On 'Game of Thrones', the Night King Returns

In Season 6 episode 5, Bran and Hodor fall into a terrible position, Sansa is a boss bitch, Arya sees a play. 


Game of Thrones is filled with death, deception, depravity, the occasional act of decency, and dialogue acrobatics. Each week, we break them down. Let’s dive into Season 6 episode 5, “The Door.”

My watch has ended

After several episodes of moping — seriously, this guy needs a post-death therapist — “The Door” sees Jon Snow finally ready for action. He’s decisive in his plans to take back the North, he’s ready to compliment Sansa on her dressmaking skills (“I like the wolf bit”), and we even get an actual smile when she presents him with his own cloak, made in the image of the one Ned used to wear. There’s hope for Jon yet.


The North Remembers

Sansa’s scenes feel like the writers retrospectively apologizing for her Season 5 plot line. We’ll never truly know if they’re responding to viewer outrage over her lack of agency or whether this was the plan all along — but whatever the case, it’s working. Though the Ramsay rape wasn’t handled well at the time, it’s not being swept under the rug.

When she repeats “what do you think he did to me?” and doesn’t let Littlefinger wiggle out of hearing it (“the other things he did, ladies aren’t supposed to talk about those…I can still feel what he did in my body standing here”) is a marked pivot for how Game of Thrones deals with rape. After five seasons and change, it’s finally handled it with weight. This scene is a triumph for both Sansa’s character and for how Game of Thrones handles an issue it’s received a lot of criticism for in the past.

Sansa has evolved from prissy princess to hardened politician, and her character arc has been spectacular. In many ways, she’s exactly what the Starks need, now: She’s more sociable than Jon (“He seems trustworthy,” says Brienne, “though a bit brooding, perhaps. I suppose it’s understandable, considering.”); she’s got her mother’s steel, and she’s wilier than Ned.

When she lies to Jon about where she got the intelligence about The Blackfish and his army, she shows that, although she rejected Littlefinger, she’s absorbed his teachings more than she might admit. Sansa is a Stark through and through, but she’s also not afraid to get her hands dirty. At this point in the show, Sansa’s type of Stark is exactly the character needed most by the North, and she may yet be the one to lead her family to victory.

“My Dreams Are Different”

Bran’s plot line this episode is the ultimate paradox. On one level, it’s working brilliantly: It gives us a fascinating glimpse into the past much like the pensive in Harry Potter. Those scenes with the Army of the Dead were truly terrifying, we get some long-needed exposition about the Children of the Forest, and we get that tragic gut-punch with Hodor.

But, on the other hand, it indulges in more fantasy clichés than Game of Thrones usually does, save for Daenerys’s plot lines. When the Raven tells Bran, “the time has come for you to become me,” and Bran says, “but am I ready?” It’s exactly the kind of ponderous, prophetic, but ultimately empty rhetoric found in every Chosen One Fantasy Training manual.

Hodor’s story is what saves Bran’s part from becoming Fantasy 101 Cliche by anchoring it with emotion and a deeply human brand of tragedy. The “hold the door…Hodor” reveal is gutting, and it’s to Kristian Nairn’s credit that he makes a fairly one-note character’s plight so emotional. Isaac Hempstead-Wright wasn’t wrong when he told us Hodor is the way he is because of “a catastrophe.” It connects to what Jaqen H’ghar tells Arya: “Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?”

What is dead may never die

As we predicted, the Kingsmoot itself was too sudden and out of the blue to feel meaningful to non book readers — but its aftermath is what truly matters. Yara and Theon look like they could very well be Tyrion and Varys’s ticket to getting out of the plot-suck that is Meereen, and thank the Drowned God for that.

A Girl goes to Braavos

Arya’s is the runner up for the second most emotional scene of the night — Maisie Williams does some of her best work with that simple, silent expression of anger and grief as she watches that Hamlet-like meta-play, in which the actors twist her father into a buffoonish caricature.

Dragons with Daenerys

Jorah’s pining for Daenerys got repetitive and tiresome quickly in earlier seasons, but surprisingly — perhaps because we haven’t seen it in a long time — it’s effective here. Their exchange is the most emotional a Daenerys scene has been since her conversation with Barristan Semly about her brother Rhaegar in Season 5.

Uneasy is the head that wears the crown

Kinvara the red priestess is probably old like Melisandre — note that necklace. And like Melisandre, her powers are real. Her speech to Varys is downright eerie and gives us an intriguing glimpse into his past. Apparently the night Varys was castrated, he heard a voice in the flames. We don’t know that this is true, but his expression is enough to verify her words. Could Varys have his own history with the Lord of Light?

Spare coins from the Iron Bank

  • “Hold the door.” Will someone quit chopping onions in here?
  • All hail Lord Commander Edd.
  • Surprisingly, the army of the dead is far more terrifying standing still in the daylight when Bran first sees them than it is later in the episode, when they’re moving in the darkness. There’s something about their stillness that’s uncanny as hell.
  • Tormund’s crush on Brienne continues.
  • I can’t be the only one seeing the Trump/ Hilary parallels, right? Euron made at least three dick references during his speech while Yara is clearly the more competent one, though she’s somewhat lacking in charisma.
  • Kinvara: “The dragons will purify nonbelievers by the thousands, burning their flesh and sins away.” Tyrion: “ideally we’ll avoid purifying too many nonbelievers.”
  • Kinvara drops this week’s “wars to come” line.
  • On the one hand, Hodor is clearly dead. On the other hand, the Rules of TV Death said if we didn’t see his lifeless body onscreen, there might still be hope. What do we think?
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