Warning: this article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 6 episode 5 episode, “The Door.”
I never thought before that reading “A Song Of Ice And Fire” would affect my enjoyment of watching Game of Thrones. Why should it? There was still miles of spectacle, diverting dialogue, and violence to enjoy. Seeing how events were rendered was almost as good as finding out how they unfurled in the first place. Surprise, I reasoned, wasn’t everything.
More fool me. Watching Game of Thrones without having a rough idea of where the big surprises are coming from is a much better time. There’s no more of the ongoing internal stock-take comparison of what’s stayed true to the source material and what’s changed, no more thinking, “He’s seconds from getting his skull crushed with a sickening crunch but don’t tell your face in case the spouse sitting next to you who hasn’t read the books gets wind of it.” Game of Thrones has been reliably able to entertain and visually impress me over the years, but now, even better, it can surprise me.
And it did in season 6 episode five, “The Door,” with a character death fans never predicted to be quite so moving, and some potentially game-changing revelations. Let’s have a look at what it all means…
1. What Happened to Hodor?
Poor Hodor, or Wylis to give him his proper name, perished like so many subjects in wartime: sacrificed for the sake of his Lord. Twice. The first time, it was as a stable boy in Winterfell when a mysterious fit left him only able to speak the word “Hodor,” the name he later became known by. The second time, decades later, he was overrun by Wights beyond the Wall while protecting the lives of Bran Stark and Meera Reed.
As viewers, we saw both of these events concurrently. Bran caused the childhood fit by unwittingly creating a damaging psychic link between Wylis’ past and future selves. While in a greenseeing vision that featured young Wylis, Bran heard Meera’s calls for help and warged into Hodor, seeming to use Wylis, who looked right at him, as a conduit. When Meera told Hodor to “Hold the door!” against the White Walkers, Wylis heard the order, and it became imprinted on his mind to the exclusion of all else, becoming shortened to “Hodor.” In every word, Wylis said from the day of the fit onwards, he was tragically presaging the events of his own death.
In Bran’s favor, and as is clear from the expression on his face as he realises what’s happened, it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t a deliberate act, much like the first time he warged into Hodor when sheltering from a storm in season 3. That said, each time Bran used Hodor in this way since—once to murder Locke, again to fight a band of skeletal attackers—the unwelcome invasion left his servant visibly traumatized. All hail Hodor, another casualty of his master’s war.
2. So, Does This Mean Bran Can Change the Past?
Yes. Though so far, we’ve only seen him do so in this ‘causal loop’ kind of way in which he alters a past event to lead to a pre-existing outcome, not creating an entirely new current event. Had Bran not damaged Wylis’ mind, there would be no Hodor. There was a Hodor, because Bran damaged Wylis’ mind. (And ours, with all this time travel business.)
We saw a young Ned Stark seem to hear Bran speak in a previous greenseeing session, which also indicates that he has the power to talk to people in his visions, though the Three-Eyed Raven said different. What we don’t yet know is whether Bran is able to bring about a different outcome in the present by messing around in the past. Could he, say, go back to before the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers and stop them, or would that crushed butterfly cause untold hurricanes all over the Seven Kingdoms?
3. Why Did the Children of the Forest Create the White Walkers?
To protect their lands and trees from the First Men. They took a man, inserted a Dragonglass blade into his heart, and created the first White Walker. (It looked very much like stuntman and actor Vladimir ‘Furdo’ Furdik tied to that tree, more commonly seen in full prosthetics as the Night’s King.)
All of which means that the White Walkers began life as defenders of the earth (Defenders!), created by the Old Ones to balance the relationship between man and nature. However, like the Cane Toads introduced to thwart the growing populations of Cane Beetles in Australia, they went forth and multiplied, and are now threatening to tip the balance too far in the other direction.
This gives us a new perspective on the Night’s King and his army, which Essos’ priests and priestesses have previously explained away as followers of The Other, a devilish alternative to the Lord of Light. In all this, we’ve never really stopped to ask what it is the White Walkers want. Could some sort of emissions agreement and carbon replacement pledge from the Andals satisfy their needs?
4. Who Was the Andal Turned into the Night’s King?
Were there any clues as to his identity? Better questions might be whether or not his previous identity is important, and whether the transformation from man to White Walker is irreversible. If say, someone got close enough to the Night’s King to take that dragonglass out of his breast, would the spell be broken and he return to human form (albeit not for long, due to the massive hole in his chest)?
5. Why Could Meera’s Spear Kill the White Walker?
Because it was was pointed with an arrowhead made of dragonglass, which, as well as Valyrian Steel, can kill White Walkers. Meera was given the weapon by Samwell Tarly in season 3 when he armed the travelling group from the bundle of dragonglass discovered at the Fist of the First Men, wrapped in a Night’s Watch cloak.
6. Is That It for the Children of the Forest?
Not sure, but it looks like it. After Bran committed the Game of Thrones equivalent of inviting the vampire in when he let the Night’s King touch him in a vision, the magic protecting the Three Eyed-Raven’s cave disappeared. That exposed Bran’s crew and the Children of the Forest to the White Walkers and Wights, and Bran and Meera aside, it didn’t look as though there were any survivors. Now that the Heart Tree’s roots have been burned away and the Three-Eyed Raven is dead, along with Jojen Reed, it seems as though Bran is the sole greenseer left.
7. Who was the Three-Eyed Raven?
This is much more clearly explained in the books when the “Three-Eyed Crow”—the old man Bran discovers underneath the heart tree—is identified as a Targaryen bastard and former member of the Night’s Watch, Brynden Rivers, or Lord Bloodraven. The smart money says it was either him, or Benjen Stark, who buried the dragonglass at the Fist of the First Men, too.
In the television series, we’re left guessing as to the background of the Three-Eyed Raven as played by Max von Sydow. Now that he’s dead though, his mantle has passed on to Bran.
8. How Many of the Stark Direwolves are Left?
One definitely, possibly two. Jon Snow’s albino direwolf, Ghost, is still alive at the time of writing. Arya’s direwolf Nymeria was sent away in the Riverlands and hasn’t been seen since season 1. Of the others, Sansa’s Lady was beheaded by Ned Stark on the orders of a cruel, vengeful Cersei Lannister; Robb’s Grey Wind was slaughtered in the Red Wedding and had his head sewn onto the Stark king’s corpse; Rickon’s Shaggydog was killed by House Umber and presented to Ramsay Bolton as proof of the young Stark’s identity; and Summer met his fate under a pile of Wights in “The Door.”
9. Was that the brilliant Kevin Eldon playing ‘Ned Stark’?
It was. With Mr. Richard E. Grant as King Robert Baratheon. Brilliant.