“Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?” asks the many faced god’s loyal servant, Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). A poignant question that our remaining Stark family members continue to answer incorrectly in Game of Thrones “The Door” (6×5). In Braavos, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) observes a bittersweet reenactment of recent events. Her innocent smile slowly becomes a harden frown after watching them wrongfully portray the very moment that has defined her life; Ned Stark’s beheading at King’s Landing. Meanwhile, Sansa (Sophie Turner) continues to seize control over her future and Winterfell through her own namesake. The very marking that has made Sansa a pawn in everyone else’s game, is still her badge of honor. Note, that alongside her at the wall is Jon Snow (Kit Harington), the half brother with no name of his own. Beyond the wall, Bran Stark’s (Isaac Hempstead Wright) travels fully illustrate through time just how universally true Jaqen H’ghar words are, that no matter if you are a Lannister, Targaryen, Stark, or even the most faithful friend Hodor (Kristian Nairm)… all die.
Last season, creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss opted to focus on Jon Snow’s plight against the white walkers and not spend time distracting viewers with the fanciful elements in Bran’s story arc. Smart choice. After watching the Normandy-esque battle at Hardhome, the Night King’s imminent threat has been well established. Now, a season later the series creators swap out the Stark siblings to tell a more intimate, tragic war story that’s embedded in a precise combination of fantasy and science-fiction spectacle. The ending sequence in “The Door” would not have been as engaging, or heartbreaking had it aired prior to Hardhome. “Everyone is what they are and where they are for a reason,” explains a new Red Temple high-priestess Kinvara (Ania Bukstein). We learn early on in the episode that the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers as a weapon against humanity, “From you, from men.” During the final sequence, Leaf (Kae Alexander) self sacrifices herself to protect the very civilization that almost made her family extinct. Both the human motivation and irony beneath Leaf’s actions emotionally tie viewers to the chase sequence’s stakes. Bran does not only represent hope for all mankind in Westeros, but the legacy of Leaf’s family – the children; further making me intrigued about the storyline beyond the wall… once forgotten but not left behind.
“Hold the door,” orders Meera (Ellie Kendrick) as she drags an incapacitated Bran to safety; again everyone is where they need to be. In “Oathbreaker” (6×3) Bran travels further through buried Stark family history, hinting at the R+L=J theory about Jon’s biological parents, and an introduction to Howland Reed; Meera’s father. At the Tower of Joy he saves Ned Stark’s life, even though Bran grew up being told a different story. Meera practically re-enacts Jon Snow’s own white walker kill from “Hardhome” (5×8). Hopefully these parallels between past and present events are furthered fleshed out later on this season, because it’s overshadowed in this episode. I mean… Bran Stark finds himself on the wrong side of the looking glass after attempting to travel without the Three-eyed Raven’s guidance. After being marked by the Night’s King in a previous weirwood vision, these metaphysical worlds continue to collide, after Bran recklessly returns to a more familiar vision at Winterfell.
“Hold the door, hold the door, ho-dor,” cries out a young Wyllis, after collapsing to the ground during a seizure. Benioff and Weiss use a Möbius strip effect to contrast a past loss of innocence (past) with a present-day warrior’s sacrifice. Since, Bran has warged himself into Hodor to mobilize his protector against the evading army; he’s utterly helpless as an observer to watch the repercussions of his decision debilitate Wyllis in the past. Granted this isn’t purely an act of self-preservation on Bran’s part (he’s a Stark after all), but there are world-saving stakes attached to both lives; both sacrifices. Between the disproportionate odds, grandiose creature visuals, and fanciful action; we all feel the weight of the door in both moments. Queue a well-deserved slow clap.
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