Posted on Monday, May 23rd, 2016 by Jacob Hall
We’ve reached the halfway point of Game of Thrones season six and the meticulously assembled dominos of the past five or so years have officially started tumbling down. “The Door” is an hour of major story progression, vital character development, and revelations that manage to redefine much of what we’ve seen before. If we didn’t already know that the show had an end in sight, episodes like this would clue us in to that fact. Game of Thrones is burning Westeros down this season and, as usual, no one is safe. Let’s run through the most important things that happened this week.
A Meeting With Littlefinger
No one in the world would have blamed Sansa for ordering Brienne to chop Petyr Baelish’s head right off his shoulders. He has it coming. Here’s a guy who has lied, cheated, and betrayed every person in his life to climb up the societal ladders. Here’s a guy who would happily burn down the seven kingdoms so he could declare himself warden of the ashes. Here’s a guy who handed Sansa over to the monstrous Ramsay Bolton and then went off to attend to his own business. The man is a snake.
And like snakes, he’s also slippery and knows how to slither out of any situation. It’s not clear how much of his guilt over Sansa’s suffering is honest. After all, he loved her mother and sees plenty of Catelyn Tully in this young girl. He feels affection for this particularly valuable pawn. And yet, his willingness to die for her could be an act of a master schemer or the true feelings of a man who is used to holding them close to the vest. Did we see the real Littlefinger here or did we just see him put on another show?
However, Sansa was as real and as raw as we’ve ever seen her. In an episode filled with show-stopping moments, Sophie Turner’s understated rage was a highlight. Game of Thrones has gotten better at portraying large battles over the years, but this is a reminder of what this show truly is at its core – a tale of people weathering the storm of war. Sansa will carry her traumas for the rest of her life, but she has found the power within herself to move forward, to use the past as fuel to change the world. The spoiled brat from season one is gone. She’s dead and buried. The Starks are a weary people, a hardened people, and like Daenerys, Sansa has braved the (metaphorical) flames and emerged…but not without burns. Not without scars. Not without a longer list of enemies and a thirst for justice.
The Origin of the White Walkers
Season six of Game of Thrones often feels like it’s sprinting. With an end in the sight, the show doesn’t have time to dilly dally. It’s just going to start dropping major revelations left and right and demand that you keep up. In a past season, the revelation that the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers as soldiers for their war against the ancient humans would be a gigantic, end-of-an-episode revelation. Here, it’s almost tossed off. It’s one of a dozen vitally important scraps of information info-dumped via psychic Bran flashbacks. Still, the scene is a slice of gory beauty, a surreal and chilling moment that feels like it was torn from the pages of an fairy tale: a man, strapped to a Weirwood tree, gets a magical object stabbed into his chest, transforming him into an ice wizard.
The scene does raise more questions than answers. How did the White Walkers fail to help the Children win their war with the humans? When did the White Walkers go rogue? Why are they still continuing their war against humanity long after the Children have gone into decline? Unfortunately, these questions don’t get answered because things literally go up in flames before any follow-up voyages to the past can be scheduled.
A Peculiar Play
Arya Stark’s assassin school adventures over in Braavos can’t help but feel little, well, minor when compared to the apocalyptic mayhem brewing across the Narrow Sea. She’s still training with the Waif, who is still kicking her ass. She’s still getting lectured by Jaqen H’ghar, who provides a rough history of the Faceless Men in their latest session – they were slaves who learned the mystical art of face-swapping and founded the city of Braavos (which explains why everyone in the city treats the House of Black and White with such respect and awe). And then she gets her latest assignment. She needs to go murder an actress.
And this is where the show pauses for a good long time as Arya watches the actress’ troupe put on an entire show. It’s an odd scene, a scene that probably goes on a few minutes longer than it should, but it’s suggesting something that should leave Game of Thrones fans troubled. We know the whole story, we know what went down in King’s Landing, but the rest of the world does not. In fact, over in Essos, juvenile sketch comedy (complete with fart sound effects) retell the basic storyline of season one from a very different perspective, with Ned Star portrayed as a bumbling, power-mad buffoon and King Joffrey as sensible. Arya has to once again watch her family name sullied before a jeering crowd. Arya has to once watch her father die.
When the dust settles, the characters we love will be damaged beyond repair. But history is fickle. Who knows how the future books and future gossip will present their legacy. The truth is illusive at best. A great man becomes a joke. A girl becomes a Faceless Man. Who is writing all of this down? To paraphrase Hamilton: “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”