Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones spoils material from George R. R. Martin’s books in the most heartbreaking of ways. It was a great episode, probably one of the best so far.
Sansa comes into her own when she confronts Littlefinger, contemplating having Brienne kill him before telling him that she does not want his help. She does take his advice about seeking out her uncle, Brynden “Blackfish” Tully at Riverrun. Jon holds a council of war where they discuss their prospects, which are dim. Sansa convinces Jon to rally the northmen to their banner while Sansa sends Brienne to speak to the Blackfish. She keeps her meeting with Littlefinger a secret from Jon.
Nothing much happens, which is what I predicted. Daenerys thanks Jorah for saving her life and banishes him again before saying that she can’t. She’s conflicted and Jorah removes the conflict by showing her his greyscale. She gives him a heroic quest: to find a cure.
Its Kingsmoot time. This scene more or less follows the basic story of the book in that Yara almost wins before Euron Greyjoy returns and wins over the captains. Yara and Theon flee with the Ironborn’s best ships while Euron plans to build his own fleet and either hunt them down or capture Daenerys… its not quite clear.
Arya is continuing her training. The Waif does not think she will ever be ready, and Jaqen H’ghar (or whoever is wearing that face) does not disagree. He gives her a task: to assassinate an actress. The actress is performing a play that is a very unfaithful retelling of Season 1, a retelling which clearly upsets Arya. She goes to spy on the actress and feels pity for her; she appears to be a good woman. She asks Jaqen who wants her dead, surmising that it is a younger actress. Jaqen scolds her: servants do not ask questions. Is she a servant of the many faced god?
Tyrion has succeeded in bringing peace to the city, but he now needs to get his public relations machine working. To do this he summons a red priestess, Kinvara, to spread the word that Daenerys is the princ(ess) that was promised. She agrees to do so before Varys brings in his healthy skepticism: another red priestess once believed that Stannis was the Prince that was Promised. She was wrong, it would appear. Kinvara recounts with some surprising detail (to Varys at leas) the story of his castration, which visibly shakes Varys enough to silence him.
Beyond the Wall
Bran fucks everything up. Pretty much, at least. He and Max Von Sydow are witnessing the birth of the White Walkers, who were apparently created by the Children of the Forest. It’s not really clear if this is also the origin of The Others in the books or not, but I think it likely judging by the things I’ve read (more on that later). The real meat of the episode, however, happens later. Bran confronts Leaf about this, who tells him that they had no choice: they were under the threat of extinction by an invading force: The First Men. After this, Bran decides to greensee without the Three Eyed Raven’s guidance. He travels to a place where there is an army of wights and sees the Night’s King, who can also see him. The Night’s King touches him, which leaves an icy scar on his hand in the real world.
The Three Eyed Raven tells him that Bran is now marked; the Night’s King can enter the cave at will. The group prepares to abandon the cave while Bran and The Three Eyed Raven enter a trance, presumably to transfer more knowledge to Bran. However, they witness a vision of Bran’s father, Ned, leaving Winterfell for The Vale. Hodor, also known as Wylis (or Walder if you’re a book fan), looks on. Note the scar on his forehead. This is important.
The Night’s King, along with his zombie army, find the cave. Leaf and her fellow Children attempt to hold them off. They are unsuccessful. Although the wights are barred from entering the cavern, the Night’s King and the rest of the White Walkers are able to bypass the magical spells and walk right in. The wights climb above the cave and find another way in.
Meera attempts to wake Bran, to little success. The Three Eyed Raven tells him to listen to his friend as he hears her screams from within the vision. He doesn’t leave the vision, instead he is able to somehow warg into Hodor while remaining inside the vision. She packs him up into a sled (notice he’s not touching the tree anymore) while Hodor and Summer fight off the wights. Summer dies. Leaf also dies. Hodor, Meera and Bran make it to a back door and escape as The Night’s King kills The Three Eyed Raven (by by Max).
Meera tells Hodor to “hold the door” as she escapes with Bran. Hodor puts his body against the door as the wights push against it and chop at the wooden planks. Meera screams “hold the door” as they run. Inside the vision Wyllis falls to the ground and seizes, yelling “hold the door” over and over again until it morphs into “hodor” which is mirrored by Hodor as he is chopped to bits by the wights.
Bran really should have been more careful. That being said, The Three Eyed Raven might have thought to warn Bran about The Night’s King. It seems like one of the first things you might want to say to a young greenseer while you’re training them: “Now be careful, don’t go having visions without guidance or you may get everyone else or, mind you this is the important part, me, killed.” That being said, this scene exemplifies the genius level of planning that George R. R. Martin went through.
Yes that’s right, we know that this scene, at the very least, is directly from George R. R. Martin. According to David Benioff:
We had this meeting with George Martin where we’re trying to get as much information as possible out of him, and probably the most shocking revelation he had for us was when he told us the origin of Hodor and how that name came about. I just remember Dan and I looking at each other when he said that and just being like, ‘Holy shit.’
Holy shit indeed. Although I have to suspect that the scene will play out a little bit differently in the books.
In the books green seeing is completely different. Bran sees the past through the eyes of the Weirwood trees instead of walking around, which means the Night’s King won’t be able to touch him and leave his mark on him, which means that he won’t be able to invade their little cave hideout. Or perhaps if Bran finds a Weirwood near the Night’s King that will be enough. It’s not entirely clear. What is clear is that George R. R. Martin planned this out from the very beginning. It’s the kind of bittersweet thing that he’s known for.
This incident will surely leave a mark on Bran, who has to carry the guilt that he caused both Hodor’s death and his transformation into a simpleton. What it also does is show that Bran and Hodor have a unique connection, one that transcends the simple servant/lord dynamic.
It is interesting to note that the creators decided to put a scar on Wyllis’ head. In the books we learn that a young Hodor (known as Walder) spoke normally until he received a kick in the head from a horse. After that “Hodor” was his only word. It appears that, at least in the Game of Thrones timeline, this even occurred somewhat after the kick to the head. Obviously those around him thought that he was having some sort of delayed reaction, which actually isn’t uncommon in untreated head injuries.
In reality we know that Bran was able to affect not only the present but the past, although this doesn’t really answer the question of whether or not the past can be rewritten: this was obviously predestined to happen. I rather doubt that Martin has created a world in which the past can be changed. Rather I think that he, as a smart writer, allows time travel (through the eyes of the Weirwoods) to show the reader the events of the past and to show the futility of knowing the past because it cannot be changed. As the Three Eyed Raven said: the ink is already dry.
What’s next for Bran? Obviously he will make his way south; how long this will take is anyone’s guess. In previous seasons this took months but now that the writers are speeding events up drastically he may reach the wall within an episode.
Events in the east are not really progressing, as I predicted last week. The stage is being set for the second act of Daenerys story for this season. I doubt anything truly interesting will happen until she returns to Meereen.
The Kingsmoot is an interesting scene in that the writers decided to excise something from the books that clearly should not have been. In the books Yara, Euron and Victarion Greyjoy (you haven’t met Victarion yet, and I doubt you will) all fight for leadership of the Iron Isles. Euron wins by having one of his thralls blow a massive dragon horn. Literally, it is a horn meant to control dragons, salvaged from the ruins of Valyria. Euron’s thrall dies in the process, his lungs burnt from the inside. After this Euron gives a speech, telling the Ironborn that he will take a massive fleet and capture Daenerys and subdue her dragons with this horn. He wins and Yara flees to the north where she is captured. Theon is actually still captured up there at this time and the two reunite (yay) under some depressing circumstances (awe).
Back to the Ironborn. After this Euron tasks Victarion with capturing Daenerys. To do this he is given a fleet of 100 ships and the horn. It seems that Euron didn’t want to take the time to actually sail to Esos himself (probably a smart move as Yara would probably have rebelled). However, if Victarion does succeed in taking control of the dragons then Victarion will have a clear upper hand… although the horn kills whoever uses it… it’s a bit of a mess.
It’s not entirely clear where Yara and Theon are sailing to but there are two options: either somewhere else in Westeros or (and I really hope this is the case) to Esos to capture/join forces with Daenerys before Euron can get to her. Which will probably work as it takes a long time to build a fleet.
This is going to be interesting. I suspect that Yara will take Victarion’s place in the rest of the season which I am looking very forward to because it’s a great storyline.
This episode really came together in the Iron Islands and Beyond the Wall storylines. Everything else was just setting the stage, so to speak, for further episodes. It’s a rather slow episode with a very, very strong closing that makes it one of the best episodes in the season so far.