GAMES OF THRONES - Season 6 poster | ©2016 HBO

GAMES OF THRONES – Season 6 poster | ©2016 HBO

Stars: Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Liam Cunningham, Carice Van Houten, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Conleth Hill, Alfie Allen, Iwan Rheon, Gwendoline Christie, Daniel Portman, Aiden Gillen, Ben Crompton, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jacob Anderson, Kristofer Hivju, Iain Glen, Michel Huisman, Gemma Whelan, Tom Wlaschiha, Ellie Kendrick, Kristian Nairn, Richard E. Grant, Essie Davis, Pilou Asbaek, Kae Alexander, Ania Bukstein, Vladimir “Furdo” Furdik
Writers: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, series created by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”
Director: Jack Bender
Network: HBO, Sundays @ 9 PM
Original Airdate: May 22, 2016

When it’s appropriate, GAME OF THRONES can pack a lot of loss into a single jaw-dropping sequence, and such is the case with the finale of “The Door.” The episode at least reveals what had seemed to be a comical secret, which turns out to be tragic in the extreme.

At Castle Black, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) receives a message from Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen). Sansa and her bodyguard Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) meet Baelish in Molestown. Sansa rightly and understandably blames Baelish for selling her to the Boltons. Though Baelish apologizes and claims he didn’t know what Ramsay would do to Sansa, she’s not buying it. Stating that she still hurts physically from what Ramsay inflicted on her, Sansa sends Baelish away, but lets him live (probably a mistake). Before leaving, Baelish says that Sansa’s uncle Edmure has retaken his home and has an army.

In Braavos, Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) gives Arya (Maisie Williams) a second chance to serve the Many-Faced God – that is, to be an assassin. When Arya asks, the Man tells her of the first Faceless Men, slaves in Valyria who killed their masters, fled and then founded the city of Braavos. Arya is sent to a group of players to kill an actress. Arya thinks she’s a decent woman and wonders who has paid to have her killed – she thinks it’s a younger, less talented actress. Jaqen tells Arya that, as a servant of the Many-Faced God, she doesn’t get to ask questions.

Much as Arya wants to be an assassin, she’s still so much herself that it seems doubtful she’ll ever really be “no one” – and if she ever is, it will be a loss to the story and to the show.

Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), with the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow), has a vision that the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers. Indeed, the first one was made by Leaf (Kae Alexander), the Child of the Forest who is in the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave. She explains that the White Walkers were meant to protect the Children from human beings, who destroy trees and pretty much everything else.

In the Iron Islands, Theon (Alfie Allen) backs his sister Yara’s (Gemma Whelan) strong claim for the Salt Throne. However, their uncle Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) turns up and makes his own claim. Cheerfully acknowledging that he killed his brother, previous king Balon Greyjoy, Euron states his intention to seduce Daenerys Targaryen by offering her a fleet she can use to overrun Westeros. Yeesh. Yara and Theon sensibly sail off before Euron can kill them, stealing most of the fleet in the process. Euron decrees that another fleet shall be made to hunt them down.

In a year when the prospect of people getting what they deserve in an election is alarming, the poor results of the Iron Island choice for the throne are more resonant that usual. Yara is clearly the best choice, but since the Iron Islanders tend to behave badly, this doesn’t have the impact of, say, the last poor leadership choice at Castle Black.

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), now leading a huge contingent of Dothraki, doesn’t know what to do with Jorah (Iain Glen), who has both disobeyed and rescued her. Jorah reveals he has greyscale, confesses he loves her and starts to leave in order to avoid contaminating her. Daenerys commands him to find a cure, heal himself and then return to her.

Good to see Daenerys and her knight finally reconcile, even if Jorah’s love is clearly doomed to be unrequited and even though he may yet die a horrible death.

In Meereen, the peace is holding, but Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) thinks this isn’t enough. Perhaps some religious endorsement might be a good idea. Kinvara (Ania Bukstein), a priestess of the Red God, meets with Tyrion and a very skeptical Varys (Conleth Hill). Kinvara turns out to know a great deal about Varys, but assures him that so long as they’re all on the same side – that of Queen Daenerys, whose dragons will “purify” nonbelievers – everything is fine. The normally unflappable Varys is shaken by the encounter, and the prospect of dragons burning up thousands of people doesn’t exactly delight Tyrion. Very good sequence in any case.

Bran has another vision of a giant frozen tree – perhaps the first unconvincing large special effect in six seasons of GAME OF THRONES (it looks like a painting) – and then sees an army of White Walkers. This wouldn’t be so bad, except that their leader, the Night’s King (Vladimir Furdik) sees Bran and grabs his arm. When Bran wakes from his trance, the Three-Eyed Raven declares that now the Walkers know where Bran is and will come for him – since the Night’s King had made physical contact, he can breach the barrier. Bran, Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and Hodor (Kristian Nairn) must leave.

At Castle Black, Jon (Kit Harington), Sansa, Edd (Ben Crompton), Davos (Liam Cunningham), et al have a meeting about which Northern families they can get to join them. Sansa repeats what Baelish told her about Uncle Edmure having an army, but lies about where she heard this. Brienne is uneasy about this and unhappy when Sansa insists that Brienne go to meet with Edmure, as a raven could be too easily intercepted.

Alas, Sansa. She has learned much about behaving better, but evidently not enough about Baelish. Since he’s done a number of really horrible things to her and her family, she ought to not assume he’s telling the truth about Edmure having an army. There is a great moment, though, when poor Edd realizes that he actually is the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and has to start giving orders.

The army of White Walkers breaches the great tree and the cave. Bran is trapped in a vision of the past as Meera tries to wake him so that he can possess Hodor in order to escape. The Night’s King and his forces, in a bravura sequence, kill the Children of the Forest, Bran’s direwolf Summer and the Three-Eyed Raven.

Bran uses his warg power to go into Hodor, who grabs Bran’s sledge and runs for the door with Meera, as the last of the Children and Summer delay the attackers. Out the door into the snow, Meera tells Hodor to hold the door shut. And in the vision of Wyllis at Winterfell, Bran sees the normal young man fall to the ground in a seizure, screaming “Hold the door” as his future self hears this instruction and is cut to pieces upholding it. “Hold the door” becomes “Hodor,” the one word Wyllis will be able to utter for the rest of his life. As Bran returns to stricken consciousness, Meera drags him on his sledge into the dark, freezing night.

It’s too bad about the Children of the Forest and the Three-Eyed Raven, but having Hodor’s entire adult life be shadowed by the horror of his death is truly wrenching, especially as the character has been so entirely likable. On a lesser but still sad note, it’s a shame to lose Summer as well. (Jon Snow, if you somehow lose Ghost, we’ll never forgive you.)

In terms of spectacle, though, the attack on the cave is remarkable, with a sense of innumerable Walkers charging not only along the ground but along the walls and ceiling. It is kaleidoscopic and mesmerizing horror imagery.

Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “Book of the Stranger”

Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “Oathbreaker”

RelatedTV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “Home”

Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “The Red Woman” – SEASON PREMIERE

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ArticleTV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “The Door”

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