Game Of Thrones season 6 episode 5 review: The Door

Game Of Thrones' latest is a brilliant, emotionally gut-wrenching episode, perhaps among the best of the whole series...

This review contains spoilers.

6.5 The Door

For all the criticism David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have endured during their time at the helm of Game Of Thrones, they’re capable of bringing brilliance to the screen. No episode this season has been as brilliant as the fifth episode of the season, The Door, both in terms of sheer technical prowess, but also in terms of being one of the most emotional gut-punches of any television show ever. The (spoiler!) death of Col. Harry Blake on M*A*S*H has nothing on the events of tonight’s staggering, beautiful episode.

Talk about an emotional wringer. As I watched the final scenes of The Door, I went through the full gamut of Game Of Thrones-related emotions. Angry that the episode was drawing to a close when all I wanted was to see more. Fear that Bran, Hodor, and Meera wouldn’t get away from the rampaging hordes of zombies and the Winter King. Sadness at just what happened to bring the episode to a close. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this, don’t go anywhere else on the Internet, and make sure you watch it before it gets spoiled, because it’s one of the most stunning events I’ve ever seen on either the big screen or the small screen, and I don’t say that lightly. I was in tears, and I know that I wasn’t alone. It’s nice to see that a show better known for its violence and spectacle has such a strong emotional core, especially as it’s been a while since we’ve had someone noble on screen do something absolutely selfless.

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Benioff and Weiss have delivered some good episodes this season, but The Door is one of the truly great ones. It begins, pleasantly enough, with Sansa finally getting to confront Littlefinger. It’s very well written, and it shows just how strong Sansa truly is; she accurately says that Littlefinger ‘saved’ her from one monster who killed her family only to deliver her to another monster who killed her family. Littlefinger apologizes, and offers to do anything to make it up to her, but it’s still Littlefinger. However, I’m not quite sure Sansa really believes him, until he mentions casually that Brynden Tully AKA The Black Fish has gotten an army back together and retaken Riverrun. That’s information Sansa can use in her own quest. Assuming, of course, that it’s true.

After all, Littlefinger can’t be trusted; he’s like a sleazier Varys, but without the honesty about his true intentions. Littlefinger is out for Littlefinger. At least the others, like Daenerys Targaryen’s various advisers, have a purpose other than their own self-interest (thought it’s probably a good idea to be friends with the only person in the world to have both dragons and a Dothraki horde at her disposal). That spirit of self-interest seems to have a home within the minds of the Ironborn, too, as Euron and Yara Greyjoy both have the same idea: build a massive fleet and prove to the lords of Westeros that the Iron Islands are a force to be reckoned with. Of course, Euron wants to throw his support behind the true queen of Westeros, but he can’t do that without ships, and he can’t do that because while he’s being drowned and crowned, Yara and Theon are sneaking off with the whole of the Ironborn fleet.

Of course, while the lords of Westeros squabble amongst themselves, they continue to ignore the real threat against them lurking north of the Wall. Bran is intimately aware of the threat, and while he trains with the Three-Eyed Raven, that might not be enough to keep the world of men from being overrun, no matter how many Red Priestesses anoint saviors. The whole of the Bran scenes, from his unauthorized warging into the middle of a field of wights to his being touched by the Winter King, is just incredible stuff. The zombie makeup is as good as The Walking Dead, albeit with more emphasis on desiccated rather than splatter.

When the horde finally attacks, director Jack Bender is able to turn them from a creepy horde to a serious threat, mauling down Bran’s direwolf, killing the Children of the Forest, and then taking off after our remaining heroes in a scene as pulse-pounding as anything ever in a horror movie. The fact that the zombies come from all sides, streaming in from above and continuing the attack by coming at the fleeing humans from all sides—including scuttling across the vines at the top of the tunnel—makes it even more terrifying. These are zombies with a little bit more brain than the standard, albeit not much more. Dragonglass or no, these guys are a legitimate threat, and this might be the first time since Hardhome that we see just how the numbers favor the dead.

All in all, it was a brilliant episode, and one of the best of the entire series, let alone this season. All of the elements seemed to pull together: Tormund and Brienne are great comedy, Sansa and Littlefinger is an effective dramatic scene, and Bran’s whole segment makes all the time spent in the tree worthwhile. For all the changes, it still feels like things are only building up to a fever pitch, rather than burning off steam early. Whatever’s next, it’s going to be pretty spectacular from the looks of what we’ve seen so far.

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US Correspondent Ron Hogan is too stunned to say anything dumb here. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.