Whilst Series 6 of Game of Thrones has been progressing solidly, delivering payoffs that fans have been anticipating for years, the latest installment, ‘The Door’, saw that progression jump to a point that will affect repeat viewings of the show forever.
A story fundamentally about the conflict between the great nobility, Game of Thrones has always done an excellent job of giving insight into the perspective of the ‘smallfolk’. Often this is through comic relief, as demonstrated early in the episode by an acting troupe’s re-enactment of how the Stark-Lannister conflict came to be. At other times it can be through serious encounters main characters have on their journeys through Westeros. Ultimately, most of Westeros is indifferent to who rules them and simply desire comfort, security and entertainment. Game of Thrones has always accorded empowerment to the ‘cripples, bastards and broken things’ in the world, Bran and Jon being shining examples of the first two. It was in keeping that in this episode focus was given to Hodor, a broken man who has only been able to mutter his given name ‘Hodor’ for the most part of his life and has spent the entire show in the background, mostly serving as physical support for Bran and comic relief for the audience.
In an emotionally devastating sequence, Hodor dies sacrificing himself while exposition is given as to why he is the way he is. Bran overindulges in his newfound ability to see visions of the past and accidentally interacts with the Night King, leader of the malevolent White Walkers. Doing so gives the position of Bran and his friends away and soon the White Walkers launch an assault with the assistance of an army of wights while Bran is mid-vision. In a claustrophobic and supernatural environment, it was almost sickening as several things happened at once. Meera killed a White Walker. Summer became the fourth wolf to die, sacrificing himself to hold off the wights. The omniscient Three Eyed Raven was killed. The Children of the Forest, who resemble human children, were stabbed to death. One being stabbed after deploying what was effectively a Westerosi bomb. Finally just so there was time for Bran and Meera to escape, Hodor is used by Bran through his warging ability to stand firm against the door. To ‘hold the door’. In doing so Bran corrupts Hodor’s life. Trapped in his vision where Hodor as a child, Wylis, is present, Bran wargs into Hodor and links the past with the present, mentally destroying Wylis so that his whole life revolves around his death. Scenes of Wylis’ breaking is intercut with scenes of Hodor’s sacrifice. As stated previously, it’s emotionally devastating. Wylis muttering ‘hold the door!’ over and over again as he is bound to his death renders him unable to say anything other than ‘Hodor’, changing anyone’s ability to smile at Hodor’s many comical exchanges of the last six years.
Is Summer dying supposed to symbolise that summer is over and winter is here to stay, or are the producers just pure cold-blooded? It’s difficult to tell at the moment, but with visually terrifying scenes that synthesise a lot of detail into a short space of time while maintaining coherence, there was high quality abundant.
It’s a shame that 40 minutes of this episode will forever be overshadowed by the 15 involving Bran. This week delivered in a number of respects. Arguably the two greatest manipulators were put in their place, as Varys by Red Priestess Kinvara and Littlefinger is admonished by Sansa. Standing on her own two feet this episode, Sansa Stark adopts a firm stance when it comes to accepting support. She won’t just accept it from anyone, but she also remains rightfully confident in her strategic skills as to how she’ll win the battle against the Boltons. There is payoff to the relationship between Jorah and Daenerys as they come to terms with Jorah’s betrayal, his love for Daenerys and his terminal illness. The Iron Islands finally gets interesting as Theon is now firmly himself again, and at first sight an even better version of himself. Euron is both a terrific and terrifying character with a genuine intrigue as to what he’ll do next and how. Arya, whose storyline often gets bogged since entering Braavos, is at her best when she is reminded of her history on Westeros. This happens once again when she watches the troupe’s comedy unfold and the idea of her honourable father Ned Stark having been an idiot seems surely to catalyse her to return to Westeros to distribute her own special form of justice.
‘The Door’ thematically and ironically opened the door on a lot of characters. There was a developed insight into who many of the characters actually are in terms of nature, insecurities and ambition. This is clear even in the White Walkers who are revealed as creations of the benevolent Children of the Forest. As Series 6 blasts its way towards its second half, it is anyone’s guess how much emotional turmoil and exhilaration the audience can expect to receive.