Game of Thrones Recap: Holding the Door

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Gwendoline Christie as Brienne, Sophie Turner as Sansa. Photo: HBO
Game of Thrones
Episode Title
The Door
Season
6
Episode
5
Editor’s Rating
5/5

"You said you would protect me." That might be the most important sentence in "The Door," the third consecutive top-notch, propulsive episode in this very good season. (Some might say it's the fifth consecutive top-notch, propulsive episode. But you know what? Let's not quibble.)

Those six words are spoken only once, by Sansa Stark when she finally confronts Littlefinger about leaving her in the vile hands of Ramsay Bolton. She says them to blame Littlefinger for breaking a vow, for doing the opposite of what he promised when he offered her safe harbor in the wake of Joffrey's murder.

The sentence also feels quite relevant to the episode's final, climactic, heart-wrenching moment of the appropriately titled episode, in which Hodor throws his weight against the cave door to keep an army of wights from chasing down Bran and Meera. In that moment, coupled with Bran's warging flashback to those long-ago Winterfell days when Hodor was still known as Wylis, we realize why Hodor has been unable to speak for all these years. Once Bran warged into him, young Wylis knew he would one day have to "hold a door," as he repeated, over and over while spasming on the ground. He may not have known when he would do it or why, but he knew that was his job. And when the moment comes, Hodor fulfills his purpose, letting himself be clawed to death by those undead beasts to save Bran. The word Hodor may be an abbreviation for "hold the door," but what it really means is "I said I would protect you." Which is what Hodor does.

There's an irony in that, since we now know that the White Walkers were created to protect the Children of the Forest from the threats of encroaching men. As a consequence, one very non-threatening man — a man who, essentially, became dehumanized — is now dead.

Building alliances and making sure the right people have your back is a core element of the Game of Thrones narrative, and plenty of alliance-building happens this week. We have Daenerys renewing her commitment to Ser Jorah once she realizes that he's in danger of turning to stone sometime in the near future. After ordering him to find a cure for his exceedingly extreme case of psoriasis, she says, "When I take the seven kingdoms, I need you by my side." It's a touching moment, and an extra-satisfying one since she makes her declaration of deep intimacy (if not romantic love) in front of the overly self-assured Daario.

At Castle Black, Davos, Sansa, Jon Snow, & Co. are doing some serious electoral math to figure out how many houses will join them in their efforts to bring down the Boltons. Per Littlefinger's intel, Sansa expresses confidence that her uncle, Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully, could be of service because he's retaken Riverrun — though, as Brienne notes, Sansa lies to Jon when he asks how she found out that information. Sansa does not explain her act of dishonesty, but it seems to me that, in addition to building alliances, she's also trying very hard to assert herself as a leader of this anti-Ramsay charge. Perhaps she wants to appear as resourceful and independent as possible, and fears that getting help from Littlefinger would undermine the image she's trying to cultivate.

Plans to lock arms and form allegiances are also at work in Pyke, where Euron Greyjoy — a man who's never met a sentence into which he couldn't insert a cock — announces his grand plan to build a fleet and join forces with Daenerys Targaryen. He's at odds with his niece, Yara, and nephew, Theon, who powerfully shows his support for Yara's claim to the throne until Euron shows up and ruins the whole thing. Nevertheless, Yara and Theon successfully manage to take all the best boats in Pyke and set sail in the direction of the Mother of Dragons before Euron can. It's a feat that brother and sister only manage to pull off because they're working with each other, rather than against.

It's interesting that Euron refers to Theon's castration as a reason why he "thinks a woman can be king." Euron's a total jackass, but he's not totally wrong here. Theon was only able to fully empathize with others, particularly women like Sansa and Yara, after that disfigurement took place. As much as "having no cock," as Euron puts it, may be a stereotypical sign of male weakness, overcoming one's machismo is actually a sign of strength in the world of Game of Thrones. (At this moment, at least.) Kinvara — the high priestess whom Tyrion calls upon to bump up Daenerys's approval ratings, if you will — defuses skepticism by referring to the particular way that Varys became a eunuch. "We serve the same queen," she tells him. "If you are her friend, you have nothing to fear from me." In other words, she's telling him they're on the same team … but she's also reminding him that she's in charge and, oh, he has no penis. (To be honest, Varys makes some solid points about Stannis and the less-than-stellar results of past priestess-related efforts. I'm a little skeptical of this Kinvara, too.)

As in last week's episode, the women are steering most of the show's boats at this point: Sansa, Kinvara, Daenerys, and Yara, quite literally. Brienne is doing her part by heading off to meet the Blackfish, although she seems nervous about leaving Sansa alone. (Perhaps what she's really nervous about is the fact that Tormund keeps giving her looks like this.)

Arya — who gets to sit in the audience during what is, easily, the most pedestrian performance of Spamalot ever staged — becomes determined to poison the actress Lady Crane, partly because of Arya's never-ending Jaqen-imposed initiation ritual but more so out of protectiveness. (Again, this word.) As Arya watches the farcical mockery of the Lannisters and the death of Ned Stark, she's so appalled by the way her father is portrayed that she no longer has any doubts about offing the woman who plays Cersei. (Side note: My God, I wish I could write an entire recap about that play. Certainly one of the best things about this subplot is the fact that Lady Crane flirts so brazenly with the actor who plays Tyrion. Even fictional Cersei is all about incest, albeit with the wrong brother.)

Killing Lady Crane is not merely something that "a girl with no name" will do. It's something a girl with a very specific name — Stark — must do to protect the pride of her family. It's fitting that Arya's weapon of choice is poison dropped in an alcoholic beverage, a callback to the way good ol' Joffrey died. (Speaking of Joffrey: Wow, quite an eyeful of full-frontal male nudity in tonight's episode! That scene plays like an aggressively tongue-in-cheek response to the complaints about female nudity. It was as if the writers and director Jack Bender were saying: "Think there's a gender imbalance in terms of naked bodies on Game of Thrones? Well, here. Enjoy these male genitals and their warts!")

Anyway: As far as women of action go, we must not forget the efforts made by Meera and Leaf, the Child of the Forest who uses what appears to be the Snitch from a Quidditch match to blow some wights to smithereens. These young ladies are also taking action out of a sense of duty. Their decisions — especially Meera's — are what ultimately save Bran from certain death, in addition to Hodor's ultimate sacrifice.

Just about all of the women on Game of Thrones are rising to their respective occasions out of a sense of honor, or at least what they perceive to be honor. Honor. That's an interesting word, isn't it? Change just one letter and you wind up with Hodor.