Hold the door with one hand. Pick your jaw up off the floor with the other.
The final moments of “The Door” will go down in Game of Thrones fandom as one of the most revelatory and emotionally trying sequences of the series. I felt my tear ducts start to fill, while my mind literally started to explode as the nature of Hodor, one of fan’s most beloved buddies, was explained. Game of Thrones really hasn’t had an “oh sh*t” moment quite like this. The rapid pace of the action juxtaposed nicely with Bran’s floaty collapsing world as he slowly realized Hodor’s purpose to “hold the door” and the shock of it washed across his face. Bran’s flashbacks have been hinting at how the rules of his powers work, how he can interfere with the past, but Hodor’s creation suggests crazy things for how the story may wrap up. The climax of “The Door” was more than just an extremely resonant moment in the show, it was a huge first. The first time the show had revealed something this big for the audience en masse.
This episode had just as much impact with book readers as it did with show watchers, which is why execution was so important. Luckily, Jack Bender was brought on board to direct both “The Door” and next week’s episode. Known for the finale of Lost, Bender brought his paradoxical expertise to Thrones for an episode that was excellent through and through.
Hodor’s purpose was not the only huge reveal on last night’s episode. The formation of the White Walkers as a means of protection for the Children of the Forest surely gave many fans an “aha moment.” Although it’s easy to see the showrunners leaving it at that for brevity’s sake, with the Children of the Forest now being presumably all but dead, the brief snippet left us desiring just a touch more. Creating a force to stop men from destroying their home is not the rich fiction we’ve come to expect from Thrones. It doesn’t feel cheap, simply intriguing but with missing information.
The Starks were a focus on “The Door” with their arcs taking up more than half the hour’s screen time. It felt again as if Arya was going to be stuck in a loop (not of causality) but her eventual assignment led to the most entertaining moments of the week. Seeing the vaudevillian performances of Braavos was a refreshingly self-aware and humorous look into the lives of the commoners of Essos, but also a nice recap for newcomers. The scene also played as a reminder to Arya of who she was. She still her old self by questioning throughout, with “Who was the first? He was no one” drawing a simultaneous sigh and a chuckle. She is in many ways still a Stark. She is still Arya. I think Jaqen realizes it and is waiting for Arya to give up her quest to join the Faceless Men, because perhaps the world will be more well served by Arya Stark continuing to exist.
Shockingly, Sansa keeps becoming more like-able. The payoff for Ramsay’s awful acts done upon her may have come at the very opening of the episode, where she entirely casts off Littlefinger. It is easy to see that as the show runners trying to retroactively justifying their decisions, and what controversy there was has stayed in the past and cannot be unbroken. The true realization that Sansa was great came later, when she spoke to Davos. There is that feeling that comes when two characters you truly love engage in discourse, and that feeling washed over me during this scene. It may also have something to do with her assertion that Jon Snow does not have her father’s name, “but she does.” Which led to the connective tissue between each of these threads: Ned.
Halfway through this season it is becoming evidently clear that this season is about Ned Stark. He made an appearance in each Stark arc — in Bran’s flashback, by name at Sansa’s council, and on stage in Arya’s. This cannot simply be coincidence. Eddard Stark’s death is commonly cited as the most important moment of the show and the catalyst of all that follows. Ned was the figurehead of the North, and he will be the reason they unite again. He is the reason the Starks continue to fight to live. In the deepest, darkest crevices of my nerd mind there is a reality in which Ned returns somehow, as there are clearly already multiple ways to alter events in this world.
The other moments of “The Door” were consequential and emotional, with Jorah’s faux departure setting itself up for being the most tear jerking moment of the episode until the last five minutes slapped us in the face. Two great new characters were introduced. Kinvara, the sorceress was debuted, who served as a great throwback to an under-the-radar season three moment, and Euron Greyjoy was confirmed a true Greyjoy and by extension a huge asshole. Theon’s speech was rousing and reminded us to differentiate between the man that is Reek and the man that is a Greyjoy. The splitting of the Ironborn kingdom and the witch hunt for Theon and Yara and was one of the biggest catalysts of that storyline possibly ever.
Season 6 of Game of Thrones is lore rich. “The Door” proved this show can still do emotional, critical twists while not sacrificing world building. The episode had nary a dull moment and was not only far and away the best of the season, but was the best Game of Thrones episode in quite some time.
Most Understated Moment: Jorah’s Declaration of Love
Biggest Major Death(s): Hodor and Summer 🙁
Largest Absence: The Lannister Clan