SHUT. THE. FRONT. DOOR.
This whole recap series is based on uniting a good drink with heady action-drama…but the finale of Game of Thrones Episode 5, “The Door,” was simultaneously devastating and compelling. For the occasion, I came up with new cocktail variants, especially one in honor of one of the series’ most beloved (and now departed) figures.
Sansa Tells It Like It Is (Then Doesn’t)
The episode opens with Sansa Stark sewing a new cloak for Jon Snow, designed after something that Ned Stark used to wear—because you just can’t lead an army to victory without looking fierce and seasonal. She’s interrupted by an unwelcome letter, marked with Littlefinger’s seal. She takes Brianne with her and he proves surprisingly bashful about discussing what Ramsay Bolton did to her. This is the guy who allowed Joffrey Baratheon to rape and kill women from his brothel. He apparently has some genuine soft spot for Sansa, but obviously no real loyalty to her. His contrition is more a matter of being vulnerable than…ya know, not being a complete sociopath.
He delivers some useful intel, however. Her Tully great-uncle, Brendan The Blackfish, has amassed a small army loyal to her and the Stark name, and she then shares this info with Ser Davos and Jon as they plan their assault on Winterfell. She lies about how she got the information, keeping Littlefinger out of everyone’s mind. It’s understandable that she might keep this information from strangers like Davos (and Melisandre, who was quietly sitting in), but Brianne points out that it is odd that she is keeping this information from Jon. It doesn’t seem like good strategy, or a sign of perfect trust.
Theon and Yara Go For a Sail
The Kingsmoot on the Iron Islands seemed to be going so well, with Yara Greyjoy claiming the throne and Theon backing her up. It actually seemed like the Ironborn were going to get their first ever queen, whose primary initiative would be to build the world’s largest fleet and then subjugate the other arrogant noble houses for good. Unfortunately, uncle Euron Greyjoy comes in, admits he killed his brother (and her father) Baelon Greyjoy, and claims the throne for himself. He, too, wants to build a fleet and ally with someone who has a large army, an enmity for the ruling houses of Westeros and a couple dragons. (You know who.) He says the fleet will be enough to seduce her. (Good luck with that.)
While he’s getting temporarily drowned and then crowned (as is tradition), Yara and Theon and those loyal to them nab the best ships in the harbor and sail off. Euron swears revenge and commands that Pyke become a giant ship factory, with everyone working to build a new fleet. I’m not sure exactly how long that is supposed to take, but it’s safe to say they will be at it for a while and we’ll probably get one last gigantic naval battle before the series ends. Meanwhile, I have no idea where Yara and Theon and their Ironborn followers are going, but I feel sorry for anyone they encounter.
And I will not feel sorry for Euron, should he ever actually try to control Daenerys.
Jorah Rides Off Into The Sunset
I was wrong. I fully expected Jorah Marmont to sacrifice himself. Through that he would reconcile with Daenerys with a final confession of his love. It would be a classic plot move that gets one more major (but not central) character off screen. Instead, he gets to ride off into the sunset and search for a cure (wishful thinking) after confessing his love. Also a classic plot move, but more gentle than what we are accustomed on Game of Thrones.
Daenerys showed she can still be a bit of a softie to those loyal to her, but overall everyone was just getting through the scene. Fortunately, Daenerys had some KICKIN’ braids, so at least there was that to enjoy.
Arya Takes in a Show
There are a LOT of plays within plays in this series, and they serve two major purposes. First, in a series that focuses so much on power brokers and nobility, they give a window into the lives of commoners and the mindset of the society under rule. Second, on a more meta note, they show how quickly and thoroughly stories are distorted, and therefore how history itself might be rewritten. (More on that later.)
When The Girl Formerly Known as Arya is tasked by The Faceless Men to poison a new target (an actress in a local troupe), she seems to at first enjoy the dramatic rendition of recent events—at least the part where the bumbling Robert Baratheon is gutted by a boar. By the end, Arya is showing herself to be less than stoic, still Arya deep down, as she sees her father ridiculed and murdered. A girl keeps telling herself she has no name, but clearly she does. She scowls as her father is portrayed as a dimwitted usurper and Joffrey is seen as a diplomatic gentleman. Sansa had to sit through this sort of humiliation at the Purple Wedding…now Sansa is herself being portrayed (and molested) by the dwarven stand-in for Tyrion.
Ahem. One of the actresses from the show went on record saying that, with so much T&A on Game of Thrones, there needed to be more male nudity on the show to even things out. I think it was Maisie Williams (Arya), in fact.
Well, someone asked for it and we got it. The next scene opens with a spotted dick pointing right at your face. It belongs to the young actor who played Joffrey, who is angry about two warts that have popped up on it. We’ve come to expect a dick joke each week. I did not expect this week’s to be a visual gag (and a wonderful endorsement for condom use and HPV vaccinations), but I guess this proves this show is still full of surprises…and pointless interludes that don’t really advance the plot.
We at least learn that Arya’s mark has a fondness for rum, which will be poisoned, so [COCKTAILS & SPOILERS SPOILER ALERT] expect a rum-based cocktail next week.
It is clear that this is Arya’s second and final chance to get it right, but it looks like she is still wrestling with the ethics and the ins-and-outs of this assassination biz. The Waif is still kicking her butt in battle; Jaqen H’ghar is put out by her questions of how the targets are chosen. He evades, stating that death is neutral, but also a price was paid. The city of Braavos, he also says, was founded by the first Faceless Men, who derived from one individual, a slave miner in Old Valyria, ordained by the Faceless God. They serve something, and it seems unlikely that it is as petty as money. More likely, it is the will of this god. And who is that god?
Varys and Tyrion Get a Sinister Sermon
The High Priestess of Volantis’ Red Temple, Kinvara, makes her debut in a meeting with Tyrion and Varys, and she is as sinister as one could have hoped. (The producers lay it on a little thick with the mise-en-scene, but oh well.) Now that the Sons of the Harpy are quiet, the diplomatic duo are hoping to enlist her as the spokeswoman for the new peace in Meereen until Daenerys can return and take credit for herself. The Red Temple has already been seen spreading a pro-Khaleesi evangel, so it seems a good fit.
But the Red Temple is known for fanaticism and burning heretics. Kinvara believes Daenerys is the “promised” one, and her dragons will “purify” thousands of unbelievers, so there are some kinks to work out. Even though she leaves amenable to the plan, Tyrion and Varys are left a little shaken. Varys seems to break character a little as he so brashly confronts her about the fanaticism of the Red Temple. They’ve been wrong before about who this “promised” one is, so why act so brashly now?
Kinvara then shuts him up good by revealing that she knows about his past, and explains that were it not for that trauma, he would not have ascended to become the man of power he is now. God never shuts a door without opening a window, right? Or rather, the god she has in mind already has planned everything out (as we’ve discussed before), and they are mere actors in his play. (That said, Conleth Hill as Varys is not really doing it for me this season, he’s overacting everything just slightly, which is all the more noticeable in a character like Varys who is a bit theatrical and fey so his more subtle, sly moves can pass under notice. Work it out, Hill.)
Bran Ruins EVERYTHING
All of that doesn’t matter because HODOR.
So many revelations and so many deaths north of the wall this week: First we learn that The Night’s King himself was created by none other than The Children of the forest. By some unknown, inexplicable magic, they made him centuries ago to serve as a weapon against the humans, who were slaughtering them. The whole area was green and lush, too, so apparently none of it quite worked out as expected.
Bran Stark sees this in a vision under the Three-Eyed Raven’s supervision. And, apparently hungry for more information, he latches onto the roots of the tree when others are sleeping and gets a vision of the Army of the Dead and The Night’s King. And because he’s still an amateur at this, by some other inexplicable magic, The Night’s King is able to grab him and mark him, thereby learning his location and negating the ward over it that protects the inhabitants. Curiosity killed the cat…and pretty much everyone at the tree.
It seems like the Raven would be in a rush to divulge more important information, as he himself notes that Bran is not fully trained, but must leave. And yet, when the Army of the Dead arrives, the two of them are viewing another rerun of Happy Days: Winterfell. This vision is of the young Ned Stark bidding farewell to his father, while, in the background, a young Hodor (then known as Griffith) is tending the horses. Why does this matter? It doesn’t teach him anything important, but…
Meanwhile, Meera and The Children are doing everything they can to slow the advance of undead army, thousands to each one of them. It doesn’t go well, even with a firewall and a pile of magic grenades taking out dozens of zombies at a time. Meera manages to take out one White Walker with a dragonglass spear to the neck. (SCORE!) But all the while, Bran remains in his trance. He is still viewing the past while he hears Meera’s screams, asking him to wake up and warg into Hodor so they can escape. And this is where it gets really confusing.
Bran is still lucid in his vision while he wargs into present Hodor, who busts some skulls and starts dragging Bran out through a back tunnel with Meera and the lead elf providing back up. Three nasty deaths follow:
- Bran’s direwolf, Summer, dives into a crowd of undead and we get to hear her dying screams as they make their escape. Direwolf down. :(
- The Night’s King waltzes into the inner sanctum and takes out the Three-Eyed raven. Tree sage down. :|
- The last of The Children (possibly the last of her kind), sacrifices herself to obliterate a crowd of zombies. Magic species down. :(
But the real twist is that while Bran is warging into present Hodor, past Hodor/Griffith goes into a seizure. The Three-Eyed Raven suggested in Episode 2 of this season that “the ink is dry,” the past already written. But there was an indication that Bran could communicate with his father in the memory of the Tower of Joy, and the Night’s King physically assaulted him in a vision, and now, most significantly, we learn that these visions do not just have the ability to affect the real world and vice versa, but time was not linear in the first place: Griffith was altered long ago by this moment in which Bran warged his future self.
And then we learn why his name is Hodor.
Meera, Bran and Hodor get through the door at the end of the tunnel, but there is no way to secure it. Meera keeps dragging Bran and tells Hodor to “Hold the Door! Hold the Door!” And this is exactly what young Griffith in the past begins to scream, until by an elision it becomes “Hodor!”
The horrifying truth is that Griffith became Hodor through this invasion of his mind out of time. For the rest of his life, his name and his only utterance was just the utterance of his fate, a witness to his final act of self-sacrifice.
That’s some dark shit. But really what we need to remember is that Bran is the one that led the Army of the Dead to them so IT’S ALL HIS FAULT.
“All the world is a stage,” they say. Arya got a view of that; Kinvara says that everyone is who they are and where they are for a reason, as if following a script; Bran and Hodor’s temporal link suggests that this script is not just written in advance, but in a circular way. So who’s doing the writing and is there any way out of it? Daenerys insists that the wheel of war (of noble homes) must not simply be stopped, but broken, and that she will break it. But what of this wheel of destiny and time? That seems to remain squarely out of everyone’s control, but after this episode I am curious to see how the writers bring it all together and if they can do so in a way that feels cogent and not arbitrary. They have fifteen episodes to do it; and with how rushed the finale felt, they might be able to pull it off…
If they stop spending precious seconds on dick jokes.