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THE NIGHT KING RETURNS

Game of Thrones is filled with death, deception, depravity, the occasional act of decency, and dialogue acrobatics. Each week, we break them down. Let’s dive into Season 6 episode 5, “The Door.”

he North Remembers

Sansa’s scenes feel like the writers retrospectively apologizing for her Season 5 plot line. We’ll never truly know if they’re responding to viewer outrage over her lack of agency or whether this was the plan all along — but whatever the case, it’s working. Though the Ramsay rape wasn’t handled well at the time, it’s not being swept under the rug.

When she repeats “what do you think he did to me?” and doesn’t let Littlefinger wiggle out of hearing it (“the other things he did, ladies aren’t supposed to talk about those…I can still feel what he did in my body standing here”) is a marked pivot for how Game of Thrones deals with rape. After five seasons and change, it’s finally handled it with weight. This scene is a triumph for both Sansa’s character and for how Game of Thrones handles an issue it’s received a lot of criticism for in the past.

Sansa has evolved from prissy princess to hardened politician, and has been spectacular. In many ways, she’s exactly what the Starks need, now: She’s more sociable than Jon (“He seems trustworthy,” says Brienne, “though a bit brooding, perhaps. I suppose it’s understandable, considering.”); she’s got her mother’s steel, and she’s wilier than Ned.

When she lies to Jon about where she got the intelligence about The Blackfish and his army, she shows that, although she rejected Littlefinger, she’s absorbed his teachings more than she might admit. Sansa is a Stark through and through, but she’s also not afraid to get her hands dirty. At this point in the show, Sansa’s type of Stark is exactly the character needed most by the North, and she may yet be the one to lead her family to victory.

“My Dreams Are Different”

Bran’s plot line this episode is the ultimate paradox. On one level, it’s working brilliantly: It gives us a fascinating glimpse into the past . Those scenes with the Army of the Dead were truly terrifying, we get some long-needed exposition about the Children of the Forest, and we get that tragic gut-punch with Hodor.

What is dead may never die, the Kingsmoot itself was too sudden and out of the blue to feel meaningful to non book readers — but its aftermath is what truly matters. Yara and Theon look like they could very well be Tyrion and Varys’s ticket to getting out of the plot-suck that is Meereen, and thank the Drowned God for that.

A Girl goes to Braavos

Arya’s is the runner up for the second most emotional scene of the night — Maisie Williams does some of her best work with that simple, silent expression of anger and grief as she watches that Hamlet-like meta-play, in which the actors twist her father into a buffoonish caricature.

But, on the other hand, it indulges in more fantasy clichés than Game of Thronesusually does, save for Daenerys’s plot lines. When the Raven tells Bran, “the time has come for you to become me,” and Bran says, “but am I ready?” It’s exactly the kind of ponderous, prophetic, but ultimately empty rhetoric found in every Chosen One Fantasy Training manual.

Hodor’s story is what saves Bran’s part from becoming Fantasy 101 Cliche by anchoring it with emotion and a deeply human brand of tragedy. The “hold the door…Hodor” reveal is gutting, and it’s to Kristian Nairn’s credit that he makes a fairly one-note character’s plight so emotional. Isaac Hempstead-Wright wasn’t wrong when Hodor is the way he is because of “a catastrophe.” It connects to what Jaqen H’ghar tells Arya: “Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?”

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