This blog is published after the ‘Game of Thrones’ simulcast. Do not read ahead unless you have seen season six, episode five, or want to find out what happens. It contains lots of spoilers etc.
We’re all talking about
Hodor. Poor old brave Hodor.
The great lunk of a character who could only say one word – also his name – at times seemed like a bit of a joke in Game of Thrones. But here, in what is easily one of the best-ever episodes, his name and entire existence was explained. And rather than the monosyllabic stable boy we’ve been led to believe he was, his history was mired in tragedy and duty. In a show where one character has been killed and resurrected for seemingly no reason, removing jeopardy from the equation, it’s a relief to know that death can still pack this kind of emotional punch.
His final moments, the repeated line “hold the door, hold the door” gradually morphing in “Hodor”, while brilliant editing gave us past Hodor’s seizure and present Hodor’s death, was masterful. It was a kind of Game of Thrones Rosebud moment, explaining so much in the space of a few seconds.
So many questions come from this. Was it Hodor’s destiny to go on Bran’s quest to find the Raven with him? After all, if he wasn’t there at the Weirwood, Bran would never have been able to warg into him during his flashback, and then he’d never have become Hodor in the first place.
Some strong Obi Wan Kenobi vibes coming from the Three Eyed Raven as he was killed by the Night’s King and vanished to dust. Farewell too, Summer. Those Stark direwolves are dropping like flies since Shaggy Dog’s recent demise, leaving just Ghost and Nymeria left. I’m less sorry to see the back of the Children of the Forest. Not only did they create the White Walkers – bit of a dick move in anyone’s book – they look like they’ve been taken from a particularly bad episode of Doctor Who and do not belong in a show with such high production values.
One final point – now Bran has taken over from the Three Eyed Raven, what does that mean? And what will happen to that ice burn on his wrist, left by the Night’s King? Will the Night’s King be able to follow him around now? Does Bran have a weapon against the Walkers? Or is his weapon the ability to learn from the past in order to come up with a plan to defeat the Others in the future? And how long until he revisits the Tower of Joy? Something tells me it’s going to be the final scene of the series, but here’s hoping it comes sooner than that.
What else happened
So much else happened. Let’s start with Sansa’s letter from Littlefinger. Her response, in person, was further evidence of her getting stronger by the episode, gradually rebuilding herself after a traumatic few years. If there’s one theme that ties this series together, it’s the growing power of women in the world. Sansa looks likely to emerge one of the very strongest.
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“Would you like to hear about our wedding night?” she asked Petyr before explaining exactly what happened to her back in Winterfell. As she went, there were parallels with the mantra Oberyn Martell repeated while he was fighting The Mountain. When the battle comes – probably in the ninth episode if past GoT season structure is anything to go by – the Stark’s will emerge on top, and that will be as much down to steely Sansa as anyone else.
Over in Bravos, Arya – sorry, A Girl – learned more about the Faceless Men. Former slaves who murdered their masters and founded the city, she’s told. She’s then given a second chance, and is sent to watch an acting troupe playing Robert Baratheon, Cersei and Joffrey. This proved a number of things. Firstly, that A Girl is most definitely still Arya underneath, reacting the way she did to the depiction of her dear old dad’s beheading. Secondly, no matter where you go, no matter what age, fart jokes are still funny, and thirdly, actors are generally unbearable.
Taken at face value, pun intended, the play could just be a way of illustrating Arya’s true beliefs. It could also be predicting what Arya will do in the future; return to Westeros to kill Cersei, just as she will assassinate the actress that plays her. Jaqen said a price had been paid for the actress’ death too. Is that all the Faceless Men are, assassin’s for hire to the highest bidder?
On the Iron Islands, the Kingsmoot took place. Just as it looked like Yara had it in the bag, thanks to a moving speech from Theon, Euron made his entrance. Yara’s plan was to build the largest fleet the world has ever seen. Euron’s plan was also to build the world’s largest-ever fleet, with the added caveat of marrying Daenerys. Does the Mother of Dragons have a say in that? Or more pertinently, Dario?
For now, Daenerys is too busy waving goodbye to Jorah to countenance marriage proposals. She’s commanded Essos’ biggest ham to search the world for a cure for his grey scale. Given the mighty nation of Valyria couldn’t find a vaccine, it’s unlikely one ageing knight on horseback is going to fare any better, but it was kinder than telling him to go away and take his filthy disease with him. Another scene with surprising emotional heft, well played by the actors involved.
In Meereen, Tyrion introduces the idea of PR, via a Red Priestess from Volantis, who will lead a team of brand experts to launch a viral marketing campaign around the Free Cities. This new priestess also revealed that she knows exactly how Varys lost his tackle, and that she believes in Daenerys and her dragons in the same way Melisandre believes in Jon Snow. Could both Red Priestesses be right or is one of the show’s two most-obvious heroes heading for a fall?
What does it all mean
It means that things in the Seven Kingdoms are a lot more connected than they might have appeared. The past is directly linked with the present and future, as we saw with Bran’s flashback, while Varys’ distrust of the Lord of the Light comes from a very real place. I want to know what name he heard in the flames that night, just as I want to know how exactly Euron Greyjoy thinks those 50 drunk-looking pirates can build him 1,000 ships in a matter of weeks.
This episode also made it hit home that while the world in GoT is a primitive place, news does travel. Euron knew of Daenerys and her dragons, as well as Theon’s unfortunate genital situation, just as Davos knew of Brynden Tully and Littlefinger of Sansa’s treatment. It sometimes seems as if these many storylines are happening in isolation, events having no impact on anything else. That’s not the case, and a world where actions have far-reaching consequences makes for far better television.
Lots of contenders this week, but the tunnel escape, and Hodor’s emotional death win this week. Damn those Wights and White Walkers. But fair play to Meera – she’s one of just a handful of characters to have killed a White Walker on screen. Is it just her, Sam and Jon that have done that?
Predictions for next week
The fallout from this week’s episode will be huge. Jon, Brienne, Tormund and co will ride around the north, rallying troops for their great Bolton showdown. It’ll be good to see Uncle Brynden again. Hopefully still making fun of Edmure, not seen since the Red Wedding. Bran and Meera are now travelling, so hopefully they’ll cross paths with Jon, while Euron’s fleet will start taking shape. I’m also expecting that Red Priestess to drive a wedge between Tyrion and Varys.