This week’s ‘Game of Thrones‘ definitely delivered on the feels, and as I suspected, last week’s happy episode was nothing more than a set-up for some serious tragedy. Starting off, we see Sansa Stark and Brienne head to Mole Town for a secret meeting with Littlefinger, who has arrived to offer the Vale’s army to Sansa to help her retake Winterfell, as well as bringing news about her Uncle the Blackfish retaking the Riverlands and the potential for that army to help them take Winterfell as well. However, Sansa wants nothing to do with Littlefinger, as he was the one responsible for giving her to Ramsay, and she goes into great detail to let Lord Baelish know exactly what Ramsay did to her, especially on her wedding night. She comes awfully close to letting Brienne kill Littlefinger right then and there, but in a moment of maturity she decides to let the Lord live, knowing that he just might be useful to her again at some point down the road. However, Littlefinger is not yet done with Sansa either, and he leaves her with thoughts about Jon Snow only being her half-brother, and making her question whether or not she can really trust their alliance.
Back in Braavos, Arya is engaged in another epic training staff session with the Waif, who as always manages to take the young assassin down a few pegs, ending the session by reminding Arya that she will never truly be one of them, as the Waif knows that Arya will never truly be able to be “no one.” Jaqen appears and states that the Waif does have a point, and reminds Arya that she has been given a second chance with them, and that there will not be a third. He then decides to test her once more by giving her another assignment, an actress, and Arya heads out to scout the location and figure out how to take down the woman in question. The current show the actress is in is very meta, as the characters are basically doing a comedy play version of ‘Game of Thrones,’ which does not bode well with Arya as the Lannisters are depicted as sympathetic and Ned Stark is seen as an ambitious hillbilly. Backstage, Arya learns that the woman is the only member of the cast that likes to drink rum after the show, and she reports back to Jaqen that she will poison the woman’s rum. However, Arya asks questions about who would want to kill the woman and why, and Jaqen reminds her that true servants do not ask questions, and if she fails, her own face will end up in the columns with the other dead faces.
Meanwhile, at the Iron Island, the Kingsmoot is under way, and Yara is having a hard time building support, or even being able to speak her plan for how they can take back their former glory, because all the Iron Lords cannot get past the fact that she is a woman, especially when they have Theon nearby as the true male heir. Fortunately, Theon steps up (and it is almost painful how difficult it is for him to retain his composure), and he announces there is no better choice than his sister, who they have fought with and under all of these years. Just when things look like they are looking up for the pair, their Uncle Euron arrives, belittles Theon for having no genitalia, and reminds the Iron Born that electing a woman as their Queen has never been done and is a joke. He admits to killing Balon and gives his reasons for doing so, claiming the man led them into two losing wars, and apologizes to the Lords for not killing Balon earlier. He proposes a plan to make a massive fleet and present it to the Daenerys in Essos, followed by marrying the dragon queen and ruling by her side when she retakes the 7 kingdoms (uh sure, good luck with that). The foolish Lords all vote for Euron, and they head off to perform the drowning ceremony, where the priest basically holds Euron’s head under water until he inhales water into his lungs, then pulls him out. If he survives, he is now king, which unfortunately, Euron does. His first question upon waking up is where his niece and nephew are, as he wants to murder them. Luckily, Yara and Theon were smart enough to flee during the ceremony, and have managed to escape with most of the Iron Fleet and a lot of men. Euron does not seem worried though, as he orders the remaining Lords to build his fleet.
Outside of Vaes Dothrak, Dany, Daario and Sir Jorah have a moment, where she addresses Sir Jorah, commenting that she banished him twice, but now is grateful that he has returned. However, he shows her his sickness, and tells her he cannot stay, and will be killing himself before the greyscale completely takes him over. In tears, she demands that the man find a cure and return to her services, as she will need him when she retakes Westeros. Sir Jorah, hope kindled within him again, heads off to find an impossible cure, and Daenerys heads back to Slaver’s Bay with her new Dothraki army.
Back in Mereen, a fragile peace has settled over the city, but Tyrion is worried, as he needs the people to know it was Dany who brought about this peace, even in her absence. So he decides to call one of the Red Priests to court, and the new woman is just as unsettling as Melissandre. She claims that Dany is the chosen one they have waited for, and that she will lead the forces of light against the White Walkers (or something like that). Varys, in a rare display of impatience, reminds them all that Melissandre once made similar claims about Stannis Baratheon, and belittles the Lord of Light and all of its followers as having no real idea of what is going on. The new Red Woman (Kinvara) unnerves Varys by speaking about his past, and the sorcerer who cuts off his genitals and fed them into the fire, and speaks of the voice from the flames that spoke to Varys on that day, all information that she should not have if she were a fraud. She ends her words with a mild threat, claiming that as long as Varys is friend to Dany he has nothing to worry about from her, but clearly, if Varys steps out of line, she has something planned for the spider.
At Castle Black, the Stark Small council convenes to discuss war plans, the biggest issue being their lack of men, and Davos’ understanding of the North, which is not great. However, Jon is confident that if they unite enough of the smaller houses they will have an army that can rival the Bolton’s, but first they will need to head out to start diplomacy and building that army. Sansa tells them about the potential forces from the Riverlands, and when Jon asks how she found out that information, she lies to him and says Ramsay got the message about the Blackfish before she escaped, a fact that Brienne notices, even while she was fending off the googly eye stares of Tormund.
Later, Brienne is not happy, as Sansa wants her to be the one to ride to Riverrun to get the Blackfish and his army, and Brienne does not want to leave Sansa unprotected. Sansa points out she is with Jon and will be safe, and Brienne asks why, if she trusts Jon, she did not tell him about Littlefinger. Sansa has no good answer, but assures Brienne she will be fine, and this task can only be completed by her. Brienne heads out as does the main company, with Jon Snow leaving Edd behind as the new Lord Commander of Castle Black, charged with continuing to protect the Wall from the White Walkers with his pitiful army of Crows, but with hope that if Jon Snow takes back Winterfell, there will be another army to back up the Night’s Watch in the future.
In the final (and most tragic) plot line of the night, we see Bran and the three-eyed Raven visit an ancient Children of the Forest ritual (complete with the spiral design seen through the series whenever the Whitewalkers leave a kill zone), and we learn the the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers by shoving a piece of dragon glass into a man, thus creating the Night King. The original plan was for the Walkers to help the Children fight against humanity, but the Walkers rebelled and became a problem for everyone. Later, when everyone is sleeping, Bran decides to he want to warg into a vision on his own, and ends up amongst the white walkers, slowly making his way through their ranks until he spots the Night King, who very clearly sees Bran. At that moment, all of the Walkers turn to Bran, and we begin to realize these are not just visions. The King grabs Bran and he awakens back in the Weir-tree cave screaming, and the Raven realizes that Bran has been marked by the Night King. Their protection in the cave is broken, and they will have to flee, as the Walkers are on the way. However, Bran is not yet ready to replace the three-eyed Raven, so for a last minute crash-course, he and Bran return to the Winterfell past vision, so the Raven can explain that the warg process seems to literally send Bran back in time, where he can actually change things.
All too soon, the White Walkers arrive, and though the Children try to fight them off with flaming balls of fire, the King and his commanders easily make it through their lines and enter the cave, even as the rest swarm the outside of the cave and start burrowing their way inside. Bran and the Raven are still warging out, and Meera freaks out as she loads Bran onto the carriage and desperately tries to get Hodor to help, but the man is terrified. Within the vision, Bran hears Meera screaming that he needs to warg into Hodor, and the Raven tells Bran he needs to help his friends. So while still in the vision of Winterfell, Bran (I think) wargs into Hodor and has him start carrying Bran’s body away, while Leaf and Meera work to hold off the white walkers, with Summer the direwolf sacrificing his own life to help Bran and Meera escape. Meera manages to stab one of the King’s commanders with a dragon glass tipped spear and he is destroyed, but it is not enough. The Night King murders the raven, and his image dissolves into black smoke in Bran’s Winterfell vision, and suddenly, young Hodor can see Bran. As Leaf sacrifices herself to buy them time, Hodor (still under Bran’s control) and Meera drag Bran’s body down a long passage toward a door to escape, but the white walkers are rapidly gaining on them. Hodor barely manages to get the door open and Meera bursts out dragging Bran behind her, ordering Hodor to “hold the door.” That command echoes as she repeats it, and as Hodor holds the door against the white walkers, with their skeleton fingers stabbing and ripping into his body as they kill him, the “hold the door” command reverberates into Bran’s past vision of Winterfell, where somehow a psychic link has been opened between present day Hodor (currently being ripped to shreds while he continues to hold the door), and past Hodor, who suddenly seizes up and falls to the ground, chanting “hold the door” over and over again until it blurs into “Hodor” and we understand where his mental ailment came from, and why he can only say Hodor. As Bran and Meera disappear into the fog, Hodor dies holding that door, but we have no idea how much time his death bought his friends. All we know is that everything that happened was Bran’s fault, as he warged without the raven and let the White Walkers find them, and his inability to control his powers ruined Hodor’s life.
GAME OF THEORIES:
– So now we have Melissandre saying Jon Snow is the chosen one, and Kinvara claiming Dany is the chosen one. Could they both be?
– Is there a chance that Sansa might betray Jon at some point? I don’t see much motivation for it, but her cageyness with the truth makes me think maybe she has ulterior motives and will justify it by claiming she was only trying to keep Jon safe.
– I’m getting kind of tired of the House of Black and White. I kind of want Arya to rebel and flee, hoping she has learned enough to still be a bad-ass assassin.
Definitely a strong and sad episode, and it is fascinating to see things start to come together, especially in regards to where the White Walkers come from, and what exactly the Raven and wargs can do. Of course, there are still plenty of questions, but I am confident the show will answer them all soon enough. Looking forward to next week to see how Bran and Meera escape the Walker horde.
Nick is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, who belongs to the privileged few who enjoyed the ending to ‘Lost.’ For more of Nick’s thoughts and articles, follow him on Twitter.