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Game of Thrones - The Door - Review

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Game of Thrones “The Door” was written by the team of David Benioff and DB Weiss and was directed by Jack Bender, whose directing credits include Lost and The Sopranos – both relevant experiences! Several things stood out for me in this episode, particularly a theme of the past that runs through the episode. Firstly, we really see Sansa (Sophie Turner) start to take charge and demonstrate that she has learned from the past. Secondly, I loved the “play-within-a-play” – so very Hamlet of our show! And last, the loss of Hodor (Kristian Nairn) seems especially harsh after not having seen him for all of last season and getting so little of him this season. Nairn will be missed but not forgotten.

I was struck on re-watching the episode that the previously on scene with Hodor is the one time when “Hodor” really does answer the question in and of itself. Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) has just “returned” from seeing Willis (Sam Coleman) and he asks Hodor what made him stop talking. Nairn is really brilliant here in just the inflection on Hodor – and when we get to the end of the episode, we realize that it was seeing his own death, HOlding the DOoR that shocked him into silence. Or at least locked him in that one phrase as his past met his future.

Sansa receives a letter from Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) and goes to meet him in a nearby – and clearly destroyed – village. It’s the perfect setting for them. He’s clearly happy to see her and she is just as clearly not happy to see him. Gillen and Turner are both fabulous in this scene. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) accompanies Sansa and is a palpable presence just over her shoulder for the entire meeting.

Littlefinger, as always, quickly assesses the situation, but what he’s not truly prepared for is what the experience has done to Sansa. He greets Brienne cordially, and then begins to make excuses that Sansa has no interest in hearing. What she really wants to know is whether Littlefinger knew about Ramsey (Iwan Rheon): “If you didn’t, you’re an idiot. If you did know, you’re my enemy.” There is no good answer to this question.

Sansa goes on, “Would you like to hear about our wedding night? He never hurt my face. He needed my face. The face of Ned Stark’s daughter.” She’s learned the value of her past, her lineage. Littlefinger is clearly upset – repulsed and angry. Especially as she continues, “But the rest of me? He did what he liked with the rest of me as long as I could still give him an heir.” Then she demands, “What do you think he did?” Littlefinger clearly doesn’t even want to think about it and says that he can’t even begin to contemplate it. At this point, it seems as if he almost has tears in his eyes.

Sansa insists and asks the question again. Littlefinger can’t answer as she stares him in the eye. Brienne puts her hand on the hilt of her sword, saying “Lady Sansa asked you a question.” The threat is clear – and real, so Littlefinger answers, “He beat you.” Sansa confirms that Ramsey enjoyed it – but what else. Littlefinger again tries not to answer – is he trying not to indicate that he did know what Ramsey’s inclinations were or does he really just not want to have to think about it? Regardless, he finally offers up, “Did he cut you?” And Sansa muses, maybe he did know all along.

Littlefinger insists that he didn’t know, and Sansa taunts him with “I thought you knew everyone’s secrets.” Littlefinger insists that he made a horrible mistake; he underestimated a stranger. It’s possible that he recognizes Ramsey’s type from his days as a brothel-keep – something Sansa throws back in his face when she says, “The other things he did, ladies aren’t supposed to talk about those thing, but I imagine brother-keeps talk about them all the time.” It’s clear that Sansa views Littlefinger’s treatment of her as simply using her like a prostitute to sell to the highest bidder.

Sansa goes on to say, “I can still feel it. I don’t mean in “my tender heart it pains me so” – I can still feel what he did in my body, standing her right now.” And here is a real indication of how Sansa has finally changed. Any remnant of the romantic girl, the girl with the tender heart, is long dead now. In her place is a woman, who knows the value of her own face.

Littlefinger tells her that he is so sorry, and he clearly is. It’s hard to fathom how he could love Sansa and still marry her off to a monster, however. She reminds him that he promised to protect her and he renews that promise, but Sansa points out he didn’t protect and couldn’t even stop Brienne from cutting him down where he’s standing. Littlefinger offers to let her do it. Sansa tells him, “you freed me from the monsters who murdered my family and gave me to other monsters who murdered my family.” She tells him that she and Jon will take back the north on their own – she never wants to see him again.

Littlefinger swears that he would undo everything if he could and asks permission for one final comment. When Sansa just stares at him, he goes on, “your Great Uncle, Brendon, the Blackfish, has gathered what remained of the Tully forces and retaken River Run. You might consider seeking him out. The time may come when you need an army loyal to you.” Sansa points out that she already has an army.

Littlefinger pauses beside her as he leaves and plants the smallest seed of doubt: “Your brother’s army. Half brother.” When Sansa later shares news of River Run, she lies and says that she got the information from Ramsey who heard it via raven before she left Winterfell. Brienne keeps her secret but is curious as to why she lied. Sansa doesn’t answer – does she feel guilty about having let Littlefinger manipulate her in the first place and then agreeing to meet him? Or is she possibly keeping him in her back pocket in case she needs his help later on? Time will tell.

Arya (Maise Williams) is sparring with Waif (Faye Marsay). Once again, Waif knocks her down, but Arya gets back up. Waif drops her staff and Arya is still unable to land a blow. Finally Waif punches Arya right off the platform, after disarming her. As she lies there, Waif tells her, “You’ll never be one of us, Lady Stark.” Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha) seems to agree. He takes Arya to the Hall of Faces and tells her the history of their order. None of the first faceless men were born to Lords and Ladies. They began as the slaves in the mines of Valerian. Arya want so know who the first was – Jaqen tells her “he was no one” – and d’uh! Of course, that’s the answer. Is she really learning? Can she truly let go of her past?

Jaqen goes on to say that they settled Braavos. Jaqen tells her, “And now the girl is one of them if the girl desires.” Arya responds, “the girl has no desires.” Jaqen smiles slightly and it’s clear he approves of this answer. He gives her a final chance to prove herself. He tells her, “one way or another, a face will be added to the hall.” The threat is clear. Do the job or forfeit your own life.

And Jaqen has clearly picked Arya for this job for a reason. Arya comes face to face with her own past as she watches the company of actors portray the recent history of King’s Landing, beginning with the death of Robert Baratheon (played by the troupe actor Izembaro (Richard E Grant)) by a wild boar. It was kind of a nice reminder for the television audience as well. But more importantly, it really showed Arya what the current feelings were amongst the people over the events portrayed.

The entire crowd laughs at Robert’s death, but only Arya laughs when ‘Joffrey’ (Rob Callender) is hit. In fact, the crowd likes the Lannisters – at least Cersei – played by Lady Crane (Essie Davis) and Joffrey. Arya is shocked to see her father Ned (Kevin Eldon) portrayed as a not too bright country bumpkin. He is determined to take the throne with no respect to any rules of succession – he has no knowledge of or respect for the past. Ned is an object of ridicule and painted as a villain.

Interestingly, Tyrion played by troupe member Bobono (Leigh Gill) is also painted as a scheming – and lecherous – villain. According to the play, Joffrey is going to spare Ned for Sansa – played by Bianca (Eline Powell), but Tyrion pays the executioner to go ahead. He then shows up with a proclamation from Tywin, naming Tyrion Hand of the King for life and giving him Sansa’s hand in marriage. Arya is shocked when the crowd claps and approves of Joffrey taking the throne – and is equally incredulous about Sansa’s marriage. Does she have any idea that this has taken place? Will she be able to let the world think these lies about her family?

She infiltrates backstage and watches the troup interact. We get a nice gratuitous shot of “Joffrey’s” penis – and apparently we can thank Emilia Clarke for that. He has two warts on it that he’s worried about! Bianca is being criticized for her performance by troupe leader Izembaro and Lady Crane and Bobono engage in some harmless flirting.

Arya reports back to Jaqen that she will put the poison in the rum because Lady Crane is the only one who drinks it. It’s interesting that Jaqen is preparing a body – this seemed like some kind of purgatory for Arya, but he seems unbothered by having to do the task himself. Arya mentions that Lady Crane is a good actress and seems like a decent human being. She wants to know who wants her dead.

Jaqen points out that it doesn’t matter. The price was paid – and does death only come to the wicked? Arya concludes it must be the younger actress who is jealous of Lady Crane’s superior acting. Jaqen tells her, “The girl must decide if she wants to serve the many-faced god.” Arya insists, “A girl has decided.” And Jaqen finishes that a servant does not ask questions.

Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) go back in the past. Leaf (Kae Alexander) and the other children of the forest are gathered around the Weirwood. They see a man tied to the Weirwood and Leaf plunge a dagger into his chest. Is the dagger made of dragon glass? Regardless, the children of the forest are responsible for creating the Night’s King (Vladimir Furdik) – and the rest of the White Walkers.

Leaf defends what they did. The children of the forest were being slaughtered and their trees cut down. They needed to be defended from the men of Westeros!

Meanwhile, Yara (Gemma Whelan) makes her claim to the Salt Throne. The Ironborn have never had a Queen and they pretty clearly don’t want one now. One of their main objections is that Theon (Alfie Allen) is Balon’s last living son and he’s right there! Theon has no desire to rule, and he speaks eloquently for Yara. I can’t say enough about Allen’s performances of this character – he now seems to carry the very weight of the world on his shoulders – but he’s also finally learned from his own past.

As Theon starts to speak, Yara looks a little worried, but Theon tells the crowd, “She is your rightful ruler. Those who have served under her know what she is. She is a reaver; she is a warrior; she is Ironborn. This is your Queen.” Theon is near tears as he finishes his speech, and Yara recognizes what this costs him. The crowd begins chanting “Yara.”

And then Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) shows up. He claims the Salt Throne, pointing out that he heard his niece and nephew, “fucked things right into the ground.” He admits to killing Balon – and apologizes for not having done it sooner. All of Euron’s responses to Theon are simply mocking Theon – he provides no counter-arguments. Theon points out that Euron has not been around, that Yara has been leading the Ironborn already. Theon refuses to rise to the bait and insists that Yara will bring them back to glory.

Yara announces that she will do so by building the largest fleet the world has ever seen. This is Euron’s plan too, but he insists that he’s better equipped to lead such a fleet because he’s sailed all over the world. His big plan is to sail to Meereen and marry Daenerys (Emilia Clarke)! Which is utterly hilarious. I almost want to see her chew him up and spit him out.

This is enough for the Ironborn, however, and they throw their support behind Euron. In order to ascend the Salt Throne, he must be drowned – “What is dead, may never die.” I thought this was an interesting echo of Jon’s (Kit Harington) own rise to power – though his is a lot more profound – and of course, Daenerys has survived the flames – does that count?

Regardless, while Euron is being anointed, Theon and Yara flee with most of the Ironborn fleet. Euron is determined to go after then and kill them – and smiles psychotically as he says it. He commands the Ironborn to chop down every tree and build him 1,000 ships. In return, he will give them the world.

From here, the action shifts to Daenerys. She has to deal with Jorah (Iain Glen) yet again. She refers to their past – she’s banished him twice and he keeps coming back and saving her life. She tells him, “I can’t take you back, and I can’t send you away.” She advances on him as she speaks and he backs away. Jorah finally shows her his arm – the greyscale has almost completely taken hold of it. He tells her that she must send him away.

She asks if there is a cure and how long the disease takes – but he doesn’t know the answer to either question. He tells her that he has seen what the disease ultimately does and he’ll end it before that happens to him. Daenerys is clearly devastated and tells him how sorry she is. And Jorah finally has his say: “Don’t be. All I’ve ever wanted to do is serve you. Tyrion Lannister was right. I love you. I’ll always love you. Goodbye, Khaleesi.” And he turns to go.

However, Daenerys has one final command for him: “Do not walk away from your Queen, Jorah the Andal. You have not been dismissed.” And she commands him to find the cure wherever in the world it happens to be. “I command you to heal yourself and then return to me. When I take the seven kingdoms, I need you by my side.”

Jorah watches as Daenerys leads the Dothraki, before setting off alone on his own journey. It will be curious to see if we actually see him again. And if he does find a cure, will they then cure all those in the Sorrows?

Back at Meereen, two weeks have passed since Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) made his deal. Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) reports that there have been no new murders by the Sons of the Harpy and that the freemen killed two but both were on the day of the pact. Varys (Conleth Hill) declares a fragile peace. He points out that “for now” is all they get in their profession.

Tyrion is not satisfied, however. It’s not enough for Meereen to have peace, they have to know that Daenerys is responsible for it. Somehow, I’m thinking Daenerys is not going to want her name linked to another seven years of slavery, but maybe that’s just me. Tyrion, however, insists that the people need to know who brought them security and they need to hear it from someone the people trust – someone they know can’t be bought or influenced.

Color me surprised that Melisandre is not the only High Priestess of the Lord of Light! This was another beautifully blocked and executed scene in the throne room. Rather than Tyrion descending, Kinvara (Ania Bukstein) slowly ascends as the scene plays out. Kinvara is the High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis. The first think I noticed was that she’s wearing the same kind of necklace as Melisandre. Does this mean that she too is a lot older than she appears? I had thought that Melisandre’s red jewel was quite red – almost glowing – and Kinvara’s seems quite dull – again, just me?

She tells Tyrion and Varys that she came to help them. She doesn’t need to be persuaded. All the fire imagery associated with Daenerys and the dragons does make her a likely Lord of Light candidate. Kinvara tells them that the dragons will help to purify 1,000s of non-believers. Tyrion is clearly a bit worried as he explains that Daenerys’ followers are of many different faiths – they don’t want them burned!

Kinvara clarifies, “You want your Queen worshipped an obeyed and when she’s not here, you want her advisors worshipped and obeyed.” Tyrion isn’t interested in being worshipped – obeyed is fine. He’s clearly not at all comfortable with the religious zealotry. Varys just can’t stand it, and he walks down and stands mostly in front of Tyrion. He challenges Kinvara – Stannis was supposed to be the chosen one according to another High Priestess.

It’s somewhat amusing to watch Tyrion try to be seen from behind Varys and do a bit of damage control – they’d be most grateful for any support… But Varys won’t be deterred. He points out that it’s hard for any fanatic to admit a mistake. “Everything is the Lord’s will” – and I loved how dismissive and sarcastic he was as he said this. Let’s face it, but this time we, the audience, have no faith left in the High Priestesses either.

Kinvara remains serene throughout. Everything is the Lord’s will, but men and women make mistakes – even honest servants of the Lord. Varys wants to know why they should trust her any more than the Priestess behind Stannis. Again, Tyrion tries to interject with damage control – “My friend has a healthy skepticism of religion, but we are all loyal supporters of the Queen.” And given how Varys and Tyrion have changed sides, it’s a little like the pot calling the kettle black!

Kinvara says that “Everyone is what they are and where they are for a reason. Terrible things happen for a reason.” There’s the importance of the past again! Kinvara knows all about Varys mutilation at the hands of a second-rate sorcerer. She tells him, “Knowledge has made you powerful, but there’s so much you still don’t know. Do you remember what you heard that night when the sorcerer tossed you parts in the fire?” Varys looks increasingly upset as she talks – almost childlike. Hill is wonderful in this scene. As she talks, you can see him retreating into himself.

She continues, “You heard a voice call out from the flames – do you remember? Should I tell you what the voice said?” And here, Varys looks utterly horrified. “Should I tell you the name of the one who spoke?” Here she places her hand upon his arm. And then she smiles at him. “We serve the same Queen. If you are her true friend, you have nothing to fear from me.” But Varys looks anything but reassured – he looks afraid and troubled. I can’t wait to hear the ensuing conversation between Tyrion and Varys!

Bran is bored while the Raven sleeps and decides to journey on his own. He’s back at the Weirwood, but it’s winter and the tree is bowed and broken with ice. The army of the White Walkers is there and so are the White Walkers. There are some great effects here. The Night King sees Bran and as soon as he does, so do all the others. He reaches out and grabs Bran’s arm – marking him.

The Three-Eyed Raven knows immediately that Bran has been marked and tells them they must leave immediately. The Raven tells Bran that the time has come for Bran to become him. Bran asks if he’s ready and the Raven says no. Bran clearly has the same patience issues as Arya…

At Castle Black, the group discuss tactics for taking back Winterfell. Jon points out to the others that they need more men to take it back. Davos (Liam Cunningham) asks about the Umbers and points out that the Karstarks have already declared for Ramsey. Sansa won’t entertain the Umbers because they gave Rickon to Ramsey. But she does wonder about the Karstarks because they declared before they knew there was an option. Davos points out that they are unlikely to forgive the fact that a Stark beheaded their father. I wonder if any of them really realize what a valuable asset Davos is as a tactician?

Sansa asks Davos what he knows of the north. Like any smart person, he admits when he doesn’t know and he tells her he knows very little. Sansa tells him, “My father always said the north was different. More loyal. Suspicious of outsiders.” Davos asks the hard questions – how many stood against the Boltons when they betrayed her family? He tells her, “I may not know northerners, but I know men. Even the bravest don’t want to see their wives and kin skinned for a lost cause.” He stresses that men will fight if they believe it’s a fight that they can win.

Jon suggests they go for the smaller houses – start small and build. Sansa insists that the north remembers and will rally behind the Stark name. And Davos points out that Jon doesn’t have it. Sansa replies, “But I do. Jon is as much Ned Stark’s son as Ramsey was Roose Bolton’s.” And then she reveals that the Tully’s have reorganized and lies about where the information came from.

Sansa is sending Brienne to River Run to plead their case with the Tullys. Brienne is nervous about leaving Sansa alone – and unprotected. Sansa is incredulous that she doesn’t trust Jon, but Brienne perfectly – and in perfect deadpan – sums Jon up: “Not him. He seems trustworthy. A bit brooding perhaps. I suppose that’s understandable, considering…” Which was hilarious.

Brienne does make some good points about Davos – who we know to be ok – and the Red Woman – who we know not to trust. She points out that hey both helped a man murder his own brother with blood magic. Of course, Davos wanted no part of it… She goes on to point out that when Stannis paid for his crime, they were nowhere to be found – they were already out looking for a leader with better prospects. What’s even MORE hilarious is when she starts going on about “the Wilding with the Beard” – it’s TORMUND!!! She has NO idea the effect she’s having on him!

Sansa insists that Jon isn’t Tormund or the Red Woman or Davos. Jon is Jon. He’s her brother and he’ll keep her safe. Sansa reinforces their familial bond with the clothes she has made for them. She has a new dress for herself – and Jon particularly admires the wolf she’s emblazoned on it. For him, she made a new cloak as close as possible to her memory of the one worn by their father. Jon is clearly touched as he says, “Thank you, Sansa” and takes the gift.

The group are ready to leave – and there’s a great shot of Tormund all but leering at Brienne – though he’s clearly trying for a winning smile – and she’s clearly and utterly discomfited by it! Jon takes his leave of Ed (Ben Crompton). The two hug and Ed suddenly realizes two things. First, he is truly Lord Commander now, and second, they have nothing but a few men left to guard the wall.

The final scenes take us back to the Weirwood. Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and Hodor are packing as quickly as they can as the Raven and Bran take one final trip. Suddenly, Meera stops in the midst of listing all the foods they might get to eat when they leave because it has suddenly grown so cold that you can see your breath. The White Walkers are upon them.

Leaf and Meera run outside and see the advancing army. The children of the forest try to hold them at bay, but the White Walkers simply walk through their warding fire. It seems like dragons might be less of a threat, though logically, you’d think that dragon’s claws might still work to kill them. There are great pyrotechnic effects with the acorn bombs.

Bran and the Raven are at Winterfell watching as Ned (Sebastian Croft) prepares to leave for the Vale. Rickard (Wayne Foskett) gives him some last minute advice. He tells him not to fight, but if he has to fight…. Win! Is this advice the Raven wants Bran to take to heart as well? Even in the vision, Bran can suddenly see his breath and hear Meera calling for him to release Hodor who has also fallen into a trance. The Raven tells Bran to listen to his friend. Hodor is released from the vision.

Meera is able to throw a spear at a White Walker and kill it, even though one of the children of the forest tries unsuccessfully to kill one with the same type of spear. It almost has to be that Bran’s direwolf, Summer, has to be killed by the approaching winter. She dies so they can escape. The Night King kills the Raven and in the vision, the Raven says to Bran, “The time has come. Leave me.” And he literally goes up in smoke.

The group flees with the entire army hot on their heels. Leaf stops and lets the hoard overcome her before exploding the last of her acorn bombs. Hodor breaks open the door but the hoard is once again right behind them pushing on the door as they close it.

Bran is still locked in the past but he can hear Meera and she is shouting at Hodor to “Close the door.” Willis suddenly sees Bran and has a seizure. Willis can also hear – and quite possibly see Meera through his older eyes? Or possibly just as an observer. But Willis writhing on the ground is screaming “Hold the door! Hold the door! Holdthedoor, holddedoor, holdedoor, holdor. Hodor, hodor, hodor….” He is clearly witnessing his own death in the future as he is ripped apart by the dead as he holds the door shut, ensuring that Bran can get away – because Bran called the Night King to him by disobeying an travelling on his own…

It’s never fun to lose a gentle soul, but this was a brilliant way to fill in Hodor’s story and bring his life literally full circle. Another terrific episode, held together by the interweaving of the importance of the past – and storytelling. It’s never easy to single out performers on this show, but Hill and Turner in particular showed us things in their characters that we haven’t really seen before. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The X-Files, Defiance, Bitten, Killjoys, and a few others! I'm active on the Con scene when I have the time. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.
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