WARNING: Because it’s Monday, I’ll be spending the entire day talking at people about ‘Game of Thrones’ S6E5, starting with this article. It contains all the spoilers, so if for some reason you haven’t yet watched, have a word with yourself about priorities, watch it, and then come back for the breakdown.
There’s something different about this season of Game of Thrones. Dreams of glorious victories have crumbled to dust and ash, and a new sense of grim reality now pervades, as if all parties have tossed their weapons aside and begun fighting with their bare hands. We’re inching conspicuously closer to the end. Shit, as they say, is getting real.
Let’s take a look back at six major talking points from what initially seemed like a perfectly functional mid-season episode of Thrones, Season 6 Episode 5, until a big reveal that may very well have changed the game entirely…
1. What Doesn’t Varys Know?
Kinvara the Red Priestess seems to be of the belief that Daenerys is Azor Ahai reborn, he being the person responsible, according to legend, for ending the Long Night thousands of years back, when White Walkers had wiped out much of humanity in Westeros.
Sure, that might sound totally insane, but Kinvara clearly knows things no mere mortal could know — like the voice Varys heard “calling out from the flames” during his mutilation. After coming dangerously close to humiliating the spymaster, Kinvara said something dripping with mystery:
“Knowledge has made you powerful — but there’s still so much you don’t know…”
Is she alluding to the Lord of Light’s plan, Varys’s own impending fate, or perhaps the Targaryen DNA that might exist in Tyrion’s blood? She may be a cut-price Melisandre, but we certainly haven’t heard the last of Kinvara.
2. Does Arya Have An Assassin’s Steel?
Arya’s traumatic apprenticeship at the hands of Jaqen H’ghar seemed to be gearing up to something big, but this week we saw the first seeds of doubt creeping into a girl’s mind as Jaqen tasked her with taking out an actress from Braavos’s creepiest pantomime troupe.
After being beaten by the Waif, having her sight taken away and left to fend for herself on the streets, it feels like Arya is due a break — but as Jaqen warned, a girl only gets two chances. If she doesn’t have what it takes to complete her mission, who’s to say what pieces of Arya will remain by the time we get that big Stark reunion?
As an aside: I love that Game of Thrones loves inflicting pain on Arya so much, they had her witness a reenactment of her father’s beheading, just in case her life wasn’t already traumatic enough. Can she add Weiss and Benioff to her list?
3. Where Does Littlefinger Go Next?
One of my personal favorite scenes this week came early in the episode. When Petyr Baelish arrived at Castle Black, Sansa took an opportunity she’d clearly been waiting months for: The chance to unleash all of her rage and direct it squarely at the guy who thought it was a good idea to marry her to Ramsay Bolton.
“You said you would protect me,” she reminded Littlefinger in an ice-cold tone of voice starkly reminiscent of Catelyn, whom Sansa seems to channel more and more by the day. Was Littlefinger truly shamed by her words, or was his plea for forgiveness just a part of a larger scheme?
He may be the engineer who triggered Robert’s Rebellion and literally every cataclysmic event that followed, but Petyr’s intentions remain an enigma.
4. How Long Can Brienne Hold Out?
Brienne may be the most devout servant in all the Seven Kingdoms — God knows, she takes her vows seriously — but even oathkeepers need a little love to warm their stony hearts, and Tormund seems game to be the one to give it to her.
Right now, Brienne’s policy seems to be to feign disinterest, but really, when a scowly bearded man with a vaguely Scandinavian lilt makes the eyes at you, there’s only so much one can to do resist. After the sad story she told Podrick back in Season 4 about the boys who laughed at her as a teenager before Renly invited her to dance, I’m poised to see Brienne finally let a man into her heart.
5. The Sad Subtext Of Dany’s Command
There’s something endearingly pathetic about Ser Jorah Mormont’s absolute devotion to Daenerys, probably because it’s been so totally one-sided for so long — but tonight delivered a long-overdue shift in that dynamic with Daenerys finally expressing herself, sort of, by commanding Jorah to find a cure for the greyscale and return to her side.
The scene was tinged with a palpable sadness, with both Khaleesi and Knight aware that this might very well be their final goodbye.
As I realized what was happening after Meera screamed her order at Hodor — “hold the door!” — I felt my heart begin to sink. How Hodor became Hodor has long been a point of contention, and two weeks ago I proposed that Bran himself could have created Hodor by warging into him.
That turned out to be fairly close to the reality of what we saw in that heartbreaking final scene, in which past and present Hodor became connected by a causal loop. Essentially this means that Bran in the present created Hodor by warging into him in the past, totally exposing the Raven’s claim that the past is written, the ink already dry, as a lie — kind of. The past was already written, but Bran is the one who wrote it — in the future.