A moment of silence, first, I think, for a man of almost no words.
The second Stark servant/ protector to die for the cause in two weeks, gentle, loyal Hodor has now given up both his vocabulary and his life, and for what? For Bran, a walking Wiki whose principal purpose at this stage is to keep dreaming chunks of exposition that apparently couldn’t be shoe-horned into the plot any other way, while everyone else sacrifices their lives, caves, weird and ancient trees etc round about him.
The scenes with the Night’s King and the Walkers are obviously amazing and terrifying, with Summer, the Children of the Forest and the Three-Eyed Raven’s deaths horribly, beautifully-realised, but, my GOD. Poor, brave, tragic Hodor; for decades, doomed to serve in sadness and doomed to die in pain, thanks to bloody BRAN. If I were Meera Reed, I’d take my Walker-killing spear and walk myself the hell away; after all, the queue of people left to die so the second-youngest, second-blandest (sorry, Rickon) Stark can live is suddenly looking very, very short.
Moving up the Stark ranks, the not-exactly-bland but not-in-any-way-exciting-to-watch-any-more Arya is this week sent to see a sort of Pyramus and Thisbe-style play which summarises seasons one and two, presumably for the benefit of any new viewers who decided episode five of season six was the ideal time to pop in and see what all the fuss was about. As far as this long-time viewer’s concerned, however, the play’s clever but both unnecessary and way too long, since it neither advances the plot, nor tells us anything new about Arya or anyone else. Unless telling us something new means that startling, completely ridiculous scene where a character we’ve never met before announces he has genital warts. While SHOWING us them. I’ve complained about gratuitous female nudity on GOT before – no need for the breasts this week, either, by the way – and I know one view is that the way to address this is to balance it out with gratuitous male nudity, but, to be honest, I’m generally quite happy for people to keep their bits and pieces to themselves, and just get on with the story.
Speaking of which, Arya’s story obviously stalled in Braavos ages ago, but thankfully Jon’s and Sansa’s have started to move at lightning speed to make up for it. Sansa, in particular, has another stupendous week this week. Her unyielding, unflinching confrontation of the oleaginous but still largely inscrutable Littlefinger is terrific; powerful, fearless and strong, Sansa is nobody’s pawn any more. Or at least, she’s trying not to be. He doesn’t have to pose as her friend to manipulate her though; despite her anger towards him, Littlefinger still manages quite easily to drive the beginnings of a wedge between her and the former Lord Commander, much to Jon’s suspicion, Brienne’s unease and my increasing anxiety. Making Jon a coat like Ned’s was a thoughtful touch, giving me hope that these two sad, crazy kids will pull together again, but I’m worried. Very worried.
Would that I could say the same about the other strained sibling alliance of the week, as Yara and brother/ doormat Theon try to persuade a bunch of people who literally drown their potential kings – sort of like the Salem test for witches, only if you don’t drown you get to be king, instead of getting burned at the stake – that they don’t need a King, they need a Queen. If I cared about this storyline or these two characters at all, I’d be mildly perturbed that a man who happily confessed to killing the previous king, his own brother, is seen as the best candidate but it’s the Iron Born and they’re miserable, so I don’t.
Which leaves us with the week’s strained non-sibling alliance, as Tyrion and Varys spend the week recruiting a priestess of the Lord of Light to assist the pro-Daenerys cause. If the High Sparrow situation weren’t enough of a warning about the dangers of making political alliances with religious fanatics, NotMelisandre’s plans for the “purification of non-believers” and musings on the night Varys was castrated are a GIANT NEON STOP SIGN but, despite her being creepy as all get-out, Team Meereen presses on. I doubt this will end well, but who knows, maybe she’ll cure Ser Jorah before she starts ceremonially burning folk. Hodor.