Tensions at Castle Black have never been higher. Jon Snow’s corpse rots on a table while Davos and a handful of the former Lord Commander’s stalwarts prepare to fight the murderous Alliser Thorne and his castle full of mutineers. With help from the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran Stark glimpses what was, hoping that the past will clue him into what’s to come. Tommen visits Cersei and Jaime threatens the High Sparrow. Arya makes steady progress in her training, managing to impress Jaqen H’ghar and his Many-Faced God. House Greyjoy undergoes some dramatic changes, and Theon confesses his moral blunders to a bewildered Sansa.
Thankfully, unlike last week’s episode, Home builds rather than bores. Every scene, every moment supports the long-standing truth that Game of Thrones is as complex as it is convoluted, its twists, turns, bends, and turns adding layer upon layer to scenes that, on the surface, may seem to amount to nothing but shock value. However, it’s important to remember that the show usually keeps the meat but trims the fat, limiting filler and instead adding invention and intention to dialogue-heavy scenes that rely on the wits of its characters and the strength of its story. For example, the Tyrion/Varys relationship holds strong this go-around, and it’ll be fascinating to see how they confront the wrath of the Sons of the Harpy.
But while some semblance of equilibrium may have returned, some of what didn’t work last time sticks around to plague what could’ve been a near-perfect episode. Cohesion continues to evade the season; certain doors are hastily closed with little reason, and each transition becomes less smooth and less justified than the last. After spending seasons getting shafted, House Greyjoy finally receives some love, only to have its moment in the spotlight snatched away by subplots deemed more important.
In closing: Home isn’t perfect, but it does serve as a compelling entry that, with a bit more care, could have been one of the show’s finest achievements to date.