Spoilers after the click.
We’re halfway through the season and episode 5 continues in the same vein as episode 4, driving the story forward. There’s some awkward reunions, a kingsmoot, genital warts and for God’s sake will somebody hold the door for that disabled kid.
“Did you know about Ramsay?”
The first of two awkward reunions occurs between Sansa and Littlefinger. Sansa’s got beef with Petyr, and rightly so. He rescued her from the monsters who murdered her family and handed her over to different monsters who murdered her family. And these ones were worse. It’s a fantastic scene. It’s really well acted by Sophie Turner, who does come under criticism for being a bit tree-like. It felt necessary too. It was a belated response to that infamous rape scene in season 5. Now while I didn’t have a problem with the scene itself. I mean I’m not advocating rape. But as far as Game of Thrones goes, it’s not an unexpected thing to happen to the person married to Ramsay Bolton. The issue was that we didn’t get any fallout from that and it was almost brushed over. So while long overdue, this scene was brilliantly handled. Sansa really piles into Littlefinger, emotionally, and rightly so. Turner emotionally drives home the impact that scene has had on Sansa incredibly effectively. She’s a very different character now than she was even just a season ago. She’s brave, confrontational and much more savvy.
Curiously, she doesn’t have Littlefinger sliced and diced by Brienne. Something which I think a lot of us could get on board with after what he put her through. But she realises that revenge won’t get her anywhere and that Littlefinger might have a role to play in the future. Perhaps something to do with an army. Knights of the Vale you say? Petyr also informs Sansa that her uncle the Blackfish has retaken Riverrun.
“A girl has no desires”
Over in Braavos Arya’s training is coming along. Still. But finally after what seems like years of her becoming slowly devoid of human emotion and the character we used to love, we finally get a glimpse of her humanity again. What I liked about Ayra was that she was so stubborn and determined to do what was right and she was so connected with her family. It was sad for me to see her become what she has at this point in time. She is really becoming no-one. Devoid of any character. And that’s not very interesting. However, this week we get a glimpse that Arya Stark is still in there somewhere as she’s given a mission to kill an actress who just happens to be performing in a play about the events at King’s Landing that started the War of the Five Kings and resulted in her father’s death.
Arya is forced to relive the death of her father again from the audience. It’s like she’s playing herself in the play. Carrying out the exact same role she did as the actual events unfolded years earlier. It’s very meta.
She’s clearly affected by this, but proceeds with her task nonetheless and works out a plan to kill the actress. She clearly isn’t ‘no-one’.
“You made the white walkers”
Bran’s first vision of the week gave us an interesting look at the origins of the White Walkers. I wasn’t expecting this to ever really be explained. And it didn’t need to be explained. But it’s a testament to the depth of lore in Martin’s world that it was. Turns out the children of the forest created the Night King and the white walkers to defend against the humans. You always end up creating your own worst enemy. It’s a really interesting origin. It remains to be seen if it has any payoff.
“We speak in the presence of the Drowned God”
Over to the kingsmoot in Pyke and Yara is vying for the support of her fellow iron-born. When an onlooker suggests that Balon’s son should be the next King it would have been easy for Theon to try once again to gain power and prove his worth. But he proves himself in a different way. Putting his ego to one side he vouches for his sister in a rousing and emotional speech. It’s taken a lot, but he’s learnt his lesson, I guess. All’s going smoothly for the young Greyjoys at least until their brother-murdering uncle, Euron turns up. Turns out he plans to marry himself off to none other than Daenerys and rule by her side. Interesting. I’m not sure she’ll be taking himself up on that offer though. The rest of the iron-born are convinced, however and Euron is crowned King of the Iron Islands after being drowned half to death. This is not before Yara and Theon escape with the entire fleet. Can’t imagine where they’re off to? Is Theon about to make it up to the Starks?
“All I’ve ever wanted is to serve you”
A bit of a change of pace for Daenerys this week. Instead of arson, she’s dealing with the banished Ser Jorah Mormont. Upon learning that he’s caught the greyscale she orders him to go and find the cure and come back to help her rule the seven kingdoms. In a scene in which Jorah confesses his love for his Queen, Daenerys finally forgives her oldest servant as she realises she needs him by her side.
“A fragile peace has taken hold”
Tyrion, having established somewhat of a peace realises that Daenerys can not only be a liberator, breaker of chains etc. but she must also be seen as the person who has brought peace to Mereen. To ensure the word is spread, Tyrion summons a Red Priestess called Kinvara and asks her to sing Daenerys’ praises. She’s keen to do this as she believed Daenerys to be the chosen one of the Lord of Light. Could Tyrion be making the same mistake his sister did by empowering the High Sparrow?
Varys is sceptical of religion and magic. Rightly so. His meat and two veg were lopped off and burnt in front of him by a priest or magician of some kind. But when the Priestess recalls this scene to Varys, asking him what he heard from his flaming genitalia, he’s visibly shaken. With good reason too. That sounds horrific. It’s probably the only time we’ve ever seen Varys lose control. What did he hear? We’ve already seen that burning things can be fairly useful in Game of Thrones. Remember when Melissandre burned leaches to represent the kings fighting in the war of the 5 kings? They all ended up dead.
“The time has come” “For what?” “For you to become me” “Am I ready?” “No”
Bran does some more time travelling dreamy stuff. Critically, he’s alone this time. And he fucks up. Big time. He allows the Night King to touch him and for some reason this renders the magic protecting the Three Eyed Raven’s cave redundant. This means the white walkers can get in. He’s coming for you Bran. What’s interesting here is that the Three Eyed Raven tells Bran that it’s time that Bran becomes him. What this actually means is anyones guess, because we don’t actually know what the Three Eyed Raven does. Except sit in a tree and have visions. Is he responsible for sculpting the future by affecting the past? Does he manipulate events through these dreams?
“The North remembers”
At the Wall, Jon and Sansa are hatching a plan to win back the North. Davos isn’t convinced Sansa and Jon will be able to unite the old Stark allies, most of whom defected to the Boltons. Especially given that Jon isn’t a legitimised son of Ned Stark. Sansa mentions the Blackfish has taken back Riverrun but neglects to tell Jon where she learnt this information. Does she not trust him fully? As Petyr reminders her, he’s only her half-brother.
“Hold the Door”
Bran is back in the matrix with the Three Eyed Raven trying to download everything he can before the Night King turns up. But to throw a spanner in the works the Night King and his cronies turn up mid download. Meera and Hodor try to escape and get Bran to safety who is currently mid-dream. The Three Eyed Raven is mercilessly killed by the Night King and Leaf, a child of the forest, sacrifices her life to get Bran out. Is that the end of the Children of the Forest? Was this their last refuge? If so, Bran must be pretty damn important to risk everything to get him out. Summer, Bran’s direwolf, also makes the ultimate sacrifice for Bran’s safety.
But the most upsetting off all is Hodor’s sacrifice. It’s beautifully directed and edited to give us Hodor’s origin and demise side by side, in parallel. As Bran is in his dream state and the Three Eyed Raven disappears due to his death, Bran loses control of his vision. In the present, Meera and Hodor have got Bran out of the cave but the Walkers and their wights are closing in. As Meera screams for Hodor to hold the door, Bran seems to warg into the young Hodor and the present Hodor simultaneously. Or he wargs young Hodor in to old Hodor. Or something to that effect. I dunno. Anyway, the result is young Hodor going into a fit and repeating ‘Hold the Door’ with such distress and desperation that the phrase eventually becomes ‘Hodor’, the only word he can say for the rest of his life. Heartbreaking stuff. Bran made Hodor into what he was. He ruined his life. Perhaps the most heartbreaking things is that Hodor was a pawn. He didn’t sacrifice himself. He was made to do it. Did he know he was heading to that point his whole life? I hope not.
My big question is whether the Three Eyed Raven knew that was going to happen and took Bran to that point so that those events unfolded in the way they did. I don’t think they can change the past. As the Three Eyed Raven says, the ink is set on the past. It’s cyclical.
What’s next for Bran then? He’s got no guide left. No more pawns. Just him and Meera now alone and far beyond the wall. To be fair, Meera deftly dismisses a white walker with a dragonglass spear given to her by Sam. But can she get Bran wherever he needs to go? Where does he need to go? They look very much on their own.
EXCELLENT. Probably the best episode of the season. I think that’s the second or third time I’ve written that. And that’s a good thing. The season is getting stronger with every episode and the pace is really picking up. We’re getting major plot points every episode now. Almost every scene, it really feels like something big is about to happen. Bring on next week.