Show: Game of Thrones
Watched: Episode 55 – May 22, 2016
Title: The Door
Summary: The Hodor thing alone makes this the best episode this season so far
NOTE: SERIOUS SPOILER WARNING. This review/discussion contains tons of spoilers about the episode and even ones crossing over from the books. It’s really my free-for-all musing given all the information at my disposal.
Plot threads are unraveled and discussed one by one.
The Wall – These “multiple combined character threads” are often good, and certainly true of the new Jon/Sansa/Brienne/Davos/Red Lady plot line. This week, we open with Sansa sewing, playing direct homage to our first shot of her way way back in Episode 1 (no Jar Jar, not that episode 1). But season 6 Sansa receives a note, signed with Littlefinger’s distinct bird sigil. She asks the locals how far Mole’s Town is, and then goes there to meet him with Brienne as backup. Now, as to how Littlefinger teleported himself and his army from the Vale all the way north is anyone’s guess. We don’t see the “knights of the vale” anyway, as the production is saving money for the big zombie attack later in the episode.
But back to the Sansa/Littlefinger face off. Not only is she a lifetime older than that “silly girl” sewing at Winterfell, but her year with Ramsay has taught her a lesson or two. Her back and forth with Littlefinger is biting and she sums it up with “If you didn’t know [about Ramsay], you’re an idiot. If you did know, you’re my enemy.” It’s always hard to know much about Littlefinger’s except that he’s always out for himself (and that he’s always well pressed even after galloping breakneck across the country). Still, if I had to guess, he suspected about Ramsay, but decided to throw the dice anyway. He apologizes as usual, not the first time we’ve seen him making hollow apologies. Not even the first time to a Stark lady. Sansa really delivers with her speech, hinting at the horrors Ramsay inflicted on her. Really, given how bad he’s been on screen, we can only guess what nastiness he was up to when the cameras weren’t rolling. Sansa turns down Littlefinger’s offer of help and sends him packing, but he does throw her an informational tidbit by letting her know the Blackfish has formed an army and retaken Riverrun. And for good measure Littlefinger tries to throw sow some discord with Jon Snow.
Back in castle black, the whole gang sits down for a pow wow. Tormund seems distracted giving Brienne the most amusing leers while the rest of them try to figure out where they can drum up enough troops to take out Ramsay. They discuss the various houses and their loyalties. The Umbers obviously are a poor choice. Manderly might be a likely candidate since it’s mentioned and features in the books (Davos goes there). Sansa mentions the Tully army, but pointedly lies about how she knows about the Blackfish (saying she heard it at Winterfell).
Sansa later orders Brienne to the Riverlands to seek her uncle. I guess we know where Jaime is going next too — that’ll be cool. And Brienne takes Sansa to task for lying about where she found out. Brienne isn’t much of a talker, but she is a keen observer. I like her Jon Snow comment, “a bit brooding perhaps.” Lol.
Later Jon, Sansa, Davos, Mel, Tormund etc. prepare to leave. Sansa has a new Direwolf dress she has sown herself and gives Jon a wolf pelt cloak like Ned once wore. We might be gaining in wolf outfits, but we’re certainly losing on the actual wolf front :-(. Jon and Edd exchange bro hugs and the party rolls through the Caste Black gates. Those bleak portals have seen plenty of comings and goings.
Arya – spars again with the Waif. Is that all she’s going to do this season? Anyway, again the Waif beats her up, even when she fights unarmed against the Arya’s staff. Again the Waif taunts her, in this case “You’ll never be one of us, Lady Stark.” But as usual, Jaqen H’ghar is more generous. He walks her around the giant columned “face room” and gives a vague backstory about the faceless men having founded Bravos then hands Arya another of those vials that spells the someone’s doom. In this case an actress named Lady Crane.
Cut to Arya with her ugly “tied up” hairdo watching a play that spoofs the basic elements of Season 1, namely the death of Robert and execution of her father. Interesting her different reactions to different elements, particularly the uncomfortably dumb Ned Stark (but his rhymes are funny). The play feels medieval enough with the fake “guts,” the dwarf etc. Except for the nudity. They didn’t even have female players until well into the modern era. And the distorted outside political interpretation is interesting, because you can imagine that easily, a spoof based more on the official “story” and less on all the real details. Political reporting wasn’t exactly accurate in this “period”. But back in the dressing room, where Arya spies on her mark, we are treated to both some male and female nudity — and the funny differences between the actors with and without their wigs.
Back at the House of Black & White Arya presents her killer plan to Jaqen, but her tone implies some hesitation about the justice of such an act. Apparently Faceless men aren’t really supposed to care.
Yara / Theon – Are gathered at the Kingsmoot, where apparently Ironborn elect their new king. He got a haircut and his old Kraken outfit back, so he looks more like Theon than we’ve seen in some time. There is still a haunted look to him and I really have to give Alfie Allen kudos for his subtle excellence in this rather complex role. Also apparently (or hopefully) only nobles attend the Kingsmoot because there don’t seem to be a great many Ironborn, perhaps 40. But on the bright side, they did choose a rather lovely, if austere, stretch of the Irish coast for their summit.
Yara steps up and makes her claim. She doesn’t have the greatest plan: build a great fleet. And then what? And there is some considerable foot dragging on account of her being a woman. Where are her die hard men now? Did they all die trying to rescue Theon? But when the time comes, Theon mans up and supports her — well eunuch ups anyway.
But then steps in Euron.
He’s not really charismatic on screen, although he does have a much clearer plan: build a big fleet AND then take it to Daenerys, marry her, and bring all her troops across. Much clearer too than in the books. He doesn’t have the Dragon Horn, which is kinda a shame because I love a good magic horn that can burn your lungs out. Still, horn or no, Euron easily wins over the “crowd” then we are treated to a strange intercut between his “coronation” (by drowning in salt water) and Yara/Theon tucking tail toward their boats. Good thing too, because King Euron’s first mission to is to find them and kill them. But looking out over the water they have sailed off with the fleet, which actually seems like about 75 ships. I guess each of those 40 guys is sailing two.
Euron isn’t phased, he orders “everyone” to get building ships. Really, I haven’t seen a lot of trees on the Iron Islands. Or a lot of people.
It’s worth noting that while broadly similar to the books, the written version is more complex with point of views from Aeron (the long haired priest) and an extra brother, Victarion, who is sent with the horn to go retrieve Dany’s dragons. The show plot is at least more obvious and now actually makes clear the whole purpose for the Ironborne, which is to provide Dany a mechanism to get her Unsullied and Dothraki across the narrow sea!
If only we knew what Dorne was for!
Dany – gazes out over a very attractive CGI view of Vaes Dothrak. Dario and Jorah are there, but this segment is all about her oldest protector. She tells him she has banished him twice, he has returned twice, but yet saved her life. Clearly she still has a soft spot for him (as most of us viewers probably do). He shows her his nasty arm, admits he loves her, then turns to leave. But she will not dismiss him, instead ordering him to “go find a cure” and meet her in Westeros. He and his horse and her and her army both ride off in different directions in front of the giant horse statues — which are really cool but a little big on the construction effort for Dothraki.
Tyrion – pow wows with Varys and crew and they discuss how violence is at a relative low since Ty’s 7 year plan with the masters. So far so good, but Tyrion has even more plans at diplomacy and lets in a High Priestess of the Lord of Light for an audience. She wears the same chocker as Melisandre. Wonder if she’s also an old crone? Anyway, an interesting dual verbal duel ensues in which Varys criticizes the priestess, she freaks him out with her magical knowledge, and Tyrion tries to make peace between all. Essentially it’s well done, evoking Vary’s creepy story about the sorcerer, his burning balls, and the freaky voice in the flame. One of the few things that we’ve ever seen shut the eunuch up.
Bran – has three segments, but the first opens in the tree cave (again!) and then instantly shifts to a location somewhere in the north (i.e. Northern Ireland). There is a giant Weirwood surrounded by standing stones. Children of the Forest cavort about in what initially seems pastural — until we see a human trussed up and a Child shoves an obsidian blade into his heart — then his eyes go blue. So another huge reveal: the Children made the White Walkers (via sacrifice magic) in order to protect their land against mankind! And it looks like they may be immortal because it looks like the exact SAME children as now, 40,000 years later.
Later, Bran is in the cave with summer, Hodor, and Meera. The 3 eyed raven dude is asleep in his tree, so Bran crawls for a bone-like root and decides to take a trip of his own. Things like that never go well. And in fact, he ends up at the same Weirwood with standing stones, which we can now see is arranged in that eerie spiral pattern the Walkers consider excellent for corpse-art. But the landscape is covered in ice and snow and Bran is witness to a horde of CGI zombies. I’m guessing this is present day, at Walker HQ. Bran wanders through the decaying crowd for some time, showing off the awesome visual effects. But eventually gets to the Night’s King and his White Walker goons on corpse-horseback. Like 20 year-old Ned the other week, they seem aware of him and the King grabs Bran’s arm, waking him up — to find his arm is marked with ice. Uh oh! Told you it wouldn’t go well. The raven is now also awake and informs him it’s time Bran must “become [the raven]” but he isn’t ready. His goof, it seems, has informed the Night’s King as to his whereabouts, summoned the big bad, and will allow him inside the sanctuary of the tree cave. Big uh, oh.
So the Raven tosses Bran into another vision, again back at Winterfell where Ned is about to pack off for the Vale. Young Hodor is there. Meanwhile, back in the cave, Meera and Hodor are packing, then she has a bad feeling and runs to the door to find the army of the dead approaching. Out stroll the White Walkers and the Night’s King sends a ground shock tremor at them. She rushes back to try and wake Bran, yelling at Hodor to prepare the sled.
Meanwhile the children fireball the rushing army of the dead (using some sort of “forest grenade”). Then they raise a wall of flame which scares the dead, but the White Walkers just sort of wave an arm and walk through, allowing them to enter the cave. In season 4, the dead couldn’t at all, but apparently Bran’s f**kup has brought down the walls. The dead swarm the tree hill in CGI glory and start burrowing into the cave from above.
Inside, Hodor and Meera have Bran in the sled, but he’s still stuck in his dream version of 40 year ago Winterfell. Zombies break in. Meera and Summer dispatch the first ones, but in come the White Walkers spelling even further trouble. Meera hurls an obsidian spear at one and kills it, making her the third person (after Sam and Jon to do so), and why she doesn’t just use a bunch of those to kill all of them is anybody’s guess, but the zombies start to pile up and she retreats with Bran. Summer plunges into a big group of the dead and is overwhelmed and seemingly killed (a little unclear). Big bummer, since I love the direwolves and that leaves only Ghost and possibly Nymeria hiding in the Riverlands .Meera has been shouting at Bran and her voice is starting to penetrate into his vision. In order to get really moving down the tunnel she yells at him to Warg (mentally control) Hodor and he does, which results in BOTH real world Hodor and vision world young Hodor going all white eyed. As adult Hodor and Meera pull Bran down a giant root corridor toward the “back door” the dead swarm the tunnel in monster (haha) numbers. The Children of the Forest stand suicidally against them with their grenades and knives.
The Night’s King reaches the Raven (who obviously isn’t going anywhere) and whacks him with his big scimitar causing the Raven to disintegrate from Bran’s vision using a cool effect. Leaf, the only Child with a name, holds off the big rush of zombies by literally “jumping on the [forest] grenade,” allowing Bran and crew to push through the back door. She yells to Hodor to “hold the door.” He does, holding it (fatally) against the assault of hundreds of zombies. But this sentiment literally echoes across the connection between him and Bran and between young and old Hodor sending the young one into a fugue state in which he cries out “hold the door. hold the door. hold door. hold door. hodor. hodor.” And as such, the moment of his own death and sacrifice is looped back over 40 years to become his very nature and his fate as a one world half idiot! Wow!
This twist was both emotionally wrenching and incredibly clever on GRRM’s part (the producers admit it’s a book detail). Hodor, if you remember, is a season / book one character, and that means that in the early mid nineties GRRM had the idea to create this character who’s very fate (not yet even published 20+ years later) defined his nature. Sure he didn’t need to know WHICH door Hodor would hold, but he had the idea he’d go out holding SOME door. Very cool thread left into to pull much later.
It’s also worth noting that these scenes, like with the fireball scenes at the end of season 4 and the giant Hardholme fight have a bit of a different feel from most of the rest of the series as they ratchet up the fantasy level to a higher level. Not that this is bad, certainly not by my taste, but some less fantasy minded viewers might feel differently.
Episode body count: Summer, Hodor, 3 eyed Raven, apparently all the remaining Children of the Forest, one Walker, lots of zombies, and Yara’s bid for the Salt Throne.
So overall, probably the best episode of the season so far. Again this is one of those episode that concentrates on a few overlapping threads, making it feel more coherent and less jumpy than some. The Wall, Bran, and to a lessor extent the Kingsmoot dominate.
The title is pretty obvious and apropos. We won’t forget The Door any faster than the Red Wedding.