Last night, HBO’s Game of Thrones’ episode 5, “Hold the Door,” was much of the same talkity-talk-talk amongst characters that has thus far comprised season Six. In the unrealistic, deadly kind of dialogue that neophyte fiction writers err in, characters not only discussed — catalogued, more like — events that viewers already knew, but reiterated events that the other characters themselves were already familiar with.
Considering the crisp and snappy dialogue in the first five seasons of Game of Thrones, I been taken aback with the duller-than-dull dialogue that’s littering season 6 episodes, delaying any important action and completely devoid of character development. Last night, yawning through another Tyrion-Varys recounting of past events, this time with some new Red Witch, I decided that the show’s creator-writers, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, must have gotten much more of their dialogue directly from George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire than I originally realized.
While that’s certainly a compliment to best-selling author George Martin, it’s rather a shame for Game of Thrones. Martin failed to complete the highly anticipated sixth novel in the series, providing HBO show-runners with a detailed outline instead. I’ve said repeatedly in these posts and on the Twitter that Martin’s outline seems to have overwhelmed the show’s writers. It also seems to have denied them of the fine dialogue — which must reveal the characters’ natures, relationship, history, and conflict to be effective — that has been a hallmark of the show.
In each of the episodes this season, any really important action has been delayed until the final scene. From Melisandre’s removing her “magical” necklace and revealing that she is a withered crone rather than the sex-pot beauty who’s been seducing men all over Westeros,
to Jon Snow’s coming back to life after he was betrayed and murdered by his comrades of the Night’s Watch;
from Daenerys’ burning and killing all the Khals and emerging, once again, unburnt from the conflagration;
to Rickon’s being captured and turned over as a hostage to the sadistic Ramsay Bolton;
Game of Thrones has been ending each show with a Bang! of monumental proportions.
“Hold the Door” was no exception: its stunning final sequence with Bran, Meera, Hodor, and the White Walkers, gave viewers the shocks and the emotional devastation that the show is known for.
(If you didn’t yet see “Hold the Door,” do not continue to read this post, which is nothing but one big Spoiler, Very Horrific and Tear-Jerkingly Sad.)
Having finally found the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow, above L) in the Far North beyond the Wall, the youngest son of the House of Stark, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, above, center) has been having visions of events prior to the present, leading viewers to speculate that we were going to be given new information about some of the series’ characters. Last night’s final scene fulfilled those predictions. To viewers’ dismay, horror, and grief, we learned that Bran’s continual selfishness led to the demise of one of the most loved and lovable characters in the series: Bran’s bodyguard Hodor (Kristian Nairn).
Ever since young Bran spied the royal Lannister Twins, Jaime and Cersei, having incestuous sexual relations and was thrown from the tower window by Jaime, the crippled Bran has been accompanied by his faithful companion Hodor. A big, affable, somewhat dim-witted fellow, Hodor, for reasons unknown to characters in the show and to viewers, was never capable of saying anything other than “Hodor,” though he was able to follow instructions. Hodor also seemed very fond of Bran, his brother Rickon, and their guide Meera (Ellie Kendrick).
Many of Bran’s visions since he found the Three-eyed Raven have involved himself and his brothers when they were younger, as well as the young Hodor, who was called Wylis (Sam Coleman).
To Bran’s surprise, the young Hodor-Wylis is capable of speaking, of training with swords with the young Stark brothers, and is a belovèd son to his mother. Nothing has been revealed about why Hodor became simple-minded, able to say nothing other than “Hodor.”
After Bran had a vision in which he saw an army of White Walkers approach the underground caves where he, Meera, and Hodor have been hiding, the Three-eyed Raved told Bran he must leave.
Like, yesterday, Bran-Boy.
Apparently, because the White Walker (above) grabbed — and permanently marked — Bran’s wrist, the White Walker would now have the ability to enter their hiding place and kill its inhabitants.
And that is exactly what he did.
Once inside the underground or mountain labyrinth, the White Walkers proceeded to attack the Children of the Forest, the Three-eyed Raven, Bran, and his companions.
(In a surprise Reveal, the Children of the Forest admitted to having “created” the White Walkers by killing the men who first invaded and destroyed their land.) Despite having made the White Walkers by killing men, the Children of the Forest defended Bran from the Blue-eyed Zombies.
Meera screamed repeatedly at the unconscious Bran — who was having yet another vision of his childhood — that they “needed Hodor” to help them fight the White Walkers. Bran then sent his spirit into Hodor’s body, as he has done in the past, so that Hodor could fight for them.
Surprisingly, Bran, in the vision, also occupied Hodor-Wylis in the past. (Please don’t ask me how: I’ve never been able to figure out any of the time-traveling stories, like Twelve Monkeys or Terminator, where a character is himself, his father, his son, etc.) Though, technically, when he was younger, Bran had not mastered the ability to put himself into another animal’s or person’s body, Hodor-Wylis’ eyes turned white as Bran also went into the younger Hodor’s body.
In a typically self-centered move, Bran stood there and watched — listening to Meera, in the future-present, scream instructions to simple-minded Hodor as she attempted to save Bran from the White Walkers. To Hodor-Wylis’ mother’s horror and consternation, young Hodor collapsed and seemed to be having a seizure.
Bran looked on, rather disinterestedly, I thought, but then, that’s Bran’s nature: he’s interested in himself and his own survival; he appears to regard everyone else as existing only to ensure his survival, improve his own life, and even alleviate his boredom. (He’s also often filled with self-pity concerning his crippled state, but that wasn’t in last night’s episode.)
In fact, it was while the Three-eyed Raven was off in a vision of his own in “Hold the Door” that Bran awoke, and, in what seemed to be a fit of boredom, grabbed some bones lying in the cave, and proceeded to have the fatal vision of the White Walkers that enabled them to grab Bran’s wrist which allowed them to enter the hideout.
In the past, in the courtyard of the House Stark, Bran could hear Meera screaming to Hodor-in-the-present “Hold the door” — and that’s when, with a sudden catch in my throat, I realized what was going to happen — while young Hodor-Wylis convulsed on the ground, shouting, in return, “Hold the door.”
Bran just stood there, listening to Meera in his present, while vision-observin and listening to Hodor-Wylis in his past. Bran’s selfishness was extremely apparent in that scene, and I’m guessing that most viewers’ sympathy and affection poured out toward Hodor, in both time periods, not toward Bran.
Meera pushed or pulled Bran in the sled, away from the rampaging White Walkers, repeatedly shouting “Hold the Door” to the faithful Hodor.
Meera shouted over and over in the present, while Hodor-Wylis, in his seizure, shouted over and over in the past. (And then, I admit, Bran seemed to feel something like empathy or sadness for the young Hodor as he shouted “Hold the Door” in the past.)
In the most powerful and heart-wrenching scene of the entire sixth season, “Hold the Door, Hold the Door, Hold Door, Hold Door” eventually, and tragically, became “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor.”
Until the loving, faithful, innocent Hodor was killed by the White Walkers.
And viewers wept.
A Man Must Have A Name:
Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 4
Don’t Eat the Help:
Game of Thrones, s6 e2-3
The Red Woman and the Crone:
Game of Thrones, Season 6 Premiere