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Game of Thrones changes the game completely with a heartbreaking episode

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Hodor's secrets are revealed

Spoiler alert!

This recap is intended for folks who've already seen the episode, and will include a description of its events! Check out all of Polygon's Game of Thrones coverage.

"I can still feel what he did in my body, standing here right now."

Sansa demands Petyr think about, and then vocalize, what Ramsay did to her in the first moments of this week's episode. There's a whole series of articles that could be written about this scene, and how we expect the victims of sexual assault to act in our pop fiction. But for now let me say that this moment, when Sansa forces another character who was complicit in that assault to face the reality of what had happened, was more effective at conveying the monstrosity of Ramsay than the supposedly "shocking" on-camera moments where the show rubs our faces in his sadism.

Petyr, to his credit, knows when to bet his life on the assumption that someone in power won't take it. And the moment the threat has passed, he begins playing the game again. Making plans. Planting seeds. Sowing doubt. You can see his eyes shift from a bit of fear to the cold, lizard calculations he's so used to. Whatever intimacy and reality these two characters showed for a moment is just as quickly gone.

Off topic, if we never see Arya getting hit in the face with a stick again that would be just fine.

We also learn the White Walkers are, or were, a weapon, forged during war in order to fight back against the men cutting down the sacred trees. It's a neat bit of information, but it doesn't change anything. Whatever purpose they were meant to serve is in the past; the White Walkers are now a force of utter destruction. And any hope that the magical creatures who created them know how to destroy them is destroyed along with the tree in the episode's final moments. The Children of the Forest are just as powerless, ultimately, as everyone else. Outside of a few magical grenades, of course.

In other parts of the world Euron Greyjoy's plan is to build a fleet, take Daenerys as a wife, and rule. The show clearly wants us to think Yara is better suited to the task of being queen, and when she flees with Theon it's certainly a setback for the ironborn. Euron doesn't seem overly concerned by this turn of events, however. We'll see if this subplot goes anywhere, but right now it's a bit hard to tell what Yara and Theon want, or what they hope to accomplish in the short term.

We do know that things that are shifting on the map in terms of who is loyal to whom, and the best ships of the Greyjoys could turn the tide of at least one battle. Chekhov's gun is loaded, and it's currently resting on the mantle.

game of thrones white

But let's talk about Hodor.

We learned how the White Walkers were created. We found out that Bran's mental flights can have very real consequences when The Night's King grabbed him and left his mark, allowing the undead army to find the Three-Eyed Raven and our heroes. But Bran is unable, or unwilling, to leave his vision of the past, and attempts to tell Hodor to take action while still in the past.

That connection, that ability to command Hodor at two different times, at two different places, gives the young stable boy a sort of seizure that seems to break his mind. Hodor can only repeat the one command Bran has given him mentally: Hold the door. He repeats it until it becomes meaningless syllables. Hodor. And from that moment on it's all he can say.

And then he apparently dies so Bran and Meera can escape. The tree, the Three-Eyed Raven, and the Children of the Forest are destroyed by the White Walkers.

So what does this mean?

It means that, for now, the past can keep its secrets. The Three-Eyed Raven is no longer here to take Bran on a guided tour of the biggest mysteries of the series. That means certain things — such as Jon Snow's parentage — can remain shrouded. That's the sort of thing the show is going to stretch out for as long as it can.

It also doesn't mean that Bran can manipulate the past to change the future, at least not in any way that can impact our story. The destruction of Hodor, while tragic, is a closed loop. It may have been caused by Bran sticking his fingers into the past, but it didn't change our perception of the timeline.

Hodor has always been Hodor, and that one command was enough to save Bran. The timeline wasn't radically changed by Bran's manipulation; we were just given a new understanding of what Bran can do, and the immense price of exerting his will on the past.

Hodor may have never amounted to much as a stable boy, but he would have had a life. He could have known peace, and the love of his family. He could have had a family. Instead he was used, turned into a pack animal and gently mocked for his inability to do anything but repeat that one word. Bran even wore his skin when he needed the power in battle. Now Hodor has been thrown away, and we know he was more or less created for that task, even if it wasn't intentional.

Bran didn't do this maliciously, but he is a highborn man with great power, swept up in visions of his own great worth and destiny. His actions, and lack of care, led to yet another innocent person being ground under the dirty boot of his march towards ... somewhere.

It looks as if Hodor's story is over and, while he may have saved the world by holding that door, he has no say in the decision. This isn't a kind world, and even those with hearts they would think of as noble don't mind picking up a person's mind to use as a sort of sword ... before throwing it away when it ceased being useful.

If Bran learned that his father may not have always played by the rules, he's going to have to come to grips with the fact Hodor wasn't the perfect servant. Hodor was turned into that by Bran's actions. He didn't change the past, he merely explained his own reality to himself. That idea of a closed loop based on your eye actions has to be terrifying. What else in this world was caused by Bran, the result of actions he has yet to make?

Odds and ends

  • "Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?"
  • Well, that was certainly a penis on a television show.
  • "This is our queen."
  • "Build me a thousand ships, and I will give you this world."
  • "For now is the best we get in our profession."
  • "A bit brooding, perhaps. I suppose that's understandable, considering."
  • I'm not sure if the show has bigger plans for Jorah, but he heard what he needed to hear. Dude's likely to die, if not happy, then at least content.
  • Arya is learning that history is written by the winners, and history doesn't seem to view her family very well.
  • "Hodor."

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