Recapping the Realm: Hodor, Origin Stories and Time Travel on ‘Game of Thrones’ ‘The Door’
Welcome to “Recapping the Realm,” where each week ScreenCrush senior editor Erin Whitney is joined by Tyler McCarthy and Kelly Lawler for a SPOILER-filled discussion of the latest Game of Thrones. This week, Erin, Tyler, and Kelly discuss “The Door” (full episode review here). Tyler is an Entertainment Writer for International Business Times. You can tweet at him at @TylerMcCarthy. Kelly is an Entertainment Writer and Social Media Editor at USA Today. You can tweet at her at @klawls.
Erin: Wow. That was one of the most phenomenal and exhilarating episodes of Game of Thrones I’ve seen in a while. We learned so much that I wasn’t expecting to learn so soon – the origin of the White Walkers and the Night’s King – and we lost two prominent characters plus another direwolf. But first, Hodor, because who didn’t cry during that reveal and who doesn’t love Hodor to pieces? As many fan theories as I’ve read, I never came across one predicting that turn of events and while it may not sound that climactic on paper, it was pulled off incredibly well in such a heartbreaking and intense sequence.
This opens up a lot of questions though concerning time travel, and how or if Bran can impact more future events, or if there are ones already existing in his reality that he’s destined to impact. That’s a deep rabbit hole to fall down, and at this point I hope the show avoids getting into any further sci-fi territory.
Tyler: I’ll be the first to admit I panned last week’s episode pretty badly. However, that’s just because I know that the show is capable of things like this episode. Honestly, the reveal of why Hodor only says “Hodor” isn’t something I ever thought needed to be explained, let alone in such a powerful way. I’ll leave the eulogizing of Hodor to others because I really want to talk about the science fiction elements at hand here.
You’re right Erin, this opened a lot of doors that were set up with the Tower of Joy sequence. I think we’re getting the idea that Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven cannot alter the course of history, but that they already have. As in, the world as we know it won’t be different because of Bran’s intervention, but that it’s the way it is because of Bran’s past, present, and future intervention. For that reason, I disagree with you in that I want to see way more of this because it’s a fascinating way to show history without changing it and without it being for its own sake to fill episode time. Not to mention the additional power that was established for Bran in this episode, which is what I’m going to call “remote viewing.” He wasn’t back in time when he saw the Night’s King, presumably. So that means that with a touch of work, Bran can find himself anywhere in the world. Dany, Jon, and Sansa, even King’s Landing could theoretically get a visit from him soon. A lot happened in the last ten minutes of that episode, friends.
Kelly: There were a lot of comparisons of Sunday night’s episode to a certain episode of Lost, and Thrones would do well to learn from the former show’s mistakes. I agree, Tyler: I find the new sci-fi element to be fascinating, but I also agree with you, Erin, and worry it might take the show off the rails. There are already so many disparate elements (characters, locations, conflicts, plots and, oh yeah, several brands of magic and religion), that one more might be one more too many. Bran can take us through as much history as we want to see, but they would be wise to use every single flashback strategically and as a means to a very specific end. What gives me hope is that the condensing we’re seeing this season (i.e. Jon and Sansa reuniting, various forces aligning against Ramsay) is a good way to keep the show grounded while Bran travels through time and affects the fate of the world.
But despite my worries, the time travel is a wild and fun element to add. A small part of me hopes we can get a really wild twist out of the time travel, considering how many historical figures in this universe are named “Bran.”
Erin: I am in a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. I love how Bran’s time travel has been utilized in the show thus far, but I worry it could open a can of worms for conspiracy theorists. Like, can Bran go back in time again and undo what he did to Hodor? That would get messy and I hope that if the show continues down this path it sets limitations and only uses Bran’s time travel to reveal how his involvement in the past has influenced the present or informed the history we’ve known. I wouldn’t mind seeing this play into one theory involving the Mad King, or like you mention Kelly, reveal some history with another Brandon Stark. At the very least I’m hoping Bran begins communicating with Jon and Sansa.
I want to jump to Arya next. I’m glad her story is finally going beyond the ceaseless Waif abuse – by the way, what is the Waif’s issue? It was interesting to see her devotion to the Faceless Men questioned by the play, which felt like the Braavos version of a Saturday Night Life sketch. But where do y’all predict her story is headed? I can’t see her living out her days as “no one” as she clearly has a thread of vengeance left in her. Will she use her training to leave Braavos and finally start striking names off her list?
Tyler: Oh, I’m 100 percent with you. Arya’s storyline is becoming irksome to me because her victories are moving her forward with the Faceless Men and with her becoming ”no one.” However, I think I speak for most (if not all) Game of Thrones fans when I say that we want to see Arya Stark return to Westeros with some of those cool stick-fighting skills and start putting the people that hurt Arya Stark in the damn ground. So it’s a tough tug-of-war in that I want Arya to learn more and progress, but not if it means killing the character off for all intents and purposes. So I’m torn.
As for the play, I thought it was a brilliant scene in that we’re supposed to be watching it through Arya’s eyes, but we didn’t need to. I’m just a fan of the show and I was thinking “Excuse you, that’s Lord Eddard Stark you’re making a fool of you hacks!” Do we think it’s telling that her first kill back is so personal to Arya Stark? Is the Many-Faced God trying to test her yet again or is it trying to tell her something this time? Something like, “STOP THIS! GET NEEDLE FROM UNDER THE ROCK AND GO USE IT ON RAMSEY! I KNOW YOU DON’T KNOW WHO THAT IS, BUT TRUST ME!”
Kelly: Arya’s storyline has really stalled, and opening Sunday’s visit to Braavos with yet another stick fight with the Waif almost felt as though the show knows how very repetitive the whole thing has become. I loved the play, if only because I love when fictional worlds build in things like arts and entertainment; it always makes them feel so much more real. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Arya’s first assignment is so close to home, or that the actress she’s targeting is playing a person on her list (Cersei). Arya needs to make a choice, and I think most fans want that choice to be back in Westeros, we just have to make her time in Braavos worthwhile.
To Tyler’s point about the Many-Faced God testing her: This episode had me wondering about religion again. I always think about what religions have real evidence behind them in this world. We’ve seen the Lord of Light resurrect people and we’ve seen the Many-Faced God give out his many faces. This week we saw the Children of the Forest create the White Walkers and it seemed the Weirwoods were heavily involved. Also we saw Euron come back from the dead, potentially with the help of the Drowned God (although in the books, there is something a little more akin to CPR in the mix there). At this point we have a lot of miraculous acts by various deities (um, except for The Seven), which makes you wonder about the endgame. Is someone going to be “right” about God? Or are they all wrong?
Erin: Good point about the actress Arya is set to kill, Kelly. I think it’s safe to say that’s some pretty obvious foreshadowing for what’s to come with Cersei, though I’m not sure how it’ll happen. (Here’s one very silly theory that definitely won’t happen, but is quite amusing.)
I’m glad you brought up the religious theme too, since I honestly was so overwhelmed by the Night’s King madness in the episode to reflect on it. The aspect of religion in the show is so fascinating to me and I wish the series had spent more time in the last five seasons diving into the history of the various gods a little deeper. I could watch a whole spinoff about those gods who, let’s be honest, are the ones controlling everything in this series if they are actually real. The Sparrows (especially the High Sparrow) have been given the most screen time this season, but they’re the least interesting, perhaps since they’re the closest thing to Western religion. And though we’ve seen the gods’ powers at work at lot this season, I love that there’s also been moments of tension and doubt, mainly with Melisandre’s age reveal and even Sunday night between Varys and the new red priestess Kinvara, which was a pretty painful scene to watch.
Tyler: All the gold should go to Varys for that scene. It was haunting, but I respect a character that’s willing to call out the Lord of Light. Varys may as well have said “Explain to me how, after Stannis Baratheon, the Lord of Light isn’t total bulls---?” The fact that Kinvara had a good answer for him was just gravy. After Sunday night, I could talk about the religious mythology of Game of Thrones until I starve to death. It’s become so interesting and I think seeing two very mythical forces Sunday night come face-to-face was one of the best things the show has ever done.
But you’re right, there’s a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to which gods are real and where the line between godly intervention and wizard-like magic begin and end. I’ve been wondering for a while if there will be a point to all of this, or if religion just exists in the world because it has to. However, seeing mythical forces come face-to-face with each other Sunday night gave the show an entirely new dynamic. I think we can forget about the Seven as anything but a political tool at the moment. I also think that what happened at the end of the episode Sunday night is more akin to the world of magic rather than gods, which means the real “character” we all need to be on the lookout for is the Lord of Light. And that means more people have to have their eye on that prize other than Varys.
Also worth mentioning is how effective a tiny bit of fire was on the wights. The White Walkers just strut right through, but did anyone else feel like they showed a particular aversion to flames Sunday night or a regular one? Either way, people that have the fire god on their side are could have a tiny advantage going forward.
Kelly: It makes me wonder about if really winning the “game” of this show means just hitching your wagon to the deity that is the most powerful. Or maybe someone like Tyrion, who clearly is the most effective ruler and the biggest pragmatist the show has to offer, can succeed on his intelligence alone. I’ve always liked how magic, while definitely a part of this fantasy world, doesn’t allow characters to truly “cheat” on this show. Magic is hard; it has consequences and it’s rare. But this season we’ve seen it so very often. I’m still waiting for Jon to have to sacrifice something, otherwise some things just seem far too easy. This is a long, drawn-out story. Nothing should be easy.
Erin: Tyler, that’s a great contrast to draw between faith and magic. Both have very different results and consequences, something you don’t often see in TV series with both. It’s also refreshing how this show maintains a good distance from both, never falling back too much on one or the other to push a storyline forward.
Kelly, I like that you bring up Tyrion as the pragmatic ruler, because he really is one of the few characters getting things done without any unworldly interventions. Even his plan to bring Kinvara to Meereen was a political move, not the desperate act of a believer. It serves as a good reminder that the people who make the most effective and detrimental moves on this show often do so with manipulation and coercion alone, as Littlefinger well proves. Despite all the magic and mysticism, keeping the human politics at the core is I think what sets GoT apart from others in its genre. Even in Sunday night’s third act the show gave us one of the most emotional moments, yet in a sequence comprised of time travel and magical ice zombies. That’s a pretty fantastic accomplishment.
Tyler: I agree. What makes Game of Thrones unique isn’t the zombies, swords, or even nudity, it’s the politics. And I think Sunday night showed that there’s still political intrigue, even if it’s with ice zombies and a tree wizard. Nothing is random or tragic anymore. It’s all deliberate moves in a chess game.