Veteran TV director Jack Bender makes his “Game of Thrones” debut with Season 6, Episode 5, “The Door,” having helmed many episodes of “Lost,” and “The Sopranos,” among others. It’s fun to compare those shows to this week’s episode, which featured plenty of the supernatural in the form of time-travel, and detailed looks into the intricacies of interfamily power grabs.
This week we were also spared King’s Landing, thank goodness. I’m not sure I could have taken another jab at Maester Pycelle or another speech from The Barefoot One. Cersei and Olenna’s union in opposition to Margaery’s Shame Walk was teased at the end of last week’s episode, but it seems that will be something that we might get to next week, when the Tyrell army rolls up to bust Sparrow heads. This is a very Stark heavy episode, and for that we are glad.
Last season, when Sansa (Sophie Turner) was led into the wolf’s den, abandoned by Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen), raped and abused by Ramsay Bolton, I, as well as everyone else, hoped that she would get her revenge, and come into her power. That dark of a story turn for a beloved character would have had to pay off in some way, other than just showing the evil of Littlefinger and Ramsay — too often, sexual violence is just an easy route to “bad, really bad.”
It’s also a facile route to “empowered woman,” which is clearly where we’re going with Sansa.
As in last week’s episode, “The Book of the Stranger,” as well as this week’s, Sansa is stretching into her power, determined to take back her home of Winterfell and avenge the destruction of her family. But Sansa’s victimhood, her surviving the things that she has is presented in a devastating and humane interaction with one of her abusers, the manipulative Littlefinger.
The episode starts out with a testimony of her pain. “I’m harmed,” she declares, and demands, “what do you think he did to me?” It’s nearly a rhetorical question, because he’ll never comprehend the wound in her heart and her body that is still raw.
“If you knew about Ramsay,” she says, “you are my enemy.” Littlefinger has come to offer the protection of the Knights of the Vale, but she refuses it outright. She finally has the power to tell him to fuck off, whether or not it’s a good idea.
But her victimhood isn’t something she broadcasts to everyone — though anyone who knows of Ramsay Bolton could guess as to what kind of husband he would be. But she doesn’t share it with her brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington), and even hides her meeting with Littlefinger from him. But the siblings scheme and plan with Lord Davos (Liam Cunningham) to scare up allies, placing their bets on the hopes that the North remembers the Stark name. She shares the news that their uncle Bynden Tully, the Blackfish, the uncle of her mother Catelyn, has reassembled their army and is ready to fight. The only question: will there be any split loyalties along Snow and Stark lines?
Still, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) isn’t super stoked on the idea of riding to Riverrun and leaving Sansa alone with all the roughnecks and emo goths of Castle Black. Davos and Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) are still tainted with blood magic. And, have you seen hipster ginger bearded snowboarder Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju)? Dude is practically foaming at the mouth at the tall drink of water that is Brienne. So, the entire crew rolls out to Riverrun — Jon, Sansa, Brienne, Davos, Melisandre and Tormund. Road trip! Sansa’s even made Jon a special cloak for the occasion.