Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 5 recap


One word, that has meant so many other words. A single word that was so often a joke, a punchline, the word that broke through the brutality and death and tragedy with brief moments of humor—a word no one took seriously. Until the moment when Hodor held the door, and “Hodor” becomes one of the most powerful words in Game of Thrones. The man no one even really thought of as a man, the least of our players on the stage, became the greatest of our heroes. Hodor, Hodor.

We’re halfway through season six and this is the theme, no longer emerging but fully fledged—Game of Thrones is not about armies of men or swaggering bullies or reigns of terror or sex and violence. It’s about people—mostly women but sometimes men, too—marginalized and abused and pushed around until they cannot f*cking take it anymore and they lash out in amazing, incredible ways. It doesn’t have to be a violent act, like Daenerys torching the temple in Vaes Dothrak; sometimes it’s an act of heroism, like Hodor’s sacrifice. But time and again we’re seeing marginalized people pushing to the fore, taking or demanding power and dignity and the rights they’ve been denied because of their gender or a perceived lowly status.

The obvious example is Daenerys, who has, from the first moment when we met her and she stepped into a too-hot bath without flinching, the extraordinary power to rally people to her side. Dragons don’t hurt, but as Jorah’s confession of love shows, there is something intrinsic in Daenerys that draws people to her. We saw it on Daario’s face and the faces of the Dosh Khaleen last week when they saw her, unburnt. This week it was Jorah’s sad profession of a fruitless love, perhaps his only redeeming factor. Through loving Daenerys he’s become less of a sh*theel—she inspires nobility in others.

Sansa’s story thus far has been painful and brutal, but again, going back to season one Sansa was a spoiled brat who bought into the fairytale that marrying a prince was the best and brightest dream. Over five years we watched Sansa’s disillusionment and it SUCKED but now she’s standing on her own, no longer a girl and no longer Littlefinger’s puppet. I think Littlefinger still has Plans, but while Sansa refusing the Knights of the Vale may seem like a dumbass decision, at the same time, SHE is going to save the North HERSELF. She’s not depending on anyone but…

Her brother, Jon Snow. He was raised the son of Lord Stark but he’s a bastard, and he’s always been made very aware of how that separated and disenfranchised him. Again, going back to first meetings, Jon Snow was shown to be a beloved brother of Robb and Bran, but also an outcast, unloved by his stepmother and sh*t on by anyone who felt entitled and better than because at least THEY weren’t a bastard, too. He felt his only shot at making a life for himself was at the Wall, and while that ended horribly, the Jon Snow that came back to life is clearly a stronger, more independent person. Strangely, he reminds me of Mance Rayder.

And Tyrion, another unloved son, is trying to bring some semblance of order to Meereen in the Khaleesi’s absence. I’m not sure his plan is a good one—appeasement never works in matters of slavery (see also: The US Civil War), but he’s doing his Lannister thing, making deals and trying diplomacy. And it seems to be working-ish, but Varys is clearly deeply troubled by allowing a fanatic into their ranks. (Of course he’s right to warn Tyrion about the new Red Woman and all her prophesizing, look no further than the situation in King’s Landing for evidence of what happens when you give a fanatic an inch.) But Tyrion’s another one who has, despite his inauspicious beginning, found himself in a position of power, and he is actually trying to do good with it.

Which brings us to Bran, and Meera Reed—who is suddenly VERY INTERESTING—and Hodor. Because of Bran’s accident and paralysis, we have forgotten that he started out as another spoiled Stark child, whose foolishness was his own undoing—not unlike his father, and his brother Robb. The Starks need to change their words to “Stark Men Always F*ck Up” because Bran looks to be the latest Stark man f*cking up. His meddling in the timeline may have disastrous consequences, and he’s playing into the Night’s King’s hands, which has already had a disastrous consequence.

Hodor’s sacrifice is a legitimately great moment, a heroic act from the most unlikely of people. But that’s the story of Game of Thrones. It’s not Ned or Robb or Cersei or Tywin or, probably, Euron. It’s Theon and Yara, the loser Greyjoys on a boat, or Sam and Gilly on another boat, and Meera Reed, who no one saw coming but who has now killed a White Walker. It’s Brienne of Tarth, laughed at and mocked and now on a quest to save the North. It’s Daenerys, cast out, hunted, and sold but unburnt, a mother of dragons, a Khaleesi, a queen, a rebel, a liberator. It’s Jon Snow, murdered by his own men only to rise to rally the North behind his sister Sansa, beaten and brutalized and stronger than ever. And, in the end, it’s Hodor. It’s the least of all men becoming the best of them, proving that heroes don’t need great swords with names or direwolves or dragons. All a hero needs is a heart that doesn’t fail. All a hero needs is to hold the door.