This weeks Game of Thrones was arguably one of the most important in the show's six seasons. Rather than opt for outright shock and gore - as it has done in recent weeks - this week we saw plot developments, backstory, history, character building, new alliances and, yes, a bit of death thrown in too. Not only was it tightly paced and packed with story, The Door was a beautifully shot hour, full of vivid flames, stark frozen wastelands and some impressive performances from Isaac Hempsted-Wright, Emelia Clarke and Sophie Turner. Here are the biggest moments.
After reuniting in the last episode, Sansa and Jon set about forming a plan for how they can take back the north. But first, Sansa is summoned to nearby Molestown, where she is confronted by Littlefinger. She brings Brienne with her as her hired muscle and goes pretty hard on her former mentor, laying into him for letting her marry Ramsey and put her in more danger than ever during the events of season five. It's a powerful performance from Sophie Turner, who perfectly plays Sansa's frustration at Littlefinger while also displaying her newfound sense of purpose.
Littlefinger claims he didn't know anything about Ramsay but she sees that as an even bigger violation of trust. Despite settling his Vale troops in Moat Cailin, Littlefinger is sent packing by Sansa, but he does give her a useful titbit of information: her uncle Brendan Tully, a.k.a. the Blackfish, survived The Red Wedding and has managed to retake Riverrun (presumably from house Frey). He has also amassed a small army. Realising the importance of playing up her lineage as a Stark and a Tully (Jon, for all his death-defying, can't claim to be either), she sends Brienne to treat with her uncle personally. Meanwhile, Jon decides to visit lots of the small Northern houses in order to win the trust and accumulate a larger army.
After returning 'home' last week, Theon continues his plan to support his sister in the upcoming Kingsmoot. After having a good haircut and putting on some proper clothes that aren't soaked in his own piss, Theon delivers a rousing speech supporting his sister and for a while it seems as if he's made a pretty good case for the crown. However, like a crooked pantomime villain, his uncle Euron parts through the crowd and tells the iron islanders that he killed Balon because he refused to do anything while the country wasted away. Euron reveals his grand plan: a new dangerous mission sending their best ships across the sea to meet Daenerys, who has three dragons, an army and all sorts of followers and bring her home to Westeros. He claims she will do all the hard work for them in conquering the seven kingdoms. He also says he's going to marry her. Good luck mate!
Once Euron successfully wins over the islanders, Theon, Yara and their loyal supporters take the ships and flee. But where are they going? Will they be heading East to warn the Meerenese against their uncle?
Elsewhere in Essos, fresh from their barbecuing of the Khals, Dany, Daario and Jorah discussed their next move. Jorah professed his love for Dany but also reveals his greyscale. It was a really heartwarming moment in the show; Dany forgives Jorah for betraying her and thanks him for saving her life. But she says he must find a cure for his condition, as she will need him in Westeros when she is Queen. He sets off alone, determined to do right by her. But he also says he knows to end his life before his condition worsened. How much time does he have left?
After taking another heavy beating, this time in a fistfight, Arya is dispatched on an assassination job. Her target: a lady currently acting in a play in Braavos. The play tells of the downfall of Robert Baratheon; with a lot of key details missing, it's more like a pantomime - all the dialogue rhymes and the performance is very lewd and graphic. Cersei, Joffrey, Tyrion, Robert, Sansa and Ned all have roles - and Arya is disturbed when the play passes her father off as a stupid, power-hungry simpleton. Was this assignment given on purpose, to rattle her sense of identity? Arya asks why the woman has to die, but Jaquen tells her it's none of her business.
The last huge moment from this weeks episode is actually comprised of about 10 smaller but still amazing bits. This season, Bran has come right to the forefront, becoming one of the most compelling parts of the season. Quite a surprise considering no-one was really that disappointed he was going to take a year out.
First things first: Bran and the Three Eyed Raven watch an old memory when we see the children of the forest use the obsidian (dragon glass) daggers, forcing them into a human male's chest, literally turning into the first White Walker. That's right: the children of the forest created the white walkers, as we learn, as a weapon to wipe out mankind, who had been cutting down the children of the forest's natural homes. Eagle eyed viewers might have noticed the weird stone formation around the Weirwood tree was the same pattern left by the White Walkers when they massacred the Night's Watch after the Season Two finale.
But that's not everything. Later on, Bran - frustrated he's being pulled out of memories by the Three Eyed Raven too soon - goes venturing into memories by himself but ends up witnessing the Night's King, sitting on a horse outside their cave, with a gigantic army of the undead. Thinking he's in the past, he is caught off guard when the Night's King grabs his arm and causes him so much pain he is jolted awake.
When Bran looks at his arm and sees a frost-blue mark burned into his skin, the Raven realises Bran wandering unsupervised has thrown him in to the path of their enemy, who can now breach the cave.
What follows is a terrifying action sequence as the white walkers and their army of the undead sweep into the cave and try to kill everyone inside. The Raven reveals he must sacrifice himself so Bran can ascend to his place. "Am I ready?" Bran asks desperately. "No," he says, sadly, and Bran realises his disobedience has royally fucked things up.
Meera fights off the undead. Summer, Bran's Wolf, dies fending them off (!!!!!) and after several of the elfin Children of the Forest die protecting Bran, even Hodor steps up to block the undead behind the huge stone door. As Bran is pulled away by Meera on his sledge, Hodor is mauled to death.
Meera's demands that he 'hold the door!', coupled with Bran warging into the giant while witnessing a memory of Hodor in the past all convenes to cause a young Hodor back in Winterfell to collapse and start muttering the word 'Hodor' over and over again. It's about as subtle as a kick in the head, and seems a bit too neat, but the entire sequence is a thrilling, terrifying end to the episode. Bran and Meera are now alone in the frozen wastelands in the North, and although Meera killed a White Walker in the caves, the pair are now in more danger than they've ever been.
Other stuff: Tyrion hires a red priestess to deliver word Dany is a saviour in a Veep-style PR campaign. Brienne and Tormund'a fledging romance is oddly exciting. Sansa does some needle work. And Dorne is, thankfully, still very much absent.