Another week, another fantastic episode – this show is truly firing on all cylinders this season, and we’re only halfway through. Enjoy my review below and as always, beware of spoilers because I’m holding nothing back.
My friends, it seems that Game of Thrones has done it again. After seeing Dany emerge naked from the fire last week, I’d expected the show would give us some time to catch our breath. You know, maybe wait a week or two before hitting us with the next powerhouse of an episode. But no: it’s one week later, the very next episode, and they blow our minds yet again. This time there’s a moment so instantly iconic, frankly I’m surprised the fucking internet hasn’t exploded yet. A shot this powerful, this emotional, deserves to be talked about for years to come. Because let’s be honest here – have you ever, in any type of media, witnessed a close-up of a dong that was this detailed and tastefully framed?
You have? Danish arthouse movies, you say? Either that or Pornhub? Well, fuck. Forget I said anything then.
Luckily there’s another scene this week that’s almost as impressive as that epic dong shot. While it’s true that characters have been dropping like flies lately, Hodor’s death is the first one this season that actually made me feel something in my gut. Nothing too major, he’s always been a bit of a minor background character after all. But it’s Hodor, man. You kind of expected him to always be around, deliriously screaming his own name at you amidst a torrent of spittle. He seemed too good and pure to ever die, but this is a cruel, cruel show. Everyone we love will eventually be taken from us, no matter how safe or innocent they seem to be. It’s all part of what makes the show so great.
Let’s start at the beginning though. Bran’s scenes this week start off by dropping a quick, unexpected bomb on us: the White Walkers were actually created by the Children of the Forest! They did it to fight back against the humans, because I guess we were cutting down their forests? If true that’s a pretty uncool thing of us to do, but I’m not sure those Forest kids are telling the whole story here. Just look at that screenshot at the top of this review – those guys look like Gremlins, like they’re up to no good. I bet those little fuckers weren’t entirely innocent in this conflict. Maybe one of them pooped in a guy’s garden or kicked his dog or something, and that’s what started this whole thing off.
Anyways, after the scene ended I thought we were done with Bran for another week or two, but then he suddenly gets another big scene. Sick and tired of constantly being yanked out of perfectly enjoyable flashbacks by the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran decides to do a little warging on his own when the old man is sleeping. He ends up face to face with the Night King, who somehow is able to see him and actually grabs his arm. Bran freaks out and wakes up, only to be told by the Raven that he fucked up big time. The Night King knows where he is now, and he’ll be coming for him.
Finally, I thought, something is actually happening with Bran. I figured the whole season would be him just casually checking out flashbacks, giving us some background information and eventually leading to that big reveal about the parentage of one of our favorite characters. Turns out we’re getting something much more exciting, and we don’t have to wait for it either. I guess those White Walkers happened to be in the neighborhood when they learned of Bran’s location, because not ten minutes later their entire undead army shows up on his doorstep. It’s like that thing when you’re looking for a restaurant in a big city, and you suddenly realize the damn thing was right in front of you the whole time, but you kept walking past it without noticing.
Before we know it there’s a battle underway, with Children of the Forest lopping fireballs, zombies exploding left and right and crawling through tunnels, frantically chasing our escaping friends. The whole thing seems to have been ripped straight from a Lord of the Rings movie. It’s a level of spectacle that still surprises and impresses, even though the show has done it many times now. All of it looks amazing, my favorite shot being the army of wights standing in the snow with the light of the moon at their backs, making it look like something out of horror film. Feels like it too, as plenty of good guys end up croaking during the assault. The Gremlin dies, blowing herself up like Vasquez and Gorman in ALIENS, and so does the Three-Eyed Raven. And don’t forget Summer, Bran’s direwolf, who shows up just long enough to remind us that “Oh yeah, that guy had a wolf too” before getting unceremoniously hacked to pieces*. The last victim is Hodor, and they really twist the knife with his death. It’s not just that it’s Hodor, the friendly giant who’s loyal as a dog and would never hurt a fly. It’s the combination of watching him die while at the same time being hit with the reveal of who made Hodor become Hodor. Remember, he wasn’t always a retard, we learned that from one of the previous flashbacks. He was a totally normal kid named Wyllis, until something happened to him that we didn’t know about yet. Well, now we know. In the episode’s stunning last shot, we learn it was Bran who scrambled Hodor’s brain while warging into the past. The name Hodor is actually a slurred version of the last order he gets before he dies in the future: “Hold the door.”
That’s just… messed up. So not only did Bran recklessly endanger everyone by basically inviting the Night King over for a drink and a round of Mario Kart, but he also screwed over this poor fat kid’s entire life, only to have him die a horrible death at the end of it. I never liked Bran much to begin with, always whining and spying on people having sex and shit, but this takes it to a whole new level. I hope that guy takes a minute to think about what he did, and I hope he feels really bad about it for at least a day or two. Little bastard deserves it.
What else happened this episode? Well, there was that cool scene where Sansa confronts Littlefinger about the nightmare that he dropped her into with the Boltons. “If you didn’t know about Ramsay, you’re an idiot,” she says. “If you did know, you’re my enemy.” So did Baelish know? I’m not sure we get the answer to that question. He says he didn’t and he does look really hurt when he hears about what Sansa had to go through, but I just can’t quite believe he would have handed her over to someone he didn’t know anything about. Not if he really cares about her, anyway. I guess that’s another question we’re waiting to get answered.
So Littlefinger offers Sansa the services of the Knights of the Vale, which she refuses, saying she never wants to see him again. An understandable reaction, although I’m sure she’ll be forced to change her mind about that before the season is over. Before he leaves, Baelish does helpfully share the information that her uncle, the Blackfish (remember that super cool old guy from season three?) has retaken Riverrun, instantly making that her and Jon’s next destination. I bet it won’t be enough in the end though. It’s obvious they’ll need all the men they can get to win this battle, and as soon as Jon learns of Littlefinger’s offer, there’ll be pressure on Sansa to accept it after all.
Arya meanwhile seems to be back to stick-fighting, which is a little disappointing. After they took her back and restored her eyesight, I assumed it meant she was now fully “one of the guys,” but here we are again, listening to both Jaqen and the Waif constantly doubting whether she’ll ever give up her true identity and become “no one.” We get a bit more background info on the Faceless Men, who were originally slaves in Valyria and eventually founded the city of Braavos. We also learn that there has never been one in their order who was originally a Lord or a Lady. So they doubt her, which is getting a little stale. I mean, I’d doubt her too, she’s obviously never going to fully become one of them. But something needs to happen here already, something more than giving Arya another mission to specifically test her attachment to her past (they make her go see a play which involves the death of her dad) and her loyalty (the person she has to kill is apparently a good person). That being said, I do wonder where it’s all going. Will she eventually find herself a target of the Faceless Men herself for continuing to disobey, being unable to let go of her identity? Could be cool, but I wish they’d hurry up a bit.
Oh hey, there’s Euron Greyjoy again. It’s the first time we see him since he threw Balon off that bridge, and the non-book readers finally get a chance to learn his name. So he’s the uncle of Yara and Theon, and he’s a little bit crazy, admitting in public that he’s the one who killed the previous king. He’s got a good speech that follows that confession though, about how he’s going to make the Iron Islands great again by building a huge fleet and joining forces with Daenerys, helping her to conquer Westeros. He seems to really think that’ll work, even mentions he plans to marry the Mother of Dragons which, come on, seems unlikely to happen. This guy walks up to Dany, he’s dragon food in about three seconds. Still, that’ll be very amusing to watch, so I hope he reaches her. We’ll have to wait a while to see it though, because immediately after he wins the Kingsmoot and finishes the crowning ceremony** he discovers that Yara and Theon ran off with most of the ships. Now Euron’s gonna have to build another thousand from scratch, so… see you next season, I guess?
What I like about this episode is that the battle lines are being drawn again. Like in earlier seasons, people are constantly looking at maps, talking about strategies and alliances and such. Who will join who to fight who, all that stuff I think is very cool, even more so because we know there will be a huge payoff at the end, in the form of (apparently) the biggest battle they’ve ever done on the show. If that’s true, that’s really saying something. Bigger than the Wildlings assaulting the Wall at the end of season 4, bigger than Hardhome last year? Can’t wait!
Lastly this episode we pay a visit to the continent of Essos. There’s an effective emotional scene where Jorah Mormont finally confesses his love to Daenerys, who initially falls back on her standard cold bitch routine, but changes her tune when she learns he’s got greyscale. Then she tears up a bit, and I gotta say it’s nice to see a more vulnerable side to Dany again. She’s great at playing a badass, but this makes her seem a bit more human and likeable. I’ve read some reviews theorizing that the Mother of Dragons seemed to be getting more and more ruthless every episode, to the point where the only times we ever see her smile anymore is in the moment just before she brutally kills an enemy. I’ll admit it would be cool if the story goes in that direction, where it turns out she has the same disposition for insanity that her brother did, but I don’t quite see it happening. Who knows, I could be wrong. But the way she insists that Jorah goes off to find a cure and then comes back to her, tells me she’s not going over to the Dark Side quite yet.
Even so, I’m thinking she’ll be pretty pissed off at all the shit Tyrion has been pulling in Meereen during her absence. Making deals with slavers***, bringing in a Red Priestess to spread the word that Dany is destined to rule and all that. Doesn’t really seem like her style or something she’d agree to. I liked the part where Varys questions the Priestess, rightfully mentioning that they can’t seem to make up their minds about who exactly is The One Who Was Promised. They said it about Stannis but he clearly wasn’t it. Now it’s Dany? Some among their order think it’s Jon. So clearly those Red guys and girls don’t always know what they’re doing, but they still seem to have power. For instance, this Red Priestess Kinvara (played by Ania Bukstein, who is from Israel but sports an accent that had me convinced she was Dutch) has information she couldn’t possibly know, like what happened to Varys when he was a boy, and what deity spoke to him from the fire after he lost his testicles. She doesn’t share that info with us though, which is a shame. Guess it’ll have to wait until another episode.
With that, we’re halfway through season 6. And what a season it is shaping up to be! The pacing has never been quicker; not an episode goes by without some long running questions getting answered, or important characters finally reuniting or dying gruesomely instead. The sense that we’re getting close to the end is becoming stronger, making the events feel all the more epic. I wonder who’s gonna get stabbed in the eye socket next week – someone in King’s Landing perhaps? Make sure to come back here and chat about it!
* Only two left now: Ghost and Nymeria, belonging to Jon and Arya respectively.
** A ritual during which they literally drown him, then wait to see if he gets up again on his own. If he does, he’s the new king. Seems legit.
*** Even though those deals seem to work – there’s been no more killings by the Sons of the Harpy.