[WARNING – This article contains SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season 6, episode 2, as well as open discussion of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels.]
The pacing of the first two episodes of Game of Thrones season 6 has been quite slow. Last week’s premiere set the stage for the events to come and ‘Home‘ slowly began pushing characters into action — and in some cases, taking narratives far beyond what’s been revealed in George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
Though the pace was deliberate, much transpired during last night’s episode, leaving quite a lot to unpack. Bran, along with Meera and Hodor, reappeared after being absent for all of season 5. Bran’s training with the Three-Eyed Raven has been progressing, and as we suspected, his visions will begin revealing the important events which happened before Game of Thrones‘ story began. As book readers are already aware, the history of Westeros is significant (in particular what took place during Robert’s Rebellion) and through Bran the show has found a way of communicating that.
As for the other Stark children, Arya continues her training with the Faceless Men in Braavos while Sansa asks Brienne of her sister’s whereabouts. Presumably, these two sisters will meet again in the future, but that reunion still feels seasons away. South in King’s Landing, Tommen mourns his sister, but her death has the Lannisters putting together a unified front, with Tommen strengthening his bond with both his parents. Unknowingly, of course, but it’s heartwarming nonetheless. Will it be enough to ensure he lives? Maybe, maybe not. Then again, Ser Robert Strong certainly proved himself a formidable bodyguard, making it seem all the more likely Cersei will win her forthcoming trial by combat.
Tyrion Makes New Friends
‘Home’ focused on family quite a bit, but for a character like Tyrion, his family has never been his strength. Except for Jaime, the Lannisters have always despised Tyrion, with his late father outright questioning his legitimacy. There has never been any real proof that Tyrion isn’t a Lannister, and in fact several characters in the books remark how alike Tywin and Tyrion actually are, but it’s hard to ignore his ostracization from the other of the lions of Casterly Rock. Book readers have theorized that may be because he isn’t a Lannister after all, but instead a secret Targaryen.
Though, were we to believe every theory then just about everyone is a secret Targaryen, but it was hard not to at least consider the possibility when Tyrion made his way to the basement of the Great Pyramid. Tyrion coming face to face with Viserion and Rhaegal was bound to happen given his lifelong fascination with dragons, but his returning unscathed clearly surprised him more than anything. In the books, another character makes a similar venture into the basement and is not nearly as lucky, and though Missendei remarks on how she has never felt threatened by them, we’ve seen how temperamental dragons can be, even occasionally snapping at their mother.
So what is the significance of Tyrion’s meeting with Dany’s dragons? The episode didn’t give us an immediate answer seeing as they remain in the basement, though no longer chained, but there’s a significant prophecy from the novels that Game of Thrones hasn’t really touched on. Daenerys learns it from the House of the Undying in Qarth, where she sees a vision of her brother, Rhaegar, speaking of his son being “the prince that was promised and that his is the song of ice and fire,” adding there must be another (Rhaegar had only two known children), because “the dragon has three heads.”
Most notably, the Targaryen sigil features a three-headed dragon, but Aegon the Conquer was also joined on dragons by his two sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya, so there’s a strong connection between Targaryens, dragons and the number three. Obviously, Dany has three dragons and she’s formed a strong bond with the largest, Drogon. Assuming she is in fact the promised prince (who is possibly also Azor Ahai) then her two other dragons are in need of riders. And after getting closer to her dragons than just about anyone else, Tyrion is appearing more and more like a strong candidate to be one of them, secret Targaryen or not.
Family Heads Cut Off
Turning away from prophecies to those vying for power and control in the here and now, two families saw their “head” cut off this week: the Boltons and the Greyjoys. For book readers, the death of Balon Greyjoy is a long time coming, seeing as it occurs off-page in A Storm of Swords, around the time of the deaths of both Robb and Joffrey. However, the show does confirm what readers have long speculated – that it’s Euron, not some magic of Melisandre’s or a Faceless Man assassin, that kills Balon.
For the show, introducing Euron through Balon’s murder works to not only inform viewers of the antagonism between the brothers but also of Euron’s single-mindedness. He’s also cruel, manipulative, and more than a little mad. And Game of Thrones isn’t exactly a show hurting for menacing, unpredictable villains, but they’ve gone and introduced Euron anyway — a villainous character who is well aware of the strange power that still exists in the world, having come in contact with magic during his pillaging abroad. This knowledge and what he intends to do with it gives him an advantage other those still squabbling over the Seven Kingdoms, indicating Euron’s a figure with some role (and probably not a good one) to play in the war to come.
While Balon’s death came as no surprise for book readers, the death of Roose Bolton was a total shock and throws the North into disarray (not too dissimilar to what we saw last week in Dorne). Roose was not a good man by any stretch, and there will be few who will mourn his loss, but he was a pragmatic man, much like Tywin Lannister, and his death will certainly cause chaos — something basically guaranteed by having Ramsay assume power.
The events happening in the North and those of the far east are where Game of Thrones is advancing the fastest, already barreling beyond where readers have left off in the novels. As of book 5, Roose remains at Winterfell awaiting Stannis’ army, while in the meantime playing host to several Northern lords and their armies. Tensions are high, however, with some still resenting the Boltons’ rise to power. ‘Home’ introduced a new Lord Karstark, and lords of both House Umber and Manderly are expected to follow, which could see Ramsay playing host to these Northern lords in place of his father. Yet, it’s unclear along what lines tensions will flare. The Karstarks have no love for the Starks any longer, which is likely why they’ve allied with the Boltons. The Freys, too, are at Winterfell during this time, but the show has likely ended that alliance with Lady Walda and her sons’ terrible deaths. Will other Northern houses rise up against Ramsay? Or fall in line? The show’s next time trailer teased someone bringing Ramsay a gift next week, probably as some gesture of loyalty. And having lost Sansa, what’s a finer way to ingratiate yourself to the new Warden of The North than by delivering him another Stark — the long lost Rickon, perhaps?
Jon Snow Rises From The Dead
In an episode full of twists and turn, some shocking, some not, the resurrection of Jon Snow is probably the least surprising — though it’s by far the most exciting. Practically no one bought into the angle that Jon was dead, end of story. Not after all the effort spent developing his character and his presumed significance to the tale’s central plot. And as many had predicted, it was Melisandre who did the deed — though it’s interesting to note the scene gives us no further information about Jon’s possible Targaryen lineage or his warging abilities with Ghost, two other possible factors in his resurrection.
But now that Jon is alive, what happens next? Book readers have had years to mull over Jon’s death, with countless theories for how he’d return, and now that he has we’re left wondering what he’ll do. Does the fact that Melisandre was able to resurrect Jon make him her chosen messiah, Azor Ahai? There’s no flaming sword or smoke or salt, but her vision of seeing Jon fighting at Winterfell can certainly now come true. Will he simply continue on as Lord Commander? His miraculous return could win over the men who betrayed him, or it could make them fear him, it’s hard to tell. But with the Night’s King on his way, Jon needs as many men as he can to protect the realm.
But perhaps the biggest question we should be asking, is will Jon be any different now that he’s back? Game of Thrones has previously depicted how the Lord of Light’s resurrection can alter a person with Beric Dondarrion, who lost more and more of his memories, and in a sense his self, with each resurrection. Jon was also dead for at least a day and that, too, could play a part in how much of Jon was able to return.
Needless to say, what happens next at The Wall is anyone’s guess, but it will undoubtedly prove pivotal. And this is only episode 2, leaving a large remainder of the season to explore the fallout over Jon’s death and resurrection. Next week’s episode, ‘Oathbreaker’, also appears to feature the much anticipated Tower of Joy flashback, which once and for all will either confirm or refute the now infamous R+L=J theory. In very short order, Game of Thrones is answering huge questions which have surrounded the A Song of Ice and Fire for years, decades even. Book readers will likely have mixed reactions to that fact, but there’s no stopping it now — those answers are coming, and likely sooner than we thought.
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘Oathbreaker’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below: