‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Jon Snow, giants and babies – USA TODAY

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Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 6 episode 2, “Home.” To read our recap of episode 1, click here.

Welcome home, Jon.

The world (read: the Internet) may not have been surprised to see Kit Harington’s eyes open at the end of Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, but goodness was it a welcome bit of good fortune in this increasingly dark show. Of course Thrones has always been dark — its penchant for unflinching violence and the idea that any character could die at any time, regardless of the traditional rules of storytelling, is part of what made it the phenomenon it is today.

But as the show has progressed through its seasons it seems to have started to revel in the gratuity of its violence, taking glee in the sheer scale of the awfulness it presents to our eyes and ears. So in an episode where fans were given what might be the greatest news they could hope for, they were also treated to a mother and newborn child being eaten alive by dogs. Why? I couldn’t tell you, but I can tell you that an episode like “Home” demonstrates what is the fundamental underpinning of this show: It will do anything in its desperation to shock you. And while having actors and producers flat-out lie for a year in the press is the more innocent end of that spectrum, we certainly hope we’re not forced to listen to more infants being eaten alive. Because that’s not the shock we’re looking for.

The Lord of Light giveth

Before we discuss all things Jon, can we take a moment to celebrate the wonder that is Wun Wun the Giant? Wun Wun the Giant is a treasure and he should be in all scenes of this show. Petition for a Wun Wun spin-off.

But OK on to more important things. Like Jon Snow being alive, like we all knew he would be. But what, exactly, does it mean? Fan theories about how Jon would come back have ranged widely since he appeared to die in A Dance With Dragons in 2011, but resurrection via Melisandre was one of the most popular. It was supported by the show, if you recall from season 2, where Arya met Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr. Thoros brought Beric back from the dead more than five times, using his power from the Lord of Light. But what’s worth noting is that each time, Beric came back a little different. A little mottled, a little more somber. Is the Jon we’re getting going to be the same man we left behind in season five? Will he be the man so beloved fans refused to let him be dead? And hey, does this whole re-birth thing mean that he is Azor Ahai, the chosen one figure Melisandre thought Stannis was (and fans have kind of thought Dany is)?

Another thing worth noting is how often the show dwelled on Ghost, Jon’s direwolf, in the past two episodes. A popular fan theory about Jon had him warging into Ghost at the moment of his death (a power his younger brother Bran has, more on him below). Is that where Jon’s soul was in the few hours/days (the timeline is unclear) that he was down before his resurrection? Will he use warging in his fight against the White Walkers? We may have one question answered, but we have a whole host more to obsess over now that we’re not constantly on Kit Harington hair watch.

Someone make this stop

OK. As happy as we all are that Jon is alive, we need to talk about Ramsay’s massacre at Winterfell. Because, once again, we find ourselves at a moment of gratuitous violence against a woman (and, in this case, an hours-old newborn) that could have completely been avoided. And I’m not saying that plot-wise, Ramsay would have let Walda and his new brother live after he murdered his father. What I’m saying is, there was no need for the camera to follow the psychopath and his victims into that kennel. It was clear from the moment he summoned Walda and the baby exactly what was happening. The show could have simply shown them walk away together, and the implication would have been there. And the result would be the same.

But the show, as it has demonstrated time and time again in the past, threw out nuance and artistry in favor of shock and gratuity. And so the audience was treated to the sounds and very nearly the sight of a woman and her newborn son being ripped apart by dogs. We’ve already seen countless women raped, a young girl burned alive by her own father, not to mention the weekly grind of violence and death we’ve become accustomed to. Sure, some of that is par for the course with the genre and the path this show has decided to take, but even for the most ardent fans, for the most faithful viewer, when is enough enough? Is there no line this show won’t cross? Is the knowledge that there’s no line supposed to be enjoyable for the audience? Are we supposed to be having fun here? Because, as wonderful as seeing Jon’s eyes open at the end of this episode, I hadn’t quite been able to get rid of the bitter taste left by the scene with the baby. That moment of joy was just a little bit tainted. And it shouldn’t be. So here’s my plea, to the old gods and the new: Don’t let the bad outweigh the good. Because more and more fans will jump ship.

Welcome back Bran (and Ned)

In much, much happier news, Bran Stark has returned to the show, and he’s brought lovely flashbacks of Ned and Benjen and Lyanna to remind us all that once Westeros was a place safe for human children! It seems that all Bran has been doing (besides AGING UP) since we last saw him is hanging out with the Three Eyed Raven (hello Max Von Sydow!) and having visions. A task that Meera, newly brother-less if you can recall from season 4, does not think is super productive. Shouldn’t Bran be doing something with his newfound omniscience? Like maybe answering one of our biggest questions ever or helping out one side of the war or something? He seems pretty confident that there’s a path of some kind. We hope that involves more talking Hodor.

Mothers and sons

Listen the Wildlings may have their giant up at the Wall but Cersei has her own version down at King’s Landing and he is not messing around. Ser Robert Strong (who we’re 99% is the zombified corpse of Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane) is killing mouthy peasants and intimidating Lannister guards all over the capital, and we only wish he and Cersei would have more fun with it.

What Strong can’t do is fix the problems with the High Sparrow, who has intimidated Tommen to the point of the young king holding his mother hostage, and verbally sparring with Jaime over Myrcella’s dead body (god, they do love to have scenes next to dead bodies on this show). The holy man’s talk of “overthrowing an empire” and the speed and stealth at which his Faith Militant showed their muscle to Jaime makes us wonder if he has his eyes set on more than just the Sept of Baelor (like maybe that shiny Iron Throne). At least Tommen and Cersei are talking again. All the Lannisters need to get their heads in order if they don’t want to be tossed into shame-cells.

“I drink and I know things”

So you’re Tyrion Lannister. You’re hanging out in Meereen, trying to keep things under control until Dany comes back and also comes to her senses. Someone just burned all the ships in your fleet. There’s some chaos, a lack of order. Neighboring cities are returning to slavery. What do you do? Go hang out in a dragon petting zoo, obviously.

Listen we can’t blame Tyrion for trying to get Team Dany’s biggest weapon back in their corner. What’s the point of dragons if they waste away in a basement, right? And hey, his “play nice with the dragons and maybe they’ll like me and grow and stuff” plan has maybe worked! We just don’t think that, without Dany, there’s much hope of controlling these guys. And Meereen has enough problems.

A girl has no name

It seems that the trials of Arya Stark the Blind are over. After two episodes of begging and starving and sleeping in the streets, it seems that Arya’s penance to the Faceless Men is complete. Jaqen H’ghar himself comes and tests Arya’s faith: If she says her name he’ll give her food, shelter, her sight back. But she won’t say it. A girl is no one. And now she’s allowed back in the House of Black and White, where I presume everything will be beautiful and happy in and in bright Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt colors. Or maybe she’ll wash some more dead bodies.

Keeping up with the Greyjoys.

As the show has pushed Ramsay down a darker and darker path and made him more despicable with each passing act of violence, it has simultaneously been slowly but surely redeeming Theon. Sansa has forgiven him to the point of actually bonding with him again, and she is truly saddened this episode by his decision to leave her and Brienne and Podrick and go back to his family.

Speaking of his family, oh yeah, remember he has a family? A dad (Balon) and a sister (Yara)? And they were trying to take the North a few seasons ago and failed? And Balon was one of the five kings in that whole “War of Five Kings” thing? Yeah, we forgot too. But apparently they’re going to be a thing this season, as the show spent ample time re-introducing them to us and then giving us a new Greyjoy to remember. But don’t worry, they also got rid of Balon to keep the Greyjoy count even. This also means we’re getting a Kingsmoot (an election to pick the next king for non-book readers) which should be … interesting? Fun? Maybe? We need to get reacquainted with this part of Westeros before we can really start to care about it. Or it will just be Dorne 2.0.

But hey, Balon’s death means that all those leeches that Melisandre put in the fire in season two (with Gendry’s blood, remember?) have officially flamed out IRL (Renly, Robb, Joffrey and Balon). What were we saying about how powerful she is?

Death watch

Jon Snow: Well, that was solved!

Who we lost this episode:

You can scroll through photos from the episode below.

‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Jon Snow, giants and babies – USA TODAY

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