REVIEW: Game of Thrones S6/E5 “The Door”

“Does death only come for the wicked…”


THE WALL

vlcsnap-2016-05-24-15h18m42s249

To kick off this week’s episode, Sansa holds a clandestine meeting with her former liberator and friend, Lord Baelish. Her temper and her crown equally fiery; her words turn Baelish into a simpering sycophant, begging for her forgiveness, and she’s having none of it. We love this more mature, street-wise Sansa, now strong before those who’ve wronged her. As usual, though, the Vale’s Frank Underwood is able to squirm in through the cracks in the girl’s armour. She permits him to speak just long enough to tell her that her uncle, the renowned Brynden “Blackfish” Rivers, has re-taken the Tully’s ancestral seat of Riverrun. Though we’re given no ostensible reason to believe this to be a lie, come on, it’s Littlefinger we’re talking about. Anyhow, Sansa seems to swallow the information and scurries back to rejoin Jon at Castle Black.

 

IN BRAAVOS

vlcsnap-2016-05-24-15h27m03s181

Arya and the Waif are back smacking seven lumps of it out of each other with their staffs. Last week’s Daredevil progress seems to have been temporary; Arya fights with heart, but she’s getting it handed to her. The Waif, quite rightly we think, still doesn’t believe that Arya has become no one. Amazingly, though, Jaqen seems to buy it, sending a girl on her first assignment. In a Dexter-esque stalking scene, we see Arya watching a stage farce depicting the death of King Robert and Ned Stark. She’s clearly seething about the portrayal, but the writers seem to forget that as she goes backstage to meet her target, the actress playing Cersei, and reports back that she’s actually quite nice. Though she’s, of sorts, getting her chance to kill Cersei, one of the names on her list, it doesn’t look like she wants to do it. Jaqen tells her to toughen up and get it done: “does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?” Foreshadowing, perhaps?


Though we STILL don’t get another Tower of Joy scene, via Bran and Bloodraven we are allowed a snippet of the world’s truly distant past. The children made the first white walkers out of men, to defend from men, as Leaf tells Bran. We make our own worst enemies. Is it possible that the Children of the Forest can’t be trusted? It’s possible that they’re trying to reclaim the world for themselves once more, still bitter about being pushed almost to the point of extinction by humanity. Well nope, as it turns out, the story is kept simple and entirely as it seems, which we’re told later. It’s a disappointing lack of nuance, but perhaps necessary for the progression of the story.


 

OVER ON THE IRON ISLANDS

vlcsnap-2016-05-25-01h55m57s29
Euron is a bastard but he’s awesome and he’s damn right. He’s the right guy to lead the Ironborn into war, and he knows who the right allies are, as do all great leaders. Queen Dany has a new suitor. Having lost the right to the Salt Throne to their lunatic of an uncle, Theon and Yara have, somehow, inspired the loyalty of the whole navy and buggered off somewhere, either to join up with the Northmen or to build a separatist Ironborn colony of their own. In a departure from our usual GoT gripes, the Kingsmoot sequence was shot in a truly cinematic and immersive way (no pun intended…well, maybe a little), to the rousing score of the Iron Islands and complete with a sequence of inter-cutting between Euron’s drowned crowning and the younger Greyjoys’s exodus. With Euron’s promise of death and conquest and Theon and Yara’s escape, the Ironborn are finally coming to the prominence their fascinating warrior culture deserves, both in the story and Westeros itself. We’re fascinated to see how Dany reacts to Euron’s proposal. Remember, he’s a reaver and a plunderer, not a diplomat or a king. He, despite his credentials, is not going to win the Game of Thrones. Expect Daenerys to use him for the Iron fleet and, when she’s done with him, cast him aside, probably with some fire involved. Wherever this particular strand of story is heading, it’s vital as a tool to FINALLY get Daenerys to Westeros. She’s been detached from the main storyline for far too long, and we’re fascinated to see how the Seven Kingdoms react to the arrival of their would-be Queen.

 

ESSOS

vlcsnap-2016-05-25-02h02m31s140

Dany shows her first real signs of humanity and vulnerability for a hell of a long time now, and her character is all the better for it. Overlooking the sprawling Dothraki capital, Jorah once more declares his love, and his affliction. He is, after all, a man with nothing to lose. He makes it clear that he’ll have no hesitation in ending his life before he’s consumed by the disease. His sincerity and nobility cannot fail but to draw respect, even from the noticeably silent Dario. The Dragon Queen’s tears are enough to move even the Stone Men as, like a child who cannot bear to lose her favourite uncle, Dany orders Jorah to find a cure for his greyscale. He looks on wistfully as she leads her new Khalesar away. Jorah leaves but, with his queen’s heartfelt order, the perennial exile finally has a come to which he can return. There is much substance to this short sequence of events: feels, character development, and story progression. It’s well shot, well acted, meaningful, and economical; precisely what we want from a show that too often falls into a dialogue-heavy, static malaise.

 

vlcsnap-2016-05-25-02h09m11s55

Aannnddd then straight back to exposition as Varys informs us that the Sons of the Harpy, just like that, have been defeated. That was jolly easy, wasn’t it? As Melisandre 2.0 meets Varys and Tyrion in the great pyramid of Mereen, we get a glimpse at something truly elusive: Varys beneath his mask. He’s openly sceptic of the priestess, Kinvara, and her faith, citing Mel’s backing of the comprehensively defeated Stannis as evidence of the failings of the Red God. His loathing of anything religious and arcane is no doubt a legacy of the sorcerer who cut him; he brands Kinvara a fanatic, not entirely unwarranted as she does talk quite a lot about “purification” by fire. He gets a shock, however, as the priestess peels away his defences and reveals that she’s no phony; she knows exactly what happened to him in perfect detail. Varys, for once, is rattled. Kinvara departs to spread the word of Dany, her own proclaimed Azor Ahai, perhaps leaving behind two new believers. The recruitment of the Red Priests will serve to cement Daenerys’s claims to rule, but the priestess is clearly a powerful figure not to be trifled with. Should she have her own agenda to further, she may find Dany and her court an easy target for her clear talent for manipulation and beguiling. With her contradicting claim to Melisandre’s as to the identity of the promised saviour, we may be about to see some conflict within the Faith of the Lord of Light itself. Perhaps, when she eventually arrives in Westeros, conflict may even be mongered between Dany and Jon, particularly if one of them does believe themselves to be the saviour. With this mysterious and, once again, economical scene, GoT has given us a fascinating new character to potentially throw a spanner into the works.

BACK AT THE WALL

vlcsnap-2016-05-25-02h22m01s59

Sansa and Jon ride to rally the other houses of the North. Sansa, however, lies to her brother about how she knows of the “Blackfish’s” reemergence on the grid. We doubt this is a lack of trust in Jon, more a fear of an older brother’s disapproval. She further admits Jon into the official Stark franchise by making for him a fur cloak in the style of Ned’s, which he dons immediately, his heart and claim to the North strengthened with it. The story of the siblings reconnecting is a welcome respite from the bleakness of their surroundings. Jon Snow, surely, is not far for becoming Jon Stark.

 

BACK IN THE CAVE

vlcsnap-2016-05-25-02h14m23s90

Bran is akin Frodo or Harry potter, gazing into the mind of his enemy and being scarred, literally, by what he’s seen. He’s marked by the Night King, just as Harry is by Voldemort, meaning that, incontrovertibly, Bran’s visions can have a physical impact in the real world. Von Sydow knows that the magical ward keeping the White Walkers at bay is broken. His time has come. “It’s time for you to become me”, he tells Bran. Exactly what that means remains to be seen, but it seems certain that Bran has been endowed with significant power, whether magical or more subtle.

The army of the dead have amassed outside, the White Walkers at their head. The Children of the Forest sling grenades into the hordes, barely scratching the surface. As the Night King leads the rest of the on-the-nose four horsemen through the Children’s wall of fire, there is a sense of real helplessness. Bran is absorbed by a vision of the Winterfell of old, young Hodor going about his business in the courtyard. The showmakers create a scene of genuine tension and urgency as Meera desperately tries to awaken Bran. As the wights swarm into the cave, she and the Children struggle in vain to stem the tide of the dead. A faint voice in the young Lord’s head at first, Meera breaks through Bran’s reverie. “We need Hodor!” she screams in desperation. Bran steels himself and, through his past incarnation, possesses the present Hodor. The giant grabs his young master and heads for the exit,not before Meera kills one of the White Walkers, who looks conspicuously like the one despatched by Jon at Hardhome.  

Heartbreakingly, Summer sacrifices himself to buy time for the fleeing trio of Bran, Hodor, and Meera, diving selflessly into the hordes of zombies only to be savagely torn apart. Next to die is Leaf, who, I Am Legend style, allows herself to be engulfed by the wights before detonating a grenade. This buys a precious few seconds as Hodor races against time to open the door to the relative freedom of the wastes beyond. As the dead draw near, the giant finally wrenches open the door, slamming it behind them. “Hold the door!” Meera cries at him as she and Bran escape into the snow. In Bran’s vision, within which Bloodraven has been killed by the Night King, disappearing into ashes in a graphic ripped straight from the death of Voldemort, young Hodor falls into a seizure, bellowing “hold the door!” as he convulses.

vlcsnap-2016-05-25-02h29m13s28

The inter-cutting between the past and present Hodors creates a profoundly moving effect, as the young Willas’s moans become less tangible and, the sentence which will become the final words he’ll hear in this world, transforms into “Hodor”. Tears are shed, minds are blown. Present Hodor watches despairingly as Bran and Meera disappear from view, before his face hardens. He fights through the fear and agony as the dead finally break through the door and cut him down. This is undoubtedly one of GoT’s most depressing, memorable moments; a chilling, moving, and brilliantly crafted ending scene. It’s a fittingly heroic death for everyone’s favourite gentle giant. The weight of this enforced sacrifice will prove a crushing burden to Bran, his most faithful servant gone, brutally killed so his master may live. His folly in allowing the Walkers to enter the sacred place and allowing his friends to die for him promise to haunt a character who, like his older brother and sister, ventures out into the snow to find his destiny. The events of this episode’s end will add desperately needed depth and nuance to the character of Bran, who so far has been largely a sideshow and plot device. Free from the constraints of his mentor, Bran can pursue whichever visions he so chooses. Now pleeeeaaaaassssseeeee let us see what happened in the Tower of Joy! Perhaps the knowledge gained therein will take the young man back to the wall and a reunion with Jon and Sansa, as well as offering Meera a reward by way of information about her father’s past. This week’s offering has provided us with some of the most complex and absorbing character development, story acceleration and show making to date, a hugely welcome change from the sometimes turgid, stop-start instalments of recent times. With a climactic scene that will live long in the memory, episode 5 has truly opened the door for what’s to come.


Share and comment


Dan S

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.