Curse HBO and the abomination that is time zones. Surely you already know this but, since the company has absolutely no presence throughout the Middle East or the entire continent of Africa, by the time we can actually get the most recent episodes there’s a good chance some jerk on the Internet could inadvertently or outright maliciously spoil it. Still, with only a Facebook post announcing ‘RIP Hodor’, I knew this episode was going to be a little tough on the heartstrings.
Let’s start from the beginning, at Castle Black (again) where Sansa is sewing, or embroidering, or whatever you call it (a total callback to her first scene ever), when she receives a message sealed with the little bird of house Littlefinger – the showdown we’ve been waiting to happen since Sansa was sent away to marry Ramsay and cement Littlefinger’s plans in the North. It’s still unclear whether Baelish knew exactly what Sansa was going to be subjected to, but even if he did know, it still seems to bother him. Is that real, genuine emotion on Littlefinger’s face?! Wow. Sansa taking charge and finally turning the tables on all the people that having been royally fucking her life up for six whole seasons is pretty damn satisfying. Even with Sansa's newfound fortitude, Baelish seems to call her bluff when she threatens to have Brienne cut him down for what he did, and then manages to inform Sansa and the audience that her uncle Brynden “Blackfish” Tully has retaken her mother’s home of Riverrun and seed a bit of doubt in the newly reunited Stark children’s warm and fuzzies before he takes off.
Now I know Sansa’s upset, but turning down an army of veteran knights while preparing to march on Winterfell seems kind of dumb. I suppose, though, that if I had been sold away to a torturer and rapist by Lord Littlefinger, then I would be a little hesitant about trusting him at all, too.
Later, Jon, Sansa, Davos, Melisandre, and the wildlings take off to take back Winterfell. Curiously, Sansa lies to Jon about the knights of the Vale, reinforcing the idea of some impending acrimony between Sansa and her half-brother. Brienne’s comment about Jon’s ‘brooding’ is mildly hilarious, but also suggests that she and Sansa and probably damn near everybody knows that Jon was resurrected. I’m not sure, of course, but the last time I heard about a guy who was resurrected people were a lot more excited about it. Tormund is like a 14-year-old boy with that goofy smile aimed at Brienne, and her statement about Tormund seems to squash any hopes of a budding romance between the two…for now. Edd finally realises he’s actually going to have to take charge of the Night’s Watch too, whether he likes it or not, as everyone else has gone off to reclaim the Stark’s birthright. I vote for a whole episode of Dolorous Edd’s tenure as Lord Commander at Castle Black. It could be like The Office
, with those cute little interview asides, but probably a lot grosser.
In Braavos, Arya has her eyesight back but she still has to put up with the Waif’s sass. She’s gained a few levels in Faceless men ninjutsu since her last training montage, but she’s still got a ways to go. The scene is fun and well choreographed, especially after the Waif resorts to fisticuffs. Then we get some sweet backstory on the Faceless men, founders of the free city of Braavos, courtesy of Jaqen H’ghar, who then gives Arya her first assignment since last season: kill an actress named Lady Crane.
Then we’re treated to a Game of Thrones version of a sitcom: the reenactment of the death of King Robert Baratheon. It’s interesting to see how the rest of the world saw the death of Westeros’ monarch. Arya seems to enjoy the show; that is, until they portray her father as a bumbling doofus and then mock execute him. The scene is pretty entertaining and features some real Shakespearean-level prose, but since we all saw this play out in the real (still fake) world, it runs a little long. After the mock execution, the scene suddenly changes to a closeup on an uncircumcised penis. Must be that after all the claims of gratuitous female nudity the showrunners had to do something to balance it out with the Renly-Loras relationship long gone. After informing everyone backstage that his penis also has warts, we’re treated to some more female breasts, evidently as a ploy to get all the freaked out people who left the room screaming to come back, sit down, and finish the episode. Arya finds out that Cersei’s actress, the Lady Crane, is a rum lady and devises a scheme to poison the drink to accomplish her mission. After reporting back to J’aqen (are there literally no other Faceless Men around the House of Black and White?), he denies her request for another face and reminds her that death comes for everyone, whether they’re wicked or not.
After moving at a breakneck pace this season, it was actually kind of refreshing to have Arya’s story slow down for a second. She has made serious strides towards becoming no one but it’s still not clear what her final test will be. Is it this assignment? What else does she have to do to prove she’s not Arya Stark anymore? Will she ever?
More flashbacks! This time, we’re going way back to the fabled Age of Heroes, before the Wall in the North was built and The First Men came over to Westeros and clashed with The Children of the Forest. During the vision, we get another HUGE reveal from beyond the source material. The Children made the White Walkers, apparently out of captured men, to defeat the invading humans during their epic wars way back when. That plan kind of backfired.
On the Iron Islands, it’s Kingsmoot time. The Ironborn didn’t really come across as a democratic society, but I guess they vote – or rather yell agreement, – for their kings. It seems like Theon is feeling a little better as he manages to stop cowering long enough to pronounce his support for his sister, who seems like a shoe-in until their uncle shows up. Euron steals Yara’s plan to build the biggest fleet the world has ever seen and announces that he intends to travel across the world to team up with Dany, marry her, bring her and her dragons to Westeros, and finally show the Lords of the Seven Kingdoms what they get for picking on the reaving and raping Ironborn. Actually, it seems like a pretty good idea, even if Euron is kind of a dick. The Ironborn seem to really like that in a sovereign, though, so he gets the most, uh, shouting votes, and proceeds to be symbolically drowned as a sort of– oh shit, they really drowned him. Turns out the power of the Drowned God is CPR. After his coronation, he dons what is unequivocally the absolute worst-looking crown in the Seven Kingdoms.
In Essos, Dany is preparing to lead her great Dothraki horde back to Meereen. Jorah reveals the extent of his greyscale infection to Daenerys, who in turn sends him on an epic quest to heal himself. Seeing Dany back in the saddle is great, and I’m pretty stoked to see her storyline hit the light-speed button after being the slowest so far this season.
Meanwhile, things are going better with Tyrion, Varys, and co. in Meereen. The Sons of the Harpy have stopped murdering folks and we’re introduced to a new red priestess who will hopefully help spread support for Daenerys. Varys tries to admonish the new holy woman, but she turns that right around by bringing up Varys’ uh…procedure, offering to fill him on the mystery of what happened that night and the voice he heard when his junk was thrown in the flames. This brings up some interesting questions about the Lord of Light and his faithful. How unified is the organisation? Are priests and priestesses sent out into the world to basically just help who ever they personally feel is the Prince That Was Promised? And does this new priestesses necklace have similar powers to Melisandre’s?
Beyond the Wall, Bran is having a hard time sleeping and does something very naughty. Without the guidance of the Three Eyed Max Von Sydow, he heads back into the past and sees an army of Wights standing before the same tree from early, but, this time, Winter Has Come. The Night King is there and sees Bran and grabs his arm. This is bad news because somehow, now, the bad guys are able to get to Bran because he bears the Night King’s mark. Also, this confirms that Bran can actually interact with the past during his visions, which becomes a really big deal by the end of the episode. Time travel is a thing now in Game of Thrones; take that, fan-theories!
The Night King does indeed show up with his whole undead army full of Clash of the Titans rejects. As Bran, Meera, and Hodor attempt to flee, we lose most of the Children of the Forest as well as Max Von Sydow, and Summer, one of the last Direwolves. Bran is still in his vision as Meera drags him through The Door, with the undead right behind them. As they make their escape, Meera commands Hodor to hold the door. From within his vision, Bran can see the young Hodor, still called Wyllis, as he collapses into an apparent seizure while repeating Meera’s order to hold the door, which, in the future, he does even as the undead Wights claw him apart.
Hodor has always been a fan favourite. The gentle giant seemed like the only character that could possibly retain his innocence though all the total misery this show subjects its characters to. There was something about the boy with giant’s blood that brought a light to every scene he was in. He was never portrayed as anything close to a main character, but his role in the show, now that it’s complete, is integral in our understanding of the future of this fantastical world, as well as its history. Rest in peace, big guy.