This episode is the episode of the Stark children – so let’s cover the others first:
Over in Meeren, Tyrion is quite happy that his newly brokered peace actually seems to be holding – being a consummate politician he decides to double down and follow up with a PR coup. They need a powerful, well respected and incorruptible body to spread the wonders of Daenerys far and wide.
He reaches out to the Red Priests. Who quite like Daenerys because the whole rising from fire thing really resonates with supporters of R’hollor. There are two downsides though which Tyrion may not have considered and could come back to bite them all:
1) The Red priests are fanatics and not into religious tolerance. Daenerys’s empire is cosmopolitan and she intends to stretch it to the Seven Kingdoms as well – having people on side who like to burn the sinners and unbelievers is going to be damn hard to handle
2) The Red Priests also have terrifying woo-woo as we’ve seen before and as the priestess demonstrates again with Varys. Varys loathes her with the super fiery passion of a thousand suns.
This may backfire on Tyrion.
At the Iron isles we have Theon, sort of son of the Starks, pledging his full support to Yara at the kingsmoot to choose the new ruler. He rejects any chance to make him king (though some tried) and gives an epic speech for Yara. Yara also has an epic yet brutally honest speech about the Iron Born – great sailors but not up to taking the soldiers of the mainland. They raid until they become too annoying then they get squished (as has been recently seen). They need a new tactic and a new vision. Her vision includes a gazillion ships
Unfortunately in comes uncle Euron to claim the throne. I curse him because I want Yara to be queen but his plan: to ally with Daenerys (who badly needs a fleet) actually makes more sense. Ultimately Yara and him could both see the problem but only Euron really has a solution – her plan of a thousand ships was basically more raiding and destruction. Euron has a solution and Euron was also the one who ended the disastrous war by killing the last, useless king. I can see why he’s convincing.
In the North Sansa is showing more and more steel. Baelish arranges a visit with her and she chews him out epicly for selling her to Ramsay. He cannot possibly have been this ignorant of Ramsay’s nature and she lets him have it with both barrels. Go Sansa. She does learn that her uncle has retaken Riverrun – that the Tullys have an army again.
At the war planning she’s also there with solutions for Davos and John Snow’s doubts about how to retake the north (though Davos has some excellent points about how people tend not to be special and relying on the Northern’s super special loyalty is flawed). She sends Brienne to Riverrun to rally the Tullys while she plans to do a tour of the Northern houses to rally as much support for the Stark name as they can (a name she carries even if Jon doesn’t).
Jon may end up being the new lord Stark, but it is Sansa who has come through the flames and it is she who will lead the resurgence of House Stark. Oh Sansa, I love this turn around, I love to see her rising from everything she has endured.
Also note that she doesn’t tell her brother about Baelish – she is keeping him and the Knights of the Vale in reserve, she is keeping an ace in the hole in case she needs support even against her brother.
Oh Sansa this is going to be good
Surprisingly I don’t find Arya’s story as fascinating. She continues her training montage with the Faceless men who still doubt her. I can see why, her ego is still very apparent and her responses seem very much rehearsed words she knows they want to hear. When she sees an actor troupe playing the politics of Kings Landing and the death of her father in ridiculous terms, her emotion is powerfully plain to see.
(A note on the troupe though – in some ways this really shows how the Game of Thrones IS a game of noble houses unless you’re a peasant unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire. They make a mockery of this because, despite what various lords and ladies think, the actual rulers matter little to the common people).
She is being given another mission to assassinate someone – and she keeps asking questions. Who is good. Who is bad. Who deserves to die, who hired the killers – these are not the questions the Faceless men should be asking.
Which brings us to Bran.
Bran is still wandering around the memories of the past – which includes an awesome bit of world building. The Wights were created by the Children of the Forest. The Child of the Forest who is now with Bran, specifically – as a weapon to try and stop humanity from consuming the whole continent. Well that kind of backfired, though she’s definitely not sorry
In another of his wanderings he spies on the Night King – who can see him. And touch him
Now marked the vast and utterly terrifying army of Wights (seriously this is absolutely horrifying depiction. The Walking Dead has nothing on this) launches at the mound and the tree. Bran’s people rally: the Children of the Forest can’t come close to stopping the overwhelming numbers. Even a barrier of fire doesn’t stop them just digging through the mounds. Summer the dire wolf is overwhelmed and dies. The Children of the Forest die. The Raven in his tree dies. That leaves Meera to try and get Bran out of the mound through the escape tunnel.
That leaves Hodor to… hold the door. Bran, lost in his vision of the past, sees Willis (young Hodor) collapse while Meera screams at Hodor to hold the door so she can get Bran to safety. We repeatedly hear Meera yell as young Hodor has a seizure and repeatedly says “hold the door” becoming more and more indistinct until it becomes “Hodor”…. Hodor holds the door as they escape and the White walkers overwhelm him. His whole life he has been chanting the moment of his death
And lo, the show that brought us the Red Wedding still has the power to throw an emotional sledge hammer. I’m giving high fangs to this episode for that scene alone because that’s devastating