This was a very interesting episode for a few reasons. For one we saw nothing of King’s Landing, so no Cersei, Jamie, and co.; but for another we saw other stories really get a boost in drama and performances. Also we delved a little more into the history and mythos of the world finishing in one of the series most gut-punching endings. And that’s saying a lot.
One of the seemingly minor stories that’s really starting to take off is the one at the Iron Islands. At the Kingsmoot, Yara Greyjoy argues for her right to succeed her father with most of the elders determined not to allow it because she’s a woman. However Theon in the first time he’s been assertive and bold in years, comes to her defence in spite of some declaring him a more fitting heir. It’s great to see him embracing himself as Theon Greyjoy again and standing up for something he believes in. Gemma Whelan and especially Alfie Allen are really good this week, and most of the audience is clearly on their side. But then the man who killed Balon, his brother Euron Greyjoy (who looks barely older than his niece and nephew) appears, admits to the murder, and declares himself a better choice pointing out Theon’s castration to discredit him. But Yara and Theon both debate back, the latter noting that Euron hasn’t been on the Iron Islands in years. It turns out Euron’s plan is to wed Daenerys Targaryen (yeah good luck with that) and give her the Iron fleet which seems to win over enough support, and crown him king. But his plan will prove very hard as Yara, Theon, and a number of loyalists take off in that fleet. It definitely looks like there’s going to be a civil war that parallels the Anarchy, which if it turns out like that historical conflict, will surely end with Yara never actually attaining the throne but her son doing so in her stead.
Meanwhile in Braavos, I’m still pissed that we wasted half a season on an interesting Arya thread that went nowhere, but she’s given an assignment to kill an actress. She watches the actress in a play that relates the story of the death of Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark in a bawdy Elizabethan style. Of course it offends her that her father is portrayed as an idiot trying to seize power, but at least Cersei and Joffrey are adequately satirized too. As it turns out Ned’s played by Kevin Eldon and as I pointed out, Richard E. Grant is part of this troupe as well. And the actress Arya’s supposed to kill is played by Essie Davis. These are fairly big name actors to be playing essentially cameos so I wonder where they’re going. Arya later questions why the seemingly nice actress has to be killed and Jaqen of course won’t tell her. I’m really starting to wonder what she sees in the Faceless Men, as they seem to be more like hit-men than freelance assassins without any choice in who they kill. Nonetheless I have to suspect Arya will find some way around killing a perfectly innocent woman.
One of the best parts of the episode was in the east in a relatively short scene where following her rescue, Dany confronts Jorah about how he’s come back to her after banishment twice. Jorah decides to take his leave of her and finally confesses both his love for her and his greyscale affliction. And we see Dany moved to tears by this. It’s a really superb scene from both Iain Glen and Emilia Clarke as she perfectly conveys her sorrow without a word. She really understands now how important Jorah’s been to her campaign as well as her personally, and how far he’s willing to go for her. She loves him though not in the same way he loves her, which was why she felt so betrayed when she learned of his early treason. In a great Daenerys move, she commands him to find a cure then return to her side and it seems Jorah’s intent to do that. In the kingdom she left, peace seems to be on the horizon but in order to ensure that, Tyrion decides to gain the support of the people’s religion and brings in the red priestess Not Melissandre to support Daenerys. Though the priestess seems to believe Dany is the Lord of Light’s Chosen One, Varys is quick to point out what happened to Stannis Baratheon. The priestess is aware of Varys’ distrust of magic due to the part it played in his castration and tries to reassure him. But when she recounts the incident to him, Varys for perhaps the first time I can recall, is visibly uncomfortable. If this confident spy-master is intimidated by her, how trustworthy can she really be?
His former rival has very quickly managed to reach the North, and Littlefinger arranges a meeting with Sansa who’s understandably furious with him for giving her to the Boltons. He tries to convince her he had no idea how Ramsay would treat her (which I don’t buy for a second) and apologizes, offering her an army from the Vale. Sansa refuses his apology as well as his army ordering him to leave. And I get why Sansa wouldn’t want to forgive him but that army -she could at least have accepted given the circumstances! Sophie Turner excels in this scene as she feels clearly betrayed. As she points out, he was her saviour from Joffrey, only to hand her off to someone just as bad. He does mention that Blackfish Tully (remember him, the one guy who escaped the Red Wedding who we haven’t heard from since) has retaken Riverrun and has quite the army himself. Sansa later suggests he be contacted for his army, lying that she heard the news from Ramsay. Jon decides to go out and gain support from the northern houses who haven’t declared loyalty to the Boltons yet, with Sansa, Davos, and Melissandre at his side. Brienne is sent out to recruit Blackfish. We’re all hoping possibly in vain this turns out well for them, but at least it’ll be different to see Jon somewhere south of the Wall. And he’s leaving the Wall in the hands of Edd who has a funny scene where he suddenly realizes he’s in charge.
But to everyone’s surprise, the best part of the episode and indeed season thus far took place beyond the wall. In a vision, Bran witnesses the birth of the White Walkers, having been soldiers stabbed with dragonglass by the Children of the Forest (spirits who now support the Three-Eyed Raven and who look like creatures from Doctor Who). It’s the furthest back we’ve ever seen anything in Westeros and the Children of the Forests’ intent to use the Whitewalkers as a weapon against the First Men of the land really creates an interesting mythology. It expands the depth of George R.R. Martin’s world and how connected the mystical beings who’ve been there from the dawn of time are with the current characters. But Bran’s too curious and one night uses the tree to have a vision on his own. He’s transported to some distant part of the north right in the middle of an army led by the White Walkers. The Night King touches him and when he awakens, the Three-Eyed Raven reveals that army now know where they are and Bran has to leave immediately. But I guess not before one last vision. While Bran’s watching his father leave for the Vale (presumably to meet Catelyn), Meera discovers the army right on their doorstep. Even with the spells of the Children of the Forest they’re still able to enter. In his vision Bran can hear Meera and while still in the past he wargs into Hodor who picks him up and helps them escape. The Raven is killed, a number of spirits are killed, and Meera, Hodor, and Bran make it to a door. They’re barely able to get through it when the wights attack from the other side and Meera orders Hodor to hold the door so they can escape. It’s here that the episode really does something interesting, smart, and tragic. As Hodor with all his might tries to keep the wights at bay and we sadly see him being killed, Bran in the past wargs into the young Wyllis, causing him to seize up and through hearing Meera’s voice in the distant future babbles endlessly to “Hold the door” until it becomes just “Hodor”. It’s painful seeing this fan favourite character’s origin story coupled with his death, and moreover just the tragedy of Bran inadvertently being the cause of both his condition and his death. We learn it was Hodor’s destiny to die here holding the door and its the saddest thing. For someone who was never a major character, in fact was often treated as comic relief, this was one of the saddest ends for a character in a show with more than enough. But it was also a perfect way to go out. Rest in peace Hodor. You’ll sit on that Iron Throne in the sky.
Kristian Nairn through the four seasons he’s been on the show was wonderful and he’s going to be missed. “The Door” didn’t give us what we expected but it did show some great new developments in a few of the previously lesser storylines, some great performances and well-executed scenes, and some more insight into the mythos and magic of the world, culminating in a suspenseful siege and the simultaneous beginning and swansong of a terrific secondary character. I’m excited for what’s to come in Game of Thrones, but it won’t be the same without Hodor.