I knew—just knew—that all these warm fuzzies weren’t going to last. Entirely too much happy stuff happened in this episode of Game of Thrones, to the point where I wondered if I’d turned on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by accident. As the hour went by, and triumphant fist-pump moments were followed by even more triumphant fist-pump moments, a paradoxically heavy feeling of dread settled over me, for in the Game of Thrones, the viewer cannot be left smiling once the final credits roll. It’s not as if this episode—entitled “The Door”—unnecessarily telegraphed the tragic events of its final moments. In fact, the slowly mounting sense of dread worked to the hour’s dramatic benefit, and made the final reveal-slash-climatic scene even more powerful than it would have been on its own. Indeed, were it not for all the small victories that preceded it, that final, holding shot just before we cut to black probably would have simply been too much to bear. As it stands, once the episode was over I wanted a beer—had we not had so many (uncharacteristically many) mini triumphs beforehand, I probably would have needed twelve and would have called off work the next day. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Leading up to Hodor’s Samson moment, we had a lot of other forward-moving momentum making for cheers from the crowd. First and foremost was Sansa’s big f-you to Littlefinger. Hearing her former quote-unquote protector is in town, Sansa travels with Brienne to confront him, and it’s every bit as cathartic as one could hope. Not content to just call him an asshole and be done with it, Sansa actually forces Littlefinger to guess at the terrible things Ramsay did to her, with Brienne standing behind her, sword at the ready, to make sure he complies. It’s a classic example of a trauma victim owning their own personal tragedy and gaining empowerment from it, and though the scene ends with Littlefinger turning the screws, just a little bit—advising Sansa on how to direct an army to take on Ramsay—we nonetheless see in his face what could be, for the first time since we first made his acquaintance in season 1, a bit of unsettled discomfort: Littlefinger is used to being the one driving his own plot, and he’s not accustomed to losing the upper hand. From there we check in on Arya—wait, I’m sorry: “A Girl”—in Braavos, in an uncharacteristically prolonged, yet welcome, sequence. Her training is continuing, as she keeps getting her ass kicked by the Waif who, sacred nameless oath or not, is obviously enjoying beating the girl with a stick. And then Arya is given a shot at redemption: she is to kill a local stage actress. Here we also get the first of a couple big, yet casually presented reveals: The faces lining the walls in the temple where she trains are actually the faces of the original Faceless Men, who left them there, presumably, after they died; and now, each new Faceless Man (or woman) leaves their own, in a continually growing collection. So, cool. The other reveal takes place in the tree of the Three Eyed Raven. Bran learns, while warging, that the White Walkers—and the Night King—were actually created by the Forest Children… to protect them from human beings encroaching on their territory. Circle of Life, and all that. It’s a development that countless fans have doubtlessly guessed at long before this moment, and so treating it as almost an aside, rather than an episode-ending cliffhanger, is a very good choice: we get confirmation to something we’ve suspected, and we move on. But, Braavos: In scoping out her prey, Arya attends one of the actress’s performances, which just so happens to depict her own father’s decapitation. It’s a little too neat and tidy, narratively speaking, even if that’s the exact reason the Faceless Man chose Arya for this assignment, but it does give us a chance to see just how real her struggles with letting go of her past life are. Not only must Arya relive the moment of her father’s death while surrounded by cheering theatregoers applauding the whole scene, but she also does so from the same position she did when it happened for real: standing hidden and anonymous in the crowd, powerless to do anything about it. This is a powerful scene on different levels, and Maisie Williams continues to be one of the strongest actors on screen this season, even in a story arc that has yet to have too much drive behind it. The Iron Islands side of things, though, finally does have some get-up-and-go. With the death of her father the king, Yara stands ready to lay claim to the throne. Predictably, one loudmouth says the Iron Born will never be ruled by a woman, especially now that Theon, the rightful heir, has come back home. And as Theon steps forward at the mention of his name, there is one, glorious moment where we’re lead to think, holy hell, he might actually betray her (again) and steal Yara’s claim—but no, he gives an impassioned speech on her behalf, and soon has everyone rallying to her side… until their uncle steps forward. After pretty quickly admitting to murdering the former king, he says he only did so because the man was leading his people nowhere, and then reveals his great plan to return the Iron Islands to glory: travel to Mereen, get Daenerys to marry him, and then use her dragons to take over the world. Sounds simple enough. It was at this point that my wife turned to me and asked: why do people keep underestimating her? Indeed, that’s been a theme all season long—not just in relation to Daenerys, but with all the women on the show. Whether an intentional choice, or just a natural function of the story’s progression, it’s extremely gratifying to see all these female characters—Sansa, Daenerys, and yes, even Cersei, begin to take ownership of the tragedies that have befallen them and draw strength and power from the experiences. While Theon and Yara’s uncle usurps the throne, the two siblings and their allies steal the Islands’ “fastest ships” (we’re told this, just so there’s no mistaking how big a screw-you their escape is) and get the hell out of Dodge, heading toward… well, we really have no idea. The new king treats it like no big deal, and just tells his loyal subjects to build him a thousand ships and he’ll help them take over the world. It looks like he’s got a kingdom of about all of twelve people, so I have a feeling we may not be checking back in with them until series’ end, in two years’ time. And back to Daenerys, post temple burning massacre, who finally seems to come to grips with just how much Jorah cares for her—indeed, as she herself says, she’s banished him twice, and he’s returned to her twice, once through slavery and this most recent time to save her life. When he shows her the infection that will ultimately turn him into a murderous zombie, she commands him to find a cure, and to then return to her—to help her rule her kingdom. It’s an achingly tender moment, and well earned, as we’ve spent the last two years rooting for Jorah to redeem himself in his queen’s eyes, hoping for it to happen, but (this being Game of Thrones) not at all sure it would ever come to be. So, we’ve had Sansa telling Littlefinger to go to hell, Arya getting a second chance to become a Faceless (Wo)Man, Theon and Yara reconciling, and Daenerys making peace with Jorah. So now it’s time to bring it all crashing down. Bran’s been busy in his warging tree with the Three Eyed Raven. Since he obviously still has no idea what he’s doing, he decides, when everyone else is asleep, to take his mind bus to a field in the middle of a gathering with the Night King and his White Walkers. Then, because he’s an idiot (and things have to move ahead somehow!) he lets the Night King grab his arm before waking up inside the tree. The Three Eyed Raven gravely tells him that now that he bears the Night King’s “mark” they are no longer safe in the tree…. So this is the perfect time, naturally, to take another warging trip now that the White Walkers know where they are and are coming for them, to ensure that when the evil undead army breaks in, Bran will be safely unconscious and unable to assist in his own escape. Look, the whole setup for this sequence is ridiculous beyond words, but it all happens so quickly there’s not much time to reflect on it until after the fact… and after the fact, the paper-thin reasoning of how we got here ain’t what people are gonna be reflecting on. So. The White Walkers come, of course, and Bran is too busy warging to help out. In fact, he’s traveled to the past, to spy on his own father as a boy. All the while, in the background, there’s little-boy-version Hodor just hanging out. Meanwhile, back in the cave, while the Forest Children try to hold off the incoming horde, Meera is simultaneously trying to wake Bran up and get Hodor to Hulk out. Finally, the gentle giant’s eye glaze over, and he leaps to action, grabbing the sled they’ve tied Bran to and starting to drag him to safety. As various Forest Children, the Three Eyed Raven, and Summer the dire wolf (NO!!!) all die protecting Bran, the group of survivors reach the tree’s back door. After they finally power through, Meera doesn’t even give Hodor a second glance as she leaves him behind and drags Bran away, only calling back to him to “Hold the Door!” By the second or third time she gives this command—Hold the Door—it’s clear what’s happening. And it leads to, arguably, the series’ most emotionally devastating moment. Back in the past, Meera’s cries are breaking through to Bran. And her voice—or Bran’s power—is so strong that kid-version-Hodor hears her, too. The break in time/space/reality/whatever is too much for his mind to bear, and he collapses to the ground in what appears to be an epileptic fit, himself crying out, over and over again, the command he’s hearing from the future: “Hold the Door”. And his words eventually slur into what is to become his mantra for the rest of his days: Hodor. In other words, the course of this kid’s entire life has been set from the time he was thirteen or so: he is destined to be torn to shreds by zombies while holding a door to help his friend escape. That’s Game of Thrones for you. In seriousness, though, this was a powerful sequence, and a well-earned one, too. Since Hodor’s introduction as Bran’s veritable sidekick, sure, there’s been wonderings at his origin, but most importantly we saw him as someone who would unquestionably and without limits do all he could to protect Bran. And that laser-focused dedication pays off in a heartbreaking, yet incredibly powerful, ending to an episode that already was easily the season’s strongest. From here I imagine we’ll revisit Cersei and her dealings with the Sparrow next week, as that storyline was set up for big things last week, and was conspicuously absent for this episode. But this is also a very, very positive direction for this show: with so many characters and stories to follow, it’s inevitable that, week to week, some will need to be sacrificed (in a story way, not a Game of Thrones way) in order for all the pieces to continue working in tandem. And with five episodes behind us and only five yet to go, all the moving pieces finally do seem to be operating in harmony. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.