Countless characters have died shockingly and tragically over the past six seasons of Game of Thrones, but there’s something uniquely devastating about the show’s latest casualty. In fact, it can only be described with a single word: Hodor.
Kristian Nairn’s kind giant guided Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) all the way from Winterfell through the Wall and toward his magical destiny… and as it happens, Hodor’s own path was guided by Bran. In the final moments of “The Door,” Bran’s green-seeing and warging abilities crossed the streams in such a way that he wargs into Hodor and orders him to “hold the door” from an army of the dead. It gives the present Hodor his final directive, and the past Hodor the new name and limited vocabulary that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
It’s a devastating twist, and one that calls to mind “The Variable,” a bone-chilling episode from the fifth season of ABC’s Lost. Spoiler alert: In that series, time travel expert Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies) learns that he was always fated to die at his mother’s hands, even as she willingly guided him toward his destiny. The latest Game of Thrones twist isn’t quite as nefarious, with Bran having no idea that he would one day become the man to name and condemn Hodor… really, that he had always been that man.
Still, pushing past the shock and horror of the moment, Daniel Faraday’s death on Lost and Hodor’s death on Game of Thrones shine a light on how time travel works on the latter show. Lost operated under a three-word rule: “Whatever happened, happened.” In essence, the past can’t be changed, but the actions of the people from the present who inadvertently exist in the past can and always will have ramifications in the future. In Game of Thrones, Bran hopping into the past and ordering Wylis to “hold the door” always happened, resulting in the name and word “Hodor.” While it’s a harrowing end for such a beloved character, the implications are even more unsettling, as it confirms suspicions that Bran can indeed interact with the past, with horrific results.
Before, it was fun to imagine what else Bran’s past actions might have caused for his future and present. Did he help Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) give birth to dragons? Was he at the Tower of Joy to help his father name Jon Snow (Kit Harington), assuming that theory pans out? Now, we have definitive proof of how Bran’s misadventures through history have contributed to the present and future, and it’s the exact opposite of fun, leaving one to wonder what other horrors he’s caused along the way.
But even in the darkest corners of Game of Thrones, there’s hope. The Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) explicitly calls Bran by his full name — Brandon — shortly before his own death. (In addition to Hodor, both the Raven and Bran’s direwolf Summer died; a bleak hour indeed.) One of the greatest Westeros legends is Brandon the Builder, the man who built The Wall. The show has now firmly established Bran’s ability to travel back in time, and his ability to warg into people who exist in the past. Is it possible that Bran Stark and the legendary Brandon the Builder are the same man? Even if Bran was responsible for Hodor’s terrible fate, is it possible that he’s responsible for something equally good in creating The Wall?
Of course it’s possible, because now, with Bran’s central role in Hodor’s life and death revealed, virtually anything is possible. There’s nothing more to do now than hold the door and see how it plays out.
Watch the video for a primer on how Bran’s time travel works on Game of Thrones:
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