Obviously, there are major spoilers here for Game of Thrones Season 6 episode 5, “The Door.”
Time travel is possible.
That premise is a huge leap of faith for any TV show or book series to take, even though or because it’s becoming an increasingly common trope. (See the CW’sLegends of Tomorrow,the new NBC show Timeless, the new ABC show Time after Time and the forthcoming Fox movie Making History.)
Jack Bender, director of Sunday’s heartbreaking Game of Thrones episode “The Door,” knows this better than most. He directed many of the pivotal time-travel episodes in Season 5 of Lost, only to see it go off the rails in the final season. And here he is, inserting the same dynamic in the world’s most beloved (and already its most controversial) weekly drama.
Now, not everyone liked the time travel stuff in Season 5 of Lost. Heck, not everyone likes the universe’s greatest time traveler in Doctor Who, and they’re entitled to their opinion, even though they’re wrong.
But to inject time travel into a high fantasy series, for goodness sake? And to do so nearer the end than the beginning? That is the ultimate in risky storytelling, because it changes the rules of the game and invites fan revolt.
Imagine if the TARDIS had suddenly materialized in Mordor toward the end of Lord of the Rings. You’d boo it off the screen. “Master Frodo! It’s a blue box and a tall fella in a bow tie! We’re saved!”
Luckily, that wasn’t the reaction fans had when Bran and Hodor got all timey-wimey in “The Door” because the show had prepared us for the moment.In fact, George R.R. Martin had been laying the groundwork for decades.
Martin told the showrunners about Hodor’s end you can see them talk about it in this video starting at 2:52 so presumably it will be told in similar form in the next book in the series, Winds of Winter.
Martin implanted a mystery in the first book of the series how did Hodor get his name, and why did he keep saying it? and kept us guessing for almost as long as any storyteller has kept us guessing about anything ever.
Talk about playing the long game.Not only did the show hint at Hodor’s end and the meaning of his name the very first time we saw him, but the books did too:
To recap: Bran, Meera Reed and Hodor needed to leave the Children of the Forest’s cave in a hurry when the White Walkers invaded. Bran was “greenseeing” the past alongside the Three-eyed Raven at the time, and happened to see young Hodor, the giant formerly known as Willys.
The instruction Bran needed to give Hodor in the present hold the cave door against the White Walkers became implanted in Willys’ mind in the past, to the point where he could never say anything else.
Fans are still freeze-framing and unpacking exactly what went on here. Bran may not be responsible for destroying his faithful servant’s mind all those years ago; it’s possible that Hodor himselfimplanted that instruction in Willys, knowing he’d be too scared to sacrifice himself otherwise.
But two things are now clear: Bran is more powerful than you (or he) can possibly imagine, and time travel is now a legit plot device in bothGame of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire.
We knew that Bran could see the past already. We’d had hints that he could potentially affect it, maybe even change it. In the books, in the past, Ned Stark appears to hear Bran calling to him via a heart tree in Winterfell’s Godswood.In the show, Ned appears to hear Bran calling to him at a different point in history, just as he is about to enter the Tower of Joy and save his sister Lyanna.
The Three-Eyed Raven tells Bran that Ned heard nothing more than a whisper in the wind. In the books, he tells Bran that he has been unable to communicate with beloved family members in the past himself. “The past is already written,” the show version said. “The ink is already dry.”
Now we have good reason to suspect the Raven is as much of a liar as Obi-Wan Kenobi was when he told Luke Skywalker that Darth Vader murdered his father Anakin. (With similarly good intent, presumably.) The past can be unwritten. Or perhaps what Bran is writing now affects the past that always was.
So what does this mean for the future of the show and the books? As satisfying a resolution to the Hodor mystery as it was, it’s unlikely that this is the only reason Martin and the showrunners spend so much time carefully preparing the way for time travel to enter the narrative.
To spend it all on Hodor would turn all that warging and greenseeing into little more than a shaggy dog story (not to be confused with a Shaggydog story). We don’t think showing Bran so many pivotal scenes from the past has solely been leading up to this.
As Sean Bean might put it, one does not simply warg into Hodor.
No, something huge is coming. And that’s good news for a bunch of fan theories about Bran.
It could mean that he inadvertently brings about the Mad King’s descent into madness, which in turn kicks off Robert Baratheon’s rebellion and puts into motion everything in our story. Personally, I have my doubts about this one; losing three sons, as the Mad King did, would be more than enough to tip the Targaryen monarch over the edge.
It could also mean that Bran ends up going back in time 8,000 years back, in fact, so that he becomes the original Bran Stark, Bran the Builder, who supposedly built the Wall and Winterfell. This would make sense, as it aligns with present-day Bran’s goals (keep the White Walkers out, establish his family in Winterfell).
This would also explain why Old Nan, Hodor’s mum, kept confusing the two in the books. True, it would be a bit too on the nose, turning new Bran into old Bran. Then again, George R.R. Martin is a writer who thought it was a good idea to name a Dragon “Drogon.” (Love you, George. Mean it.)
Whichever way it happens, it’s an established rule now the present affects the past in Westeros, at least where Bran is concerned. Storytelling convention dictates that it will happen again. You can take that to the Iron Bank.
Brace yourself: More time travel is coming.
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