Spoilers for last night’s episode of Game of Thrones.
If someone told you before last night’s episode of Game of Thrones there would be a tragic death and asked you to predict which character it would be, would you have ever guessed it would be Hodor?
I never would have guessed that. In the entire run of the show, Hodor pretty much just dragged Bran Stark around and said his name over and over again. Sure, his innocence and determination to protect Bran made him a likable character. But still, how could his death have such an emotional impact?
Before we get into Hodor’s death, let’s briefly talk about what happened in the rest of the episode.
First, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish and Sansa Stark had their first reunion since he sent her off to live with Ramsay Bolton. Besides Ramsay, there’s probably no one in Westeros Sansa wants dead more than Littlefinger and she let him know it. Before sending Littlefinger back to the Vale, Sansa found out her uncle (on her mother’s side) took back Riverrun. After the Red Wedding, Tywin Lannister gave Riverrun, the home of the Tully family, to Walder Frey as a reward for killing the Starks. However Catelyn Stark’s brother, Brynden “the Blackfish” Tully, survived the Red Wedding. Now, Brynden’s taken back his hometown, so Sansa and Jon Snow decide to reach out to their uncle to see if he’ll help them in their upcoming war with Ramsay.
Speaking of the Starks, Arya is somehow worse at fighting since getting her eyesight back. Despite still getting her ass kicked by that strange girl, she got a new assignment to kill an actress. When Arya goes to scout out her victim, the actress is performing in a play showing the events of the first season of Game of Thrones, with Robert Baratheon getting killed by a boar and Ned Stark getting beheaded.
The last few episodes, Arya seemed to be all-in with the Many-Faced God. But after seeing the most tragic moment of her life getting mocked by a crowd, Arya’s passion for that cause seems to be wavering. I’m guessing by the end of the season, she’ll leave the Faceless Men and return to Westeros to finish off her revenge list.
Nothing of much importance happened in Essos this week. Jorah Mormont revealed his greyscale to Daenerys Targaryen, and things got a bit weepy. Meanwhile in Meereen, Tyrion and Varys asked a priestess for the Lord of the Light to help support Daenerys. This went very well for Stannis Baratheon, so I’m sure they have nothing to worry about.
The more important thing regarding Daenerys happened all the way in the Iron Islands. Yara Greyjoy, with the support of her brother Theon, was set to become the first female leader of the Ironborn when her uncle, Euron, showed up. He presented a plan to build a gigantic fleet to sail to Essos so he could marry Daenerys and bring her army to Westeros to conquer the land. The Ironborn threw their support behind Euron, but his plan got a little complicated when Yara and Theon stole all his best boats.
Daenerys’ story has always been a bit removed from the rest of the show. Sure, she talks about invading Westeros eventually, but she always finds an excuse not to. But if Euron’s plan succeeds, Daenerys can finally take back her homeland. Let’s just hope the Ironborn can make boats in less than five episodes…
And that brings us to Bran, the Three-Eyed Raven and Hodor. Earlier in the episode, Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven saw the Children of the Forest creating the White Walkers. Later, while everyone slept, Bran decided to go back to where the White Walkers were created and check it out. Unfortunately, they were able to see Bran and the Night’s King grabbed him.
It’s pretty complicated to explain what happened next. Basically, Bran goes back into time with the Three-Eyed Raven as the White Walkers attack. Meera tries to wake him up and tells him to warg into Hodor (as he’s done in the past) to help escape. Bran hears her but is still stuck in his dream/the past. So when he wargs into Hodor, he does so both in the present AND the past. As they are escaping, Meera tells Hodor to, “Hold the door,” and keep the undead from getting to Bran. Both present-day Hodor and past Hodor hear this. Past Hodor ends up having a seizure and mental break as he keeps repeating, “Hold the door,” over and over. And as Past Hodor loses his mind, present-day Hodor gets killed protecting Bran from the White Walkers.
Hodor’s death is unlike any we’ve seen on the show previously. When you think about other fan favorite characters who were killed, all their deaths weren’t really that sad, just shocking. Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark and (before he came back to life) Jon Snow were all killed in unexpected moments. But they weren’t tragic. When people posted reaction videos to the Red Wedding, you didn’t see people sitting quietly and getting tearful. They were jumping on their couch and yelling, “WHAT THE FUCK?!” over and over.
The way the entire scene builds, showing a young Hodor losing his ability to speak intercut with older Hodor holding his ground to save Bran, was possibly the greatest sequence the show has produced. Here’s a character whose entire life was built for this one moment. He lost his ability to speak and any chance to live normally so one day he could sacrifice himself to save Bran. In one scene, we see two horrific events happen to the same character. And he didn’t choose to save Bran or lose his mind, which is what makes it even more tragic.
Every other character’s death can be attributed to a mistake they made. Ned believed that being honorable would prevail. Robb chose love over politics. Jon trusted the Night’s Watch to support him no matter what. But Hodor didn’t make any mistake that led to his death. His sole purpose in life was to die protecting Bran. It was his tragic destiny.
For a show that’s delivered many memorable character deaths, last night’s episode raised the bar yet again. There will certainly be more in the future, but it will be hard to outdo Hodor holding the door.
Joseph Misulonas is an assistant editor for Playboy.com. He can be found on Twitter at @jmisulonas.