TV

‘Game Of Thrones’ Recap: In Westeros, No One Ever Gets To Go Home

Last night's episode was a reminder of how much our favourite characters have lost.

This is a recap of the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Spoilers!

I had to smile at the obviousness of Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow gambit. All those shots of his still, pallid body – “yep,” the show seemed to be saying, “he’s definitely dead.” But blind Arya could have told you he was only mostly dead.

In the Iron Islands, what is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger. Perhaps resurrection is what Theon craves when he twitchily tells Sansa he’s heading home. Having endured a living death as Ramsay Bolton’s brutalised plaything, he’s also tormented by how comprehensively he betrayed the Starks, who’d offered him a second home as a child hostage.

Theon, beware: this episode was about how illusory homecomings can be. “What happened at Winterfell?” Brienne asks Sansa, and then hangs her head during the excruciating pause that ensues. “I should have gone with you when I had the chance,” is all Sansa says. (Oh by the way, guys – where’s Littlefinger, who was last seen scheming with Lady Olenna Tyrell?)

Sansa believes she’ll find safety with Jon at Castle Black… but who knows whether that studly pincushion is even still her brother? Sansa’s also heartened by Brienne’s story of briefly meeting Arya and the Hound… but would Sansa even recognise her sister now? And in Braavos, Arya’s extended hazing continues to exile her from the House of Black and White. She’s still not ‘no one’, but Jaqen H’ghar at least seems to be leading her closer.

In King’s Landing, ‘Ser Robert Strong’ is protecting his lady Cersei’s reputation via grisly zombie kills. Cersei herself is a prisoner in her home; the Sparrows won’t let her into the Great Sept to farewell Myrcella. Dear, sweet, hopeless King Tommen is seeking the only home the Lannisters have ever offered their kids: the will to intimidate others. But Jaime’s threats fail to cow the High Sparrow and his Faith Militant thugs. The Sparrows are definitely much more at home in the capital than any of its supposed ruling class.

Everyone’s far from home in Meereen, and the tedious cabinet meetings that have always dominated Daenerys’s storyline continue unabated under Tyrion – give or take a few eunuch jokes. But there was something affecting about Tyrion’s visit to the dragons’ dungeon. We’ve always seen him as a shrewd politician or a wisecracking libertine, but Tyrion spent his childhood as a fervent dragon geek. Now, Rhaegal and Viserion greet his fanboy attentions with the weary tolerance of Marvel’s contractually enchained stars at Comic-Con.

tyrion-lannister-and-dragon-game-of-thrones

“OMG you were so great in Balerion 3: Spawning of Meraxes!”

Tyrion escapes these ravening beasts unscathed… but the same can’t be said for Roose Bolton, his gormless wife and their newborn son, who all fall prey to Mad Dog Ramsay. It was satisfyingly ironic that Roose, the architect of the Red Wedding, should suffer the same stabby betrayal in the ancestral home of the family he slew.

“I preferred being an only child,” Ramsay tells doomed Walda Frey as he releases the hounds. But since Ramsay was nakedly driven by a thirst for his dad’s approval, he’s homeless now. What will even motivate him? (Except sadistic bloodlust?) And his dumb plan to slay Jon Snow only reveals he lacks Roose’s talent for cold calculation. Will the north treat him like a mad dog to be put down?

baby

Only room for one alpha dog in Pack Bolton.

Euron Greyjoy is basically a seafaring Ramsay Bolton: violent, unpredictable, and up for fratricide. He says he is the storm – and like a ship, you should stay the hell away if you don’t want to get rekt. (As a fan of Plausible Family Casting, I’m also intensely pleased with actor Pilou Asbæk’s resemblance to Alfie Allen.)

Euron’s homecoming is bad news for his deeply unpleasant elder brother Balon, Lord of the Iron Islands, who’s just been berating his daughter Yara for her doomed attempt to rescue Theon from the Dreadfort. Balon sets off across a rain-buffeted rope bridge, only to find Euron in his way, Billy Goats Gruff-style. Balon lunges with a knife, but Euron deftly sends him bailin’ to the rocks below. He’s the last of the three usurper kings felled by those leeches Melisandre barbecued back in season three.

As Yara futilely promises her dad’s unknown murderer a Bond villain-style death, her priestly uncle Aeron – who has Willie Nelson’s hair but none of his chill – isn’t impressed. Although Yara is the anointed Greyjoy heir, Aeron isn’t about to let some woman rule the Iron Islands. We’ll see who enjoys the home-ground advantage at the forthcoming kingsmoot… Will Theon show up in time?

True to his own seafaring past, Ser Davos is seeking any port in a storm. He must be desperate to beg for help from the demoralised Melisandre, given he’s always spurned her rituals, and was even imprisoned for attempting to murder her.

Cast your thoughts back to the end of season three, when Davos escaped execution by warning Stannis Baratheon of the White Walkers, and after consulting the flames, Melisandre agreed the Onion Knight “has a part to play in the war to come.”

Stannis laughed darkly then: “You see, Ser Davos? You’ve been saved by that fire god you like to mock. You’re in his army now.” And what if the Lord of Light is now acting through Davos to overcome Melisandre’s crisis of faith and preserve humanity’s best hope against the coming army of the dead? Perhaps it takes a dead man to fight one.

jon

Jon realises Melisandre cut his hair! His beautiful hair!

While this episode seemed to have mistaken narrative momentum for stretches of dull talk interspersed with pitiless slayings – including two giants smooshing people against walls – I was glad to see it pick up the story-threads of the season four finale. That’s when Bran Stark and his babes in the wood finally met the children of the forest.

Speaking of whom, what the fuck is this all about?

GoT children of the forest comparison

Even the children of the forest go through that awkward teen stage.

Having digitally superimposed Leaf’s uncanny features on an 11-year-old actor back in season four, perhaps the showrunners couldn’t be arsed with the same fiddly, expensive CGI when they could just put zany contact lenses (not even the slitted cat’s eyes described in the novels!) on an adult (not even a child!) actor.

The same half-arsed approach also applies to the three-eyed raven. He’s one of the eeriest characters in the entire series: so advanced a warg and greenseer that his body is actually merging with a weirwood tree. Yet the mystery evaporates now he’s just Max von Sydow in a ratty black robe: like Death without a chessboard, or some Crowbi-wan Kenobi mentor.

No wonder Meera Reed is moping outside the cave like Luke Skywalker. Her brother Jojen is dead, and she’s far from home with nothing to do, except watch Bran roll his eyes back in his head.

Bran’s greensight is a clever device to explore the rich Game of Thrones backstory without having to use flashbacks. He’s overcome with longing as he sees his father Ned as a child, play-fighting in the Winterfell courtyard with Uncle Benjen and teased by vivacious, tomboyish Aunt Lyanna. Most intriguingly, he sees a giant youth who must be Hodor, but who’s addressed as Wyllis – and who can actually speak!

wyllis

“Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Wyllis?”

I wonder if the incident that turned Wyllis into Hodor might be linked to Lyanna’s fate, or to the mystery of Jon Snow’s parentage. But let’s not get too deep into Game of Thrones conspiracy theories just yet. As the raven warns Bran, somewhere inviting isn’t always home: “It is beautiful beneath the sea, but if you stay too long, you’ll drown.”

Game of Thrones is on Showtime at 11am and 7.30pm every Monday.

Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and cultural critic. She blogs on style, history and culture at Footpath Zeitgeist and tweets at @incrediblemelk.