Reviews, Screen, TV

Game of Thrones season 6, episode 5 review: ‘The Door’

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SPOILERS AHEAD

When Game of Thrones gets it right – it gets it very right. Just when doubts started to creep in as to whether the show could keep hitting the same emotional punch, The Door comes along to set a new high-water mark for this season. It deserves to be recognised among the best of the show’s episodes.

While some storylines were tempered by the rapid pace of the plot and some blunt exposition, this episode raced with such confidence that the minor flaws were mades insignificant by some perfectly executed scenes.

If ever there was a TV director expert in crafting emotional meaning out of convoluted time-travelling scenarios and vague mythological elements – it’s Jack Bender. At the helm for this episode as well as next week’s, Bender is best known for handling a swathe of instalments of Lost, including many of the most revered episodes the series produced.

In a series which often attempts to humanise its villains and provide logical reasons for their actions, the White Walkers represent a much starker enemy.

The Door was heavy in laying the foundations of the White Walker mythology, but the script by showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss, coupled with the assured hand of Bender, blended these revelations across multiple time periods seamlessly.

After six seasons teasing the White Walker threat (it’s easy to forget the very first scene in the entire show featured them), we finally are given an explanation.

A few seasons back we were shown that the White Walkers were transformed humans after Craster sacrificed his sons to them. That the Children of the Forest created them to assist in their war against men is not in itself a big deal – that battle has long ceased. But it does provide us with an understanding of the White Walkers.

While some have theorised that they may in fact have their own functioning civilisation, or be out to settle long forgotten grievances, it appears they are simply just killing machines determined to wipe out all life.

In a series which often attempts to humanise its villains and provide logical reasons for their actions, the White Walkers represent a much starker enemy. They won’t stop until all humans have been killed and added to their own army of the dead, setting up an eventual climax for the show which can only end in total victory or defeat.

The other giant reveal of The Door was the last moments of fan favourite Hodor. The origin of his name has long been a subject of conjecture and the payoff in its disclosure as an abridged form of “hold the door” was a beautiful and devastating moment.

Sometimes small moments can show more about a character and Hodor’s (or Wyllis as you may prefer) act of self-sacrifice to aid in Bran’s escape told you everything you need to know about a simple, dedicated and honest character. Wyllis, you will be missed.

 

While we lost one Academy Award-nominated actor this week in Max von Sydow’s Three-Eyed Raven, we gained two new highly acclaimed additions to the cast. Richard E. Grant and Australia’s own Essie Davis.

The mechanics of the time travelling and simultaneously warging across various ages is left somewhat vague, but this episode shows that Bran has influenced the past. The feedback loop of time travelling echoes the climax to Chris Marker’s classic ’60s experimental film La Jetée (later remade as Twelve Monkeys by Terry Gilliam) and served as a poignant reminder of the unexpected consequences of meddling with the passage of time.

With a nicely added touch of Bran watching his own father being sent off to be fostered in the Eyrie, we can expect to see further evidence of how Bran is able to reach across time and influence it, for better or worse.

While we lost one Academy Award-nominated actor this week in Max von Sydow’s Three-Eyed Raven, we gained two new highly acclaimed additions to the cast. Richard E. Grant (known for his roles in classic films such as Withnail and I, The Age of Innocence and Gosford Park) was introduced as the head of the mummer’s troupe Izembaro, while Australia’s own Essie Davis (perhaps best known as the lead in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) is the target of Arya’s latest assassination mission.

The mission places Arya’s desire to be ‘no one’ at complete odds with who she is as Arya Stark. Her target is an actress playing Cersei – one of the names on her list. Whether someone truly has paid for the murder of a seemingly pleasant and innocent actress is debatable; whether this remains the truest test of Arya’s ability to follow orders and truly forget her past life is unquestionable.

The ribald production of the War of the Five Kings is an alternative take on the history of the show, presenting the bumbling Ned, honourable Joffrey and devious, self-serving Tryion. While the show-within-a-show gimmickry of the scene has a novel comedic value, it also plays into the re-emerging theme of reality not meeting public perception.

Previously, Tyrion’s downfall in King’s Landing was to a large extent facilitated by the presumptions of those around him – his trial a cavalcade of false accusations, score-settling and humiliation played for the jury.

The troupe’s production mirrors this false reinterpretation of history, showing that often power is enforced in the minds and assumptions of the people ruled as much as the rulers themselves. Hopefully there are more scenes to come, since we only got through about two seasons worth of plot in the actor’s production.

Tyrion may have learnt from the mistakes of his past as he attempts to forge an alliance with the mysterious red priestess Kinvara. It’s a little hard to see though why he thinks unleashing a wave of religious fanatics on the people of Meereen is a good PR move, especially considering the troubles his sister is having with the sparrows in King’s Landing.

The alliance between the followers of the fire god R’hllor and Daenerys, with her fire-breathing dragons, does make a whole lot more sense than that of Melisandre and Stannis (and now apparently Jon) does though.

While Tyrion’s move makes short-term sense to spread the word of Daenerys’ hold over the city and role in the peace-making process, you can’t help but feel Tyrion for the second week running has entered into a bargain which he fails to completely comprehend. Adding religious fanatics to the hotbed of slavers and freedmen may only be adding fuel to the fire.

It may not have had the definitive finality of Hodor’s exit and leaves the door open for a potential return, but the goodbyes between Jorah and Daenerys had an air of finality to it. He’s given everything he has, including his life, for Daenerys and finally admitted his love to her. There may yet be a closing chapter in the story of Jorah, but, put simply, his character arc is complete.

A charismatic, misogynist madman handed absolute power and pledging to take Westeros with the aid of Daenerys and her dragons – what could possibly go wrong?

Likewise, Sansa appeared to close the door on teaming up with Littlefinger for any time in the near future. While his judgement severely lapsed in his pact with the Boltons, Littlefinger appears to have positioned his army in a place where he may arrive to the aid of Sansa still at a later date, while also providing her with knowledge that her uncle has his own forces forming at Riverrun. It appears the procession of long-forgotten characters returning is continuing apace.

The Kingsmoot in the Iron Islands was done with absolute ruthless efficiency. A plot which, in the books, occasionally meanders around and delves into multiple power plays and political brokering was instead cut back to the bare bones.

Euron’s argument against Yara taking the crown seemed to essentially boil down to “because you’re a woman” and plan to take power consisting of “I have a cock”. Perhaps though the most straightforward assertion was asking where his niece and nephew were so he could murder them.

A charismatic, misogynist madman handed absolute power and pledging to take Westeros with the aid of Daenerys and her dragons – what could possibly go wrong? However, with the fleet in Meereen destroyed, the sudden rush of powerful warships to her part of the world may just provide the means of transportation she needs.

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