So this episode of Game of Thrones was intense and most likely ruined the phrase “hold the door,” for centuries to come. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about everything that went down in this episode, but first I have something I need to talk about.
I hate how this show treats the direwolves. I’ve mentioned this briefly in an earlier recap when we found out Shaggydog was killed by the Umbers, but seeing Summer get murdered by the weights has done it for me. I don’t even want to make this a book vs. show thing, other than to say that what happened to Lady, Nymeria, and Grey Wind happened in both. The events that led to Lady and Grey Wind’s deaths and Nymeria’s banishment felt as if they did something for the plot and helped to develop the show in meaningful ways. The deaths of Shaggydog and Summer, to me, felt like they were just trying to get rid of the direwolves for unknown reasons. Now, I understand that having wolves on set all the time can be expensive, and maybe there’s a reason they’ve tried to eliminate the direwolves as a thing in this show. They didn’t show us Arya and Jon’s abilities to warg into their wolves, and they only kept Summer around long enough to show us that Bran had warging abilities since it’s such a huge part of his story. But since then, we rarely ever see the direwolves. Ghost disappears for episodes on end until they need him to jump in to get a hero (usually Sam or Jon) out of a bind. He’s been awol since Jon came back to life. Summer hasn’t been seen in this entire season, except to die in this episode. Shaggydog was barely around even when Rickon was with Bran, and the first time we see him again is when we see his decapitated head. While this may seem like a small thing, it’s something that has bothered me for seasons on the show, and with Summer’s death heightened my irritation. Direwolves are awesome and they tend to be used as throwaway characters on the show, and I wish they weren’t. Okay, that’s it. Let’s get into the rest of the episode.
At the Wall, Sansa receives a message from Littlefinger, who has arrived in Mole’s Town to speak with her/give her the knights of the Vale. Sansa and Brienne go off to Mole’s Town to speak with Littlefinger, who obviously came expecting Sansa to be glad to see him and happy for his help. Sansa, however, isn’t having it, and goes in on him in one of the most satisfying scenes of the season. Sansa sees Littlefinger for what he is, a conniving, manipulating, power-hungry man who will do whatever it takes to get to the top. While he proclaims to nurse a soft spot for Sansa because of Catelyn, it’s clear that it wasn’t enough to stop him from leaving Sansa with the Boltons and Sansa is rightfully angry with him for leaving her and then for coming to the Wall now like he was going to be some kind of savior. I was surprised at Sansa’s refusal to use the knight of the Vale—who are stationed at Moat Cailin—to take Winterfell, though she seems willing to send for the Tullys at Riverrun once Littlefinger tells her that her great-uncle Brynden Blackfish has retaken the castle.
We get confirmation as such later in the episode when Sansa mentions it in a strategy meeting with Jon, Davos, Brienne, and a few others, though she lies about where she got the information. There is a very real problem—and I’m glad they mentioned it—that they are stuck between the whitewalkers and the Boltons, and while their goal right now is to take back Winterfell I’m glad that they are thinking long-term and that in addition to getting revenge on the Boltons and getting their home back, they acknowledge that they also need the North to defend against the Long Night. They decide that rather than go after the Karstarks and Umbers (who Sansa says can hang for giving Rickon to Ramsay), they will go after the smaller houses, such as the Glovers and the Mormonts. I love that Sansa is included in these strategizing meetings, and that it is acknowledged that she is needed, especially because Jon doesn’t have the Stark name. Sansa’s character development in this season really is my favorite because she’s come such a long way from the optimistic little girl in season 1. Jon and Sansa’s relationship continues to be the cutest ever, when Sansa gives Jon a cloak that she made, similar to one that Ned used to wear. I need them to always be in scenes together forever.
One thing that’s stood out to me is that while we know Melisandre believes Jon is the prince that was promised, she hasn’t really pushed him about it like she did with Stannis. I’m curious whether she is leaving it for now because she knows about Jon’s trepidation or if it’s because she’s satisfied that he will turn to the whitewalkers once the Boltons are gone. They’re leaving the Wall now, so I’m sure we’ll see more of what’s up with her soon. Other than that, we find out that Sansa is sending Brienne to Riverrun to get the Tullys, that Tormund is still smitten by Brienne, and that the Night’s Watch are now at the lowest numbers ever in history, which is scary considering what goes down later in the episode.
We then go to Braavos, where Arya is still training to be a faceless man and the waif is still being petty. She tells Arya that she will never be one of them, and while I believe that’s true, the waif really isn’t all that encouraging and always seems so salty that Arya is being trained that it comes off more as a taunt than a premonition. After her training, the man with Jaqen’s face tells Arya more about the history of the faceless men, how they were former slaves who killed their masters and built Braavos. He then gives Arya a new person to kill, an actress who calls herself Lady Crane.
Arya goes back out into the city to learn about Lady Crane and the best way to kill her. Before that, she watches the play the actress is in, one about the end of King Robert’s rule in Westeros and Ned’s death. It’s an interesting scene for a number of reasons, the first being because we get to see how the commonfolk see these years of tumultuousness and strife in the seven kingdoms. There is humor infused into it, and I think the show does a good job of taking some of the larger events of the early seasons of the show and using it to drive home this season’s theme of stories losing fact the more and more they are told. The scene is also interesting in the portrayals of the characters, namely Ned, Tyrion, and Sansa. Ned is interpreted as dumb and conniving, wanting the Iron Throne for himself but not being smart enough to get it. Somehow they have him conspiring with Tyrion to get the Iron Throne, and Tyrion is portrayed as a power-hungry and lusty man who takes the position of Hand once Ned is gone and marries his daughter as a way to gain more power. The best part about this scene is Arya’s reaction to it all. Initially, she’s laughing along with the rest of them until the actor playing Ned comes up. She is clearly triggered by the retelling of the story post-Robert’s death, especially when it comes to Ned’s beheading, which is played off as comical in the play but was obviously the complete opposite, especially for Arya, who witnessed the actual event as a girl. This is one of the first moments in this season where it is confirmed that she is most definitely not no one, and as the waif said, she may never become no one, not when she has all of this hate and trauma.
We also see this when she’s back in the House of Black and White after observing Lady Crane. She tells “Jaqen” that the woman seems nice. The man asks Arya whether death only comes for the wicked, and while the answer is obviously no, Arya wonders out loud who hired them to kill the woman. She guesses that it was the young actress in the troupe, though the man doesn’t answer, telling her that they are doing the work of the Many-Faced God, though really they are just assassins for hire. We’ll most likely see in the next episode whether Arya is able to kill this woman, and whether she will squander her second and last chance with the faceless men.
On the other side of Westeros on the iron islands, we get to see the kingsmoot! It starts off pretty chill with Yara being the only contender for the Salt Throne, and while there is some dissent, most of which comes up because she is a woman, Theon goes to bat for his sister and tells the ironborn that Yara deserves to be their Queen. It seems like things will go their way until their uncle Euron Greyjoy appears to stake his own claim. There are a lot of jokes about Theon’s penis and Yara accuses Euron of murdering their father, which he doesn’t deny. He instead spins it and tells the ironborn that he paid the iron price for the crown, which was pretty impressive as far as admitting you murdered a king and your brother goes. Euron tells them that he wants to find Daenerys, give her an iron fleet, and marry her. While it’s doubtful that Dany would want to marry him, the ironborn vote for him as King of the Iron Islands and Yara and Theon immediately dip, taking the entire iron fleet with them, while Euron is being coronated in the eyes of the Drowned God. They get out just in time too, as the first thing Euron wants to is murder them. While I’m sure/I hope that this isn’t the last we see of Euron and the rest of the ironborn, I’m curious where Yara and Theon are going. Will they go across the world to Dany? Will they head North and pledge for Jon and Sansa? Will they just go on adventures and try to dodge Euron for as long as they can? SO MANY POSSIBILITIES!
We catch up with Daenerys for a short while as she leads the dothraki out of Vaes Dothrak. Jorah finally tells Dany about the greyscale, and while he thinks this means he needs to leave, Dany instead tells him to find a cure and to come back to her once he has. Though I don’t like Jorah, his devotion to Dany is touching and the fact that Dany is able to recognize the service people have done for her and be fair in her treatment back is one of the main qualities that make her a good queen, my feelings on her colonialist nature aside. I assume now she and the dothraki are headed for Meereen, which will be interesting given the work Tyrion and the rest have been trying to do there in order to keep the peace, but we’ll see what happens once she gets there. I really hope she starts to make her way back to Westeros soon though.
In Meereen, peace has begun to take hold, and while it’s a fragile peace, it is a welcome respite from all the chaos that’s been happening there. Tyrion, however, is concerned with the people of Meereen knowing that the peace was done at the hands of Daenerys, and decides they need to find someone who can spread the word throughout the city so that Dany’s approval ratings stay high. I really love watching Tyrion rule since he’s so good at it, and it’s great to see him work with people who aren’t out to murder him for once.
Tyrion enlists Kinvara, a red priestess from Volantis, to spread the word of Dany’s triumphs throughout Meereen. Kinvara is willing to help, mainly because she believes Dany is Azor Ahai (is it both Dany AND Jon???). While Tyrion is grateful, Varys is skeptical. While his feelings are most likely due to his own experiences with a red priest, he brings up Stannis and Melisandre’s conviction that he was Azor Ahai, and how that turned out to be woefully wrong (which also shows us that Varys still has birds in Westeros despite no longer being there). Kinvara sees right through him, and somehow knows exactly what happened to him as a child, which freaks him out. Tyrion is able to calm the situation down and get what he wants, but it’s clear this could turn on him at any time. We also get the Red Woman theme song – which used to be exclusively Melisandre’s and which I tend to associate with a warning of things about to go down in the near future. It seems like the happenings in Meereen are about to get much more interesting.
Beyond the Wall
While everything else happening in this episode continues to set up for future events, the writers decided that they would use Bran’s storyline to destroy us. We go back beyond the Wall, where Bran is still learning about the past. They go back in time to see the Children of the Forest create the first whitewalker. Bran, and all of us, is surprised, and when he asks one of the children about it, she tells him that they created the whitewalkers to get rid of his ancestors, the First Men, who arrived from Essos and took over. This is a huge reveal, and while it seems like it was the children’s fault for creating the walkers, it’s clear that it was their last resort; there was nothing else they could do in their fight to keep their land.
Unfortunately, that’s all the information we get about it, because later Bran decides to connect to the weirwood by himself, in what was obviously a Great Plan . He ends up back at the weirwood where he saw the children create the first walker, but this time he’s in the present. He sees the army of ice zombies and walks through them until he gets to the other side where the whitewalkers are waiting. He moves around as if they can’t see him—because they usually can’t—but PLOT TWIST they can see him and the Night King touches him! This makes it so that they can now enter Bloodraven’s sanctuary, meaning that they have to leave RIGHT NOW…just after Bran and Bloodraven go back in time real quick. While I understand the need for the suspense and the traumatizing scene at the very end, I really didn’t get this part of it. Bloodraven tells Bran that they have to leave immediately, that it’s urgent, so that’s what they should have done. Why did they then warg back into the tree? Narrative wise, it felt as if the writers were drawing things out so that we got the suspenseful final scene, but it pulled me out of the story for a bit because I was sitting there trying to figure out why they were still there when they knew the walkers were coming for them.
That part made no sense to me, but it didn’t stop the ending from destroying me. So we return beyond the Wall with Bran and Bloodraven still back in time, at Winterfell when a young Ned is leaving for the Eyrie. Meera is waiting with Hodor when she hears something outside. She goes to see what’s up and goes outside to see the entire ice army of the dead standing outside like “Bran what’s good???” Meera goes to wake Bran while the Children of the Forest try to stop the walkers from entering with fire. Unfortunately, the walkers themselves seem immune to the fire, and the weights make their way around it. So they’ve entered the cave and Bran is still not awake. Meera tries to wake him because they need him to warg into Hodor so that he can fight. Though Bran can’t wake up, he can hear Meera and so he tries to warg into Hodor, which seems like it works. Meera kills a whitewalker, Summer dies fighting, and Bloodraven is killed in a mix between a Gandalf and Dumbledore moment. It’s clear that Bran knows something is going on, but he can’t wake up. Meera and Hodor are able to get Bran out of the cave, and one of the children blows herself up to kill a good amount of the ice zombies, but there are still a ridiculous amount coming after them. And then we get the most heartbreaking scene ever. Meera shouts for Hodor to “hold the door” so that they can get away, but her shouting bleeds into Bran’s vision and somehow affects young Hodor/Wylas. Wylas goes into an epileptic seizure shouting “hold the door” while Hodor in the future holds the door so that Meera and Bran can get away, sacrificing himself for them. So the writers give us Hodor’s origin story and his death in the same scene. I heard this was all George R.R. Martin’s idea, which isn’t surprising given his reputation. I will say though, that while the scene was ridiculously sad and terrifying, a part of me was excited at how timey-wimey that entire scene was. You all know that time distortion is my favorite thing, and the fact that Hodor’s affliction was passed through to him from the future is so cool. I feel like this season just keeps getting better and better the further into it we go, and I’m really curious to see where Meera and Bran go, whether they go back south (and hook up with Jon and Sansa!!!) or if they decide to head further north.
I did have a couple of issues, though it’s mostly with the season as a whole rather than this particular episode. The first, and mostly self-serving is that I want more dragons. We’ve only gotten one episode with Viserion and Rhaegal and I don’t think we’ve seen Drogon at all this season. Everything that’s happening is great and all but I want to see more fire-breathing! The other thing is that now that Bran is no longer in the cave, how are we going to see the rest of what happened at the Tower of Joy? I really wish they hadn’t stalled with that story, and I hope it comes back up in some way this season because otherwise it’s just rude teasing. My last is what happened with the Dorne storyline? We got the Sand Snakes in the first episode, and their storyline was clearly not over, but we haven’t seen them for four episodes. While the Lannisters clearly have their hands full with the High Sparrow and the faith militant, it’s weird that we haven’t heard anything about the Dornish, where they are, whether the Sand Snakes are ruling, or whether Obara and Nym are still in King’s Landing. For all the talk Ellaria had while scolding a bleeding out Prince Doran, they seem to be stalling a lot. Hopefully they come back up soon with some progress being made to their story.
Other than that, I am thoroughly enjoying this season and am still waiting for someone to fix my time machine so that I can jump to next Sunday.