Previously on Game of Thrones: Sansa convinced Jon to retake Winterfell, Dany took over the Dothraki, Tyrion started playing ball with the other slave states in order to undercut the Sons of the Harpy, and Bran took a trip through his family history.
Sansa receives a message from Petyr, asking her for a meeting in Mole’s Town. She goes, sensibly taking Brienne with her, but man, is the meek and weak little girl he knew before gone. Petyr tells her he’s brought the Knights of the Vale to help her. Sansa wonders where the hell that help was when Ramsay was torturing her. She coldly orders him to guess what sorts of horrible things Ramsay did to her. Petyr doesn’t know what to say, but when Brienne puts a hand to her sword and orders him to answer, he hazards a few guesses. He insists he didn’t know about Ramsay, which is bullshit—there’s no way someone as well-informed as Petyr didn’t know about that sadist. Ramsay was notorious for his proclivities. Petyr apologises and promises to go back to protecting her, but Sansa doesn’t believe he can or will. He offers to do whatever she wants, even unto his death. She orders him to leave and take his knights with him, because she and Jon will take the North on their own and she doesn’t want anything to do with him. Before he goes, Petyr gives her one bit of news: her uncle Brynden has retaken Riverrun, so they could have some valuable support there.
Arya’s still being trained by that girl who hates her, and although she’s fighting much better, she’s still losing. But she refuses to quit, because she’s a Stark, and they never know when to quit. The other girl sneers that Arya will never be one of them. Jacquen, listening, says she has a point, because Arya is highborn, whereas the Faceless Men started off as slaves in the mines. They got rid of the slave owners and came to Braavos and founded the city.
Jacquen has a task for Arya: she’s to poison an actress called Lady Crane. This is her second and last chance to prove herself.
Arya goes to the theatre and, disturbingly, the show is a farce of the death of King Robert and the eventual execution of Ned Stark. Arya is entertained at first, but her smile disappears quickly when she sees Joffrey portrayed as a sweet and noble lad, and she gets really disturbed when Ned comes out, an idiotic buffoon with pretensions to the crown.
After the show, Arya slips backstage to watch the actors tease each other fondly. The show tries some equality by giving us a close-up of male genitalia at the start of the scene, but then of course one young actress spends the whole time wandering around topless, because this is a show for 12-year-old boys, apparently. Lady Crane helps herself to some rum, clinking glasses with the man who plays Tyrion in the play.
Arya reports back that she’ll poison the rum, since Lady Crane is the only one who drinks it. She does hesitate, saying the woman seems decent. Jacquen tells her that death does not only come for the wicked. Yes, but murder for hire really should only come for the wicked. Arya asks who wants her dead and he tells her that’s no matter.
Raven has decided to show Bran how the White Walkers came to be. Apparently the Children of the Forest—those wood sprites who hang around—created them, many, many years ago, to try and protect themselves from the encroaching Men. Talk about a weapon that backfired.
Kingsmoot! Yara puts herself forward as a candidate for the throne, and when one man says there’s no chance of them voting in a queen when there’s a male heir present, Theon steps forward and, quite spiritedly, throws his weight behind his sister. It seems like things will go in her favour, but then, of course, Euron makes a claim. Yara accuses him of murdering her father and he immediately confesses to it, telling everyone that Balon was running the Iron Islands to ruin and Euron killed him to save his home. Theon tries to re-rally support behind Yara, who catches the snap and says she’ll build the largest fleet the Ironborn have ever seen and finally they’ll get some respect. Euron says that’s a great idea, and he’ll do it and then go collect Daenerys and her dragons and, together, they’ll take the Seven Kingdoms. The men all like the sound of that. Euron wins.
As he’s crowned—in the peculiar Iron Islands way that basically involves him being drowned—Yara and Theon and the men loyal to them take ship and flee, taking the cream of the fleet with them. Ha! After he spits up his seawater and is crowned with driftwood, Euron watches them go, then orders everyone left to get to work shipbuilding. I think it’s going to take a while to recover from this loss, Euron. Even the Ironborn can’t replace an entire fleet that quickly.
Meanwhile, Dany takes a moment to thank Jorah for being so incredibly loyal to her and saving her life, despite her banishing him…twice. He tells her she needs to send him away, then shows her the Greyscale creeping up his arm. She asks how long he has and he says he has no idea, but he’ll end things before it gets really bad. She sadly and sincerely tells him how sorry she is. He tells her not to worry about it, because all he ever wanted was to serve her. Also, he loves her. She tries not to cry and Daario, for once, keeps his damn mouth shut. Jorah turns to leave, but Dany orders him to stay, reminding him that he swore to obey her commands for the rest of his life, and now she commands him to find a cure for this disease, and when he does, return to her. She needs him by her side when she takes the Seven Kingdoms. Aww!
In Meereen, things are calmer. At least, nobody’s getting slaughtered. But more work needs to be done on the propaganda front to get all the people on their side.
Tyrion summons Kinvara, High Priestess of the Red Temple, and asks her to help them out. She agrees immediately, because she believes Dany is the One Who Was Promised and she appreciates that Dany freed the slaves. Kinvara says the dragons will purify nonbelievers, burning them alive. Tyrion asks her to step back on that just a little bit. She agrees to summon her most eloquent priests to spread the word. Tyrion’s appreciative, but Varys steps in to throw a little shade about how wrong her colleague was about Stannis. She shrugs that everyone makes mistakes, even sorceresses, apparently. Tyrion tries to intervene, but this woman can hold her own. She steps forward and says that things—even terrible things—happen for a reason, and they make us what we are. Take what happened to Varys, for instance: was that not the making of him? She asks if he remembers a voice calling out from the flames when his parts were thrown into the fire and asks if she wants him to tell him the name of the one who spoke. He seems startled. The woman tells him they’re on the same side, so he has nothing to fear from her so long as he’s loyal.
Bran gets bored and decides to take the training wheels off and do some Raven warg-ing on his own. He grabs hold of an antler on the floor and is transported back to where the first White Walker was created. The once lush land there is now frozen and snowy. He turns, puzzled, and sees the Walker army assembled. He walks amongst its ranks, staring at the still bodies, which don’t acknowledge him. But then he comes upon their king, and as he looks at Bran, the other Walkers also stare at him. The Night King reaches out and grasps Bran’s arm and Bran comes to, screaming, gasping that the Night King saw him, and touched him. Not good. Raven tells Bran this means the King knows he’s there and will come for Bran, so Bran needs to leave, now. Meera begins packing immediately. Bran apologises for having screwed up so massively. Raven just calmly tells Bran that the time has come for him to become Raven.
Jon and his guys and girls discuss their odds, which aren’t great at the moment. Sansa thinks they can sway the Karstarks back to their side. The Umbers—probably not. Jon thinks they can rally the smaller houses to their side, and Sansa agrees that, with her bandying about the Stark name and rallying the Tullys, they should be able to make a dent at least. Jon asks how she knows about the Tully army reforming and she lies that Ramsay received a raven just before she escaped. Davos thinks the legend of the Blackfish could go a long way towards rallying men.
Sansa decides that the only way to get a message to her uncle Tully is by sending Brienne, which Brienne is not happy about, because she swore to protect Sansa. She doesn’t trust Davos and Melisandre and Tormund, but Sansa definitely trusts Jon and thinks he’ll keep her safe.
When not verbally kicking Littlefinger’s ass and planning how to retake Winterfell, Sansa has been keeping herself busy making new clothes for herself and Jon: a cloak and dress with wolf embroidery for her, and a cloak like the one her father used to wear for Jon. That’s sweet. Jon thanks her.
It’s time for them to get moving. Jon leaves Castle Black in Edd’s hands, mounts up and rides away with Sansa and the others.
In Three-Eyed-Raven-Land, Meera packs up and chats about food with Hodor while Bran and Raven warg. Meera hears something and runs to the front, where she finds the White Walker army assembled, with the Night King at its head. The Children of the Forest tell Meera to get Bran and run, as the army begins to advance. Meera races inside and tries to rouse Bran, but it’s no good.
Bran’s relaxing back at Winterfell, where his young dad bids his father and older brother farewell.
Meanwhile, the Children start hurling firebombs at the Walkers, then rush back into the cave.
Meera hauls Bran onto his pallet, still trying to wake him. Walkers start dropping through the ceiling, as Children swarm in and fight some of them off.
In his dream state, Bran can hear the echoes of Meera screaming that they’re all going to die and he needs to Warg into Hodor right now. Raven tells Bran to listen to her. Seriously, Bran, stop hanging out at Winterfell and WAKE THE HELL UP!
Bran wargs into Hodor, who stops being scared and grabs the pallet and heads to another door. One of the Children tries to kill a Walker with a spear, but it’s not even fazed. Meera grabs a spear (the same one?) and throws it and the same Walker shatters immediately. Interesting. Bran’s direwolf enters the fray, leaping into the Walkers and distracting them as they destroy it. Aww, man! Are we down to just one direwolf now? Aside from Arya’s, I guess, which is presumably still wandering around somewhere.
In the dream state, Raven tells Bran that the time has come. In the real world, the Night King kills him, and in the dreamworld, Raven disintegrates.
The last of the Children sacrifices herself to give Meera and the others time to get away.
Hodor shoulders open a door and gets Bran and Meera out of there, just as the Walkers descend. Hodor holds the door against the army as Meera shouts at him to…hold the door.
In the dream state, Bran sees young Hodor collapse into a fit. As Nan tries to help him, he starts shouting ‘hold the door!’ over and over again, until it mashes together and just becomes Hodor, Hodor, Hodor. Oooooh. Bran almost cries as he sees this, hearing Meera’s echoing voice begging Hodor to hold the door. Hodor does, even as the Walkers begin breaking through, clawing and stabbing and slashing at him.
Wow. That…wow. Between that and Outlander, this has really been a week of incredibly sad and affecting television, and it’s only Monday! Sorry, I’m going to need some time here, because that was one of the saddest deaths this show has ever served up. But let’s definitely give a slow-clap standing ovation to Hodor: that man’s a goddamn hero.