Season 6, Episode 5
Aired: May 15, 2016
Director: Jack Bender
Writers: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Perhaps we all should be used to the tragic ends on Game of Thrones. But Hodor’s (presumed) death has to be up there as one of the most gut-wrenching on a show that has specialized in that sort of thing. Seeing young Wylis collapse and go into a seizure as Bran and Meera ask his older counterpart to “Hold the door” and realizing that his affliction, and the entire arc of his life, has been shaped by this one moment, was really heartbreaking. In essence, he stared into the abyss – it’s unclear exactly what he knew in that moment before he collapsed and how aware he was of his inevitable fate, but it’s clear that what he heard and/or saw broke him and left him the “Hodor”-spouting gentle giant we know and love.
There’s certainly a lot to process after that tragic final scene (not to mention the rest of the episode, which was also incredibly entertaining), but once I had time to process it all, two things stood out to me.
First, we’ve wondered since young Ned Stark seemed to hear Bran’s voice in a previous vision if Bran could change the past. This week, we found out that essentially the answer is yes and no. Bran can alter things during his visions – like the Night King touching him and Wylis becoming Hodor – but he can’t really change things. Whatever he does in the past is always what happened. Hodor was destined to become Hodor. There was never a version of the past where Bran didn’t inadvertently do this to Wylis. So Bran can’t change anything we’ve already seen happen. Those events are locked. So he can’t go back and save his dad or mom or Robb.
Secondly, while Bran accidentally turns Wylis into Hodor, I believe the Three-Eyed Raven knew this was going to happen. I think he willingly sacrificed Hodor’s life in order to ensure Bran’s safety. When I watched the episode the first time, I had trouble understanding why the Three-Eyed Raven, knowing the Night King was coming to kill them all, took Bran back to see young Hodor. It seemed like he was unnecessarily putting them both in danger in order to show Bran what seemed like an inconsequential moment in the past. But then it hit me – the reason they were there was to create Hodor. The Three-Eyed Raven set the stage to ensure Hodor would be ready to hold that door at that key moment to give Bran and Meera time to escape.
Rewatching the scene made this clear to me. The most telling moment happens when the White Walkers are storming the cave and Meera is shouting at Bran to wake him up so he can warg into Hodor. As Meera is calling out to Bran to use Hodor, he hears her within the vision. Then the Three-Eyed Raven says, “Listen to your friend, Brandon.” So he traps Bran in the past during the attack, then gets him to listen to Meera’s pleas. This is the last thing the Three-Eyed Raven does before being struck down, so obviously it’s important. To me, the only explanation is that he was stacking the deck to have Wylis have that seizure and get locked in on that command. Essentially, the Three-Eyed Raven has Bran wipe Wylis’ mind of any other desires or plans. From that moment on, his entire life is devoted to one day saving Bran. He’s basically turned into a robot with one directive.
While I could go on and on about the implications of that final scene, it was the capper to a very enjoyable episode. I was really moved by Danny’s command to Jorah to find a cure and hope it points him toward a happy ending; though the show has conditioned me to expect the worst. I also really enjoyed Arya’s plotline and am intrigued to see how she does killing a funhouse mirror version of Cersi. And things seem to be getting exciting in the Iron Islands, though at this point it’s unclear how that will tie in to the bigger picture (especially with Euron’s plan to woo Danny).
This was a really exciting and emotional episode. It’s really fun being ahead of the books so we can all speculate together about what this will all mean and where we are headed from here.
And another thing …
- There was recently a fan Kickstarter launched to “reshoot” the Dorne plotline. While I didn’t endorse that one, I would totally get behind a Kickstarter designed to retell all of the previous seasons the way the theatre company retold the events at the end of season one in this episode.
- The Danny-Jon parallels continue this week as Danny’s team gets their own Red Woman, Kinvara. She seems to outrank Melisandre. So I’m curious how their conflicting beliefs about who the promised leader is will play out.
- Sansa standing up to Littlefinger and refusing his help was good course correcting by the showrunners, who seem to have taken last year’s criticisms to heart.
- Jack Bender did such an awesome job directing this episode. I really liked the little touches, like the overhead shots used to establish the environment whenever Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven went on a vision.
- Did HBO slash the show’s direwolf budget? Those things are dropping like flies.
Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org