Hold the door.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Jack Bender
The character of Hodor has been one of Game of Thrones' most famous unsolved mysteries, up until the midway point of season six. If Hodor was able to walk and talk like any other normal person, no one would give a second thought towards where Hodor got his name. I doubt anyone in the Game of Thrones fanbase ever lost sleep over knowing where the Stark and Lannister children acquired their names. Hodor has always been a humble servant to Bran Stark and the rest of his family, and we could never forget about him simply because 'Hodor' has all that he's ever been able to say. When Bran has a vision of a young Hodor a few episodes back and discovers that Hodor's real name is Wylis, it pretty much confirmed that something happened along the way to cause Wylis to become Hodor. The answer for this "transformation" is finally given to us in "The Door", and the details add up to one of the saddest, most crushing reveals/deaths in all of Game of Thrones.
"The Door" has been considered one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones' later seasons, and while there is absolutely nothing I can criticize about the Hodor reveal scene, the White Walker attack on the cave does not take up the whole episode, and I have some gripes about everything that comes beforehand. Much like "Book of the Stranger", there are just a few nagging things that keep this episode from being a full-blown masterpiece, but damn it, does it come very close to getting a perfect 5/5 from me.
Season six has, at times, flirted with what will be the main criticism of season seven: breakneck pacing that defies logic and has characters getting from here to there in the blink of an eye. Season five was not completely innocent from this issue, either, but the times when season five had things happen at lightning speed, they were few and far in between. "The Door" gives us two such examples of logic-defying events: Sansa meeting with Petyr Baelish in Moles Town and Arya going to watch a play. Maybe I'm overreaching a bit by griping about these scenes, but the editing is a bit jarring, as both of these scenes find Sansa and Arya talking about going somewhere, and then *BAM!*, they're there. "The Door" begins with Sansa receiving a letter to meet with Baelish in Moles Town. The very next moment, she is in Moles Town, talking with Baelish. Then with Arya, Jaqen talks with her about killing the actress known as Lady Crane (Essie Davis), and the very next moment, Arya is watching the play. To be fair, Sansa and Arya are not travelling thousands of miles to get to their respective destinations, but to have them immediately appear at their destinations as opposed to giving us a brief glimpse of their travels takes away any potential for build-up and makes the world of Westeros look much smaller than it actually is. It's as if we should assume there's absolutely nothing interesting on the path anymore from Destination A to Destination B. Didn't Jaime and Brienne, as well as Arya and the Hound run into trouble while on the road during their travels?
That's about all the flaws I have for this episode. There are actually two terrific scenes in this episode, one being the finale and the other being the Greyjoy Kingsmoot. Despite Game of Thrones' story becoming more and more action-driven in the later seasons, D&D still find a way to leave room for politically-charged scenes, and this is one of them. Yara appears to have won the Salt Throne, until Euron arrives to make his own claim. The terrific exchange of dialogue is like watching a presidential debate, one where both sides make completely valid points to defend their respective stances. Theon accuses Euron of being MIA for several years, and thus, is not fit to rule the current state of affairs on the Iron Islands. Euron counters with the fact that he has explored much of the world and thus, is capable of taking the Ironborn beyond their one patch of land. Alfie Allen's acting deserves high praise for this scene: the sound of his voice sounds a lot like the confident Theon from seasons one and two, but this time, it's coupled with subtle, nervous body movements that imply there is still some Reek in him. I think that Alfie Allen as Theon could serve as a great example of modern day method acting, because he nails it in both line delivery and body movements. When it comes to pure acting abilities, Allen has always been one of the best in all the Game of Thrones cast.
It shouldn't be all that surprising that Euron was able to snag the Salt Throne from his niece and nephew, despite not being back on the Iron Islands for very long. The Ironborn have always been a steely, unforgiving bunch, and Euron makes a good point, stating that they were going nowhere fast being ruled by a crusty old grouch in Balon Greyjoy who was too stubborn to know when to stop fighting. Now in comes a younger, tougher Euron who is capable of building a massive iron fleet and guiding the Ironborn to areas of the world they could never dream of exploring with Balon around. What do Yara and Theon have that could top that? A claim to the throne, purely based on their relationship to Balon? The Ironborn are impatient; they're sick and tired of being stuck on their island with nowhere to go and conquer. They see Euron as the one who will take them where they need to go, and now with an opportunity to sail on a massive fleet and get off their island, the last thing on their minds is the current ruler's ties to the previous ruler. Get ready to see a lot more Greyjoy action from here on out.
We get some gritty White Walker action to close out the episode, as The Night King and his army make their first major appearance of the season and their first since "Hardhome". It seems like we learn a little bit more about the White Walkers every time they appear. "Hardhome" showed us that Valyrian steel can also kill White Walkers and that the Night King is capable of adding hundreds of more soldiers to his army in a matter of seconds. "The Door" gives us a glimpse into how the White Walkers were created, although the exact details are a little sparse. The important thing is that Bran proves to be a royal f*ck-up, warging into a vision without the Three-Eyed Raven and allowing the Night King to touch him, thus, being able to find the cave he is in.
The Night King and the wights attacking the cave is a very claustrophobic scene that is downright terrifying. Imagine being in a dark cave with closed-in spaces, and then all of a sudden, a swarm of undead skeleton creatures starts coming after you. It especially hurts to watch poor Summer sacrifice himself and get mutilated by wights, in order to give Bran, Meera, and Hodor a few extra seconds to escape. The pain only keeps coming, as Hodor stays back to keep the cave door closed so that Bran and Meera can escape into the woods. In a vision, Bran wargs into the young Wylis/Hodor, who begins to yell Meera's words, "Hold the door" over and over, until....well, you know the rest.
The idea of Hodor's name coming from "Hold the door" was originally pitched to D&D from George R.R. Martin, so that is to say the origin of Hodor's name was something that Martin has known about ever since he started writing his A Song of Ice and Fire novels back in the 1990's. This is a level of heartbreak that is right up there with The Red Wedding and Ned Stark's death. Wylis was a young, innocent boy who had his whole life ahead of him, only to have it all taken away by Bran, as Bran creates a time loop that not only causes Wylis to turn into a simple-minded giant capable of speaking only one word, but also someone whose cause of death was set in stone years before it ever happened. Hodor would never go on to die peacefully in his bed at the age of eighty-five; the innocent Hodor was now predestined to die trying to hold back a thousand rampaging wights, all because Bran was unable to control his warging abilities. The look on Bran's face as he watches the young Hodor scream, "Hold the door!" is the ultimate, "What have I done?" look, and Bran can now see that Hodor would go on to live the rest of his life with everyone thinking of him as some wacky nutcase, never to realize that Hodor was not some strange new identity that Wylis decided to take up: it was a precursor to his eventual death.
It'd be one thing if Hodor's reveal was due to some kind of magic spell or a horrific accident that left him mentally worse for wear. No one could have imagined something like this, though. One of the most innocent characters in all of Game of Thrones is revealed to have had his whole life shattered by the time-travelling mistakes of his closest companion: Bran. Hodor would never be able to reveal his reasons for only saying "Hodor", nor would he ever know that it was Bran who was responsible. When we talk about watching Game of Thrones as being the equivalent of being in an abusive relationship, these are the sort of reasons that makes such an analogy true. "The Door" delivers the series' most heartbreaking death since The Red Wedding, and had it not been for some pacing issues involving Sansa and Arya, there would be no question that this would go down as one of the best episodes of the entire series. The final sequence in the Three-Eyed Raven's cave is a masterful mix of action, horror, and tragedy, while the Kingsmoot scene on the Iron Islands serves as an excellent display of politics. Just when "Book of the Stranger" took the title of Best Episode of Season Six, "The Door" walks up and snatches it away. It is truly extraordinary the kind of twists and reveals that this fantasy world is capable of.
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