I’m very sad, fellow Throne geeks…last week I cried tears of happiness at Jon and Sansa’s reunion, but this week creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss threw a bunch of ice zombies at my heart by killing Hodor and, sniff, Summer (the Stark direwolves just can’t catch a break, can they?!). I suppose I should have seen it coming since the show rarely allows us to be happy for long…but, as always, it remains just as brilliant in it’s sadness because the character moments feel so authentic and earned. Doesn’t mean I’m not shaking my fist at David and Dan, though…
In any case, season six of Game of Thrones clearly isn’t pulling any punches, not only in terms of character deaths, but also given how many plot bombs they’ve thrown our way. Last night’s big one: the children of the forest created the White Walkers! The fifth episode, entitled “The Door” also gave us a rather trippy time loop scenario revealing the origin of Hodor, a new Red Priestess with a different candidate for the Prince Who Was Promised, and the long awaited Iron Islands Kingsmoot.
So let’s dive through “The Door” and see where those direwolf murdering writers took us this week.
At Castle Black
Sansa continues to show us her prowess with a needle as she sews a new dress embellished with the Stark sigil. It’s a nice allusion to the fact that Sansa has a different arsenal of weapons at her disposal, as opposed to Jon or even Arya (who has her own “needle”). Her work is interrupted, however, by a letter from Petyr Baelish asking her to meet him in Mole’s Town (a small village near Castle Black that was mostly destroyed by the wildlings in season four. Baelish obviously used his teleporter to get there so quickly…again). Taking only Brienne with her, Sansa confronts the man who essentially sold her to Ramsay. In another stellar performance by Sophie Turner, Sansa tears Petyr down to a place we’ve never seen him. He can barely answer Sansa as she ruthlessly forces him to consider the horrific things Ramsay did to her. It’s the most emotional and off kilter we’ve seen Littlefinger, but he still manages to play one card before Sansa banishes him (despite his having an army of Valeman willing to fight for her at Moat Cailin – the fortress that guards The Neck – the only land avenue between the North and The Riverlands to the south). Petyr tells Sansa that her great uncle Brynden (also known as The Blackfish – last seen going for a piss just before the bloodbath of The Red Wedding in season three) has rallied an army of Riverlands men and taken back the castle of Riverrun from the Lannisters.
That piece of information Sansa takes back to Jon and Davos as they meet for a war council at Castle Black (though she curiously lies to Jon about where she got the information from). While Davos clearly sees Jon as the figurehead for rallying the North, Sansa asserts her place as at least equal to Jon in that role (did Petyr’s parting comment to her in regards to Jon being her “half brother” stick in her brain?). They agree that though the Umbers and Karstarks are unlikely to switch sides back to the Starks, there are other, smaller, northern houses they can approach about joining them: the Glovers, Cerwyns, Hornwoods, and Mormonts (house of Jeor, the former Lord Commander of the Nights Watch, and Jorah), among others. Sansa also decides to send Brienne south to seek the aid of the Tullys. Brienne doesn’t love this plan as she worries about Sansa’s safety, but it’s probably for the best given her antagonistic relationship with Davos and Melisandre. But, sadly, this means no more appreciative looks from Tormund toward Brienne…for now, anyway.
On the Iron Islands
It’s Kingsmoot time! Yara Greyjoy claims the Salt Throne (ahem, Seastone Chair) with the help of a rather rousing speech from her unmanned brother, Theon. Just as the Ironborn appear to accept her, however, Euron Greyjoy, Balon’s brother and murderer, appears. Rather than lie about his deed,s Euron proudly admits to killing Balon and lays out his plan for the Ironborn: build up their fleet of ships (Yara’s idea, actually), “galavant” over to Mereen, marry Dany, and join her in conquering Westeros. This plan pretty much wins him the kingship, but Asha, Theon, and their followers sneak away during Euron’s “drowning and crowning.” As they sail off in their stolen fleet, Euron calls for his remaining followers to build more ships in order to track his niece and nephew down (“Let’s go murder them.” What a nice family guy). Euron promises his followers the world, and though Dany is unlikely to be impressed by him, his ships certainly would come in handy…
Speaking of Dany, we meet up with her standing on a cliff overlooking her new Dothraki army (100,000 strong!). Every inch a Queen, she must, once again, decide what to do with Jorah: send him away or keep him at her side. He makes her decision easy, however, by showing her his greyscale-covered arm. After emotionally proclaiming his love for her, he moves to leave (presumably to end his own life before completely turning into an insane stone man), but Dany calls him back and, as his queen, commands him to find a cure and return to her. It’s a moving scene as Dany reveals that, though she does not love Jorah in romantic sense, she loves him nonetheless. This is an intriguing way for Dany and Jorah to part because it seems to point to Jorah still having a part to play in the story. I heard a theory from a fellow book reader that involves a non-show character who seeks the help of a Red Priest to burn away a poisoned hand injury…is this, perhaps, an avenue for poor Jorah to be cured and remain by his Queen’s side when she finally heads for Westeros? It’s a theory I could get behind, especially because…
…there is a new Red Priestess in town! Kinvara, the highest ranking Priestess from Volantis, is invited to Mereen by Tyrion. Fearing that the peace he’s managed to establish in the city is likely temporary, Tyrion reached out to the followers of R’hllor in order to get his Queen some good PR. Since he has no way of knowing that Dany is, in fact, on her way back (followed by a massive Dothraki horde…), Tyrion understands that the people of Mereen (and the rest of Slaver’s Bay) need to be reminded of their queen, her power, and her benevolence. Kinvara, as gorgeous and enigmatic as Melisandre (I spy a red ruby necklace, though…how old do we suppose this priestess is?), agrees to aid Tyrion because she believes Dany is The One Who Was Promised…move over, Jon Snow?
Varys, much to Tyrion’s chagrin, is very suspicious of Kinvara (and of magic in general, which we know from his speech to Tyrion back in season three when he had the sorcerer, who cut him as a boy, in a crate with his mouth sewn shut…ew). But Kinvara silences him with her knowledge of his history and of the evil voice he heard the day he was cut (the great Other, perhaps?). We’ve never seen Varys quite this unnerved, but it seems an uneasy alliance is in place.
Meanwhile, in Braavos, the Waif continues to physically torment Arya, though Arya’s ninja-like skills are certainly coming along. The Waif still doubts Arya’s commitment to being “no one,” mainly because their members are usually slaves and poor people, not lords or ladies. Jaqen explains that the faceless men was formed in Valyria by slaves, who then helped found the city of Braavos. He then gives Arya one last chance to prove herself: by killing an actress called Lady Crane. Arya scouts out the actress and discovers she is starring in a play about the recent history of Kings Landing. Only the play is a farce, full of innuendo and jokes at the expense of its characters. Arya, of course, finds it quite funny when the jokes are about the Lannisters, but the smile is wiped off her face when she sees her father portrayed as a bumbling fool and her sister literally stripped of her corset on stage.
Though Jaqen’s test is clearly about whether or not Arya will follow through on a mission to kill someone she feels doesn’t deserve it (the faceless men are paid assassins, after all), the undercurrent here is Arya’s inner struggle to truly shed her identity. Being faced with a reenactment of what happened to her father and sister brings up painful memories that she may not be able to ignore (which, truthfully, we don’t want her to, right?).
North of the Wall
The biggest moments of the episode take place far north of the Wall, in n the magically protected cave of weirwood roots. Bran shares another flashback with The Three Eyed Raven, in which they see a great weirwood tree before the north was covered in snow and ice (so thousands and thousands of years before the events in our story). At the base of the tree, they watch as several children of the forest (including Leaf) perform a horrible ritual: they murder a man using a dragonglass dagger, which, combined with their magic and the power of the tree itself, turns him into a white walker. Whoa. That’s pretty big, people. That means that the walkers definitely originated as humans and were conceived as a weapon against humans (who invaded Westeros and systematically began killing the land’s original inhabitants: the children of the forest. Giants too, incidentally). This also explains why dragonglass can kill them (what created them can also kill them).
Another intriguing tidbit garnered from the scene (and the following Bran scene as well) is the aerial shot of the tree and the surrounding rock formations – they form a pinwheel shape, which is a pattern we’ve seen before: back in season three when Mance Rayder and Jon came across the remnants of the massacre at the Fist of The First Men – the horse heads were arranged in the same pattern. This spiral image is clearly important in regards to the White Walkers, but it isn’t yet clear as to how or why.
And so we reach the tragic climax of “The Door,” in which Bran does the thing we all yelled at our television screens for him not to do: he grabbed a root and warged into a flashback without the aid of The Three Eyed Raven. In the vision, he sees the same weirwood tree from his first flashback, only now it is present day, and the tree is surrounded by wights (ice zombies). As he slowly makes his way through the horde, Bran finally sees the Night King, as well as three other white walkers. Only, the Night King sees Bran as well…is this because he didn’t have the protection of The Three Eyed Raven? What was Bran actually looking for/hoping to see in this vision (what happened next at the Tower of Joy, perhaps?)? Whatever the case, The Night King grabs Brans arm, which leaves a real mark on him when he wakes up in the cave.
The Three Eyed Raven realizes what happened and tells Bran that the enchantment protecting the cave has been broken by Bran’s foolish act. The Night King and his army are on their way (this suggests some knowledge on the part of the White Walkers that involves them understanding the threat posed by The Three Eyed Raven, and now, by extension, Bran). The Three Eyed Raven tells Bran that, though he isn’t ready, he must take over for him.
As the Night King and his followers attack the weirwood cave (cue some fireball throwing by Leaf and her fellow children of the forest), Bran and the Three Eyed Raven are in a flashback that takes place on the day when Bran’s father, Ned, left Winterfell to become a ward of Jon Arryn’s at The Eyrie. Young Benjen Stark is in the scene, as is a young Hodor, or Willas, as he was known back then. Back in the cave, Meera drags Bran’s body onto a sledge but can’t get Hodor to help her. She calls out to Bran to warg into Hodor and Bran hears her while still in the flashback. The Three Eyed Raven tells him to listen to his friends, so Bran wargs into Hodor…while still in the flashback. This somehow links young Willas in the past to Hodor in the present, which leads to a heartbreaking sacrifice as Meera and Bran flee the white walkers and wights (though not before Meera takes out a walker using the spear she made from the dragonglass tip Sam gave her back in season three).
As the Night King kills The Three Eyed Raven, Summer (Bran’s direwolf) and Leaf both sacrifice themselves in order to give Bran, Meera and Hodor enough time to get out of the cave through a side door. As they make it outside, Meera tells Hodor to hold the door, which Bran and Willas hear in the flashback. Willas’ eyes cloud over and he falls to ground in a fit as he yells “hold the door” over and over. The words slowly slur into one word “hodor” as our Hodor dies a slow death keeping the wights from bursting through the door and chasing Meera as she drags Bran waway in the sledge through the snowstorm.
The implications of the scene are both immense and heartbreaking as it seems that Bran’s connection to Hodor forms a sort of time loop. Willas became Hodor in order for his future self to die saving Bran…which is what caused him to become Hodor in the first place. I have to say, this sort of head scratching “time travel” trope was not one I was expecting to find in the world of Game of Thrones, but the full circle quality of the moment gave it much more depth and emotional resonance…so much so, that this may be the most heartbreaking scene the show has given us (save perhaps Ned’s execution and Robb’s death at the Red Wedding).
Way to gut punch us, Game of Thrones.
- Sansa tears Littlefinger down for his role in her marriage to Ramsay and the horrors she suffered because of it.
- Kinvara unsettles Varys and promises her aid to Tyrion by proclaiming Dany to be The Prince(ss?) Who Was Promised (move over, Jon…)
Most Shocking Moments:
- In Bran’s flashback, he sees that the Children of the Forest (including Leaf) created the White Walkers.
- Bran is actually the one who turned Willas into Hodor, by warging both into the past where Willas was still a stableboy at Winterfell, as well as into Hodor in the present as he ”holds the door.”
- Did you know about Ramsay? If you didn’t, you’re an idiot. If you did, you’re my enemy. – Sansa to Littlefinger
- Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind? – Jaqen. No. – Arya
- Knowledge has made you powerful, but there is still so much you don’t know. – Kinvara
- He [Jon] seems trustworthy. A bit brooding, perhaps. I suppose that’s understandable, considering. – Brienne
- Hold the Door. – Hodor
- Will we be getting any more time loops thanks to Bran warging into the past, thus affecting events in the future (that would make him even more powerful than we thought)?
- Have we ever seen Littlefinger or Varys this discomfited?
- How will Euron’s barely 100 followers (as seen on screen…there must not have been enough money in the budget for a big crowd scene) build 1000 ships in just a few episode’s time?
- We want Dany and Jon to team up in the eventual fight against the White Walkers, but are they being to set up to be pitted against each other? Will Melisandre stand behind her (latest) man or jump on the Dany wagon as the Essos Red Priesthood seems to be doing?
- Are Ghost and Nymeria safe?!
Well, that was an emotional wringer, make no mistake. I still weep for Hodor and Summer, not to mention that emotional moment between Dany and Jorah. I’m also more than intrigued by Kinvara and the role the Lord of Light will play in Dany’s corner, as well as the Euron vs. Yara/Theon dynamic (will Yara usurp Euron’s plan and head to Dany herself? Methinks: yes!). This was another solid episode for season six, spending the right amount of time forwarding a variety of stories without any of the scenes feeling too abrupt or like simple filler. There are still LOTS of questions regarding Bran’s powers and his role moving forward, but it was great to be reminded of the real threat up north before we turn back to events in Kings Landing next week So until then, mourn for poor Hodor and Summer, and go back and watch the Sansa/Jon reunion from episode four if you need a pick me up!
Game of Thrones airs every Sunday night on HBO.
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