(The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones debuts on April 14th, marking the beginning of the end for HBO’s cultural touchstone. Over the years, we’ve covered all 67 episodes of the series, and are revisiting those original reviews in our new retrospective series titled, “Winter is Coming”. We’re pulling these straight from our vacuum sealed digital time capsules, so step into the virtual time machine with us and read our impressions from way back! With the benefit of hindsight, there is plenty of reasons these reviews will raise some eyebrows.)
Though a small moment in a busy hour, the death of Bran’s wolf Summer is not something to be glossed over; there’s no more symbolically naked moment in Game of Thrones history, no better image to convey the true beginning of winter in Westeros. And it arrives with frightening fervor, nearly drowning out the many fantastic elements and stories found elsewhere in this episode with the bombastic closing set piece. However, Bran’s incredibly tense escape from the Night King is but one of many fantastic scenes in “The Door”, an hour that continues to bravely push Game of Thrones forward into unseen territory, in what’s shaping up to be a magnificent season.
Bran’s incredibly tense escape from the Night King is one of many fantastic scenes in “The Door”, an hour that continues to bravely push Game of Thrones forward into unseen territory.
“The Door” wastes no time, either: after opening with an image of the Children of the Forest creating the Night freaking King as a defense mechanism in their war with the Great Men, “The Door” immediately heads south, and observes a pair of important councils: the election of the Iron Islands, and Lady Sansa organizing her ambush to take back Winterfell (which has a godswood, which has roots Bran can probably warg from… see where I’m going there? I digress…). They both go about as well as expected, some worse for others: Sansa and Yara both have to listen to the promises and declarations of slimy, bombastic men: problem is, Yara’s companion Brienne is a lot more convincing than a castrated Theon, so their situations end up in direly different positions. Sansa gets some much-needed information (Brynden Tully’s still alive and kicking ass, taking back Riverrun) while Yara and company are forced to steal the entire Iron Fleet, because Euron’s got this crazy idea to build a fleet for Dany.
The implications in both of these stories are huge, even as they fragment back into four smaller stories: much of this season has characters coming together for great reason, and “The Door” certainly observes a lot of characters parting ways and heading off in new journeys – in the case of Bran and Jorah, some more forced than others. Euron bringing a new fleet of ships to Dany may or may not pay off well, but it sets his character immediately on a specific course, rather than have him sit around the Iron Islands for a season waiting for something to happen; that sense of momentum is so important to Game of Thrones, as we’ve seen in previous seasons when characters sit around, waiting for something to happen. The moments in “The Door” that precede Bran’s scenes may not have the same climatic feel, but they’re just as integral to this season’s sense of purpose and direction, which makes them more engaging than the material we’ve had in seasons past (a good example this season of the lesser, slower-moving material is the High Sparrow nonsense we’ve had so far. Well acted, but has no tangible sense of movement or significance).
This is an episode that features Dany leaving Vaeys Dothrak with an army as an afterthought; in seasons past, we would’ve spent weeks while Dany sat around, trying to figure out what to do until it was a foregone conclusion in the minds of the audience. She kills the leaders, and hits the dang road: there’s no time to waste this season, and it feels so damn fresh. Same goes for the Varys/Tyrion material: instead of reaching out to a person that may know the person who knows Kinvara, she just shows up to lend her support and show off her skills at making the Spider shut his mouth for a minute. “The Door”, much like every episode this season besides the premiere, just moves: and while sometimes it may feel like “The Door” is cutting things short (boy, Jorah just disappears real quick), that renewed sense of purpose is what drives the amazing rush of emotion and clarity that comes in the final scenes.
And those final scenes are a doozy, reaching far beyond the height of last season’s chilling introduction to the Night King and his army. It helps that this episode opens with the introduction of the Night King (again: created by the Children of the Freakin’ Forest to help them defeat the First Men), but the real power in these final sequences comes from the weight of the scenes before it: Sansa’s power plays, Arya’s growing strength, and Bran’s knowledge are the foundation of the Stark family, and seeing Game of Thrones push them into their destinies is as exciting as anything we’ve seen on this show. And of course, Hodor: “The Door” will forever be remembered as Hodor’s origin story, the tale of a young boy given his purpose by a time-traveling warg trying to save Westeros from the greatest evil it has ever known (an evil that fittingly, comes from the land itself).
Let’s say that again: Hodor became who he was, because the Three-Eyed Raven knew Bran would need him. He may not be ready to take his place, but the Three-Eyed-Raven had to ensure Bran made it back to the most important moment in his life: the moment he double-warged into young Hodor, giving him his name (“Hold the door!”) and life-defining mantra. Forget trying to unwrap what this means for the timeline of Westeros if people can time travel; there couldn’t be a stronger way for Game of Thrones to give meaning to Hodor and Bran’s relationship, a lesson in sacrifice Hodor could never understand, but one important in Bran’s journey to become one who understands the ways of the Realm, and the forces acting within it. Summer ends, the Three-Eyed Raven meets his death, and Meereen carries Bran into the snowy night, headed south with the magic-breaking mark of the Night King upon him; it’s a huge scene for the future of the show, and yet the lasting image of the hour will (rightfully) be that of perhaps the single most touching, genuinely sad death of the series, with Hodor forever protecting the life of Bran, his captor, savior, and friend.
- Can you believe we’re halfway through season six already? And so much has happened already!
- Sansa ripping into Littlefinger is deliciously satisfying: “I don’t need you anymore.”
- Wow, that is one up-close d*ck shot.
- No Ramsay is always, always a wonderful thing.
- Could Littlefinger be lying about the situation at Riverrun? There’s always the chance, but let’s not forget his love for Catelyn Stark.
- now here’s a fun question: who was the Night King before he was captured by Leaf? Also, what happened to the ice baby creature he made?
- Emilia Clarke only has a couple of minutes on-screen this episode, but her conversation with Jorah is a reminder of just how amazing her performance as Dany is, often forgotten among the silly stories she gets entrenched in.
- RIP Leaf, you wild, frozen-man creating forest child, you.
- Game of Thrones is so obviously shipping Tormund and Brienne for our pleasure, but it’s still so fun to watch.
- Now we know why Varys hates magic so much!
- Arya gets a little “Ember Island Players” moment in this episode, and it’s as awesome and silly as it sounds.
- “Am I ready?” “No.”
- Dany and Sansa’s braids are both amazing, and Sansa’s dress dominates everything worn by everyone in this episode. She’s becoming a badass right before our eyes, you guys!