The most significant moment of this episode – Arya Stark in the role of a spectator – stands as a proof that historical narratives and writings, alongside with everything else Martin has taught us so far, within the context of this imaginary world, should be taken with a grain of salt. In his, as in ours, so to speak, real world. Placed in the role of a spectator, literally, Arya becomes our only reference through which we can grasp the magnitude of the lie planted by Cersei in season one. This horrific lie has now, as we can see, became the truth, generally accepted by most people, from Westeros to Essos, that is, by all those who did not participate in the event, either by witnessing it or creating it. For all the others, Ned Stark is a traitor, a liar and a greedy Northern ruler who wanted the Iron Throne all to himself. We, the audience, are the third factor of this relation, an extension of Arya Stark, the only person in that audience who witness the truth first hand. And just like her, we know that Ned did not do it. This provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge the information we are being given, and to start seeing things from a different angle starting from the very next shot.
THE ORIGIN OF THE OTHERS
According to the legend, long before the First Men came from Essos, a part of the known world populated by all kinds of uncivilized people, it was The Children of the Forest and Giants who ruled Westeros. So far, this is what we know about the Children: They were smaller than men with nut-brown skin, dappled like a deer’s with paler spots. They lived in the deep forest, in caves and mysterious cities made in trees. Their Gods are the Gods of woods, streams and rocks and their names are a secret. Legends say the children of the forest were gifted with supernatural powers and magic; having power over the beasts of the wood, the ability to wear an animal’s skin, the skill to create music so beautiful as to bring tears to the eyes of any who heard it, the green sight ability (and the ability to speak to the dead. It was the children who carved the faces on the Weirwoods to keep watch over the woods. The children of the forest believed that the Weirwood trees were gods, and when they died they became a part of them, which is the highest honor in their culture.
When First Men came on horses, The Children were petrified since they have never seen creatures like these. First Men brought all kind of crafts, as well as bronze and their own gods. They burned the great Weirwoods as they came, leading to war between the two. For roughly 2,000 years the two races fought a desperate war for dominance. The children used their magic to shatter the Arm of Dorne, the land-bridge through which the First Men came, in a futile attempt to end the invasion and later flooded the Neck – where legend has it that the children called upon their gods from the Children’s Tower to send the hammer of the waters to smash the Neck, as they smashed the Arm of Dorne, but it was not enough to stop the advance of the First Men. Eventually the First Men and the Children fought one another to a standstill. The two races agreed to peaceful coexistence and signed the Pact on the Isle of Faces, granting the open lands to humanity and the forests to the children. The Pact lasted for 4,000 years. It was the period of friendship formed between the First Men and Children. In time, the First Men even denounced their Gods for the Weirwoods. The pact marked the time of prosperity known as the Age of Heroes, during which, among other things, Bran the Builder founded House Stark. The Age of Heroes was, however, interrupted by the so-called Long Night, a time when the enigmatic Others invaded from the uttermost North, bringing death and destruction to both races. The children of the forest joined with the First Men, lead by the last hero, to fight against the Others in the Battle for the Dawn. Eventually the Others were driven back into the Lands of Always Winter. Bran Stark built the Wall embedded with magic, which was suppose to protect all living things south of it.
Not much is known about the White Walkers. They are the beings made of ice, who like Children, can manipulate certain magic, which they can use to create all kinds of different ice structures, like their reflecting shields, weapons and perhaps, even the Wall. In addition to their skill in making various kinds of weapons and tools, White Walkers also have their own language – Skroth – which sounds like ice cracking. Seemingly immune to fire, White Walkers can die only at the “hands” of obsidian and valyrian steel. They are lead by the Night King who can humans into White Walkers. It is unclear if he can do that with all humans, or just those whose blood is somehow special. Further, as we have seen, Night King can also raise the dead, both humans and animals, which helps him in creating a much needed army. An army for what?
Apart from his apparent interest in Stark children, shown in the show thus far, and the creation of aforesaid army, their main goal is still unclear. What seems obvious at first glance is their apparent brutality in achieving this goal (whatever it might be), as well as fact that killing people is not something they fret about. They also seem to lack any kind of empathy. However, judging them on this “merit”, without any additional information, seems a bit hypocritical, especially if we consider some other characters, most notably Stannis and Daenerys, and make a comparison. For their goals and fulfilling the need of creating an army, both Stannis and Daenerys do not shy away from burning people alive in all possible ways imaginable. Each of them did what they deemed best for their cause, and what they could benefit from the most. Such is life and war.
However, what we have witnessed in this episode, both through Arya’s story-line and Bran’s vision, tells us that that all of these stories we heard about the White Walkers are most likely falsified and fabricated. To what end, we still do not know. But what we do know now, if we are to believe the show canon and Bran, is that White Walkers, as I assumed for years, did not come out of nowhere, and are not some corrupted version of the Children (like Orcs in the Lord of the Rings), but are instead humans, members of the First Men, and if my theories are correct, Stark.
First vision we have seen serves as a testimony for this claim. In it, through Bran’s eyes, we see Leaf, accompanied by several other Children, in front of the Weriwood tree, surrounded by rocks that resemble Stonehendge. It seems this place is one of their sanctuaries that looks like not only the exact same replica of the one we have seen in the third season, where Night King turned one of Craster’s sons into a Walker but also as those artistic patterns made out of dead bodies in snow we have seen at the early beginnings of the season (and occasionally later on). Already in the next shot we see Leaf, with a sinister smile on her face, slowly and gradually plunging a piece of obsidian into the heart of an unknown man, a First Men, thus creating the very first White Walker. Interestingly enough, the actor – Vladimir Furdik – who plays this unfortunate First Man also plays the Night King. Confronted by Bran Stark Leaf admits that she is responsible for creation of White Walkers because she was lead by a noble idea of protecting her own kind from Bran’s. I wonder if she is talking about the First Men or the people Azor Ahai potential brought with him from Essos? Anyways, even without going into a more elaborate analysis of the timeline, certain events or what happened first – creation of White Walkers or the pact with First Men – we can all agree that something is simply not adding up here.
Second vision, into which Bran recklessly goes all by himself, brought us to the same space but a different time, presumably the present. We see the same Weirwood and those same rocks where Chidlren created a first White Walker, only now they are covered in snow. In front of it we see a vast army of Wights, lead by the Night King and three other Walkers (what happened to those other nine I wonder). Stunned, Bran goes straight through them. Eerie silence is interrupted by the slow movement of the Night’s King, who not only can see Bran within his own vision, but can also touch him as well, leaving the mark in the process. Does this mean the Night King is also a greenseer? Have they met within each other visions? Or is the Night King free from the laws of space and time, living in all of them at once?
Whatever the case might be, the mark caused by his touch becomes the single most important piece of information because through it the Night King cleverly managed to find a loophole and lift the protection spell from the cave. And possibly even from the Wall itself, that is, if Bran crosses to the south side of it. What does this mean? As we already know, both the cave and the Wall are protected by some kind of a special type of magic which prevents the undead creatures from crossing its threshold. Through the mark placed on Bran’s arm within the vision (and possibly in real time as well, as we have seen in the cave), Night King managed to open the gates, so to speak, which enabled him to simply stroll in to the most protected space north of the Wall. Bearing the mark on his arm, apparently permanently, the question we have to ask ourselves now is what will happen when Bran crosses the Wall back south (because I don’t know where else could he and Meera go now?) In the lack of Joramun’s Horn, i.e. The Horn of Winter, which as a story element still did not appear in the show, the only real answer to this question is that the Walkers will tear the Wall down and head south. The fact that Night King managed to lift the spell from the cave when he touched the frozen ground around it (destroying it in the process) leads me to this conclusion. Following this analogy, shouldn’t the same thing happen with the Wall? What an ending would that be! Adding Jon’s advice into the mix, this claim seems as a done deal. The Wall is going down, as we have been theorizing for years. Also, come to think about it, could this be that difficult CGI sequence they postponed for several years? Fingers crossed.
HOLD THE DOOR, HODOR
The next vision takes us back to Winterfell, to the moment of Ned’s departure for Eyrie. At first, the scene doesn’t seem to have a special significance, however, the deeper we go into it, the things become more and more complex. To analyze this scene we need to look at it, just as the editors that have cut it, in a comparative manner.
So, we follow Bran inside two spaces and two times. His body is in the cave, in the present, entangled in the roots of the Weirwood. His mind is in another place, a place in the past, in Winterfell. After the successful breaking of the cave’s magical protection, the White Walkers, followed by their undead servants, slowly begin to invade the first space, space of the present. Horrified Meera reaches Bran, as she tries to wake him from his vision, although not in the present, but in the past. Her words: “Wake up! Help me! We need Hodor! ! Wake up! We need Hodor! We need him now! Wake up! We need Hodor” make Bran realize the severity of the situation.
Lacking time and ability to wake up from the vision, warging straight from the past, Bran takes control of Hodor’s body in the present, inside the cave. At the same time in the past, Wylis (Hodor in the past) becomes aware of Bran’s presence, not only in Winterfell’s courtyard, but also in the body of his future self. With some reinforcements, Meera, the White Walker killer, manages to get out of the cave and head to the tunnels. Escaping and fighting off a huge number of undead Wights, both Leaf and Summer, Bran’s faithful direwolf, lose their lives. According to the show’s treatment of these beautiful animals, you might say that they don’t bear a stronger significance. Especially if you consider that none of them has had a dignified death. However, without Summer (as well as Jaime Lannister’s right hand), Bran wouldn’t be Bran, nor would he be where he is. In the general commotion, Brynden Rivers, still present in Winterfell, informs Bran that the time has come. Back at the cave, in the present, we see the calm entrance of the Night King in the former hideout of the most powerful member of the Stark family. However, Bran is not here anymore. With that discovery, completely still, the King turns to the entangled Bloodraven in the roots, and with a single stroke of his impressive ice sabre, murders the greatest wizard of Westeros, who at the same time in the past, to Bran’s shock, turns into a cloud of black matter and disappears forever.
Meanwhile, Meera and Bran (in Hodor’s body), being the only survivors, manage to get through the tunnels to the other secret cave entrance. “Hold the door!” we hear Meera’s desperate voice. HOLD THE DOOR! HOLD THE DOOR! HOLD THE DOOR! Still bound inside the vision, Bran becomes aware of the fact that he is the sole reason and the cause of Hodor’s accident. Holding the door in the present, so that Meera could escape with the unconscious body of Bran Stark, Hodor, just like Summer, gets torn to pieces by the undead army, giving his life for Bran’s. Hodor, being himself, frightened and distraught both by Bran’s invading presence of his mind and the inevitable death coming from the Wights, starts to repeat Meera’s words in a trance-like state. It becomes imperative that he holds the door.
Hodor’s experience in the present gets reflected unto Wyllis in the past, through Bran’s involvement. In other words, as his possessed body dies in the future, so his body as a child in the past, aware of everything, merging with his self in the future, enters a shock that becomes the genesis of our Hodor, Hodor that we know today. Watching the series of these unfortunate events, while being unable to move or help, Bran becomes aware of everything he unwantedly has done. „Hold the door“, the last sentence he hears before he dies, which in the present sounds like „Hodor“, in the past slowly transforms into its current form – Hold the door, hold door, hodor.
However, just to be clear, Bran didn’t influence the past, nor has he changed it. This chain of events has always happened. What happened, happened. Respectively, everything that has happened in the past, happened, only that past is actually Bran’s future. And accordingly, Bran was always the reason behind Hodor’s mental inability. And Brynden Rivers was always the one who caused it. Therefore, these events belong to the past, they are inherent to it, which is proven by Hodor’s existence in the present. Knowing what happened, or better what should happen, Brynden Rivers used his last greenseeing to direct Bran to the right path, to the right point in space and time. Nothing is accidental. And everything that happened has already happened, in Hodor’s past and in Bran’s (and ours) future. That means that Hodor always knew how he became Hodor, which is one of the reasons he constantly fought with Bran over his mind, which he didn’t enjoy at all, and which made him so afraid. Therefore Hodor, who became aware of everything in the moment he saw Bran in Winterfell’s courtyard, always knew how he would die. The poetry of this scene is built upon that fact.
Rest in peace Hodor, we shall miss you.
BEST OF THE EPISODE
-We were spared yet another High Sparrow speech
-As per usual, Tormund.
-The fact that Arya will never become No one.
-Introduction of Kinwara. Is she also over 200 years old?
-The confirmation that Bran is inherent to the past. It makes you wonder what else has he influenced? My money is on building the Wall, or something connected to Bran the Builder.
-Jon’s advice to Edd about keeping the Wall in one piece in his absence. Yet another confirmation of the previous statement.
-Courage and determination of fearless Meera Reed.
-Shining a new light onto the previous exchange between Bran and Hodor, we have seen earlier in the season. When Bran told him that he has seen him and that he could talk and asked him what happened, Hodor, being fully aware that he lost his mind, literally, while sacrificing himself for Bran in the future/past, smiled and said „Hodor“. At the time, it felt ike nothing out of the oridnary, but now, it feels extraoridnary. It was almost like he was saying „Don’t worry about it Bran. I died saving you. And it was worth it.“
-The poetics of Hodor’s death.
-Rest in peace Hodor. Your heroic death, although horrific, was a noble one. You had one job. And you did it.
WORST OF THE EPISODE
-Summer’s death. Another direwolf is gone. Too fast and, it seems, for no particular reason.
-Agile and way too fast Wights.
-Sansa apparently got infected with Littlefinger’s abilities to teleport.
-The relationship between Sansa and Jon is really not clear. What are they planning to achieve with this new development? The rift? Suspicion and mistrust between the recently connected siblings? It is clear they need to move Baelish from point A to point B but does he really have to use Jon in order to do it?
-Daenerys’ order to Jorah. We shouldn’t be surprised if, sometimes during the rest of the season, Jora actually comes back with the cure for Greyscale. In fact, we should expect it. Also, chances are that Kinwara will cure Jorah thus gaining Dany’s trust in the process. When will this soap opera come to an end? Daenerys, as a character, really deserves more.
-How is it possible that Littlefinger gets away with everything? And all the time? Even when he spreads out the stupidest excuses possible, that not even a two year old child would believe. A child wouldn’t but Sansa would. Because Sansa is stupid, and she had zero character development thus far. I hope the creators of the show will manage to uncoil this frantic and ludicrous skein they’ve created.
-Kingsmoot was not satisfactory. In fact, it was horrible.
-Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy) deserves a better text, otherwise he will end up on the list of incredible acting talents that got wasted on this show (Siddig, Varma, Hinds, Pryce etc.)
-Kingslaying becomes a valid argument in debates and a thing of outrage and disgust only and only if Jaime Lannister is the subject of those debates. Everyone else gets a pass. And don’t let me get started on the Kinslaying issue. The only one to blame here is Stannis. Not Euron Greyjoy, not Robb Stark, not Daenerys Targaryen, not Tyrion Lannister or Ramsay Bolton. No, just Stannis. Jaime and Stannis would’ve been great friends if they didn’t found themselves on the opposite sides.
All in all, fifth episode, titled “The Door”, is perhaps the best episode of the season. The quality of it is largly contributed by its fantastic, extraordinary end, which was one of the best and most powerful endings in the history of this show.
Best quotes: “Hold the Door!”
Text Written by: Monika Ponjavić