode that sees the return of Bran, after a year out. There was a lot to like from his segment this week. The vision itself was brief, but given who, where and when it pictured, it has ominous potential going forward. More important for me was that I got a feel of Bran’s characterisation beyond his greensight. Isaac Hempstead-Wright’s delivery of the line ‘I wasn’t drowning’ felt far more vulnerable and realistic from the increasingly prophetic and portentous style we saw prior to ‘The Children’ in season four.Meanwhile, we’re back at Pyke. That means hello again to Balon Greyjoy. Oh, and it means goodbye again to Balon Greyjoy. What is dead may never die, and so on. He might not rise again, stronger, but from his introduction, his brother Euron might do just that. I liked the casting of Pilou Asbæk a lot, due to his strong performance on the brilliant political drama Borgen (and at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 let’s not forget), but the character was carried more by his actions than his portrayal here. With Yara and Balon’s argument, it feels so long ago since Theon’s first return and season two’s glorious conquests, but what will he return to this time? The Kingsmoot to decide the next ruler of the Iron Islands for sure, but it’ll be interesting to see what role he has in proceedings.
It is a pity that the dynamic between him and Sansa has had to give way for his return, but it does mean they can both play out their individual arcs now, as was eventually going to happen. If the show is looking to cut corners and even cut episodes as per the rumours mentioned last week, developments like this might unfortunately start being more commonplace. This one was handled okay in simply having Sansa just outright forgive him.
With the Bolton’s, however, it didn’t feel quite right. Again, it was something that was eventually going to happen. Ramsey getting jealous of his new-born brother, and committing fratricide, patricide and matricide (well, step-matricide in Walda’s case) all at once was depressing, predictable but ultimately still logical plot development given how the character is, but the way it was all portrayed just seemed to go against the entire depiction of Roose and the Bolton’s so far. They were cruel yes, but never stupid until now. It was nice incidentally for Elizabeth Webster to get some brief, juicy material to work with, right before Walda herself became juicy material for the hounds.Over in Mereen, it felt a bit like yet one more move on a chess board. It’s testament to Peter Dinklage’s acting that he can even act well opposite dragons, but it feels like every week there’s suddenly a major development there. It could do with slowing down a bit, but it feels there’s a rush to get everything in order before Dany’s eventual return, whenever that is.
There isn’t much to say about King’s Landing again. Trouble’s brewing now that Jamie is trying to assert alpha-male status, but for me the most significant element was that Cersei is now finally starting to regain power and influence over Tommen; it only took the death of Myrcella for that to happen, cruel irony, even if it has been inflicted on a morally questionable character such as her.
In a nutshell, this episode benefitted from no Dorne, and a week more development. It still feels a bit less assured than previous seasons, but maybe that’s just a case of ‘things aren’t what they used to be’ syndrome.