Fans have often debated the history behind Hodor, the loyal Stark family servant who has protected Bran since his Lannister-induced fall way back in Season 1, but in the May 22 episode, “The Door,” we finally learned why the gentle giant is only capable of saying one word — and it seems like it’s all Bran’s fault.
After Bran learned that the white walkers were created by the Children of the Forest, who were trying to build an army to defend themselves against the rise of mankind and the destruction that followed in their wake, he tried to revisit the period without the Three-Eyed Raven. Unfortunately, lacking the Raven to guide him, Bran’s chilling journey into the heart of an army of wights drew the attention of the Night King, who somehow became aware of his presence and managed to touch him in his vision — leaving a freezing handprint branded on Bran’s arm when he woke. The Raven warned him that the Night King now knew where Bran was and would come for him, meaning that their time of training was over.
Later, Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven paid another visit to Winterfell during the time of Ned’s childhood, but unbeknownst to Bran, the Night King and his dead army were converging on the Raven’s cave, preparing to attack.
As the wights overran the hideout, killing the Raven in the process, Meera scrambled to wake Bran from his greensight dream, but was unable to rouse him. Screaming at him to wake up and warg into Hodor, Meera’s message somehow reached Bran, and he took over Hodor’s body to help Meera transport his own crippled form out of the cave, even as Bran’s direwolf Summer sacrificed himself to protect his master.
With the wights gaining on them, Meera instructed Hodor to hold the door to keep the dead away, and despite the Raven’s insistence that the past cannot be changed, Bran somehow managed to tap into the mind of the young Hodor at Winterfell even as his present self was warging into the adult iteration — connecting the two timelines and sending the boy (formerly known as Wyllis) into convulsions as he mindlessly repeated “hold the door, hold the door” until the message slurred into “Hodor.” In the present, Meera dragged Bran’s body away from the cave, leaving Hodor to hold off the wights — thus sealing his fate in the past and the present, as the dead broke through and began clawing at him.
As painful as it was to lose Hodor — one of the few true innocents in the world of “Game of Thrones” — the implications of the episode are far more staggering, as the devastating scene was proof that Bran’s power can truly impact the past (or, to use a quote from another cryptic HBO drama, that “time is a flat circle”); although it remains to be seen whether it’s possible for his presence to avert disaster, or simply to inadvertently cause it by eavesdropping in places he shouldn’t be. (You’d think he’d have learned better by now, given that that’s how he ended up crippled in the first place.)
Up until the final scene, “The Door” was a much slower burn (pun intended) than recent installments, but the episode once again proved that the show knows how to end on a high note — with every episode of Season 6 so far leaving us on a breathtaking note, from Melisandre’s season premiere reveal to Jon’s resurrection to the execution of the Castle Black traitors to Dany’s fiery conquering of the Khals last week.
Even when an episode is setting the board for future moves — which seemed to be the primary function of “The Door” for much of the hour — there’s still a sense that there’s far less wheel-spinning going on than we’ve seen in previous seasons (Jaime and Bronn’s largely redundant trip to Dorne is a prime example of time that would’ve been better spent elsewhere last year). The episode was even blissfully free of the one-note villainy of Ramsay Bolton, who has become the show’s only real weak spot now that the producers have thinned the herd of supporting characters.
“The Door” furthered the season’s recurring theme of the oppressed beginning to reclaim their power; Sansa might not be ready to face Ramsay Bolton for the horrors he inflicted on her yet, but she took a solid step towards that goal by confronting Littlefinger over his part in her torture. “Did you know about Ramsay? If you didn’t know, you’re an idiot. If you did know, you’re my enemy,” she told him in an icy tone very reminiscent of her mother’s, when Catelyn was at her most implacable. “Would you like to hear about our wedding night? He never hurt my face; he needed my face, the face of Ned Stark’s daughter. But the rest of me… He did what he liked with the rest of me, as long as I could still give him an heir. What do you think he did?”
“Game of Thrones” is a show that has faced plenty of criticism for its portrayal of women (some deserved, some less so), but there’s something undeniably liberating about seeing a woman use her wounds as a means of inflicting damage on a man, for once. The men of Westeros have always treated their women like toys to be broken, pieces to be moved on a chessboard — using them and discarding them with no thought towards the consequences. It’s very rare for a man in Littlefinger’s position to be faced with those consequences, to have to answer for his part in them, and Sansa’s unflinching gaze and chilling words clearly cut him the way nothing else ever has. “The other things he did, ladies aren’t supposed to talk about those things, but I imagine brothel-keepers talk about them all the time. I can still feel it. I don’t mean in my tender heart; it still pains me so, I can still feel what he did in my body, standing here right now.”
Littlefinger’s “sorry” is monumentally worthless in the face of what Sansa has been through, but she no longer needs any man’s approval or appreciation — not even Jon’s, as she proved when she told her brother that she would take revenge on Ramsay with or without his help. The North remembers, and Sansa’s memory might be even longer than her little sister’s, which is why she decided to send Brienne to meet with her great-uncle Brynden the Blackfish to help shore up her forces for the fight against Ramsay.
Arya, meanwhile, was given yet another test by Jaqen H’gar, who sent her to kill an actress in a theater troupe; but not just any troupe — one that was performing the death of Robert Baratheon and the subsequent execution of Ned Stark. Not only did Arya have second thoughts about killing a seemingly decent woman (“does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?” Jaqen challenged her), but her dedication to being “no one” was clearly part of the test, when she saw her father and sister being disrespected for the audience’s amusement.
The power may be shifting thanks to the likes of Daenerys — who finally forgave Jorah for his early betrayal and commanded him to go off and find a cure for greyscale so that he could be at her side when she conquered Westeros — but “The Door” reminded us that it’s still no picnic being a woman in George R. R. Martin’s world, with Yara Greyjoy meeting predictable resistance when she put her name forward to rule the Iron Islands at the Kingsmoot following her father’s death.
Despite her uncle Euron admitting that he’d killed his brother Balon (and then apologizing for not killing him sooner), the Ironborn would apparently rather have a disloyal, murderous sociopath for a king than allow a woman to rule, prompting Yara and Theon to escape with all the best ships before Euron had a chance to kill them both. Even better (worse?) since Dany has had no end of unappealing suitors over the past six seasons, she apparently now has one more, as Euron has heard of her army and her dragons and declared his intention to sail over to Meereen and offer her ships (and a certain part of his anatomy), so that they can marry and rule Westeros together. Given her usual method of dealing with misogynistic men who think women aren’t capable of leading, she’ll probably have a very interesting answer to Euron’s proposition.
Back in Meereen, Tyrion’s deal with the masters was apparently keeping the Sons of the Harpy at bay, but the Imp still wanted the people of the city to know that Daenerys was the one behind their newfound peace, even in her absence. He enlisted the help of a Red Priestess from Volantis to help spread the word about Dany’s good deeds and her position as the “one who was promised” by the Lord of Light. Varys, ever the cynic, was quick to remind the Priestess that one of her fellow Red Women, Melisandre, already proved misguided in her belief that Stannis was supposedly the Lord of Light’s chosen one, and that R’hllor’s followers haven’t had the best track record so far. In an exceedingly rare turnabout, the Priestess managed to disarm Varys by reminding him of the night he was emasculated as part of a sorcerer’s spell. “Remember what you heard that night? You heard a voice call out from the flames, do you remember? Should I tell you what the voice said, the name of the man who spoke?” she asked, leaving Varys chilled to the core.
It’s even rarer to see Varys shaken than it is to see Littlefinger off his game, and it’s delicious that both men were caught off guard in the same episode (and both at the hands of red-headed women, no less). Will the Red Priestess be a useful ally to Dany and her advisers in Meereen, or will the city’s potential for religious fervor backfire, as it did in King’s Landing with the Faith Militant? Time will tell — but Dany had better hurry up and get back to Meereen while there’s still a city left to rule.
“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.