“Hold the door!”
Choice is a hard thing to define for a character in a television show. For instance, Jon Snow chose to leave the Night’s Watch yet he did not really give an idea of what he was going to do, which did not matter because Sansa came along and gave him a focus. His choice to venture out on his own mattered to his character but the audience will never know what that would have been. In this instance, Jon did not have time to follow his dreams of a new life (pun intended) so if he had missed Sansa, we could have had a few episodes of broody self-reflection on a trek to some place of importance. But we didn’t (thank god) and we get to witness the beginning of something we as fans have wanted for a very long time, the Stark children leading an army to take back their home and their power. Ramsay (Dickhead) Bolton is not in this episode but his presence is felt every time we cut back to The Wall, especially as Sansa is reunited with Littlefinger. We have heard Littlefinger state that Catelyn is the only woman he has and will ever love and his attraction to Sansa is based off his intense feelings for her mother. Because we are not inside his head, we are left to wonder if he made a rare mistake by leaving Sansa to Ramsay or if this was just another move in his bid for the Iron Throne. She stands up to him, backed by the awesome figure of Brienne, and requests he tell her what he thinks Ramsay did to her. Not only is this a powerful scene in terms of authority between the two characters but it is a rare case of the show reflecting on how sexual abuse has affected a character. It does not define Sansa and she has definitely grown since her wedding night, but it is not just something that happened once upon a time like other instances of sexual violence. Most of Ramsay’s actions have mainly been used to reinforce how much of a dickhead, piece of shit he really is (I don’t like him that much) and so it is refreshing to see the effects of his actions being discussed by his victims as they continue to rise above his vileness.
The world has become smaller, trips between places have become less about the journey and more about the characters at the end. There are less stories around traveling, such as Catelyn leading Tyrion to Winterfell as her prisoner, and now characters say they are heading somewhere and the next episode, voila, there they are. As the show continues to set up its endgame, it begins to cull characters who are not important to the final confrontations and to do so they must meet others to spark the progression. Theon’s journey to the Iron Islands consisted of him leaving Sansa and then looking up from his ship to his family’s castle, which allowed for the Kingsmoot to occur sooner and for his uncle Euron to seize the crown (which, if we are being honest, is just a bunch of twigs glued together). Theon gives a speech to the Islanders, finding the confidence that has been missing since the days of his pitiful Winterfell coup and echoes during his speech, he is once again the loser as his more captivating uncle wins the throne over Yara. Euron knows what to do and say to win the popularity contest and once more, choice is brought to the spotlight. The Kingsmoot elects the MAN who speaks the big game because it is the appealing option, the promise of dragons giving them the land is much more enticing than giving up their pride to let a woman lead them.
Euron believes he can win the heart of Daenerys with his might and his fleet but she continues to prove she has what it takes to lead her people. Standing at the head of another army, Dany continues to grow her forces and the difference between her followers and those of Ramsay’s (dickhead) is that she inspires, while he builds them over flimsy deals. As she commands Jorah to find a cure for his greyscale, her emotions burst forth from behind her carefully constructed icy exterior and in that instance, we can see she cares for the people who care about her. Yes, she has repeatedly told us so and confidently swore to “break the wheel” but seeing Dany as a human being instead of the myth she has become, we can see why people choose to follow her.
The White Walkers have amassed an army of the undead without giving them a choice in the matter. They died because they needed to fight for their survival and they are brought back to life without a consciousness to serve their killers as they march to take over the world. Yet, the White Walkers did not choose this path either. We were introduced to them in the very first scene of the show and they were simply a creepy evil, murdering people and arranging their bodies in bloody patterns. This week we find out that this all means something to them after all as it is revealed The Children of the Forest created the White Walkers as a way to fight Man. They are just another weapon made to fight another war and their evil nature is just them finishing the task they were created for centuries ago.
The inherent sadness to the end of tonight’s episode is that Hodor never really had a choice. The reason the whole internet loved him, the reason why he was so endearing, was because he was one of the only characters on the show who was not trying to gain more power, who just wanted to help his friend anyway he could. The made up word that became synonymous with Game of Thrones, said whenever he was happy or sad, a part of the character latched onto by millions, was nothing more than a reminder how he would die. His path through life led him to that door in the snow and it was his lot in life to repeat this over and over, the meaning only becoming clear as he died. Bran made a choice to disobey the rules and payed the price dearly as he is given all of the Three-Eyed Raven’s knowledge without the proper training. As the White Walkers invade the cave, Bran is caught in the past, watching his father leave his childhood home and hearing Meera’s call to warg into Hodor. Bran has more power than he realises as he becomes a part of history, forever altering a young boy’s destiny by simply choosing not to listen to his teacher. As Wyllas writhes on the ground, repeating ‘Hold the door’ until it morphs into his new identity, Hodor is ripped apart by White Walkers while under the control of Bran. Hodor was never given the choice to lead his own life and was forced to repeat his final orders throughout his existence and when he finally met his destiny, it had been determined by someone else.