[WARNING – This article contains SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season 6, episode 5, as well as open discussion of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels.]
Discussing Game of Thrones as it exists as an adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s novels has been interesting this season. For so many of season 6’s already shocking developments, there is no corresponding event from the book with which to compare – in many cases, that chapter hasn’t been published yet. Last night’s episode, ‘The Door’ contained several of those big reveals, and to be honest, the speed at which the television show is advancing the plot is both exciting and a little worrying.
Still, unlike the previous episode there were more scenes from ‘The Door’ with counterparts from the novels. Arya’s adventures in Braavos continues to follow the path set by the books, for the most part, with the scene of the mummer’s play from the ‘Mercy’ chapter released by Martin. The play isn’t exactly the same and she isn’t participating like she does in the books, but for a television show it’s more effective seeing how Arya reacts while watching her family’s tragedy played out as farce (with a wonderful performance from Maisie Williams). Plus, scenes like this one continue to reinforce that though she says she is “no one”, she’s still very much a Stark, something her wolf dreams continually remind us of in the books.
As for the other narratives across the sea, both of these plots continue to progress beyond what’s been published. After literally bringing down the house in Vaes Dothrak, Daenerys is ready to march off with her massive new army, but not before a heartbreaking though hopeful goodbye to Jorah, who finally revealed to her his greyscale. Start laying your bets now on whether Game of Thrones has set him up for a dramatic and timely return in where he’ll sacrifice himself for Dany, knowing he’s as good as dead – or, will Jorah somehow track down whatever medicine or magics saved the life of Shireen from her greyscale? Again, the books don’t provide any answers here, the same way we can’t look to them for insight into how Tyrion allying with the red priestess, Kinvara, will turn out. There is a precedence in the novels for the red priests and priestesses preaching of Dany being the savior – and in the books, one by the name of Moqorro is on his way to Meereen with the Greyjoy fleet – but as the show has done all season, having Tyrion invite Kinvara is quicker and less convoluted. Though speaking of the Ironborn…
Many fans have been concerned that the events happening on the Iron Islands would receive a similar treatment as to what has transpired in Dorne. That is to say, a poor facsimile of the events as they happen in the novels, condensing the narrative but also removing much of the significance from those developments. And with the Kingsmoot, that is precisely what happened. In the books, this scene is much larger, a huge event involving hundreds of Ironborn and several candidates, all of whom must present champions and gifts from their travels. Through the speeches given by those lobbying to be king we learn quite a bit about the Ironborn: their culture, way of life, what they value, and that they aren’t all cruel reavers – just most.
What Game of Thrones presents is milder, a gathering of a few dozen men and only two captains seeking the Seastone Throne – Yara and her uncle, Euron. There is no presentation of gifts, in where many of those seeking to rule bring forth weapons, gems, and gold, and the speeches that Yara and Euron give don’t offer different visions of the future. In the novels, Yara presents the gathered Ironborn with cobblestones, pinecones, and turnips, using them to make a point that these are the “treasures” all their reaving in The North has earned them. She suggests a plan to make peace with the Northern houses in exchange for land – which the Iron Islands need if they expect to ever prosper – and this earns her a lot of support. That is, until Euron makes his pitch in where he presents a magical horn he claims has the power to bind dragons to his will, adding that he knows where to find dragons, which he’ll then use to conquer all of Westeros.
Euron is crowned king after that, much as he is in the show, but Game of Thrones gave Yara and Euron what’s basically the same pitch – that they both want to build the biggest fleet in the world, something the Ironborn already possess in the novels – and then had the decision boil down to: can the Ironborn accept a woman as their king? Unsurprisingly, many of them can’t, and it’s more of an afterthought that Euron knows of Daenerys and her dragons. Plus, we the viewers know full well that Dany won’t be so eager to marry Euron, even for a fleet of ships – she isn’t even in Meereen! But a horn which could strip away Daenerys’ albeit limited control over her dragons is a far more frightening prospect, and one that it’s curious the show has chosen to ignore (at least for now).
The only interesting addition the show makes to the Kingsmoot is Theon, who in the novels is still Reek at this point. Him lending his support to Yara was certainly a nice moment, though it was only all too obvious that his support would do little to sway such an aggressively masculine people as the Ironborn, especially once Euron reminded those gathered of his failures and what he now lacks. But now that he and Yara have split with the Ironborn’s best ships and the men still loyal to her, it’ll be interesting to see where they go and what they do. After the Kingsmoot in the novels, Yara flees and is eventually captured by Stannis, but this is obviously no longer an option for the show. Perhaps they will head north and ally themselves with Jon and Sansa? It may be hard for Jon to accept Theon considering his betrayal of Robb, but Sansa could surely mend that relationship. Plus, they would all have good reason to see Ramsay dead.
With all the timeline shuffling in Game of Thrones, it wasn’t necessarily clear if Brienne would ever find herself back in the Riverlands. But seeing as they’ve now learned the Blackfish holds Riverrun, there’s reason for her to venture there and likely experience a little of what’s left for her to do from the novels on her journey. And yes, this concerns Lady Stoneheart. And yes, they’ve said over and over again she’s been cut from the show. But if it’s ever going to happen, it’s going to happen here, because it’s during these travels that Brienne and Podrick are captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners, now under the leadership of… Lady Stoneheart, a resurrected Catelyn Stark.
Season 6 has clearly demonstrated a serious uptick in the supernatural, so it wouldn’t seem as far-fetched for Catelyn to return now as opposed to it happening at the end of season 4. Then again, they may choose to ignore Lady Stoneheart all together, but if that’s the case, will Brienne still come to Jaime (who arrives to deal with the Lannisters’ siege) and inform him she’s found Sansa? In the books, many readers have assumed this was a lie in order to convince Jaime to return with her, where he’d likely be sentenced to die by a vengeful Catelyn. Even bigger difference here is she has found Sansa, so it wouldn’t be a lie at all on the television show. But then why bother with all the subterfuge in the novel?
Hold The Door
Without a doubt, Bran’s journeying into the past through his weirwood visions with the Three Eyed-Raven have been incredible. What was revealed during last night’s episode, however, was monumental on many levels. First there was the reveal of how the White Walkers were created, something the books haven’t even come close to revealing. Already we knew, and again only thanks to Game of Thrones, that the White Walkers begin as humans and are changed through magic. And it seems that’s very much how the first White Walker, the Night King was created, only in that instance by the Children of the Forest through inserting what appeared to be a dragon glass blade into his chest. Could that also be the origin of their weakness to dragon glass?
But that wasn’t all, because Bran foolishly chose to go back into these visions – alone – where he came face to face with the Night King, who then reached out and touched Bran, leaving a frozen hand print on his forearm which remained even after Bran woke up. And right there it was confirmed these visions aren’t as purely observatory as the Three Eyed-Raven had led Bran, and us, to believe. There was already the moment when Bran called to his father and he seemingly heard him, but this was an instance of direct contact. And sadly, it wasn’t to be the only one.
After the Night King marked Bran, it was revealed that the magic which had protected them while in the cave would no longer work and that the Night King was coming for them. But before they could escape the Three-Eyed Raven needed to impart more knowledge to Bran, which took them to another vision of Winterfell on the day Ned was leaving for the Vale. While inside the vision, however, the White Walkers attack. As Meera and the Children valiantly fight, Meera pleads with Bran to warg into Hodor. Which he does while still within his vision, but in doing so while also being in the presence of the younger Hodor at Winterfell, causes the seizure which leaves Hodor damaged, only able to utter a single word.
As the scene plays out the origin of “Hodor” is revealed to be the phrase, “Hold the door,” Meera’s command to Hodor while under the partial control of Bran, sacrificing himself and allowing the two to make their escape. Through some crazy, timey-wimey magic, Bran’s actions in the vision have massive affect on the past, and by and extension, the future. This is something the Three-Eyed Raven was likely only all too aware of, that someone with this ability could not only experience the past, but alter it. It’s an unbelievably dangerous power, one it isn’t even clear Bran fully understands. Losing his mentor, his direwolf (R.I.P. Summer. Just why are the direwolves dying so quickly!?), and his most faithful friend – who he was in many ways responsible for not only his death but a lifelong handicap – there will definitely be a lot of grief and guilt for Bran to sort through. When he wakes, it’ll be hard for him not to feel defeated, but with the kind of impact the show is implying his powers can have, he is going to be essential in the war to come.
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘Blood of my Blood’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below: