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Spoilers and Hold The Door

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A few days ago, I started binge-watching season 6 of Game of Thrones. I didn’t watch the show as it was airing this year, because I was fairly certain that I never wanted to see any of it again, but some people I trust told me it was worth watching after all, so once it had all aired and no huge controversy had emerged, I sat down to watch it. And shock of shocks, I’m enjoying it a lot.

Of course, because I never planned to watch it but still feel semi-invested in what happens, I’m extremely spoiled for many major plot points. I was dreading one in particular, in episode five, The Door.

Spoilers obviously to follow!

Here’s what I knew, or at least what I thought I knew. Bran and co. are attacked by White Walkers while Bran is in a vision of the past. Hodor dies holding the door closed to allow the others to escape. Echoes of someone shouting “hold the door” travel back in time through Bran, and something goes wrong, causing Hodor to become Hodor (because “Hodor” = “hold the door.”) It sounded really tragic and tear-inducing, with Hero Hodor sacrificing himself to save Bran and Meera.

Ha.

Obviously, a few key details got lost on the post-episode hype grapevine. Firstly, that it was Bran’s fault that the Night King attacked them and killed almost everyone. Secondly, and more importantly, that Hodor did not choose to “hold the door.” He wasn’t given any choice in the matter. Bran warged into him and forced Hodor to use himself as a meat shield so the others could get away. Meera screamed, “Hold the door,” but she was telling Bran through Hodor, not Hodor himself. There’s no sign that Hodor had any choice in anything he did once Bran started trying to warg into him. And then Bran took away not only Hodor’s life in the present, but also in the past, by somehow simultaneously warging into both versions at the same time, giving young Hodor a vision of his death and leaving him with nothing left except that one phrase that was drilled into him against his will — “hold the door.”

Hodor’s death emotionally affected me, but it didn’t leave me sad, as I expected. It left me angry. Furious with Bran for taking control of Hodor against his will, once again. For forcing Hodor to experience a painful death to gain them a few seconds against the hoard, when Meera can’t possibly run with Bran, when Hodor is a person whose life Bran completely co-opted, from youth onward, to save his own life after his hubris got him in trouble. I don’t know what happens next — that’s the most recent episode I’ve seen, as I write this — but I’m not sure I’ll forgive Bran for this, and I hope in the next weeks he shows remorse. It’s an interesting moral question, but, to me, Bran did something completely unacceptable.

But here’s the thing. I thought I knew what happened in this episode, from hearing people talk about it extensively. And to some extent, I did know what happened, at least in vague terms. Nothing I’d heard was false; it just missed a few details that meant I came to the wrong conclusion. Because my thoughts were formed entirely by other people’s reactions to it, without seeing it myself.

It feels like a reminder, in the internet age of jumping-on-the-bandwagon, that we really cannot comment on media that we haven’t read or watched ourselves. When we rely on hearsay about how something is “problematic” or “feminist” or whatever, when we start criticizing things and discussing them without checking them out firsthand, we can miss nuances of the story that can make all the difference. I didn’t write about Hold The Door — it wouldn’t have really been relevant even if I’d wanted to, based on what I assumed — but I did have feelings about it after it happened. I heard about it, and I felt so sad for Hodor, for his bravery. My reaction to the idea of the scene was very different to my reaction to the scene itself.

And that feels important, when we so often end up with hot topics of the moment, where everyone is talking about the same plot development in a TV show or new bestselling book that people love to hate. If we want to be able to fully own our opinions on media, we have to make sure we experience it firsthand.

Rhiannon

Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

21 thoughts on “Spoilers and Hold The Door

  1. Just when you thought you were out, it drags you back in, huh? LOL.

    This season really was better than the last. Way better. But we lost a great deal of good characters, and Hodor’s death was one of the most painful. Can’t wait to see what you thought of the rest of the season! I have missed your commentary!

    1. Me too! Please do another update when you finish watching the season…I will be interested in your takes on Sansa, Margaery, and especially Cersei’s arc! (oooh, and you haven’t met Lyanna Mormont yet! and Yara Greyjoy is actually important again this season!)

      1. I just met Lyanna Mormont! She is epic. I’m really hoping she appears again in the last three episodes.

    2. There is no escape!

      And thank you. :) Now that I’ve had a break, I’m actually looking forward to diving in again.

  2. While what Bran did to Hodor was wrong, who can say that they would do the right thing if their lives was in danger? A problem with second-hand information is that we all have our own priorities and moral views which affect what we tel others.

    1. That’s very true. I have to wonder how I would have reacted if I hadn’t been spoiled – if the contrast between what I thought happened and what actually happened wasn’t so prominent in my thoughts.

  3. I’m happy you are watching. I’ve missed your reviews. I thought the season was mostly good, apart from the Sand Snakes and Ellaria in Episode 1, and there is a lot to write about.

    Great point about criticizing “problematic” media without watching/reading it first-hand. We’ve been seeing a lot of that lately. And I had exactly the same reaction to Hodor’s death — I was angry at Bran for using Hodor’s body as a shield against his will. Hodor wasn’t a hero who chose to sacrifice himself for his friends, but a helpless victim who never had any choice at all.

    1. I got the feeling that the first couple of episodes were a murderous rampage through all the characters that the show didn’t want to deal with any more. Dorne, Roose Bolton, Allister Thorne, Balon Greyjoy… a kind of “crap, quick, tie up those loose ends so we can have new plots!” Once it calmed down, I started enjoying it a lot more. Although I’m still sad that Dorne was such a mess.

  4. SO glad you’re talking about this series again (or at least this once). Yours is commentary I haven’t been able to find any where else, so it’s a welcome surprise to have you dive back in. That being said, I understand and respect why you stopped watching and writing about it a while back. Anyway, thanks for writing this, and your awesome blog in general.

    1. Thank you! <3 I was surprised to dive back in too, but so many people told me that it felt like a different show this year, in a good way, so I had to give it a chance and see for myself. There's no escape from this show. 😛 I'll definitely be talking about it more once I've finished catching up, and watching next season, assuming that the quality doesn't fall off a cliff again!

  5. My opinions about this loved and hated TV-show has gone up and down as well. But I enjoyed this season more than I expected. It’s not without flaws, but has some great moments. Hope you’ll watch all of it. Especially ep 9 and 10 are important.

    And no, even if the Starks are the “heroes” of the show, they are not just good, they have darker traits, not just Bran. Though I never understood how aware he was about what he really did to Hodor?

    But I like the idea that the Stark boys and girls are far from perfect, just less bad than many other characters in this world.

    1. I was hoping for some discussion of what happened once they escaped the White Walkers, but I guess there hasn’t really been time. You’re right, though, that the Starks are much more interesting characters because they make mistakes and sometimes do awful things. One of my favorite things about the books is how morally ambiguous so many characters are.

      I’m looking forward to seeing how the final episodes of the season go! (Well, I know a lot about how they go, because I am super spoiled for all King’s Landing stuff at least, but as I found out, hearing spoilers and actually watching it are not the same thing…)

  6. I’m sorry, but if you really think this season is better than the last one you haven’t been analyzing it carefully.

    http://www.fandomfollowing.com/category/podcasts/
    This podcast lays out all of GOT’s nonsense quite nicely.

    Hodor is just the tip of the iceburg. This show remains extremely misogynistic, racist, and ableist and it goes consistently out of its way to change iconic book lines, plots, and characterization. Sansa not knowing the words to accept Brienne as her sworn sword is ridiculous. Jon was lying dead on the ground for how many episodes? That isn’t a problem at all given that there are ZOMBIES everywhere. And Ellaria Sand murdered the ruling house of Dorne and suffered no consequences. Yara raped a sex slave and emotionally abused Theon right out of his PTSD. Tyrion is explaining things to brown people who should by all rights know how to rule Mereen better than he would.

    Every “empowered” moment for women this season has been a pretty distraction because when you actually think about it for two seconds none of the women actually have that much agency.

    1. Sansa not remembering the words made no sense because knowing the proper words for every formal occasion is her thing. Even when she was a naive little girl, she was the queen of courtesy. Yes, she was running away, freezing and stressed out, but if anyone can remember an oath under extreme circumstances, it’s Sansa.

      Also, I wish we could have seen her adapting her approach with Lyanna Mormont. Talking about beautiful ladies doesn’t work? Okay, let’s try something else. Supposedly, she’s been learning how to influence and manipulate people, but in the past two seasons she hadn’t influenced anyone, besides to some extent Littlefinger, who is creepily obsessed with her, and Brienne, who swore an oath to her mother. She used to be better in the past — she manipulated Joffrey to spare Dontos and to fight in the Blackwater battle, and she convinced the Lords and Lady of the Vale of Littlefinger’s innocence. We haven’t seen much progress since then, quite the opposite.

      Agreed on Ellaria and Yara. Making a woman a bully doesn’t make her “strong”. Not sure about Tyrion — he was called out on his ridiculous behavior and it was clearly shown that he was wrong.

    2. I haven’t been analyzing it carefully, at all. I started watching again just to check it out, and see whether I enjoyed it more when I watched it casually without thinking about it for blog posts and analysis. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be analyzing it and writing about it once I finish the season, but I’m delaying letting myself dig into that stuff until then. Watching it purely for fun first. :)

      You’re right, though. I kind of accepted Ellaria Sand’s actions having no consequences because I didn’t *want* the show to return to that plotline — so her vanishing was a win in my book. And I just saw the scene where Yara shouts at Theon in the last episode I watched, and it definitely didn’t make me like her or think her empowered. The show has dropped MOST of the really overt sexualisation and violence against female characters, although not all of it (did Walda really have to be attacked by Ramsay’s dogs?), and that makes it possible to actually watch it and enjoy the good bits without fear. It still is far from being as feminist as it claims, and far from understanding the book characters as we know them.

      1. There’s also, I just realized, a big difference for me between watching one episode a week, and watching them all in succession at will. The weaker parts of the story don’t seem as bad when I marathon shows, because I don’t have much time to dwell on them, and don’t have any time to wait until I can turn to more, better episodes. I think it’s why I’ve been favoring waiting and then marathoning shows more and more recently.

        1. Yes, the sexism isn’t as overt this season but in many ways I think its more insidious because the show has built a platform for itself based on faux progressivism and faux feminism. The advertising around the show heading into the season kept declaring “women on top” but the show has only done token gestures to make it seem like everything they did in s5 was purposeful and to a point. It wasn’t. Lyanna Mormont is perhaps the best example. She’s a breath of fresh air but really her narrative (along with all the other northern lords’) makes no sense. Why do the Northern Lords support Ramsay? It goes against their own self interests and their historical loyalty to House Stark.

          And the Loras story line makes me retch. The amount of hate and torture he suffers through that never happened in the books because the show wants to be “progressive” is sickening. If they really wanted to be lgbtq allies they wouldn’t have made him a gay stereotype and the butt of gay joke after gay joke season after season. They would have given the character a meaningful narrative instead of more torture porn.

          And the Margaery/Tommen interaction is gross as well. The actor playing Tommen has said his character is 12 but Natalie Dormer has described Tommen as 17. Either way Marg is sexually manipulating and abusing a child and the show has played it for laughs. There is a reason their relationship was never consummated in the books. Also, if Tommen and Myrcella have grown up so much why is baby Sam still an infant!

          I’m sorry for ranting here but if you’re serious about taking on Game of Thrones again you absolutely need to look at the show with a critically feminist eye because very few critics have been doing that.

          1. I wouldn’t start writing about Game of Thrones here again without a critically feminist eye. This post was more of a general thought than Game of Thrones analysis.

            I remember seeing all the promotion and the interviews where they pushed the feminist angle, and being really irritated by it all. And the Margaery/Tommen interaction remains gross from last season, although at least they’ve been less in-your-face about it. I think there’s a risk of giving the show too much credit now, because it’s not as overtly awful as before. The same showrunners are still behind it, with the same lurking ideas, but so many people really WANT to love the show (me included, I must admit, as a book fan), so the second it seems to improve at all, we’re delighted to talk about how much BETTER it is and wave over all the more insidious problems that remain.

            As I said, I’m kind of taking the time to be a little handwavey as I watch it, since being analytical and caring about the show can be really exhausting and I just wanted to give this season a casual try — even though obviously that’s proved impossible for me, since I’ve already written about it! But once I’ve seen the season as a whole (I still have three episodes left), then I’ll get stuck in.

    3. ^All of this. The season was the most nonsensical yet. Kinslaying and Kingslaying aren’t a big deal anymore and people actually get rewarded for it. Patriarchy exists for rape purposes but magically disappears when the Ladies of Horn Hill sass back to the notoriously abusive Randal Tarly? Yara berates her brother for his PTSD and tells him to kill himself if he can’t get over it (truly despicable message) and then she rapes a sex slave. And the woman was a sex slave because she had the tattoo indicating this. There was no consent there. And this was lauded for lesbian representation by critics. So much of the season was filler and obvious stalling until they got to their big battle episode and finale. Lyanna Mormont was pure pandering and in the end she didn’t even make sense. She wouldn’t follow a Snow or a Lady Lannister or Lady Bolton, but then she just crowns Jon King in the North when he actually made the biggest mistakes ( riding right into Ramsay’s trap) during the battle. It was Sansa’s connection to Littlefinger that brought the troops. And if it’s that easy for her to overlook a true born child of Ned, then what does that say of her own legitimacy? I mean, any bastard in her family could claim themselves as heir. She’s a ten year-old running Bear Island, but somehow Sansa can’t do the same for Winterfell? And how can Jon nor Sansa not even mention Bran? He is the actual heir and they could at least mention that he too was spared by Theon. And why does Jon just easily forgive Sansa for with holding the Vale troops info? She caused tons of unnecessary casualties. And why is Jon so unaffected by being resurrected from the dead? He acted the exact same way as he did before he was killed. The show just got more ridiculous this year and the misogyny became more covert.

  7. The show has many flaws, but I can’t agree with all the critizism. The Dorne and Sand snake story was never that interesting, female empowerment or not. But Tommen is supposed to be around 16 when he dies, not 12. Margarey has been manipulating him and using him, but she wasn’t abusing a child. Yes, the shows timeline is fucked up (if Tommen is 16, baby Sam should be 3 or 4 years old now), but that’s bad narrative, not misogynic.

    Furthermore, Tyrion probably knows more about ruling and diplomacy than two people who have been slaves their whole lives. He doesn’t know all though, and they know things he doesn’t know, wich we see the result of.

    And Yara isn’t raping a sex slave, she is sleeping with a prostitute. Some people would say it’s the same thing, but I don’t agree. Not that I support buying prostitutes, but Yara is not meant to be a very sympathetic character. Not totally bad either, but more of an anti hero than a hero.

    1. The face tattoo literally means she is a slave. So no, she is not a prostitute like Shae or Ros.

      And the fact they can’t even keep something as simple as the timeline and character ages straight does not speak kindly of the showrunners.

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