Game of Thrones’ Hodor: A Review
Until his tragic end, Hodor was not a character I ever thought I would review. Oh, he was an entertaining in his own way, to be sure, but not a figure of much significance. Or at least that was the case until his death, which made Hodor’s utter insignificance one of the most significant moments of the season so far.
“Hold the door,” Hodor was ordered to, and hold the door Hodor did at the cost of his life and the true importance of that moment was the sheer and utter unnecessity of it. The White Walkers and their undead minions had been held out of the Three-Eyed Raven’s lair for what presumably was centuries. They never should have been able to gain entry, but due to Bran’s recklessness and refusal to heed the warnings of his mentor that changed (though how the Night King touching Bran in one of his spirit walks allowed this to happen is a bit confusing – it seems like a very strange loophole even by magical standards). Bran, the heedless nobleman’s son, made the mistake but it was Hodor, the simpleminded stable boy, who paid the price both in the present AND in the past as the act of Bran possessing him while in spirit mode also apparently was the event that scrambled Hodor’s mind in the past leaving him with his mental disability.
This has been a consistent theme throughout both the books and the television show. The nobles, the rich, and the powerful vie with one another and the price is paid by ordinary folk: Shay the prostitute strangled for being caught up in a struggle between Tywin and Tyrion; Jory the guard captain killed in the streets of Kings’ Landing by Jamie Lannister to prove a point; an unnamed old women tortured to death by Ramsay Bolton. We, the viewers and the readers, certainly witnessed their deaths, and maybe even felt a bit sad about them (especially if it effected one of the main characters – who of course are the ones that actually matter – in some way or other) but never reacted with the depth of distraught emotion and hysteria that moments like the Red Wedding or Ned Stark’s beheading managed to invoke. We didn’t care. They just didn’t matter enough for us to care. Then suddenly Hodor held the door and in a moment of thematic brilliance this fundamental and unavoidable unfairness of the world was there for all of us to see.
It is not nice to be the person who has to hold the door, but someone has to. More often than not that person will be someone of little stature or importance because that makes them expendable. By showing this to us, and by in doing so utilizing a character most of us (if we are honest) had dismissed as little more than comic relief, George RR Martin once again has demonstrated his unrivalled brilliance as an author and storyteller. In that moment, Hodor was every single unnamed character in the world of Westeros who died as a result of the high born playing their game of thrones. He was the slave children crucified on the road to Mireen. He was Grenn and his Black Brothers holding the tunnel against a giant. He was the nameless, the faceless, and the powerless. It was a moment that was tragic. It was a moment that was beautiful.