I started hearing about how good last night's Game of Thrones was twenty minutes before I watched it. Stephen King tweeted, "I thought my friend Jack Bender, who directed so many great LOST episodes, just turned in the episode of the year on GAME OF THRONES." And he was right. We're halfway through the season yet--and Bender directs next week, too--but it's hard to imagine the show topping this. "The Door" was 800 times better than last week's episode and last week's episode was good.
Spoilers after the screen shot--I'd particularly recommend avoiding spoilers for this one
Let's start off with the scene that's doubtlessly still on everyone's mind, the last one, where Max von Sydow died. Okay, so that's not the death you're thinking about, but still, it's too bad we'll have no more von Sydow.
The origin of Hodor's name was George R.R. Martin's idea--Benioff and Weiss say that Martin told them about it in a hotel room at some point. This may be the biggest plot point from a book that's appeared on the show that hasn't been previously published, I wonder if Martin will handle it very differently. I wonder if he's really kicking himself now for wasting so much time. No, George R.R. Martin, as Neil Gaiman famously said regarding complaints about the slowness of his book releases, is not our bitch. But alas, we are all time's bitches.
It's a real good idea. The reason it resonates so well is that it means Hodor's entire adult life was defined by his death. Which, if you think about it, is normal, particularly in Game of Thrones. Every time a character dies, be it Stannis or the Starks at the Red Wedding, we compulsively think about everything the characters had been through up to that point and we think about how cruel death is. As the end, its circumstances inevitably make a statement regarding everything that came before, and the arbitrary nature of it makes everything else seem fruitless and each action becomes significant only for its own sake. Hodor's story becomes a perfect encapsulation of that idea and that's why it's so perfectly heartbreaking. And once again, it was for something small, just Bran being bored and recklessly giving away their location to Darth Maul.
Of course, a big part of the reason this episode worked so wonderfully is that Ramsay's not in it. Though he was a topic of discussion, notably between Sansa and Littlefinger. I think Benioff and Weiss are taking notes from internet blogs and discussion sites as Sansa is giving the thoughts of such sites practically verbatim when she tells Littlefinger that him sending her to Ramsay either meant Littlefinger was stupid or her enemy. Of course, like most things involving Ramsay, this whole story doesn't quite make sense. Littlefinger has no reason to want to hurt Sansa and obviously he should have known about Ramsay. So . . . what happened? This is a bit much for any lampshade to contain.
Let's back up and think about it. At the end of season four, Sansa had the swiftly abandoned Littlefinger jr. makeover and it seemed she was going to be a sneaky power player. Maybe Littlefinger wanted Ramsay to kill her so Littlefinger could solidify his control of the Vale. If Ramsay killed Sansa, that may have been extra incentive for the Vale to attack the Boltons. This assumes that Littlefinger's devotion to Sansa as the living memory of Catelyn was a lie. But with Sansa in charge of the Vale, he would have an easy time manipulating her and it's not like the Vale and Sansa lacked reasons for wanting to take down the Boltons. Sansa taking over Winterfell would probably have been a better asset for Littlefinger than anyone else. So it seems he likely didn't know about Ramsay, which doesn't make sense. Maybe he honestly expected Sansa to wrap him around her little finger since Ramsay doesn't seem very bright. But, then, neither does Sansa, which was the main problem with her whole presumptive Dark Manipulator role to begin with. Just because she's had a lot of bad experiences doesn't make her a genius. Now she's turning down the desperately needed forces from the Vale because Littlefinger's with them.
Sansa's not the only Stark unable to put her emotions aside for pragmatism. Arya is having similar troubles with the Faceless Ones in the episode's weakest segment. But it was such a good episode, even the weakest segment was good, and I loved the play starring Richard E. Grant as Robert Baratheon.
I spend so much time analysing media, when a show invites me to analyse a play it's wonderfully natural. My biggest complaint about Game of Thrones is its inattention to the thoughts and feelings of the common people and here we can learn a few things about what they expect and accept from a play about the power players. Apparently Ned Stark is generally considered a buffoon for some reason. The oddest thing about this is that Arya seems to be just now hearing about it. And, of course, she has absolutely no poker face, as usual.
Arya is such a laughably bad assassin it sinks the whole Faceless Ones story line. She has the same outfit and hair style as when she was pretending to be a fish monger. And once again, she observes her intended victim by staring directly.
But let's get back to the good stuff. The "kingsmoot" where Theon and his sister lost the throne to Euron ("Euron"? Like urine? I guess it's no worse than Tolkien's "Huron") was great. I love the sea focus of the Iron Islands ritual and dress, the squids on the shields and the practice of ceremonially drowning the new king. The murky armour and the muddy beach are great.
The second best segment, after Hodor's, though, was Daenerys and Jorah on the cliff and Daenerys ordering Jorah to heal himself. It's like something out of a mediaeval poem about chivalry where Jorah's refraining from touching the object of his devotion is physically manifested by a skin disease, his sweet melancholy death at the end of it his romantic fixation. But Daenerys chooses life. It's sweet.