There’s been much talk of prophecy on Game of Thrones, but it’s usually in an abstract sense. After all, those who follow the Lord of Light, like Melisandre (Carice van Houten), have been wrong before, and the newest Red Priestess, Kinvara (Ania Bukstein), might be wrong about Daenerys being the chosen one. But she’s right when she tells a skeptical Varys (Conleth Hill) that God is never wrong, only sometimes misinterpreted by his messengers. Even more accurate is her observation that “Terrible things happen for a reason.”
The case in point, from which this tragic episode takes its title, is in seeing how prophecy and predestination can consume a person. Wylis (Sam Coleman) was never the smartest boy in Winterfell, but he would one day be needed for a very specific task, and so he was unwillingly molded into that which would best serve his leaders. He lost his mind, his free will, and yet, not without reason, for even as he’s ripped apart by ravenous, spider-like White Walkers at the end of “The Door,” he manages to do one crucial thing. As the Night’s King murders the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) in spite of the Children’s firebombing defense, and Meera (Ellie Kendrick) tows Bran Stark’s (Isaac Hempstead Wright) unresponsive body out into the wintry abyss, the man now known as Hodor (Kristian Nairn) holds the door.
It’s a bracing reminder of the actual human cost behind all this mysticism, of what happens to normal people when they’re caught up in things beyond themselves. Most devastating, of course, is the revelation that the White Walkers were created by the Children as a defense mechanism against reckless, murderous humans. Man, then, has always been the instrument of its own destruction, which gives a lot of credence to the theories that Game of Thrones is really one epic allegory about nature (the Children) defending itself against the toxicity of warmongering (polluting) humans.
Of course, this all depends on perspective, something that Arya (Maisie Williams) learns firsthand while watching a bawdy play in Braavos that makes light of the Baratheon succession. To her, the goring of Robert and her father’s subsequent execution at the hands of the new (illegitimate) king, was a horrifying trauma, but to the crowds who watch this fart-laden, rhyme-filled reenactment, it’s something to laugh at. Her training has given her control enough not to lash out at those who mock her or her family, intentionally or not, but that she still asks questions suggests she’s not another Hodor, nor one of the many Faceless; she wishes to be the one making changes, not the vessel through which a greater god works.
The show is no longer holding anything back in story or tone, and it’s making this fantasy world feel all too real.
In that, she’s very much like her sister, Sansa (Sophie Turner), who’s taken firm control of her own destiny. Whereas she once trusted blindly in Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen), she spends her reunion with him essentially dismissing him from her service. She’s been his pawn for too long, and when she demands that he tell her what he imagines Ramsay must have done to her on their wedding night, it’s her way of ensuring he acknowledge the physical and psychic damage he’s distanced himself from. “I can still feel what he did in my body, standing here,” she says, trembling with a rage that’s badly in need of an immediate target. Abuse, then, creates two sorts of people: those, like Reek and The Mountain, who give in to it, being shaped into the pawns of gods and would-be kings, and those, like Jon and Daenerys, who resurrect themselves from it so as to demand their own destiny.
Of course, the paradox is that those who would pave their own way often need armies, essentially pawns, in order to achieve anything. That’s why Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) turns to the prophecies of Kinvara in the first place, for he knows that even though his pact with the masters to phase out slavery has immediately ended the violence in Meereen, the only way to prevent it from flaring up again will be to have everyone not just fearing Daenerys, but believing in her. And that’s what has made Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) such a loyal follower of the queen’s: he genuinely loves her, so much so that he exiles himself a third time from her army, revealing the scope of the greyscale that’s infecting his arm. “I command you to find the cure and then return to me,” Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) tells him, showing exactly the sort of steely kindness that captivated him in the first place.
Audiences, too, are likely to be rapt as they watch “The Door,” which nails so many different styles that it’s bound to captivate each viewer at least once, regardless of why they watch the show. Director Jack Bender nails the skittering, gory Evil Dead-like horrors that occur as Bran’s party attempts to escape a siege of the undead, just as he faithfully depicts all the scenery-chewing hamminess of the play that Arya watches (look at faux-Baratheon’s papier-mâché guts, or the two Foley engineers backstage working to create authentic-sounding flatulence). Little bits of comedy fill the episode: Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) smiling awkwardly at Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), or Edd (Ben Crompton) embarrassingly remembering that he is, unpredictably enough, the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
None of this prevents Bender from respectfully rendering religious ceremonies, such as the one given to Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) upon winning the nomination for the Iron Isles’s Salt Throne: He’s drowned, then left on the shore to recover (or not). His resurrection, presumably a sign of the Drowned God, signals a man taking control of destiny, though the evil in his plan—to build a fleet to sell to Daenerys in exchange for her hand—is apparent in his first words after coming to: “Where are my niece and nephew? Let’s go murder them.” Cheerfulness and murder—a happy farewell contrasted with a brutal sacrifice. Game of Thrones is no longer holding anything back in story or tone, and it’s making this fantasy world feel all too real.
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