Valar Morghulis my friends and welcome to Season Six of Game of Thrones. Every week, I will recap Sunday’s episode and answer any questions that readers may have in a midweek mailbag that I will update as questions come in right up to when the new episode airs. Send all questions to @FawkesCulture, @Matwellsays, FawkesDotCom@gmail.com(awful email, I know), or post them in the comments section below. You could also catch up with all of Fawkes’ GAME OF THRONES coverage here.
If there is one theme that can connect almost every storyline in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe, it is that no one is innocent. That is, except for maybe the most simple players in this sordid political epic we call the Game of Thrones: the ones who were roped into the fray for no reason other than where they were standing at a particular moment or because their home held some strategic advantage to a higher Lord. These characters are pawns to higher masters. But as any good chess player knows, pawns serve a purpose, have a destiny, and even sometimes when they are able to transcend the game and cross that chess set, they become queens and masters of something much more than their humble beginnings.
But more musings on all that later. First, let’s catch up with our pals across the board of Westeros and Essos.
Speaking of queens, in Mereen, Daenerys, Daario, and Jorah are confronted with the aftermath of Dany’s scorched earth policies. And just when it seems like Jorah may have finally made headway in his long courting of Dany, he reveals to her his Greyscale (which appears to have spread rapidly in one night). After a touching conversation, Dany charges Jorah with finding a cure to his affliction, something that doesn’t really exist. Sure, the princess Shireen lived through her bout, but Greyscale is known to have two strains: one is common among children growing up in cold, damp climates (like Dragonstone, where Shireen was raised) and while it is not curable, it is possible to stop it’s spread; the other, the form Jorah contracted protecting Tyrion, has no known cure.
Now, whether Benioff and Weiss follow this canon remains to be seen but my biggest question is this: why send Jorah away? Surely, Daenerys, with all of her titles, followers, and influence has a better chance at finding a cure than a man on his own, traveling across a wasteland. Not only does she have a better chance, but in a strictly TV sense, why separate them and add another storyline and yet another character we must follow and spend time with to an already convoluted chess board?
Across the Sea on the island of Pyke, the King’s Moot dovetailed perfectly with the presidential election cycle, as once again the establishment candidate is bucked by an outsider even after gaining one of her party’s most valuable endorsements (too much?). I’m speaking, of course, of Yara losing the election for the Salt Throne to her kin(g)slaying uncle, Euron, even after a rousing endorsement from Theon. Realizing that their lives are probably endanger, the siblings immediately fled and somehow managed to steal the entire fleet of the Iron Islands, with what appeared to be no more than 20 good men. They also managed to make it to those ships with unbelievable (literally) expediency. However, Euron has vowed to follow through on his election promise of building the best ship fleet you’ll ever see. So good it’ll make your head spin! Ok, I’m done with political references, I promise.
Where are they heading, you ask? I would suppose that they will take their Uncle’s plan and head for Slaver’s Bay. After all, Daenerys is in dire need of fleet, especially now that she is setting her sights on her Western getaway/invasion. Admittedly, I’m a little surprised at the direction this took. I figured after Euron’s victory, Yara and him would reconcile their differences, either amicably or through the use of force – possibly a hostage situation involving Theon. In the books, there is another uncle, Victarion, who after his failed bid into politics (he lost the King’s Moot in a three-way race between Asha/Yara, himself, and Euron), leads the Iron Fleet to Mereen. It will be interesting to see how this family dynamic plays out. If Theon and Yara make it to Mereen, with Euron right behind, is this how we get the show’s version of the Battle of Slaver’s Bay, rather than all-out warfare with the Masters that Tyrion has already made peace with? Time will tell.
Speaking of insanely quick movements, Littlefinger seemingly arrived in Mole’s Town via a rocket ship, especially considering the fact that he mentioned he parked the Knights of the Vale just passed Moat Cailin. Don’t forget that the Eyrie is a mountainous region, the main reason it was able to keep out of the fray during the War of the Five Kings. The Kingdom is nigh impenetrable. However, this cuts both ways as it should take any army, but especially an army of mainly cavalry, quite a while to navigate those mountains. But I digress. As I’ve mentioned before, huge jumps in logic vis-a-vis travel times is something that the audience will have to accept and live with. I have but it’s worth pointing out some of these moments so we do not lose sight of how vast Westeros, and Essos for that matter, are.
This entire season, we have watched as Sansa transformed herself from a pawn to a Queen (in the North). Sansa’s scenes this week capture why I have been one of the staunchest defenders of her since I began my insane fandom for the series (outside of the fact that I have a thing for redheads, of course). Although many of her experiences have been quite literally torturous, Sansa has been by the side of many of Westeros’ premier power players, learning different governing strategies and valuable lessons all the while. Sansa learned the power her gender and sexuality could hold over men from Cersei; the strength that fear and intimidation wields from witnessing and experiencing the total brutality of Ramsay; and the influence that comes from knowing more than the person next to you from Petyr Baelish. Put that together, and she has an understanding of three effective and distinct leadership styles prevalent throughout Westeros. We’ve seen the limits that each holds separately, but together, along with Jon’s perspective that the right thing sometimes lands you on a cold, stone slab, provides Sansa with all the knowledge she needs to be a formidable leader. All of the remaining Starks will have some powerful purpose and, Sansa’s will be to masterfully manipulate the game of thrones and be the family’s chief politician. Now, she’ll have the chance to test those political chops, as her, Jon, Brienne, and Tormund begin their recruiting mission to assemble an army that rivals that of Ramsay Bolton’s.
Selfishly, I’ll just say I’m very happy my friend Littlefinger gets to live to deceive another day. While Sansa is clearly upset with him, she chose to be merciful. As a sign of gratitude, Lord Baelish informs Sansa that her Uncle, the legendary Bynden “the Blackfish” Tully, has retaken Riverun. But, should Sansa trust him? Judging by past trailers that show Brienne standing in front of Tully banners, I’d say yes.
Now, let’s briefly pause for this week’s Tormund-Brienne gif:
Ok, where was I? In Braavos, Arya continued to train as the Stark family assassin. It was welcoming to see that her days as “Lady Stark” may be far from the mind but that she still recognizes her past emotions. After Jagen H’ghar offers Arya a second chance mission, she is forced to watch a play, entitled “The Bloody Hand’ that features some character that were familiar to her in her last life, including her father. Her job, ironically, is to murder the actress playing Cersei Lannister, which is fitting. In questioning why she must take the life of a seemingly good and innocent woman, Arya shows that although it may be buried deep, she still has that Stark sense of morality.
Honestly though, nothing above matters, after that final gut-wrenching scene from Sunday’s episode, perfectly titled “The Door.”
We began the episode North of the Wall, in a scene that would have hands down been the most important of any other episode. Finally, thanks to Bran traveling to the past, we learned where the biggest existential threat in all of the Realm comes from: the White Walkers were created by the seemingly innocent, and totally creepy, Children of the Forrest as an aide in their war against the First Men. It appeared to me that they were created using dragonglass, probably with some other enchantments. This explains why they are only able to be destroyed by that material or Valyrian steel. The scene left some important questions unanswered, like how did The Others get so powerful and where have they been all these years? The First Men ascended upon Westeros literally hundreds of years ago so we still have a lot to learn of the White Walkers timeline. It now seems like the White Walkers are solely programmed to destroy mankind to preserve nature, an oddly similar plot to M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Happening.
After seeing this, it leads Bran to adventure into the present day to get another glimpse of the White Walker’s. However, this goes horribly awry and the Night King is able to reach out and touch Bran, destroying the protective power of their hideout. People wonder how the Night King is able to touch Bran. I think it is due to the sheer magical prowess he holds. This set in a motion a number of events that ended up producing one of the most emotionally captivating scenes of the entire series.
A lot of people have questions about exactly what happened with Bran’s Greensight/Warging. I’ll go into more detail in a Q&A this week. For now, let’s just unpack the events that occurred during the White Walker’s raid.
After it is imminent that they are no longer safe, the Three Eyed Raven takes Bran on one last vision to cram as much knowledge in him as he can. At first glance, it appears to be another innocent trip to a past Winterfell.
However, as the duo slip into their vision, the cave is overrun. In the midst of the scuffle, Summer is killed (two direwolves to go – let’s just hope there is no Wight Summer).The Children of the Forest hold off as long as they can but it becomes clear, the time to escape is now or never. The only problem is Hodor is literally scared stiff. This is when things got weird. Meera called to Bran to warg into Hodor to escape. As he did, something strange happened.
As Bran was controlling Hodor in the future, he was witnessing him in the past. This created a strange space-time continuum. The mind of the young Hodor of the past was transported to the future (again more on this in the coming days – but to me, his body in the past is mirroring his body in the future, albeit on the ground), where Meera continually screamed at him “Hold the door! Hold the door!” The young Hodor repeated it until it became shortened to “Hodor” as the present Wyllis gasped his last breathe and the rest is history.
I mentioned at the top of my recap that it is nearly impossible to be innocent in Westeros but if anyone could claim that title, it would have to be Hodor. A few weeks ago, I joked that we were getting the Hodor origin story. I never expected the origin we got.
From such humble beginnings as a stable boy, next to nothing was expected from Hodor. Unfortunately, Westeros is ruled by lineage rather than merit in all but the rarest of cases and Hodor’s lineage surely made him nothing more than a pawn in the world, the lowest of the low. However, Sunday Hodor proved to be far more. He was that rare example of a pawn that becomes a queen.
What did you think of the episode? Wondering who some of those character’s were and why they matter? Send these questions and more to me on Twitter @FawkesCulture or @MatwellSays, to FawkesDotCom@gmail.com, or leave them in the comments sections below and I’ll answer them all the way up to Sunday’s episode.
By Matt Atwell