The show opens with Sansa getting a message from Littlefinger, to meet him at Mole’s Town. She arrives with Brienne in tow, and while Littlefinger expected to find her jumping to his arms in joy, he finds a woman who is trying very hard not to have Brienne take off his head. Littlefinger reveals that the forces of the Vale are encamped in Moat Caitlin; and once Sansa dismisses his help he plays his only card left, which is letting her know that Brynden Tully, the Blackfish, has taken back Riverrun, and mustered the last of the Riverlands army to him.
Sansa’s resentment of Littlefinger is mostly driven out of anger, but she is not willing to kill him. Littlefinger on the other hand is playing a difficult game; he is manipulating the fall of the Boltons, and the union of the North and the Riverlands – To which he is trying to add the forces of the Vale. If you think about it, at this moment, the only ally he has is Robyn Arryn: he betrayed the Lannisters for the Bolton’s openly when he married Sansa off, he betrayed Sansa in the same moment, but he has also betrayed the Bolton’s in secret since he is now moving against them. He has no powerful friends left. It’ll be interesting to see just how his plan unfolds.
Arya is training with the waif, and getting beaten at it as well. I have a feeling the waif won’t be happy when Arya finally beats her in one of these trainings. Jaqen pulls her away after the waif proclaims she’ll never be one of them. Jaqen tells her the story of the founding of Braavos by the First of the Faceless men. Arya receives her first mission: an actress called Lady Crane.
The scene changes and Arya attends the play in Braavos, which depicts Robert’s death, and the death of her father. The actress she is supposed to kill plays Cersei Lannister. As the crowd enjoys the story, Arya is visibly more upset as it goes on. Backstage the actors are discussing things, when the Lady Crane is offered a glass of wine, but she chooses rum instead… making Arya realize the woman is the only one who drinks the rum. Arya informs Jaqen of her plan to spike the rum, and asks for a face from the hall, but Jaqen tells her she is not ready for that. While Arya is seemingly curious about her task, she does not fall back and agrees to complete the assassination. Little moments like this show us Arya Stark is still in there.
Now, there is a question about why Arya has been tasked this job. If I would offer a guess: Jaqen wants her to kill someone who is portraying Cersei, and thus in a way removing the name off the list. It will fail, but it will allow Arya to temporarily be considered as more ready to be a Faceless Man. While Arya’s storyline is falling on the less exciting side as season’s go on, I feel it has more to do with not wanting her to fully become a Faceless Man, and wishing the old Arya would come back.
North of The Wall
Bran is in the past with the Three-Eyed Raven, and they come to a place where the children of the forest are gathered under a large Weirwood, likely where the cave is at now. The Children of the Forest have a man captured, and they stab him, with his eyes turning White Walker blue. Bran pulls out on his own, in shock probably; and he sees the girl who did the stabbing in front of him and asks the reason: she responds that they were at war with mankind and the White Walkers were created to defend themselves from mankind.
The Iron Islands
The Kingsmoot has begun and Yara makes her claim on the Throne, to which she is backed up by Theon. It is seemingly going well for them when their uncle Euron appears, and he reveals his grand plan: To build the greatest fleet in the world; and to use it to gain the Alliance of Daenerys Targaryen by giving her a fleet and marrying her! Let’s face it, this is quite a plan, considering the army Daenerys is amassing, and the fact that she does have three dragons. Yara and Theon try to sway the vote away from him, but it is seemingly already lost to them. Euron even admitted he killed his brother, and reasoned that Balon was a horrible king, to which a lot of people agreed. As the crowning ceremony happens Yara and Theon run away, and get themselves into ships. The crowning ceremony involves drowning the future king, and letting him fight to breathe again (a little risky for my taste). Euron wakes up, and sets out to kill his niece and nephew, only to find they have gone away and taken the best ships of the fleet. Euron’s final scene of the day involves telling his men to start building a new fleet; but I have a feeling that Theon and Yara might have abducted his plan and are headed to Essos.
This is a short scene where Dany comes to terms with Jorah, and finds out about his dragonscale. She accepts that he does love her, and that beyond his initial betrayal she cars for him too. She cares enough about him to order him to find a cure and come back to her. As Dany and her army ride away from the sacred city, Jorah goes off on his own, either to find a cure or die trying. A short but sweet and sad scene.
Tyrion and the others discuss how the agreements with the slavers have seemingly ended the sons of Harpy’s activities; but Tyrion is more concerned that they need to show that Daenerys is the reason they have peace. Tyrion and Varys then talk to a Red Priestess of Volantis. While Tyrion is trying to broker a truce, and have the Red Priestess tell the story of Daenerys (the person she considers is the “One who was Promised), but Varys is wary of her, since he has met another priestess who believed another man in the same role. The Red Woman then agrees to have her priests spread the story of Dany. The woman uses her knowledge of Varys to scare him a little. This story is slightly similar to King’s Landing, with leaders giving power to a religious group. Again, Meereen seems to be the slow story of the episode, as very little in ways of plot happens.
North of the Wall
Bran is bored as everyone else is asleep, and instead of not doing anything stupid, he jumps into whatever the Three-Eyed Raven is dreaming or looking at. He finds himself where the tree used to be from the previous lesson, only this time it is winter, but behind him stands the army of the White Walkers. Bran is curious so he walks forward amongst them, until he is face to face with a White Walker, who clearly knows he is there. Darth Maul White Walker appears behind him and grabs his arm, scaring him to awaken, and brands his arm. The Raven tells Bran he has to leave before the White Walkers arrive. The Raven pulls Bran into one final lesson, as Meera and Hodor prepare to leave.
Jon is discussing tactics with his team which now include: Davos, Sansa, Brienne, Tormund, and Edd. Davos explains how the Umbers and the Karstarks have joined Ramsay Bolton, leaving the smallest houses in the North available for alliances. Sansa tries to talk about the Karstarks siding with a Stark, but Davos correctly points out that Robb killed their father, so they are not about to change sides now. Jon points out that rest of the Northern Houses might be enough to stand against the bigger ones, so it’s a matter of aligning with the smaller houses until the numbers swell. Then comes the first issue of this plan to take Winterfell: Jon is a bastard and Sansa is the Stark… it is a small blip in this scene when Sansa says she has the Stark name, and Jon looks over realizing that he is not really leading this on his own. I feel one day problems may arise when Jon makes one call and Sansa makes another. Sansa also divulges the news about the Blackfish in Riverrun and when asked, she lies to Jon about having read it in a message to Ramsay in Winterfell. With the Blackfish on their side, it seems more likely that the Starks have a shot at getting Winterfell and Rickon back.
In the following scene Sansa is commissioning Brienne to get the Blackfish on their side. Brienne is a little wary of leaving Sansa behind; but as Brienne tells her of the dangers, Sansa lets her know that Jon would protect her against anything, to which Brienne wonders why she lied about Littlefinger.
As they are about to leave the Wall, Sansa gives Jon a new coat, made to looks like the one Ned wore. Edd and Jon say their goodbyes, and they all depart Castle Black. In a bit of a funny moment, the brothers ask Edd if they should close the gate, and Edd realizes he is now the Lord Commander of the Watch.
North of the Wall
Meera and Hodor are discussing getting away from the cave. When Meera realizes the air has gone cold; she runs outside to find the army of the Walkers in front of them. The Children of the Forest try to hold them back, but it is useless, they cannot stop it. Meera gets back to the cave a one of the best small action sequences happen. As Bran is stuck in the past looking at the day his father left for the Eerie to begin his fostering with the Arryn’s, the battle begins. Meera is trying to pull him out, to get him to warg into Hodor to fight; she and Summer are trying their best to protect them with the help of the children. The scene is beautifully shot, switching between the action in the present and the peacefulness in the past. Meera tells Bran to wake up, to which the Raven agrees, all the while the Children of the forest are trying to protect him in the present. Bran then wargs into Hodor while still stuck in the past, and with Hodor/Bran’s help they manage to escape the White Walker’s into a tunnel. Summer is left behind to protect them, and is killed. This was a sad moment, as the Direwolves are now almost all gone, only Ghost and Nymeria still alive, and Nymeria has not been seen since the first season. Summer’s death is sad, but it gets a little lost in the action, as Hodor/Bran is pulling the sled with Bran on it, and the Darth Maul White Walker enters the cave. In the past, the Raven dissolves as he is killed in the present. The last Child of the Forest sacrifices herself to buy them time, and Meera, Hodor and Bran manage to make it out of the tunnel.
Outside, one of the saddest, most tragic and most incredible scenes in the show happens. As Meera tells Hodor to “Hold the Door,” while Bran is still warged into him, we see the Hodor in the past hearing those words as well. It seems that because Bran is warging into future Hodor while being in the presence of past Hodor, he has become a conduit between time. Past Hodor’s eyes go blank, and it looks like he is viewing the events in the present. We hear Meera keep telling him to Hold the Door, and he struggles with it. In the past, Willis (Hodor) is thrashing on the floor, repeatedly screaming “Hold the Door” over and over. This happens while switching scenes to the present where we see Hodor struggling to keep the wights inside the tunnel and the door closed, to come back to past Hodor yelling, with Bran looking on in grief. We see as present Hodor is getting scratched and pulled by the wights, killing him, the music mournful, as Meera disappears in front of him. In the past, Willis is yelling Hold the Door, over and over; as he seemingly is warged along with Bran into his future body, his thrashing consistent with the movements of future Hodor. The images of the present cut out on a view of Hodor’s face, and we know he is about to die, and switches to past Willis, as his screaming gets shortened, until he is only screaming “Hodor” over and over. The episode then goes black to the credits.
The power behind Hodor’s origin story being linked to his death makes for such a powerful scene, I have to say it has hit me harder than Ned’s death, the Red Wedding, Theon taking of Rodrick’s head, and even the deaths at Hardhome… This scene was painful and beautiful start to finish. It also highlights the true and most important factor in the show: Death. The story that has been confirmed comes from George R. R. Martin himself, shows us that Bran can interact with the past, as his warging/time travel caused Hodor’s origin. Beyond the grief, one has to wonder just how powerful Bran can be.
Overall: 9.8 Incredible! This episode managed to give us quite the moments for halfway through a season. Starting with the one of the, if not the most emotional death scene on the show so far; it also delved into quite deeply into its mythology by showing us how Hodor happened. The mixture of the scenes in the past that gradually became sadder, with the excellent action sequences in the present made for some of the best 10 minutes on the show. This episode also had strong side stories with the Kingsmoot and the Iron Islands moving away from their isolation; a beautiful goodbye scene between Dany and Jorah, and Sansa breaking ties with Littlefinger. Arya’s story, while slow moving, is finally showing small signs as to where it is leading, and Jon’s arc was given a small reprieve of big moments for a week. The only reason this was not a ten: THEY KILLED HODOR AND SUMMER!