Now that we’re at the halfway point of what is possibly the penultimate season of Game of Thrones, it wasn’t too shocking that a couple of major revelations occurred.
Firstly, the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers! It was revealed that the White Walkers were originally ordinary men, men who raped and pillaged the land upon which the Children stood, and so the Children cursed them in a grotesquely awesome scene. Seriously, the sound design of that scene alone was gross in all the right ways. The Children remain a mostly vague element in this show, but what we now know for sure is that these beautiful elfish creatures are just as active participants in the cycle of violence as destruction as any lord or knight.
Secondly, Hodor! Or more accurately, and devastatingly, “Hold the door”. Wow. As it was revealed that Hodor’s brains were scrambled as a result of Bran being stuck in the past and warging into the stable boy’s mind to save himself and the others from a legion of the dead. What an insane sentence. It’s no surprise that these time travelling shenanigans molested the young boy’s mind and left a mentally crippled simpleton who would be only capable of muttering the last thing he’d ever hear decades into the future. It was tragic and beautiful that his sacrifice was the thing that melted his mind and led to his death. And the army of Wights and White Walkers attacking Bran and company was – while not the epic confrontation it was last season – a claustrophobic and terrifying scene in its own right.
The past and its direct reverberations to the present was the thematic through line in this episode. Arya Stark was given her first target – a theatre actress performing a local production of, well, the first season of Game of Thrones. A play complete with a bumbling, moronic Ned Stark. Whether this was designed to hurt Arya in a way that wasn’t just smacking her in the face with a staff, or a test of her commitment to shed Arya Stark forever, remains to be seen.
Sansa has grown strong as a result of the brutalities inflicted on her for the past five seasons—consider the opening scene where she threatens Littlefinger’s life for putting her in harm’s way last season. Also consider her conjuring plans and strategies to assemble an army to take back her home. One of these plans involves recruiting her uncle, Bryden Tully. Which is great! I can’t wait to see him re-enter the fray after a disastrous end to his campaign with Robb Stark (that end being the Red Wedding).
The Greyjoy children’s storyline gained some traction as their slimy, murderous uncle, announced his return at the Kingsmoot and made a play for the Salt Throne. He promised to the Iron Islanders a bigger piece of the pie thatis Westeros if they align themselves with the Daenerys Targaryan, the Mother of Dragons. He’s elected king and his first order of business is to kill the last of his family, Theon and Yara Greyjoy. But they abscond with a lotta ships and a lotta men. Where are they off to? Who can say.
This was an excellent sequence that re-affirmed Theon as a better man, and it’s pretty exciting to consider what they’ll do now that they’re free of that miserable pirate island and their even more miserable family.
Over in Meereen, Tyrion made some more decisive moves as he recruited a Red Priestess for Daenerys. Varys had some healthy doubts and an uncharacteristic reservoir of spite to spit at the Red Priestess. And boy, she shook him to his core when she revealed knowledge of his past to him. A counter to his doubts about their religion that foretold the fallen Stannis Baratheon as the Prince who was Promised.
Daenerys and Jorah are granted the lone happy scene in this episode as they healed the rift between them. At first, much like Hodor, she was stuck between the past and the future; a past where he betrayed her and a future where she would undoubtedly need him in the wars to come. Jorah’s terminal wounds proved to be the thing that brought them together as she ordered him to find a cure for it. And he got to declare his love for her. It was a lovely scene and a nice bookend to their tumultuous history. It’s unclear if they’ll ever re-unite, but I have my doubts. But then, I doubted the fan theory that it was Bran who ultimately made Hodor what he is, so shows what I know!
This was a fantastic bridge episode – characters met their fate and some made moves to a future that is far from certain.