SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS in this behind-the-scenes look at the Game of Thrones episode "The Door"! If you’re behind in your Game of Thrones watching and/or A Song of Ice and Fire reading, stop now and wait until you’re caught up - and even then, you'd better wait until your heart can take it.
The cave battle between the White Walkers and our heroes in this pivotal episode needed all of the things to happen: stunts, VFX, SFX, art department, new ways to work inside a small set, friendly floors for fights and falls, pyro, wire work, green screen, air mortars, extensive make-up and prosthetics taking up to 10 hours (in the case of the Children of the Forest), all ending with tears when a wrap was called on Kristian Nairn’s beloved character Hodor.
Will we ever get over that Hodor death scene? No. And that’s fine. Hodor forever. Also, Summer. Let’s pour a 40 of arbor gold on the ground for yet another lost direwolf.
But before we get to that particular Gulf of Grief, let’s look back at what led to Hodor's momentous sacrifice for his friends. A crazy battle was set off when Bran went warging by himself and got marked by the Night King. The touch broke the warding to the entrance of the cave, basically dispelling the magic that protected the cave from the Night King, the White Walkers, and their army of wights.
Leaf and the other Children of the Forest fended off the White Walkers while Meera, Hodor, and a history-downloading Bran made a break for a secret back door in the cave. That corridor was the goal of Hodor’s entire life, as he hauled the new Three-Eyed Raven down it and away from certain death. As Meera pulled Bran into the blizzard of night, she called out for Hodor to "hold the door" - and because Bran was still warging/time-traveling with Wylis aka Young Hodor, the phrase seared into Wylis' mind and triggered a seizure that garbled the words into "Hodor." It was both his name and his destiny, which he fulfilled at last as he held the door while the wights' hands tore at him, allowing Bran and Meera to escape.
As awful as that moment was, it could have been even worse, according to the episode’s director Jack Bender - the original plan was to have Hodor ripped to pieces by the undead, Walking Dead style. But showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss thought better of it, arguing that an overly gruesome death would take away from the emotional impact of Hodor's loss for the audience. Good call. We did not need to see Hodor torn apart in front of us.Let’s look at what went into the cave battle, the demise of the Three-Eyed Raven, the possible extinction of the Children, the death of Summer, the rise of Bran, and the Hodor death scene we don’t want to talk about after this. Okay?
It Could Have Been Even Worse for Hodor
“The Door” director Jack Bender was going to show viewers Hodor being ripped to pieces by those wight arms, “pulling at his clothes and pulling at his flesh.” But something happened when Bender was standing next to actor Kristian Nairn, directing him to look horrified and in agony as the stunt actors clawed at him.
“I talked about it with Dave and Dan a lot. I said, ‘What the dead would be doing to Hodor would be ripping his clothes off once they got through that door. They would be ripping his flesh off. If the dead can go through wood, they’re going to be tearing Hodor apart.’ And they said something to me that really stuck. Which was ‘If it’s too horrific, we’re not going to feel the loss of Hodor.’”
Thanks for not taking the Walkers-rip-Noah-apart-in-a-revolving-door route.
Kristian Nairn Knew the End Was Coming Before He Got "The Call"
Nairn actually heard about Hodor's fate from others before David Benioff and Dan Weiss called him with the news. “First, I heard from friends, people who had read the script, some other cast members. I think I said laughingly, ‘So did I survive?’ They just gave me a look, and I was like, ‘Whaat?’ Then I had the call from David and Dan, the fateful call everyone gets when your number’s up."
What Did Nairn Think of Hodor’s Final Scene?
Nairn will forever be proud of it. “I loved the scene. I can’t think of a better way to go, really. He doesn’t give up. He never lets go of that door. For all costs, he’s going to stop them from getting to Bran.”
Did Hodor Resent That His Entire Life Was Built Around One Moment?
Nairn said, “No. Hodor does not resent – not my Hodor. He doesn’t have that emotion. I don’t think he's very fond of the warging, but he sees the bigger picture. He’s not the most intelligent guy, but I think he can sense when things are important. He knows whatever Bran does is essential; it gets them out of some pretty tight situations. I think he’s more sad about what happened because he’s not going to see his friends again. But he also knows if he doesn’t hold that door for a second longer, they’re going to die.”