Another Sunday, another Game of Thrones. And all I can say is, “Hold the damn door!”
We start things off with Sansa at Castle Black. She’s sewing a coat for her brother Jon when she receives a letter bearing the white falcon and crescent moon of House Arryn. She opens and reads it and we all know what means–Littlefinger is somewhere nearby. Sansa takes Brienne and sure enough they find Petyr Baelish waiting at a secret rendezvous. He’s happy to see Sansa, but her–umm, not so much.
A visibly angry Sansa asks Littlefinger if he knew about Ramsay Bolton, saying that if he didn’t know he’s an idiot and if he did know he’s her enemy. She asks if he would like to hear about her wedding night and presses him to tell her what he thinks Ramsay did to her. Petyr is stunned. This isn’t the Sansa he is used to dealing with. When he hesitates to give an answer, Brienne, hand on sword is like “she asked you a question bruh.” He gives a few mealy-mouthed words, but Sansa still ain’t having it. In a reversal of roles, she leaves the master of witty wordplay awkward and speechless, as she reveals the truth about the sexual abuse she suffered at Ramsay’s hands. Littlefinger offers his apologies but she tells him she doesn’t believe him any more, or need him. This Sansa is all grown up, and she’s past being manipulated by men like Littlefinger. He says he’ll do anything to make amends, and even offers up his life when she threatens to take it. But she dismisses him and his offer of aid. Before he leaves, he tells her that her great uncle Brynden Tully the Blackfish has reassembled an army and taken back his house. He cautions that she may need a loyal army in the time to come. Sansa retorts that she already has an army at Castle Black, but he replies they are her brother’s army–a half-brother at that.
In the city of Braavos, Arya Stark is still being beat up by the creepy girl–with and without the staff. After a second ass-whooping, creepy girl says she’ll never be one of them, and calls her “Lady Stark.” The priest with Jaqen H’ghar’s face shows up and remarks that creepy girl may have a point. Arya follows him and he tells her the story of how the first Faceless Men fled doomed Valyria to found the city of Braavos. He then gives her a vial of poison to carry out another assassin mission, this time against a local theater actress. Knowing how the last mission she got went, he warns that this is her second chance and she won’t have another.
At the theater, Arya watches a farcial stage reproduction of the death of Robert Baratheon. She laughs at first, until the story starts to depict her father. Only in this telling, Ned Stark is a rogue in league with Tyrion Lannister to steal the Iron Throne from an innocent Cersei and an almost heroic Joffrey. Enough to make anyone throw up in their mouth a little. As she watches a mock version of her father’s beheading to the laughter of the crowd, her discomfort is a reminder that she’s still Arya–and far from the girl with no name she’d like to be.
When she returns to the priest with Jaqen’s face, she relates to him her plans to poison the actress after scoping out things backstage. But she appears hesitant, and remarks the actress seems like a decent woman. The priest asks if death only comes for the wicked, and it’s a fitting reminder she knows all too well–that good people die all the time. Arya presses however, saying she believes the person who requested the killing was likely another jealous actress. The priest sternly reminds her that a servant of the Many Faced God is there to serve–not ask questions.
Out in the wilds, Brandon Stark is doing the vision-quest thing with the Three-Eyed Raven. This time they appear to be at some summery Stonehenge type spot, where the elvish and inhuman Children of the Forest are gathered–one of whom in fact looks like Leaf. They have a man tied and bound to a stone. He struggles and screams beneath his gag as one of them plunges a blade of dragon glass into his chest. As she does so the man’s eyes harden and turn blue as ice–and we get our first glimpse of how the White Walkers came to be.
Brandon awakens and says as much to Leaf. She tells him that they were at war, their forests and sacred trees cut down. They created the White Walkers to defend themselves. When Brandon asks who they had defend against she replies, from you–from men.
Well ain’t that something.
Somewhere on the Iron Isles, we finally got ourselves a Kingsmoot! All the important Ironborn dudes in their very drab Ironborn digs (color is obviously frowned upon here) have gathered to select a new leader. When the call comes for someone to declare, it’s Yara who steps forward, saying that she has the right to lead. One of the men scoffs at this, saying a woman can’t lead. He also points out that Theon is like right over there, and is the son of the last ruler. Theon steps forward, as if it’s the last thing he wants to do. He pauses for a long while, leaving Yara to wonder what he’s going to do and we get a sinking feeling Reek might return. But in a clear and strong voice, he declares for his sister and makes an impassioned speech that manages to rally many to her side. It all seems to be going well–until Euron Greyjoy comes sauntering up. Uncle Euron greets his niece and nephew and says, nah, I’m gonna lead the Ironborn. Yara puts two and two together real quick, and declares he’s the one who killed her father, the last Lord Reaper of Pyke, Balon Greyjoy. Euron shrugs and is like, “yeah I did it, wish I did it sooner, and ya’ll know you ain’t like that fool no how.” When Theon tries to point out his uncle ain’t even been around, Euron mocks his fancy talk and reminds his nephew he ain’t got a dick. Low blow dude. Besides, he has a plan to win the Iron Isles power, money and respect. He’s going to raise the largest fleet ever seen, sail it across the sea and hand it over to none other than (wait for it) Daenerys Stormborn–and did we mention get her to marry him? Then a strengthened Targaryen and Ironborn alliance gonna take over the world.
Can’t top that. Before you can say “Drowned God,” Euron is made the Ironborn king. While he’s going through his super baptism ceremony, Theon and Yara get the hell outta dodge–taking half the Ironborn fleet with them. No matter, Euron says. He’ll build a bigger fleet, and when he catches up with his brothers’ children, he plans to murder the hell out of them.
Meanwhile, Dany is in Essos standing atop a cliff and watching her newly won Dothraki army–the one she gained after staging mass khal-i-cide last week when she burnt everybody up. Daario and Ser Jorah Mormont stand with her. When she turns back to them, it’s mostly to confront Jorah. She points out she’s banished him twice, and twice he’s returned to save her. Now she can’t take him back or send him away. But Jorah says she must send him away, and reveals the greyscale that’s eating at his flesh. This staggers Dany, who understands it’s a death sentence. Jorah finally openly confesses his old guy love for her and says all he ever wanted to do was serve his queen. With that he turns to go. But Dany is too overcome to let him leave. Instead she commands him to go out and find a cure for greyscale (sure, that’s easy enough) and return to serve her so they can retake the Seven Kingdoms together. The last scene we get of Jorah is him sitting on a horse watching Dany leaving the Dothraki city with an army following.
At the palace in Meereen, Tyrion (unaware of any of this) is still attempting to consolidate Dany’s power along with Grey Worm, Missandei and Varys. Though his Faustian pact with the Old Masters has created a tepid peace, Tyrion believes they need to show Dany’s strength to keep it. To this end he invites the Head Red Priestess of R’llhor in Volantis to help give Dany legitimacy in the eyes of the people. She agrees, declaring that she believes Dany is the chosen one of the Red God whose dragons will burn the purity in the spirit and flesh of men. Tyrion smiles at this, stating he hopes the dragons don’t have to burn too many.
But Varys interjects.
He points out that back in Westeros another Red Priestess (Melisandre) declared another guy (Stannis Baratheon) the chosen one and that only got him near dead and then, by all accounts, completely dead. He pronounces her a fanatic and asks how they can possibly trust a God whose acolytes seem to declare another chosen one every other moment. Though Tyrion appears chagrined the priestess remains calm. She points out those may have been bad things, but they happened for a reason. She goes further, pointing out that if not for his being made a eunuch, he would not enjoy the power he now has. A speechless and emotionally stricken Varys listens as the priestess relates his own story, of his mutilation as a child by a sorcerer who offered his severed body parts (his genitals) to the flames. She knows this secret, that he’s only appeared to have shared with Tyrion. She knows as well that he heard a voice in those flames. When she asks if he would like to know what the voice said, he can say nothing. The Spider is shaken.
At Castle Black, Jon and the Onion Knight Ser Davos Seaworth try to figure out how to get Northern houses to rally to their side. There’s a great deal of back and forth with Sansa, who reveals the existence of her great-uncles army–but hides how she came by this information (Littlefinger). It’s decided that Brienne will make contact with the Tullys while Jon and Sansa head out to rally the Northern houses. Despite reservations by Brienne about the whole thing, everyone is soon suited up and ready to go. We’re also treated to scene of more barely restrained eyeballing from Tormund Giantsbane at Brienne, who appears mortified. Do the writers know how much we want this couple to happen? Dolorous Edd bids Jon farewell and good luck, watching the party depart and realizing (belatedly) he’s now Lord Commander.
So for the episode’s finale we return to the Wilds, where Bran is bored while lying around waiting for the Three-Eyed Raven to wake up. So he decides to do something stupid–and I mean stupid. He makes his way over to a root of the weirwood tree and goes vision-questing on his own. Bad move kid. He’s taken to the same spot he’d seen before with the Children of the Forest. Only this time the Stonehenge looking place is covered in snow and ice. Oh, and there’s a huge army of the dead gathered.
Bran walks through them and they remain still as he passes. Behind them, however, are several White Walkers sitting atop their dead horses. One of them is the Night’s King. Get out of their Bran! Get the hell outta there right now!
It seems as if, like the dead, they are frozen still, until the Night’s King slowly turns his head to stare at Bran. Jeezus.
Bran backs up and finds that the dead who had been looking the other way are now suddenly facing him and staring at him too. There’s a 360 degree camera angle thingy and without warning the Night’s King is right friggin’ there! He grabs Bran’s arm. Bran screams and wakes up. But it’s too late. The Night’s King mark is on him in the waking world, leaving a cold imprint on his skin. The Three-Eyed-Raven says that everyone has to leave–not now, but right now. Because the White Walkers are coming.
He and Bran do one last vision quest thing. Meanwhile, Meera Reed starts packing up, relating to Hodor all she plans to do when they reach civilization. As they talk, she notices her breath is coming colder. It’s so cold she can see it. So can Hodor. Uh oh. She runs from the cave to look outside. There’s White Walkers and a silent army of the dead–everywhere. Leaf and the other Children of the Forest tell her to go, get Bran and leave. Then the fight begins.
The dead attack like a horde and the Children hurl their fire grenades, blowing some of them to bits. But they keep coming. Meera tries to awaken Bran but he’s off vision-questing–this time taken to Winterfell as a child, where he once again sees his father as a boy and a young Hodor who is able to say more than “Hodor.” Back in the present, Meera calls for Hodor to help her carry Bran in their makeshift sled, but the giant won’t move, seeming distressed.
Outside, the battle ain’t going well. The Children have created a fire to surround them. It keeps the dead from advancing directly, but the White Walkers just walk through doing that cool strolling thing they do. The dead in turn take the long way around. They make their way into the cave soon enough, cutting through the weirwood tree. Meera and the Children are left to fight them but they’re too many, and it’s like a messed up episode of the Walking Dead.
As if that ain’t bad enough, the White Walkers stroll up in there too. Meera manages to shatter one of them with a spear tipped with dragon glass before finally getting Hodor to get up and pull Bran away. To help them escape his direwolf Summer sacrifices herself to the dead who are swarming the place. Awww man!
As they run through a corridor, things go World War Z real quick. Some more White Walkers show up and kill the Three-Eyed Raven. In the vision quest he tells Bran farewell then breaks up like Voldemort at the end of Deathly Hallows 2. Leaf stops to confront the dead to give Meera, Jon and Hodor more time, blowing herself up with a grenade like Vasquez and “You always were an asshole Gorman” in Aliens. (Yes, I’m interpreting every scene in this part of the episode from other flicks.) It’s just enough of a break for Meera and Hodor to reach the door. But there’s still like a bazillion zombies coming their way. They manage to get outside, but Hodor has to press his body against the door to stop the dead from getting through.
“Hold the door!” Meera yells again and again.
Then we get the big reveal. And its big, like ginormous.
Back in time, in the vision quest, young Hodor turns and appears to see Bran–who is there and not there. And somehow, in a bit of “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey” Tardis type magic, he can hear Meera through Bran–telling his future self to “Hold the door!” As Hodor meets Bran’s gaze, his eyes roll back. He collapses, going into a seizure. Ol’ Nan runs to help him. But all Hodor can say as he shakes in a fit over and over again is “Hold the door! Hold the door!” In the future, he does just that, using his body and strength to keep the door closed as the dead try to tear through, tearing at him in turn.
It’s just enough time to allow Meera to make her escape with Bran. Back in the vision quest, young Hodor keeps repeating “Hold the door!” Eventually it slurs and changes until it becomes one word said again and again: “Hodor! Hodor! Hodor!”
What can you say to that, except–damn! This was his whole life. His whole life was in service to this one, lone act. Everything since that fateful day led up to This. One. Act. I can’t even…
Till next week. In the meantime, gotta go deal with all these feelings.