Never has the phrase “Hold The Door” even been so heart breaking…
Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO’s programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And this year, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros, continuing with the heart-breaking season six episode The Door…
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven…
While The Door is most memorable for the jaw-dropping final scene, it is also an episode that fully explores the aftermath of the previous episode Book of the Stranger. The previous episode saw the stage set for war between Jon and Ramsey, while Daenerys took control of the Dothraki and Tyrion negotiated peace with the masters of Slaver’s Bay.
The plans for war grow again this episode; Littlefinger arrives at Castle Black, filled with apologies to Sansa over what happened with Ramsey, ever the snake professing his innocence while playing his next hand. The suggestion that she seek an alliance with her uncle Brynden Blackfish – not seen since the infamous Red Wedding of The Rains of Castamere – is the first step in revisiting Riverrun and the Twins this season, two places not seen since season three, with word that the Riverlands have rebelled against the alliance of Walder Frey and the Lannisters.
The steps towards reuniting the North continue as Sansa, Jon and Davos debate which houses will join them in the war with the Boltons. Sansa is already showing her strength and potential thirst for power over Jon, with the proclamation that her Stark name is the true power. Sending Brienne in secret to recruit her uncle at Riverrun shows that perhaps the influence of Littlefinger has run deeper than she realised. Oh and Tormund and his lustful looks to Brienne of Tarth continue to grow apace this episode!
Fresh from taking command of the Dothraki last episode, Daenerys begins her long march back to Mereen, beginning with a bittersweet farewell to doomed Jorah who reveals the greyscale that has taken hold of his body. His admission of love for her is a powerful moment; both knew it but to speak openly of it is a huge step in their relationship, not as something romantic but just as close. Her command to find a cure and return to her is heartbreaking.
Ramin Djawadi’s soaring score as Jorah watches her ride away is utterly gorgeous. In fact, enough can’t be said about the music of Game of Thrones, and the composer’s work in this episode is spectacular, particularly here, in Yara’s rousing speech to the Iron Born and in the final terrible encounter with the dead at the episode’s climax.
For Yara Greyjoy, this episode is a huge turning point in her journey as she stakes her claim at the Kingsmoot for rule of her people. There is a real sense that she might succeed, quelling proclamations that Theon is the rightful king when he backs his sister. But the entrance of Euron Grejoy is a game changer, adding a new villain so late in the show is very much a wildcard, but Pilou Asbæk plays the role with such swagger and grit that you’re utterly absorbed the moment he steps forward, snatches the prize from Yara and take the crown of the Iron Born. Accompanied by Djawadi’s racing score, the scene where Theon and Yara flee with the ships as Euron completes the drowning ceremony is incredibly tense.
Arya’s journey has stopped and started a few times since she left Westeros at the end of season four, but The Door very much sets up the end of her time in Braavos. After further training with the Waif and some history to the Faceless Men’s origins by Jaqar, Arya is ordered to kill an actress Lady Crane. This story over the next couple of episodes is a real delight, not just in the melodrama of the performance of the recent history of Westeros, but the actors playing the actors. Richard E Grant is an overtly arrogant thespian while Kevin Eldon plays up the northerness of Ned Stark on stage.
The play itself is a great little commentary on the War of the Five Kings, from the villainous dwarf Tyrion to Crane’s soft spoken Cersei, recreating the events of the first two seasons. And for Arya, watching even a farcical retelling of her father’s execution, one she observed as an unwitting audience member back in season one’s Baelor, it’s an uncomfortable reminder of her own past traumas.
But this is Bran’s episode and what an episode it is. It was a brave decision to gloss over the early days of his training with the Three-Eyed Raven, resulting in Isaac Hempstead Wright’s absence from the show in season five. But as a result, his training and purpose was given greater focus in season six, offering insight into Game of Thrones‘ past as his powers grew and this episode offers that further with the shocking revelation that the Night King was created by the Children of the Forest in their ancient war with men.
The origin of the show’s greatest villain – Vladimir Furdik’s formidable Night King – really resonates in the episode’s climax as Bran’s visions takes him into a terrifying journey into the heart of the undead army. It’s a sequence that leaves the audience on the edge, Bran walking through the silent, still zombies and skeletons before coming face to face with the fearsome White Walkers. The Night King appearing to mark his arm is a fantastic piece of jump scare, followed by an even bigger reveal that the army of the dead have in fact reached them.
Like last season’s Hardhome, this is very much The Walking Dead on steroids. The flight to escape is edge of your seat stuff, the Children desperately fighting off the undead and the White Walkers they once created to help them as Meera desperately tries to wake Bran from his trance. The skeletons bursting through the roof of the cave, Summer dying as he fends them off, the Night King finishing off Max Von Sydow’s Three-Eyed Raven, the race down the tunnels and the last Child sacrificing herself is some of the show’s most intense work to date.
As if this wasn’t dramatic enough, Game of Thrones throws the audience one final, heart-breaking revelation in the episode’s closing moments. Bran finds himself trapped in the past, warging into Hodor and sending the younger version of his large friend into a seizure. The boy in Winterfell screaming “Hold the Door” is gut wrenching, a phrase that erodes into Hodor’s namesake as he holds the door and dies fighting off the undead as Bran and Meera make their desperate escape.
It’s both horrible and beautiful to watch, turning Bran and Hodor’s journey on its head and changing the way we saw them from that very first episode. After the highs of season six’s Home, it seemed impossible that it could be beaten, but The Door does that and then some. While the rest of the events taking place are strong, it’s this climax that the episode will be remembered for. It’s not quite on Hardhome‘s level, but it’s not far off…
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