Sometimes we get so wrapped up in all the court politics, sex, and scandal of Game of Thrones that we forget that the series is based on one of the best epic fantasy series of the last twenty years (and maybe even ever). This episode reminded us of the show’s origins, and was all about narrative, narrative, narrative.
You’d be a fool of a Took if you didn’t realise spoilers were coming. Oops, sorry, wrong fantasy franchise.
The episode began with the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the moment when Sansa reunited with Littlefinger, the scheming brothel-keeper who led her straight into the hands of the Boltons. Sansa held her ground well in this scene, and made him squirm by telling him exactly what Ramsay had done to her. Though some might argue that revealing how Littlefinger had hurt her showed weakness on Sansa’s part, to me, this seemed to be the ultimate display of strength, particularly when she toyed with the idea of commanding Brienne to end Littlefinger’s life, right there and then.
But Sansa appears to have learnt from her saviour, mentor, and betrayer. She’s playing the longer game, and her words will have left an impact on Littlefinger, who, despite his cold and selfish ways, must harbour guilt for what he did to the daughter of the woman he used to love.
Before leaving, Littlefinger told Sansa that her mother’s uncle, Ser Brynden (Blackfish) Tully, whom we last saw at the Red Wedding, holds Riverrun. There, he told her, she will find Stark loyalists who may aid her. Though Sansa passed this information onto Jon, she lied about its source, providing us with another hint of the mark Littlefinger has left on her. I’m starting to wonder if Sansa might have hidden motives – is she really doing this all for her love of Winterfell (which she previously couldn’t wait to leave)?
Jon and Sansa then set off to gather allies in the North, with Melisandre, Tormund, Davos and Podrick accompanying them. Meanwhile, Brienne has been given a special mission in Riverrun. Is this the end of Brienne and Tormund’s one-sided flirting?
Whilst Arya is getting admittedly pretty good at fighting, it made a nice change to see her taking a break from her sparring with the Waif this episode. We learnt a little about the history of the Faceless Men, and Arya received a contract to kill an actress called Lady Crane, part of a troupe performing a rather unflattering adaptation of the events which occured in King’s Landing after Arya’s escape.
The contract has given Arya pause for thought, and we were reminded that while the Faceless Men claim to serve the Many-Faced God, their real masters are whoever pays them. At the end of the day, they are contract killers, and their morality doesn’t come into the equation. Will Arya be able to kill the actress despite her moral objections? Or will this be the end of her time with the Faceless Men?
At the Kingsmoot on Pyke, despite Theon’s support of his sister, Euron Greyjoy was crowned. Yara, unbroken by her defeat, moved quickly, her brother aiding her as they stole away the Ironborn’s best ships. As one A Forum of Ice and Fire user phrased it:
“Yara’s own 20 good men steal all the ships in the Iron Islands while everyone is too busy watching Euron cosplaying a dying Magikarp and not lifting a finger to help him, not even to perform CPR on the guy.”
If Euron can either retrieve the stolen ships, or build his own to rival them, he intends to sail across the Narrow Sea to Essos, where he hopes to wed Daenerys Targaryen. While I doubt Daenerys will be swayed by the murderous Ironborn, the one thing Daenerys currently needs is a fleet, since her own was destroyed not long ago.
Daenerys herself made only a brief appearance, as she learnt what we have known all along – that Ser Jorah is in love with the Khaleesi. Though this came as no surprise, it was a small, but touching moment as she sent the knight to seek a cure for his greyscale, commanding him to heal himself before returning. Will Ser Jorah do as his Queen commands? Or was his confession his final bow?
Move over, Melisandre, there’s a new Priestess in town (well, in a different town), and this one believes the Prince(ss) that was Promised to be Daenerys Targaryen. So how many promised princes is that now? Stannis, Jon, Daenerys? Who’s next – Samwell Tarly maybe? A fragile and temporary peace has fallen upon Meereen, thanks to Varys and Tyrion, and the pair have enlisted a red priestess to preach Daenerys’ triumph and destiny.
The Priestess and Varys partook in a quietly venomous exchange, and another mystery was born. How did the Red Priestess know the details of Varys’ castration? And what did Varys hear after in the flames? Varys appeared deeply troubled by the woman’s knowledge of his past, and for the first time in Game of Thrones history, he was rendered speechless.
The answer behind one of Thrones’ greatest mysteries was revealed during one of Bran’s visions, in which we saw the creation of the first White Walker by the Children of the Forest. It seems that before the White Walkers took on a life of their own, their initial purpose was to protect the Children from mankind, only their protectors have now turned against them, as we saw in the heart-breaking closing scenes of the episode.
The final scenes of this episode were some of my all-time favourites from the series, and not least because they reminded us of the real villains of the series: The White Walkers. The escape from the White Walkers brought us some stellar acting from Ellie Kendrick (Meera Reed), and the gut-wrenching revelation of Hodor’s origins.
The Three Eyed Raven made a hurried attempt to complete Bran’s education, taking him quickly to a vision, whilst the White Walkers advanced on their Weirwood hideout. Somehow, as Meera called out to Bran to warg into Hodor, a bond was created between Bran, the past Hodor (Wylis), and the Hodor of the present. It is unclear how this happened, but there are a few theories around the internet: it seems that when Bran tried to warg into Hodor whilst observing the past using his Greensight, he inadvertently connected with the mind of Wylis. Wylis seemed able to hear Meera’s voice, as she shouted to Hodor to “hold the door”, and, most crushingly, some have speculated that Wylis could see his future-self struggling to hold the door back against the Wights, as they clawed at him.
As Wylis convulsed on the floor, he repeated the words Meera was shouting, “hold the door” until they eventually slurred into the word “hodor”. Bran looked on, hit with the gut-wrenching revelation that Hodor became Hodor because of Bran’s own interference with the past. It seems that Hodor has lived most of his life knowing that he would die to save Bran. Maybe this was why Hodor was so disturbed and paralysed when the White Walkers attacked – he knew that this was the moment he would die. This was both a beautiful and tragic piece of narrative, and any excitement about learning Hodor’s origins was quickly overshadowed by the bittersweet tragedy that has haunted his life.