Unbelievably, we are already at the halfway point of what could be the greatest season of Game of Thrones to date.

Every hour across the Seven Kingdoms in Season 6 has been entirely riveting, alarming, progressive and powerful, with few finer examples than last week’s “Book of the Stranger” (full review here).

But whilst we exited HBO’s previous episode in roaring flames, this week we linger and cruelly depart in the bitter frost. For in Westeros, every fire fails to ignite without ice.

Building with ethereal and atmospheric momentum, “The Door” is a bruising and bitterly emotional statement which renders a bleak, unforgiving outlook as we begin our descent to the season finale. Winter is Coming, and it is taking no prisoners…

The Door

The Title: “The Door”

What Does It Mean?

Our fifth episode gathers its title from a deeply poignant and personal place. It is both a label and a name. An origin and a destiny. A badge of noble honour, and a symbol of great mourning.

The riddles will now stop, but it is important to move onto our Most Shocking Moment entry to truly understand and appreciate the magnitude of “The Door”.

The Door

Most Shocking Moment:

We must venture North of the Wall for the most slack-jawed sequence in this week’s episode, and the mystery of the title will be revealed as a consequence.

Bran Stark and the Three-Eyed Raven remain in training, stationed with Meera Reed and the Children of the Forest. In a sudden moment of madness, Bran wargs isolated and finds himself confronted with the plethora of zombie soldiers from the Battle of Hardhome. Standing before the army is the Night’s King and the White Walkers.

Frenzied and panicked, Bran attempts to understand his surroundings before departing, but the sub-zero grasp of the Night’s King crawls around his arm. Awoken, he realises that the mark has passed into the present, granting the White Walkers with the knowledge of their location. They have been compromised.

Returning to the situation later in the episode, Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven warg back to Winterfell, but rather than returning to his home to witness his father Eddard’s exit for the Vale, his arrival is for some sort of communication with Willis; Hodor’s past self – a lardy and shy stable boy who has the ability to talk (which we learned earlier this season, and for no accident).

The Door

Lost deep in the vision, Meera and the Children of the Forest become aware that indeed the Night’s King and his bloodcurdling troops have arrived, and they aren’t leaving empty-handed. An onslaught of attacks begin as bombs are thrown and blades are swung, but Meera’s primary focus is to wake Bran from his trance.

Unable to shake his awake, she needs to find a means to connect in order for him to operate Hodor. As the bodies amount and time runs thin, Meera’s voice breaks through into Winterfell just before the Night’s King locates the Three-Eyed Raven helpless in his cocoon. One brutal stab and Bran’s trainer perishes; turning to a whirlwind of jet-black dust in his vision.

Bran engages with Willis, sending him into what appears to be a epileptic fit. His valiant direwolf Summer gives her life to buy Meera and Hodor more time as they gather Bran’s vacant body onto a sled and bid for escape. Seriously, Season 6 is killing far too many Stark animals…only Ghost and Nymeria remain.

The trio battle through a dense tunnel which quickly becomes engulfed with zombified warriors. They surge through the pathways, crawl up the walls and hang from the ceilings. One of the “elves” if you will, gathers her final explosive and awaits impending doom before detonating. Hodor and Meera barge through a heavy door, dragging Bran behind them.

Meera begins to tow the young warg through the endless whiteness as she calls back to the friendly giant. “Hold the Door!” she commands and repeats. Cross-cutting between the enthralling action of the present, and the complex vision of the past, Willis’ fitting becomes more animated, more intense. He too begins barking “Hold the Door!” as he shudders and spasms.

The Door

Hodor bravely and boldly obeys, protecting Meera’s honour and pushes the door closes with all his might, even as the soldiers begin to break through the wood and start tearing him limb-from-limb. As young Willis begins to shut down, his speech starts to slur and break.

“Hold the Door!” slowly and melancholically transitions to “Hodor”

His death is unequivocally one of the most emotional and beautifully handled in the show’s history. Game of Thrones usually impacts upon the viewer through raw and rugged narrative shifts, but here it brought about the demise of a critical character is a surprising and moving manner.

Bran’s most loyal companion’s entire purpose in life was in those fateful few minutes. Hodor isn’t just a big dumb giant of a man, he’s a hero. His existence was fated for this moment, for him to hold the door against an unspeakable evil, in order to save a boy and a girl. Hodor sacrificed himself, and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss portrayed this with remarkably powerful and touching accuracy.

The Door

Biggest Agenda:

There was no King’s Landing action in “The Door” which enabled time for surrounding areas across the Realm to gather some sneaky momentum; no more than Arya Stark (or “A girl has no name” as she likes to state) in Braavos.

Now armed with eyesight, Arya’s training with The Waif has become a little fairer, but she is still repeatedly on the end of a severe beating. Even without a sparring staff, her partner can kick seven bells out of her. Jaqen H’ghar tasks Arya, asking her to put her Faceless Man training to the test. She must assassinate an actress so he sends her to a play, but it is far from your usual theatre affair.

The play is a comedy in which performers play exploitative cartoon versions of men and women of the Seven Kingdoms. The play’s storyline is a retelling of Robert Baratheon’s death, and Eddard Stark’s beheading…

Watching the vile theatrics unfold, Arya sits stoically yet clearly agitated as she is forced to watch her father’s head be removed for a second time, before cast members toss it around gleefully. Other famous faces are wildly misjudged here too; Tyrion Lannister is a vile leech with a deeply sexual agenda, sister Sansa is a dopey, booby redhead, and Joffrey Baratheon is presented as a noble, honest prince.

We cut to behind stage where a close-up of male private parts snaps you from the moment in a flash (no pun intended…). In the waves of nude bodies, Arya spots her target, but her hesitance makes an unwelcome appearance also. She reports back to Jaqen claiming “a girl can poison her rum”, but as further layers to Arya’s complex facade begin to peel, she is rendering herself into the best, or worst, of both worlds.

She is a Stark first and foremost. She has a list of names. She has her trusty sword “Needle” smartly stashed. Whether she will truly become Faceless at the House of Black and White is a compelling mystery in itself, but in a season where Sansa – usually the hallmark of helplessness – has become so strong and determined (she’ll become the Queen in the North), it is even more intriguing to see what shades of Arya will colour her as we progress.

The Door

Best Overall Moment:

One of the many (and there are many…) strengths of Game of Thrones Season 6 is the return of the Greyjoy house. Pyke is a captivating and commanding landscape that has been sorely absent for too long. Finally we are washing up on the shores of The Iron Islands once more, and never at a more critical time.

Balon Greyjoy is dead. He was tossed from the bridges which separate the towers of Pyke during a torrid storm by his returning brother Euron. Now a new ruler must sit upon the Salt Throne.

Following his somewhat unwelcome return, Theon has allied with his sister Yara who makes her pledge to become Queen at the Kingsmoot. Her campaign is compelling, and most certainly viable. Whilst the people have never been led by a woman before, few Iron Born have as much sea in their heart and lungs.

Naysayers belittle her, claiming all the while her male counterpart is around, she will never lead. Theon steps up and we hang in that awkward silence where all viewers wonder if he’ll support or disarm his troubled sibling, but Ramsay Bolton has done his cruel work and here before us stands a young man who needs to be guided.

The son of Balon backs the daughter of Balon for her right to rule, and the vote looks decided; that is until their slimy, unflinching uncle waltzes in…Euron is crass, crazy and chauvinistic. He bullies his niece and nephew, snatches their rightful heir and is crowned victor of the Kingsmoot after promising the Iron Born glory and riches, as well as a bamboozling proposal that those of Pyke will rally with Daenerys Targaryen who currently has a husband vacancy. She is the perfect jigsaw piece to complete the route to The Red Keep, and to rule the world.

Whilst Euron’s crowning ceremony takes place (which involves a prolonged dunking into the uncharted sea salt waters, only resurfacing at the brink of death), the Greyjoy children escape their enviable fate at the hands of their lunatic uncle, but they don’t flee alone. Gathering an arsenal of ships – so many that Euron asks of his men to gather wood to build a thousand more – the duo start their own voyage. As they finally ally together, the people unite with them.

The progressions in The Iron Islands are truly fascinating, and clearly the creative control Benioff and Weiss have over this season is enabling them to swim out to further depths. Many are quick to underestimate Yara and Theon, but they shouldn’t. The Iron Born are dedicated, purposeful and most importantly, strong people: warriors in body and spirit, and they will take what is rightfully theirs.

The Door

The Verdict:

“The Door” was filled with fantastic sequences throughout; Sansa and Brienne of Tarth squaring off with Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, Dany’s heartwarming exchanges with Ser Jorah Mormont to name but a few, but the unrelenting emotional power of the climatic sequence truly took the breath.

The fact that this deep into a show we can still learn so much about our characters, their heritage, lives and meanings, makes viewing more than essential: it makes it immeasurably rewarding.

You’ll almost certainly shed a tear as we cut to black and our final farewell to Hodor arrives. It is a moment that will stay with this viewer for a long time, and one that will likely help define the remainder of Season 6.

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Chris Haydon
Chris' love affair with cinema started years ago when school teachers would moan to his parents that he spends too much time quoting & not enough working. He has a degree in Film Studies now so how do you like those apples past teachers and doubters? Despite being a romancer of all things Woody Allen & Michael Haneke, Chris has favourite films in the majority of genres and is a complete sucker for bumbling indie types. He's also prone to gazing at beautiful actresses - particularly Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence & Scarlett Johansson - for overly long periods of time. Just thought we'd warn you ladies...