Let’s talk about Hodor. (SPOILERS ABOUND).
Wow. Another doozy in a show laden with doozies. This one was equal parts shock and heartbreak. It wasn’t the Red Wedding, it wasn’t the Mountain vs the Viper, or Ned Stark’s execution, or the Shireen sacrifice, it was something of another knit entirely—a soul-ringer, boundless in its ability to shatter your heart into a billion, disyllabic pieces.
If you didn’t feel the end of this episode in your bone marrow, if you didn’t feel an aching in your chest, then, I really don’t know what to tell you – you may be a sociopath. Hodor was one of the only figures of innocence left on this show. He was a simple, sweet man, who gave his life for a petulant, impatient 15 year old who inadvertently ruined his entire existence decades earlier.
Let’s dive into what actually happened to Hodor, because, as with any time-travel story -even the good ones- the narrative becomes at least somewhat convoluted. So Bran went into a green-seeing vision on his own and in that vision the Knights King touches his arm. The touch lifts whatever sorcery was keeping the cave beneath the ancient Weirwood white-walker free for centuries. This, put it mildly, was a bad move. The Three-Eyed Raven, knowing that the walkers and wights are surely on their way to the cave begins a sort of multi-torrent upload to get Bran to where he needs to be to take over. During this we see Bran back at Winterfell gazing upon his Father as he prepares for a trip to the Vale. In the background a young Wylis (Hodor) is seen standing beside a horse. As the dead army breaks through the Children of the Forrest firebombing and begin to encroach upon the center of the tree, Meera Reed is trying desperately to wake Bran so he can warg into Hodor and help them escape. As she is shaking and screaming at him, Bran hears her words in the past, and, with the blessing of the Three-Eyed Raven, he listens to Meera and wargs. But when he does this, he simultaneously wargs into the Hodor of the past, and the Hodor of the present. This results in past Hodor experiencing a sort of seizure. As they escape, future Hodor holds off the army of Wights and sacrifices himself so Bran and Meera can escape, all the while, Meera’s plea to, “hold the door” echoes through the head of both present and past Hodor.
It took me an hour or so of unpacking to realize the complete horror of the life of Hodor. Think of it this way: Wylis, a young, seemingly innocent, half-giant, stable boy had his brain taken over by another being (Bran). Through this cortex-abduction he sees himself being killed by a hoard of frozen skeletons, an event so relentlessly traumatic that his mind was unable to focus on anything else henceforth. He was consumed by this moment for decades upon decades. This explains why Hodor would go catatonic at certain moments and be completely terrified, shaking in the corner.
He was always waiting for this to happen.
He was waiting for his horrific death since he was a kid.
“Hold the door” became “Hodor,” the only word Wylis would ever say – the last words he hears before he’s killed.
If that doesn’t give you chills you’re living your life wrong.
Bran’s impatience leads to the death of: seemingly all of the Children of the Forrest, the Three-Eyed Raven, Summer (and, really, the show loves to give Dire Wolves the crappiest deaths, I know they’re expensive to animate, but c-mon!) and, Hodor. It’s a costly error, but not quite as costly as the error of the Children of the Forrest, who, it turns out, are responsible for the creation of the white walkers! But that’s for another post, this one’s for Hodor.
In many ways, the story of Hodor is the most heart-breaking we’ve seen on the show. It hits so hard because its a reveal that impacts more than a death, its a reveal that impacts an entire life. A life of someone who we’ve grown to love over the last six seasons.
In honor of this lovable, troubled lug, I would like to propose a concrete change to everyday, courtesy exchanges.
Henceforth whenever anyone holds a door for you, don’t say thanks, say Hodor*.
*This is not a joke; I’m going to start doing this.
by Jesse Mechanic