We are now halfway through the 10-episode sixth season of HBO's Game Of Thrones with the airing of (S6E05) "The Door." This is often a pivotal and important point in every season, because the fifth episode often sets up action that will be resolved or poses questions that will be hopefully answered during the season finale. In "The Door" we had a heartbreaking death, (or two!) an important confrontation, an intriguing introduction, an unfunny comedy and a surprising escape. Overall, this was one of the best episodes of the show's entire 55-episode series run so far.
Any discussion of "The Door" needs to begin with talking about the heartbreaking death of Hodor. In (S6E02) "Home", in addition to the big reveal that Jon Snow's death is not permanent, we are also shown Hodor as a (very large) youth named Willis (who could say something else besides "Hodor" at that time). In "The Door" we see that Brandon Stark actually caused Willis' seizure because he was greenseeing that point in time when back in the future, Meera Reed is desperately trying to save Brandon's life by pulling him to an escape from the Night's King and his army of reanimated corpses (known as wights). "Hold the door!" she screams at Hodor and the words get transmitted via Brandon's mental link with Willis in the past and the emotional intensity compressed the words into the now famous "Hodor" and scrambles the teenaged Willis' brain in the process. This results in a sickening irony. Brandon, who was cared for and carried by Hodor so lovingly actually caused the mental defect that resulted in his companion not being able to communicate meaningfully with those around him. Hodor heartbreakingly sacrifices his life to hold the door against the Night's King's undead army, allowing Meera and Brandon to "escape" into the frigid night, carrying only the clothes on their back, with Brandon paralyzed and his direwolf Summer, the Three-Eye Raven and Leaf (the Child of the Forest) and Hodor all dead behind them. Is it worth it? Is Brandon really that important to the fate of mankind?
One key takeaway of the events of this episode and the revelation of how Hodor got his name is that there is no question that when Bran is greenseeing, he can affect the past. However, it also appears to be true that even if Brandon affects the past, it doesn't change his timeline. To Brandon, he had only ever known Willis as Hodor, even if he had not yet been responsible for the events that turned Willis into Hodor. The question is, can Bran change other past events?
In addition to the two heartbreaking deaths (Hodor and Summer), the important confrontation occurred between Sansa Stark and Lord Petyr Baelish. Remember, back in Season 4 Sansa was under Baelish's protection when he married her off to the odious Ramsay Snow. Sansa starts their conversation with "Did you know abut Ramsay? If you didn't, you're an idiot. If you did, then you're my enemy." She meets Littlefinger with Brienne present as a more than implicit threat that she no longer needs Littlefinger's protection, and that she could have him killed right there if she wants. She excoriates him with the line "You freed me from the monsters who murdered my family and you gave me to other monsters that murdered my family."
The intriguing introduction occurs back at Essos where a mysterious new Red Priestess named Vintana is brought in by Tyrion to try and spread the word about Daenerys' achievement and although Varys (and the audience) have doubts about the existence and powers of the Red God, she skeeves him out by revealing details of the worst night of his life that Varys has never revealed to anyone. I suspect we will be seeing more of her as we barrel towards the end of the season and events in Essos quicken to a climax.
The unfunny comedy happened in Braavos, where we watch Arya reacting to seeing a mummers play that re-enacts the events of the first two seasons which are almost unrecognizable to someone like herself who was a first-hand witness. She sees her father Lord Eddard portrayed as a fool, the sadistic Joffrey as a hero and Cersei as a loving mother. She is able to sneak backstage and eyes the person that she is being tasked with murdering. The one notable aspect of this scene was that there was gratuitous male nudity (of course there was also female nudity later in the scene as well, but atleast it wasn't gratuitous!)
The surprising escape (Brandon's escape from the Weirwood cave was not really surprising) involves Yara and Theon, the Greyjoy siblings of the recently murdered King of the Iron Islands who combine
forces at the Kingsmoot (a gathering where the Ironborn decide who will be the next candidate for the Sand Throne) but are defeated by their Crazy Uncle Euron (who admits killing his brother and sovereign). Yara and Theon see the writing on the wall and escape with all of the Iron Born's best ships. Newly crowned King Euron vows to hunt down his niece and nephew and then to sail to Essos to convince Daenerys Stormborn to marry him and combine forces to invade and rule the Seven Kingdoms.
The highlights of this week's episode were:
- The best line of the episode was Sansa's, to Littlefinger: "You freed me from the monsters who murdered my family and you gave me to other monsters that murdered my family." (ouch!)
- Of course, Meera's "Hold the door!" and Willis' "Hold the door, holdthedoor,...,holddoor,...,hodor" will also be remembered forever.
- The scene between Sansa and Littlefinger was a clear highlight of this week's episode as it shows Sansa's increasing control over her own destiny.
- The assault of the Night's King's forces on the Weirwood tree cave was quite thrilling, and heartbreaking as the losses mounted up (first the Three-Eyed Raven, then Summer, then Leaf and ending with Hodor). It was one of the most exciting sequences of the entire series.
This was a near flawless episode. The only possible lowlight was the scene with Dany and Jorah, which seemed out of place with the rest of the episode, since it primarily involved the departure of Jorah which is a character not much of the audience cares about (including me).