That was a hard one. Obviously, the thing that everyone on social media was jabbering about is Hodor’s death (side note: Come on, people. We’ve all been so good about keeping my Facebook feed spoiler free until this week. Pretty much half my friends had a “Hodor :(” status before I got to watch the thing.), but, aside from being sad, that entire sequence is pretty much a mind fuck. I would not say, as some have, that it brings in parallel universes or multiple realities. What happened still has always happened, by and large. However, what we do see is that the future can affect the past in very real, tangible ways. So, time bends in on itself, with potentially useful consequences.
But let’s start with Mereen and Vaes Dothrak. Daenerys didn’t have long on screen, but it was an important moment thematically. We see her loyalty to those who are loyal to her. We see her accepting the love and – if we’re honest – fanatical devotion of her followers. But, most importantly, we see her past influencing her decision-making. Not that that’s a bad thing. There is justice to be had in that long memory. And, claiming the loyalty that is owed and meting out the punishment deserved, she has found herself in command of an enormous army of horse warriors.
Tyrion and Varys did what they do and got control of a city. But, in order to maintain the peace, they need the priests and priestesses of the Lord of Light to start preaching that Daenerys brought this peace, in addition to setting them free. The interesting part of this from my perspective was Varys’s response to the High Priestess. His skepticism is important in one sense because, without it, you could easily slide into a High Sparrow situation, which, let’s face it, nobody wants. But we’ve seen him make political moves many times before. This felt visceral. He was filled with hatred and rage, and her miraculous knowledge of his past did little to mollify that hatred, though it did awaken fear, if I’m reading his face correctly. Apropos of nothing at this point, my guess is that she’s old enough to be Varys’s mother (notice the same “gemstone of glamour” around her neck as Melisandre’s), but we’ll have to see if that becomes important at all. However, with the red priestesses, they have their uses, but are not to be trusted.
Speaking of people you can’t trust: Littlefinger. I know everybody hates Ramsay right now, but I’ve long been a proponent of the theory that Littlefinger is the greatest evil. Sansa appears to agree with me now. She knows the game he’s playing too well to simply kill him when he appears vulnerable, or she would have had Brienne simply cut him down. Instead, she lets him go, but refuses his help. That move seems to be a clear attempt to avoid him without incurring his wrath, or the wrath of Robert Aryn. That’s why she lies to Jon about how she heard of the Blackfish’s army at Riverrun. Had Davos heard that the large army of the Vale was waiting to help them, nothing would stop him from seeking their help. He’s too practical to not accept the help of a large army, and he would likely suggest that they can figure out the political stuff later. So, she avoids engaging by lying to Jon. My real fear is that he told her to reach out to Riverrun so that he could have Brienne killed when she’s alone and vulnerable. We shall see.
We also saw some stuff happen on Pyke.
Then, there’s Arya. She’s supposed to be leaving her past behind, but the play she is sent to is a comedic dramatization of the war of Westeros, events she witnessed. And even here on Braavos, the play is slanted towards the family in power. So, the Starks look stupid and power-hungry, Tyrion is an evil, rape-y little prick, and Joffrey is a saint. She wants to leave her past behind (who wouldn’t, given all the death she saw), but it does not appear possible. I don’t foresee her sticking to the orders exactly. She will soon turn her attention back home to bring justice there, but that is not the mission of the Many-Faced God and his servants. But even they do not cut the past out completely, as evidenced by the faces of the first Faceless Men still sitting in the Gallery of Faces. What they are asking of her is not possible, it seems, and, therefore, she will have to find a way out.
And now, for the large, monolexical man in the room. This was some really excellent story telling. First of all, we see that the Children of the Forest brought the Walkers into existence, although they had some good reasons to do so. Who was the human they turned into the Night King? Where did he come from? Who were his people? Does he have any descendants? All of this matters, because we see that, in this universe, you are never separated from the past. And then, we see that these visions are more than just visions. Bran is there, in some real, if mystical, sense. And that means that past, present, and, one would speculate, future can all be manipulated. Which is what happens to Walder (Editor’s note: In the books, Hodor’s real name is Walder. This was changed in the TV show to Wylis). Yes, it’s tremendously sad that Hodor’s one word, and his name, refer only to his death. But, this is far from the most important part of this scene. First of all, Bran is apparently able to be in two time-periods at once, consciously. He warned into Hordor, while still being present at his father’s departure from Winterfell as a child. So, as Hodor, with Bran in his head, hears the directive to “Hold the door,” that directive travels back into Walder’s head. That timeline disruption breaks him, and all that’s left for him is the way he dies. That becomes his purpose, but also his person: to Hold the Door for Bran. So, Bran can affect reality across space and time. That power, should he learn how to exploit and control it, could change everything.