Directed by Jack Bender
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
If there’s one thing I love in any fiction, it’s time travel. If there’s one thing I love even more, it’s when time travel is used to deliver a payoff you’ve spent years waiting for, and boy does Game of Thrones deliver on that front in this episode. It’s actually a payoff you never probably imagined might exist until this season, when David Benioff & D.B. Weiss threw the open question out there from Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) – how did Hodor (Kristian Nairn) become Hodor exactly? The answer has always been assumed to simply be learning difficulties, but the truth is as surprising as it is devastating – as theorised in my article wondering about Bran’s exploits through history, it was Bran who made Hodor into Hodor, thanks to some much needed warging and a desperate White Walkers escape. Hodor wasn’t just the random murmurings of a mentally challenged man, it was a command, placed through warging into young Wylis’ psyche: “hold the door”. It serves as both the ‘birth’ and death of the much loved Hodor, and if you aren’t left misty eyed after a roaring, explosive climactic escape from the Weirwood cave, I’ll be surprised. You held the door wonderfully, Hodor, and you will be dearly missed.
It’s a testament to how much is going on in ‘The Door’ that this isn’t the major development in Bran’s story here. Firstly, slamming into his time travails almost out of nowhere, Benioff & Weiss land a pretty stunning, game changing revelation George R.R. Martin must have killed to let go of – the White Walkers were *created* by the Children of the Forest. WHOA. That changes everything. Remember the lore – the Children had to team up with the First Men to defeat the Walkers in Westerosi antiquity, but as Leaf (Kae Alexander) briefly describes, these two sides were originally at war. We see the ‘birth’ of the man now confirmed in dialogue as the ‘Night’s King’ (Vladimir Furdik), the first man of the First Men to be transformed into what can only be considered an army for the Children to use against the realms of men. We can only assume their plan massively backfired, giving rise to the Night’s King and his legions. It’s interesting to note only the King and his three other horsemen can pass through the protective fire circle around the Weirwood cave, not the undead legions – is this because they were First Men transformed thousands of years ago into Walkers? Is this why they can raise the dead and can only be killed by dragonglass?
We also bid farewell to Max von Sydow. Three-Eyed Raven we barely knew ye, and one can’t help wonder just who or what this guy’s deal was – the fact he planned to show Bran everything backfired thanks to Bran’s youthful impatience but his comment about, while not ready, Bran must ‘become him’ leaves many questions unanswered. The Raven spent his entire life apparently on the run from the Night’s King–who very much seemed to know him–and guided Bran to revelation, so will this be Bran’s task now? Will he need to guide another to understanding? Jon, maybe? And without Hodor, stranded in the middle of the distant frozen lands beyond the Wall, how will he possibly succeed?
In a week dominated by the fates of the Stark children, Sansa (Sophie Turner) begins to play a dangerous game of her own as she moves to become a player in the building War of the North. It was nice to see her psychologically try and play Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) at his own game, following his entreaty, though I wonder quite how successful she was – there’s a sense Littlefinger is consistently one step ahead throughout their conversation, anticipating her anger and frustration at dropping her in it with Ramsey, and using it to his advantage. It appears Sansa has the upper hand, rebuking him, barely sparing him from Brienne’s (Gwendoline Christie) sword and refusing his Knights of the Vale, but the simple fact is that she’s going to need him if they want to win this war, and Littlefinger likely knows that. His seemingly honest sorrow and apology for leaving her at Winterfell now puts him in good stead to owe Sansa when she almost inevitably comes to him, or indeed he swoops in and saves her bacon when the North don’t rally as she expects.
Jon (Kit Harington) you get the feeling isn’t as certain, you see, that the North will all declare for the Stark’s, much like Davos (Liam Cunningham) voices his own uncertainties. The fact Sansa lies to Jon about seeing Littlefinger proves she hasn’t quite grown up and become the responsible Queen she hopes to be yet either, afraid perhaps of either needing Littlefinger or trusting him, and knowing Jon would likely move to take the Vale’s support. What she’s forgetting, what Davos and Jon clearly know, is that the North may remember but they may not fight a battle they’re not sure they can win – nor will many of them likely take kindly to two thousand Wildlings beyond the Wall serving under Jon. Before the war for Winterfell, Sansa needs to win the battle of convincing the North.
Over in the free city of Braavos, the other Stark daughter Arya (Maisie Williams) also learns some crucial history of the world of Ice & Fire, as Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) clarifies how the Faceless Men were former slaves in Valryian society who rose up and founded Braavos, immersing themselves and disappearing into the city. None of this is new lore outside of Martin’s books, but it further serves to clarify Arya’s transformation from a noble lady into a girl who is no one, and once again touches upon one of the central themes in Game of Thrones – the breaking of chains, the destruction of unwarranted power, and the rise of the common man. It’s everywhere in Martin’s storytelling, all over the show, and increasingly clear in Arya’s story – when she’s not getting her arse handed to her by the Waif (Faye Marsay) that is.
Finally assigned her first ‘mission’, or indeed her ‘second chance mission’ after the Meryn Trant fiasco at the end of Season Five, Arya faces a challenge – swallowing down her pain at the death of her father and loss of her family as she sees a mummers troupe in Braavos recount the events of the show’s first season, of Robert Baratheon’s death, Joffrey’s rise and Ned’s execution, all played for laughs and featuring well known players such as Richard E. Grant & Kevin Eldon in the roles. Arya’s target is The Babadook‘s Essie Davis aka Lady Crane, the lead actress, but as Jaqen points out when Arya tries to figure out who wants the woman dead – a girl is a servant, and a servant asks no questions. Will Arya truly become a girl and take a life without knowing why?
Daenerys & Tyrion
Across the Dothraki Sea, after her fiery and explosive destruction of the Dothraki Khal’s which has put an entire army at her back, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) gives Jorah (Iain Glen) a much earned reprieve that’s been a long time coming, in one of the show’s most touching scenes in quite some time. As Daario (Michiel Huisman) awkwardly looks on, Jorah is open and honest with Dany about his feelings and his affliction, but while an emotional Dany commands him not to give up now she’s forgiven him, one can’t help but feel this is the last time Jorah may see his beloved Khaleesi. It would be a quietly tragic end if so.
Back in Meereen, the game continues to be played as Varys (Conleith Hill) starts getting a little cocky at what seem to be a cessation of general hostilities in the city after Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) deal, but the Lannister advisor is more concerned about sustaining and maintaining the peace after they’ve sailed for Westeros. It’s almost a strange move to pull in their very own Red Priestess in the unerring Kinvara (Ania Bukstein), who seems to confirm all of the servants of R’hllor need to have superb breasts and a line in balancing serious allure with a creepy demeanour. She’s without question the first person in six years to truly rattle Varys, recounting certain disturbing scenes from his youth, which call into question the power of her and Melisandre’s religion. It also confirms how we now have two Priestesses who are playing for different teams – Mel is Team Jon, and Kinvara is Team Dany in the Prince That Was Promised prophecy. There’s only one way to find out who’s right… FIGHT!
Aaaand finally, hopping over to Pyke, it’s the much anticipated and long overdue Kingsmoot, one of the last major adaptation stories from A Feast For Crows, which plays out largely as anyone who has read the book expected. Yara (Gemma Whelan) puts forward a damn good case for why she should lead the Ironborn as their first ever Queen, and Theon (Alfie Allen) backs her, eschewing any grab for power he could have had as Balon’s son (and potentially won) by remaining loyal as promised to his sister. Theon’s redemptive arc is now in full force and it all appears to be going just swimmingly… and then Euron (Pilou Asbaek) swaggers (literally) into the picture, taunts Theon for not having a cock, laughs in the face of Yara, and pulls a move no one was expecting – he’s not going after their usual targets, he’s going after Daenerys, her army and her bed.
Well if you’ve read A Dance of Dragons you probably will have seen this coming but, nevertheless, Euron proves once again how batshit he is and it’s enough for Yara & Theon to get the hell out of there before they can be roped into the new King of the Ironborn’s jaunts across the Narrow Sea – perhaps just in time to provide Sansa crucial assistance in taking down Ramsey? They better steer clear of Euron though, as he’s going to want their guts for garters!
A tremendous episode, all told, with some gripping action beats, touching character points, devastating farewells and a stunning mythology revelation to boot. The show feels at the top of
SEXINESS TALLY (in lieu of the Hold the Door 🙁 Count):
2 pretend Sansa boobs
1 pretend Joffrey cock & bum
Tony Black is a freelance film/TV writer & podcaster & would love you to follow him on Twitter.
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