Spoilers for the show, and sort of for the books. Be warned!
We have reached the halfway point of Season 6, the year that has gone almost exclusively beyond the books. We have been shocked, amused, and astounded as stories have played out beyond what we knew or possibly even expected. This week’s episode was the most shocking of all.
Bran’s story, left out entirely in Season 5, has become a prominent narrative this time around. His ability to see the past has given viewers glimpses of what once was, and has shed light on what may yet be. “The Door” was especially rife with development- we see the origins of the White Walkers themselves. It makes sense now, their hatred for men. They were created to destroy the first men who brought the Children to near extinction.
But this week we are given more than just a backstory, we are keyed in to the very limits of this weirwood magic. There was a moment at the Tower of Joy a few weeks back where Bran calls out to his father. Ned appears to hear him. That opened up questions as to whether or not the past could be affected by Bran or others like him. This week we are given the answer : tragically, heartbreakingly yes.
Bran is the cause of Hodor’s situation. It was he, in a dream of the past, who affected the mind of the young stableboy, causing him to become the simple-minded giant. What’s worse is that that is not the end of the tragedy. Through Bran’s own foolishness he causes the entire enclave to be destroyed, sees the death of the Crow, the extermination of the Children, and even the loss of his Direwolf, Summer. Hodor too gives his life to fuel Bran’s escape, dying to serve as a barrier while Meera’s screams to “Hold the Door” echo into the past and break his mind. We finally see more of what this magic can do, but with devastating results.
Where does this put Bran and Meera now? How can they possibly escape the horde they have awakened? Coldhands maybe?
And how can Bran even attempt to cope with what his actions have caused? Most of his companions are dead, his wolf is dead, two farmboys died to let him escape Winterfell. Hell, an entire international conflict was sparked by his inability to listen to his mother about climbing. His crippling fall set this saga into motion. How will he cope with all of that? How will he make things right?
Furthermore, if he could change the past once, will it happen again? What about the madness of the Targaryens? Aerys heard whispers- was that a dreamer? If the Walkers can breach the magic of the Children now, does that mean the Wall itself is compromised? Bran’s tragedy ends a few more lives, but it opens up a million new questions.
South of the Wall we see movement from the remaining Starks. Jon and Sansa seek to muster the armies of the north, though Sansa is not being honest with her half brother. After a visit from Littlefinger (who is given an appropriate verbal lashing), Sansa refuses the aid of the Armies of the Vale, but learns that The Blackfish has retaken Riverrun. Brienne is sent to the Tullys (after some amazing glances by Tormund) but only after questioning her mistress on why she would lie to Jon.
What are the motives here? I adore strong, competent Sansa, but I’m wary of her endgame here. And what repercussions will there be from banishing Littlefinger’s armies? The Knights of the Vale hold Moat Cailin, which is the gate to the north. Could the Tullys even return without cooperation from Baelish?
And what of the Iron Born? After some wonderful sibling support at the Kingsmoot, Euron gets what he wants anyway, because how can you argue with Dragons? Theon and Yara steal the ships, but where are they going? To Winterfell? Oldtown? Will Euron claim his Dragon Bride?
I mused a few weeks ago on how long it would be before Daenerys learned of Jorah’s Greyscale, and well, now she knows. He is sent away to find a cure as she marches back to Mereen with her newest attempt at an army. Within the city itself Tyrion and Varys team up with the new Red Priestess, who displays the same magical understanding that Melisandre has displayed in the past. This partnership seems ominous as hell, and the Priestesses insistence that all non-believers be purged by Dragon fire sounds a little too close to crazy Aerys for my comfort.
Finally, we check in on Arya- now complete with sight! She is given a mission but has to watch a dramatization of her father’s execution in order to get closer to the mark (who is conveniently portraying Cersei Lannister). The pain on her face through the scene tells it all- Arya claims to be no one, but we know she’ll always be a Stark.
So do you think Bran actually warged into the past and built the wall himself? Will Euron magically arrive with a thousand ships to carry the Dothraki horde to Westeros? Will Littlefinger be a bro and let the Tully forces join the North? Were there even Tully forces to begin with? Oh god is this another Frey plot???
Until next week…