This week was a first. We got a shocking, cataclysmic reveal that only the television series has revealed to long time fans of the story that is The Song of Ice and Fire… Ramsey kills Roose Bolton! What?!
Yeah yeah. Kidding, of course. We all know what happened. But you can’t just put one of the biggest jaw droppers in one of the most popular TV shows of all time at the top of your review. Bear with me. Actually, the most important thing about this episode is that it is one of the best and most meaningful episodes of Game of Thrones in quite some time. It’s not simply defined by its surprising ending.
This is a show that spends an awful lot of time setting things up that only pay off after week and week. It’s a necessary evil for an episodic show tackling an absolutely massive storyline, but it has bogged the show down in recent seasons. “Home,” appropriately enough, felt settled. Like the writers weren’t afraid to take a moment to breath. Certainly some shocking, ruthless moves were made in the never ending game being played- the aforementioned Ramsey being his usual sociopathic killer self for one. Still, as the story starts to round its necessary bend towards a conclusion, we’re starting to see a longing for more than just power. A longing for that feeling of home.
What is home, anyway? Is it subjective? Or is it a universal feeling we all recognize? I think it’s a little bit of both. Arya is blind, fighting for something I’m still not sure she actually wants. She just needs something to fight for. Bran is discovering his family legacy while learning some greater lessons that are still unclear. Jamie is trying to pick up the pieces of his family as it crumbles ever quickly around him. And Tyrion still pines for unfulfilled desires from childhood. Each one longs for something different, yet they long for it for the same reasons.
Now we have Jon Snow back from the dead. Back to- where exactly? Back from- where exactly? Is the earth his home, or is home an eternal place where we are meant to be? That’s the question of a lifetime. Many lifetimes, in fact. The show displays several main religions, each with some semblance of an afterlife. Jon Snow returning from the dead represents a merging of realms. Obviously, this has practical thematic application, as this may very well lead to a merging of the realms of men. It has a greater application in our story as a merging of the natural and supernatural realms- the old gods, the new gods, the undead white walkers who now are growing sentient, the dragons, the wizards, the tree people. This is the pivot point.
Now, you’re never going to find a clear biblical parallel from Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin would never let you off that easily. But I do see so much Lazarus in Jon Snow. It’s not just that he was raised from the dead. It’s more why Lazarus was raised that is the greater parallel. Jesus tells the many people that loved Lazarus that what Lazarus would endure would be “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” He also told them it was “so that you may believe.” They took him at his word, but it didn’t take away the sting of death. They still mourned for Lazarus.
Jesus also wept for Lazarus while knowing full well that he became ill and died for a greater glory. This was because Jesus loved Lazarus, and loved Mary and Martha who wept for him. He longed for the friendship of Lazarus, and for Mary and Martha to not be in pain. This is that sense of home feeling that comes from physical comforts and a joyful loved one. Jesus also knew Lazarus had to endure the grave, if only momentarily, because he longed for something greater than the physical comforts of this world. Home, in both its physical and eternal manifestations, is where Jesus’ heart was and is. Because each one matters.
The game of thrones is sided with men and women with their own versions of what home is. For the bloodthirsty Ramsey, it is only a place of power in the mortal world. For the High Sparrow, ever manipulative and arguably just as cruel as some of the worst villains in the show, it is only an eternal place. Each of them casts aside the other. I believe it is crucial to understand that home, the place where we truly belong, has echoes in this world and fulfillment in the next. To value the eternal is to value the physical. As C.S. Lewis said, “Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”
Last week I wrote that something has to break. Jon Snow is one (very big) straw of many that will lead, either directly or indirectly, to the breaking of this cold, wintery world’s back. His rebirth begins the rebirth of something long forgotten and very ancient in Westeros. This massive story must reach a conclusion. We’ve experienced so much brutality, violence, cruelty, perversion, corruption, betrayal. The list goes on. Hearts are now turning toward something greater. Something bigger, more lasting, more pure, and more eternal than an iron throne. Something like home.