This issue also played out notably in Pyke, where both Euron and Theon saw challenges to their relevance because of their perceived distance from the concerns of the people. But nowhere did this unfold more tragically than in the Bran storyline, where the Stark’s closeness with the Raven, Leaf, Hodor, and Summer wasn’t enough to save them. Meera Reed saved Bran, just as her father had saved Ned all those years ago, but the four sacrifices that allowed them to get away revealed how the cruelty of hierarchies endures even thousands of miles from King’s Landing. How is it that a powerful and gentle giant, an ancient prophet, a mystical beast, and a magical sprite could all die within minutes of one another, all to serve a boy who’s not even ready for the tasks that lie ahead? Simply, their lives were less valuable.
Chris, what did you make of the “time-travel” mechanics of Bran’s visions with Hodor and the White Walkers? And did you feel that the latest direwolf death was a symbolic way for the show to declare that Winter has finally arrived?
Christopher Orr: I definitely hope we get at least a bit more explanation of the mechanics that led to tonight’s fascinating temporal Mobius strip: Bran peering back into the past, sees Wylis traumatically succumbing to his own Hodor future...
But whether or not that particular tragedy is ever further unpacked, this was an episode that offered a lot of long-awaited backstory, especially the Frankensteinian revelation that the White Walkers are a Children of the Forest defense system gone badly awry. (Consider them a medieval Skynet.)
Like last week, I felt this was another that pushed the plot forward in satisfying ways. Plans for a multi-front assault on Ramsay continue to evolve: In addition to wildlings from the North and knights of the Vale from the South, we now have the potential addition of Northern families still (hopefully) loyal to the Starks (the Manderlys, some lesser houses) and the Tully army reassembled by the Blackfish at Riverrun. I love me some Blackfish—again, for those who may have forgotten, the sole survivor of the Red Wedding, thanks to history’s most well-timed potty break.
Last roundtable, I mentioned that the show seems to be trying to tie up some badly frayed narrative threads, and that continued tonight. Perhaps the most dubious plot twist of last season was Littlefinger’s decision to engage Sansa to world-famous sociopath Ramsay Bolton—and the master plotter’s apparent, supremely un-Littlefinger-like, lack of awareness of said sociopathy. Tonight Sansa asked him directly: “Did you know about Ramsay? If you didn’t know, you’re an idiot. If you did know, you’re my enemy.” Littlefinger pleads the “idiot” case—but then, he’d have to say that either way, wouldn’t he?
I’m hoping that it is rather the “enemy” explanation—Littlefinger being so ill-informed about Ramsay would basically suggest that showrunners Benioff and Weiss have no idea what they’re doing with the character—but it’s still awfully hard to envision why he would have knowingly engaged Sansa to a sadistic lunatic. (In the books, he involves her in a different plot altogether.) In any case, here’s hoping he has an unexpected card up his sleeve.