‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Hodor and heartbreak – USA TODAY

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Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 6 episode 5, “The Door.” To read our recap of episode 4, click here.

Well, that’s one mystery solved.

Like we said last week, Game of Thrones the show has been blissfully freed of the constraints of the Song of Ice and Fire book series, and is run, run, running with this new-found freedom. First we got Dany burning the Khals and Vaes Dothrak to the ground and this week we got the (much sadder) White Walker attack on the Three-Eyed Raven’s tree, and the even sadder reveal of Hodor’s history. Where at one point we might have expected Bran to sit and have visions of the past for the entire season, five episodes in and the sanctuary he had been hiding in is gone, his greatest protectors have become victim to his own hubris, all while the war with the White Walkers — the true war we’ve been fighting since the very first scene of the series — becomes infinitely realer.

As the season (and really, the show itself) barrels forward to its conclusion at 100 mph, solving mysteries and answering questions and condensing disparate storylines into fewer and fewer, plots, it has to decide what the story is that it is telling. As “The Door” hammered home again and again, there is more than one interpretation of any given story, and as Game of Thrones begins to take us to the finish line, each choice it makes becomes more and more important. Dorne is important, but wait no, the Iron Islands actually are. Arya is no one, or maybe she still is a Stark. Bran is the savior, or maybe it’s Dany is or maybe Jon. Or maybe this is a world that can’t be saved, and is doomed to create its own demons over and over again. Regardless of how the show answers these questions, the innocents are always the ones who suffer. And maybe that’s the real story. Hodor.

“Hold the Door”

Mark the day and times, kids, because this is when Game of Thrones very subtly (OK not so subtly) turned into Lost. The final sequence of “The Door” seemed to be plucked straight from the Island (it was even directed by the man who helmed the time-travel heavy episode Lost episode “The Constant”), as the White Walkers and their army attacked the Three-Eyed Raven’s tree while Bran, simultaneously in the past and warging inside Hodor, destroys the young mind of his friend (“Not Penny’s boat,” anyone?).

The reveal of why big, lovable Hodor can only say that word is almost as devastating as losing the presence of a character so innocent and pure. Bran’s continued return to the visions, or actually, physically to the past as we find out in this episode, is purely selfish, and it cost him a friend and his direwolf this episode. After outing himself to the White Walkers, and giving them the key inside the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave, he still feels the need to revisit his young father to answer his own questions, to the potential downfall of them all. Bran may be some type of chosen one, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t incredibly flawed.

And speaking of being incredibly flawed, let’s talk about the Children of the Forest. In case it slipped by you, the Children are the not-quite-human tree people who’ve been bumming around the cave all season. And, according to this episode, they are the ones who created the White Walkers, back in the day, as a weapon to use against men. For non-book reader backstory, the COTF are ancient inhabitants of Westeros, who lived in the North before the First Men. When those pesky men arrived they chopped down their sacred weirwoods (all those trees with the faces) and, apparently, turned some men into White Walkers in order to fight off regular men. It was a terrible idea, and eventually the COTF joined forces with the First Men and helped to erect the Wall with Bran the Builder (a Stark ancestor) and some magic.

Knowing where the White Walkers came from doesn’t necessarily help in the fight against them (as we’ve seen the only things that can kill them are dragon glass, like Meera’s spear, dragon steel, like Jon’s sword, and dragon fire, like those three dragons that are kicking around Essos). But a time travel ability? That might come in handy at some point. Or, as we saw with Hodor, it might make everything infinitely worse.

The North remembers … again

As relieving as it was to see Sansa and Jon embrace after finally being reunited last week, it was equally as satisfying and vindicating to see the young Stark come completely into her own and tell off the man who spent five seasons trying to control her. When Sansa forced Littlefinger to speak names to the horrors he forced her to deal with after betrothing her to Ramsay last season, it was one of the very first times this show has truly acknowledged the far-reaching consequences of the sexual violence it likes to deploy so much. The Sansa Petyr encounters in Mole’s Town is not the girl he dropped off at Winterfell. She’s a changed woman, a rape survivor, who, as she tells him, feels the physical agony of her trauma every single day. That the show is acknowledging and actively engaging in that fact is a huge step forward from, say, Jaime raping Cersei back in season four and all things about the two characters remaining unchanged.

But other than verbally destroying one of the slimiest characters the show has to offer, Sansa has taken her newfound confidence and knowledge and gotten herself a seat at the table. She is actively involved in the plan of attack against Ramsay and against the White Walkers (Jon has not forgotten about them, thank goodness). Their strategy seems to be a good one: Rally the Northern houses not yet pledged to Ramsay to their cause, and recruit the other half of Sansa’s family, the Tulleys, as well.

If there’s one thing that makes me (and Brienne) very nervous about the whole plan, is that so much relies upon Brynden Tulley having taken back Riverrun. And information from Petyr Baelish is never reliable information (remember when he told Catelyn that Tyrion owned the knife the assassin used to attack Bran?). Jon and Sansa have enough to worry about without Littlefinger screwing everything up.

And hey, nothing can go wrong at the Wall with only Edd and a handful of brothers to defend it, right?

The play’s the thing

OK Arya, time to get up off the bench.

The youngest Stark daughter’s storyline has been kind of stalled for the past two seasons in the House of Black and White. Sure, she’s had some people to kill and some trials to go through and some blindness to deal with, but inevitably all of those things boil down to: Being a Faceless Man is hard and a girl might not be up for it. Her opening scene in this episode, in which she was beaten by the Waif for the umpteenth time, really illustrated how stuck she’s been since arriving in Braavos. But maybe now there’s movement.

Jaqen gave Arya a new assignment, to kill an actress who is portraying Cersei in a comic play that basically sums up the events of the show’s first season. It’s interesting for two reasons: First, Arya is finally getting outside the House again, and testing her use and faith to the Faceless Men. But more importantly the connection to her family specifically (the play did not do Ned Stark any justice in its portrayal of him) forces a girl to really decide what and who she wants to be. Does she want to kill people because rich people pay the contract for it? Or does she want to be the woman, and the name, she was born to be?

And, just saying, Between the season 1 play and the Greyjoy family drama (more on that below), there’s an awful lot of Hamlet kicking around in this episode.

Public relations

If you doubted Tyrion Lannister (hey, why would you doubt Tyrion Lannister?) you can breathe easy that all is well in Meereen. The truce with the Masters of Yunkai and Astapor is keeping the peace in the city, for at least the time being. But the bigger problem, as Tyrion so astutely points out, is that no one in Meereen can give Dany the credit for this victory, given that she is not there to take credit for it. His solution is to call on a new Red Priestess (Kinvara) to spread the word that Dany is the One Who is Promised (de-gendered on this side of the world). Varys, former victim of a so-called sorcerer, is skeptic of the Red Woman and her powers, although her uncanny knowledge of his childhood mutilation is another solid piece of evidence for the Lord-of-Light-is-really-real column.

Dany, meanwhile, new Khlasar in hand, spends the episode having a tearful goodbye with Jorah (he’s off to find a cure for his Greyscale, so maybe he should find whoever cured Shireen) and riding majestically on her new horse, with thousands of Dothraki behind her. Where they’re going is not yet apparent.

A thousand ships

In a culture where piracy and breaking the rules of warfare are encouraged, is it not entirely predictable that the man who admits to killing his own brother is the one who is elected as the leader? Yes, like last season in Dorne we find ourselves this season thrust into the internal politics of another Westerosi territory, this time at the Iron Islands Kingsmoot, where Yara (and, to a degree, Theon) makes her case to be queen of the Ironborn. The only problem is, as good as she would be as their leader, the flashy masculine man who makes inappropriate jokes and says he can bring three dragons into their fold is always going to win over logic and leadership. It’s a good thing his drowning ceremony lasted long enough for Yara and Theon too book it off the Islands. Although Euron’s threat of “murder” did not seem like a light one.

Death watch

Jon Snow: Still alive, now with ponytail.

Who we lost in this episode:

You can scroll through more photos from this season below.

‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Hodor and heartbreak – USA TODAY

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