Game of Thrones kicks back into high gear after a somewhat lackluster season premiere. "Home" is a hurricane of plot development for season 6, so stop reading this instant if you want to avoid spoilers. Fans everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. The Great Stark Hope has not shed his mortal coil. Jon Snow is alive and back from the dead as he is resurrected by Melisandre (Carice van Houten) in the closing seconds of the episode. This was widely expected, but producers at HBO dragged it out as long as possible. I'm sure they took some pleasure twisting the knife in the fan base. Home also marks several shifts in leadership amongst the warring families, and the return of a Stark not seen since season four.

The episode begins in the far north beyond the wall. A much grown Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is in a trance with the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow). They are in the past at Winterfell, observing a young Ned Stark play fight with his brother and sister. The big surprise is to see Hodor as a boy, then called Willis, perfectly able to speak and interact with people. Bran wants to stay in the past, but is drawn back by the Raven. He warns him that too much reflection is dangerous. Outside the cave, Meera (Ellie Kendrick) has grown impatient waiting for Bran's 'warg' training. She's consoled by a wood sprite that tells her that a great war is coming, and that Bran will need her.

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Meanwhile at Castle Black, Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) and company are still trapped with Jon's body. Outside the door, Ser Alliser (Owen Teale) and the Night's Watch are about to storm in. The gates of Castle Black are suddenly knocked down by a Giant. The Wildlings, led by Edd (Ben Crompton) and Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) pour into the courtyard. They overpower the Night's Watch and imprison them.

We're then taken to King's Landing for Myrcella's funeral. Cersei (Lena Headey), who's now accompanied everywhere by The Mountain, is blocked from attending by Tommen's (Dean-Charles Chapman) orders. He stands remorseful over his sister's body with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). The consolation is brief, why has he not allowed his mother to attend the funeral? Tommen's inability to stop his mother's naked walk of penance has left him emasculated. Jaime begs him to ask for Cersei's forgiveness. As Tommen leaves, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) enters the chamber. He smirks at Jaime, reminding him where the power truly lies as his followers surround them. Tommen's contrition to Cersei is marked by a fierce promise, he will learn to be ruthless and protect them.

Across the sea in Mereen, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) holds counsel with Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), and Varys (Conleth Hill). No one has a clue who burned the ships in the harbor. Tyrion decides that it's time to show Mereen that Daenerys still has presence. He enters the dragon keep and unshackles the two dragons. Incredibly, they understand this gesture and stay put. Is there any doubt that the imp has the biggest pair of cojones in Westeros?

Arya (Maisie Williams) sits on the steps of Bravos as a blind beggar. She's attacked again by the girl who constantly asks, "What's your name?" Arya refuses to answer, the girl transforms into Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). He promises to return her eyesight if she says her name. Arya is stalwart. She has passed the test. He leads her away to advance her training. The girl is no longer a beggar.

Machinations and murder are always in step with the Bolton's. At Winterfell, Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) again chides Ramsey (Iwan Rheon) for losing Sansa (Sophie Turner). They are interrupted with the news that his wife has born a son, as predicted. Ramsey hugs his father to congratulate him, then plunges a knife into his belly. The heir to the Carstarks watches approvingly as Roose gurgles blood on the ground. Then true to his nature, Ramsey leads Lady Bolton and the newborn into the kennel. They are ripped apart by hounds as he calmly states, "I am Lord Bolton now."

Still in the forest and on the run, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) takes a moment to catch up with Sansa. She tells her that she has seen Arya. This is the first news that Sansa has had of her sister since their father's beheading. She also asks Sansa what happened to her at Winterfell. He silence brings understanding of the rape and torture she suffered from Ramsey Bolton. Theon (Alfie Allen) repents his cruel misdeeds to Sansa. She offers forgiveness, but he cannot accept it. He doesn't deserve to make the trip to Castle Black. He tells her that he will return home to the Iron Islands.

Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) curses Yara (Gemma Whelan) for her attempt to rescue Theon from the Bolton's. She chides him back for losing all of the land they had conquered in the north. As a powerful storm tears through the Iron Islands, Balon meets his long lost brother, Euron (Pilou Asbæk) on a rope bridge between castles. Euron throws Balon to his death on the rocks below. The next day, Yara buries her father at sea, swearing to find and kill the murderer. But her claim as the first female leader of the Iron Islands is not accepted. It seems that it is known her uncle has resurfaced.

At this point with betrayal and intrigue run amuck, our hero is reborn. At Castle Black, Melisandre sulks by the fire. Ser Davos asks her if anything can be done for Jon. He has witnessed her astonishing feats of sorcery. She laments that everything she saw in the fire was a lie, but Davos begs her to try. The men gather as she cleans the blood from Jon Snow's wounds. She cuts his hair and beard, then burns them in the fire. She places her hands on his body and chants mysteriously under her breath. They all wait in nervous silence, but nothing happens. Dejected they all leave the room. Suddenly, Ghost the direwolf stirs awake below Jon's body. As it lets out a growl, Jon Snow opens his eyes.

Through summer, it's been pretty obvious: Jon Snow is not dead. Kit Harington reported to Belfast for season six filming, his name has been in the credits, and they've made great pains to show his body throughout these first two episodes. Now that he's back, will he be the same character, or be different somehow? Melisandre saw him fighting at Winterfell in the flames. Ramsey, now Lord Bolton, is a sadistic butcher without the political skill of his father. It makes sense he would move foolishly against the Night's Watch with the Carstarks, who have no love for the Stark's after Robb Stark executed their patriarch. Sansa is also en route to Castle Black, so there may be a reunion with Jon soon.

Events in Mereen, the Iron Islands, and Kings Landing all point to a new generation of the families taking up the fight for Westeros. Daenerys is still being held by the Dothraki, while Arya trains to be a lethal assassin. All of these points seem minor to the clues given by Bran Stark's return. It seems the show will now use flashbacks to explain the events that led up to the War of the Five Kings. We also have the looming invasion of The White Walkers, and their mysterious leader - The Night's King. Who knows when this will all come together, but at least we're getting into the thick of season 6.

Julian Roman at Movieweb
Julian Roman