[For Game of Thrones “The Door” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
The Door. Tyrion seeks a strange ally; Bran learns a great deal; Brienne goes on a mission.
Kinda think that was the best episode of #GameofThrones ever.
— Michael Flores (@fivewithflores) May 23, 2016
Lots of stuff happened in “The Door”. I have serious doubts that some of these events were how George R.R. Martin originally envisioned them; and my guess is that if and when the novels are actually completed some of these characters’ ends — and beginnings — will be resolved differently.
That said, Game of Thrones the television show has long ago outstripped A Song of Ice and Fire (its source material); and in the case of the wildly excellent “The Door” I’m just happy to be along for the ride.
My Top 8 Most Epic Moments from “The Door”:
8. Lord Commander Dolorous Edd
In one of the closing scenes of “The Door”, Jon Snow moves to leave Castle Black, presumably to rally Northern lords to the Stark name against the treacherous Boltons. He claps Edd on the shoulder and tells him not to knock [the Wall] down while he’s gone. At this point it’s quite uncertain who the Lord Commander is; Jon certainly seems to be telling Edd what to do, and voicing an intent to return.
As Jon and company ride off, a Brother addresses Edd as Lord Commander, asking him if he should close the gate behind the departing Jon. Edd first begins that he isn’t the Lord Comma– but then looks around as the camera pulls back on a long shot of the Castle Black courtyard, and starts issuing orders.
Can Jon really just declare someone Lord Commander? Because it looks like Edd is officially in charge.
7. Tyrion Takes a Reluctant Bow
Tyrion and Varys recruit Kinvara, “High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis, the Flametruth, the Light of Wisdom, and First Servant of the Lord of Light” — the ranking priestess of Red R’hllor — as an ally in spreading the good word of Queen Daenerys Targaryen. The priestess proclaims Dany as the [one*] who was promised; her dragons the Lord of Light’s fire made flesh.
Varys rightly points out that another priestess of R’hllor — Melisandre — previously declared Stannis Baratheon as the chosen one; and the man at his side — Tyrion Lannister — defeated that chosen one soundly. “The Door” was not much about Tyrion, and the scene itself was not much about Tyrion (much more about the origins and destiny of Lord Varys) but hell if that wasn’t a good reason to beam at the accomplishments of one of our favorite characters.
6. The Cruel Justice of the Many-Faced God
“Does death only come for the wicked, and leave the decent behind?”
Arya continues her training as a Faceless Man in “The Door”, with a pretty good quarterstaff training session with the Waif; and an infiltration assignment in advance of an assassination job.
Arya’s interlude in Braavos is short but quite dense. We get to see how good the Waif — so presumably any trained Faceless Man — is in a fair fight (amazing). We learn the secret origin of the Free City of Braavos (founded by the original Faceless Men). And we get a rare glimpse at some male genitals on Game of Thrones. Breasts there are aplenty, but uncircumcized penis? I think this episode was a first.
Arya seems conflicted about her career / religious choices. It doesn’t seem like she wants to murder a “decent” woman; but like Jaqen says, death comes for both the wicked and the decent, and if the price has been paid, the servants of the Many-Faced God are meant to do as they’re told.
So… Priestess or princess?
5. The Secret Origin of the White Walkers
Bran wargs into the past multiple times in “The Door” … An early interlude reveals how the Children of the Forest (!!!) created the first White Walkers using magic. A human is shown bound to one of their sacred trees as a wild-eyed Child of the Forest plunges a wooden stake into his chest as his eyes turn blue.
The White Walkers were a weapon of war that the Children of the Forest created to fight — you guessed it — encroaching humans who were cutting down their trees.
4. Khaleesi’s Hope
Dany isn’t sure what to do. She banished Jorah the Andal twice; and twice he returned, saving her life time and again. She can’t take him back, and she can’t send him away.
Jorah sends himself away, showing Dany the greyscale infection.
In one of the truly rare moments of hope on Game of Thrones, Dany orders Jorah to find a cure, then return to her; for when she conquers the Seven Kingdoms, she needs him at her side.
A lot of terrible things happen on this show; and both heroes and villains meet violent ends. Jorah, for his treachery but ultimate devotion and bravery, is already in a terrible spot (you know, fatal disease and all). But with Dany commanding him to find a cure you kind of get the idea that he is going to; he is going to be back; and maybe — just maybe — he will get what he ultimately wants (which is Dany). Remember, Dany has every Dothraki bloodrider there is at her back now, a mercenary company, command of the Unsullied, et cetera ad infinitum… But precious few Westerosi nobles to potentially marry.
Jorah? Really? Maybe!
3. The Brutal Logic of the Kingsmoot
Yara opens on a pretty good speech, and when her gender is called into question (the Ironborn have never had a ruling Queen), Theon makes an impassioned speech that has the Ironborn rooting Yara’s name.
… Until another Greyjoy — the murderous uncle Euron — appears to challenge for the Salt Throne.
Euron has an amazing pitch; like Yara he wants to build a thousand deadly ships to reave the Seven Kingdoms; but he has a long-term political agenda she didn’t quite think about. There is someone on the other side of the Narrow Sea who also hates the Lords of Westeros; someone with “a large army, three large dragons, and no husband.”
Euron wants to build the navy not just for the Ironborn, but to offer to Dany, as he aspires to rule not just the Iron Islands, but alongside the Mother of Dragons.
So Euron is the new King of the Iron Islands, Yara and Theon flee stealing all the best Ironborn boats, and the kinslaying and murderous new King orders every man to start cutting down trees and every woman to start sewing up sails. Focus, Ironborn. The only thing left unclear is the priority order of 1) killing his niece and nephew, 2) actually building the greatest fleet the world has ever known, and 3) offering the aforementioned fleet to Dany for like wars and stuff.
2. The Beginning and End of Hodor
It looks increasingly like Bran’s time travel warging is the glue that holds Game of Thrones together. When he returns to the site of the birth of the White Walkers [in the past] the Night’s King sees him, touches him, and “marks” him… Allowing the White Walkers and their wights to breach the protections of the Children of the Forest in the present.
Bran returns to a long-ago Winterfell — the day Ned left for the Vale — and wargs into Hodor in past and present at the same time.
After a disastrous battle that costs our heroes Summer, Leaf (and other Children of the Forest), and the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran wargs into Hodor to “hold the door**” against a legion of persuing wights and White Walkers. “Hold the door” in the present is etched into Hodor’s mind in the past, such that it is the only thing on his mind for the next couple of decades. Thus we learn as an extension of Ned hearing Bran at the Tower of Joy that Bran’s warging can affect the past, rather than just observe it.
It might not be fair to say that Hodor died a hero’s sacrifice because Bran was controlling his mind at the time; but it is certainly a fulfillment of his destiny, the beginning and end of his particular Circle of Life all at once. My guess is that this episode ranks behind only “The Rains of Castamere” in its overlap of “aw shit” and uncontrollable tears from HBO fans.
1. Sansa faces off with Littlefinger
If you’ve already seen “The Door” you can probably alrady imagine yourself glued to the water cooler at the office tomorrow, ooh-ing and ah-ing over the final eleven minutes. Night’s King and wights against Children of the Forest. Noble sacrifice by Summer. Badass White Walker walloping by Meera. All big, all moving, all ultra violent.
But for my money, the best scene in possibly the best episode of Game of Thrones — ever — was the opening one.
Littlefinger journeys North to meet Sansa, Knights of the Vale at his back. He tells her the Blackfish has reunited Tully and retaken Riverrun. Her mother’s family will join her father’s name in rescuing Rickon and the North if only she asks.
She doesn’t care.
Did you know about Ramsay?
Either he didn’t know (and he is an idiot) or he did know (and he is her enemy).
Not only can Littlefinger not protect Sansa, but he can’t even protect himself; not if she tells Brienne to unsheath Oathkeeper.
“The Door” is uncharted territory from a George R.R. Martin perspective, but delivers the best line I can remember… “You freed me from the monsters who murdered my family… And gave me to other monsters who murdered my family.”
Sansa had a terrible time of it last season surely, but we never had a sense of how bad until this heartwrenching scene with Littlefinger. “Did he cut you?” (looks like you did know). There are things Ladies don’t talk about but brothel keepers must, and often. Sansa is always in these loose, flowing gowns, and actress Sophie Turner’s face is always resplendent. Ramsay would never hurt the face of Ned Stark’s daughter (which he needed whole and healthy to hold the North), but all the other parts that no one else sees were fair game as long as they were still able to bear an heir. Sansa implies she is feeling physical — not just mental — wounds, right then and there, still; weeks or months since escaping Ramsay.
I have had a longstanding venom for Sansa, since Season One and in truth years before Game of Thrones ever hit the air. In a very real sense, Sansa’s desire to be a
Baratheon Lannister Queen caused the death of her father and the downfall of her family. BDM argued that falling under the shadow of Littlefinger’s wing was Sansa’s step towards self-actualization and self-preservation. I never knew what to make of her marriage to Ramsay. Yes he’s awful, but to what degree did she know what she was getting into? Was this a calculated move towards accumulating power that tragically went sideways? This scene clarifies a lot around Sansa, and gives her, finally, her big moment against one of the Big Bads of the show.
It’s awesome, and after all these seasons, I was finally happy to be rooting for her.
“The Door” is, I think, the best episode of Game of Thrones ever. Just the origin of Hodor, or the White Walkers, or Braavos would have been a satisfying mystery solved in most episodes. This one gave us all three. Just those eleven minutes of battle and chase and heroism and sacrifice; of the Three-Eyed Raven, of Leaf, of Summer dying to save Bran would have been unbelievable in most episodes… But nothing compared to Sansa v. Littlefinger to me. I’ve watched “The Door” twice already. I doubt they will be my two only viewings.
* Not “Prince”, clearly.
** Presumably the titular “Door”