Game of Thrones is known for death. Fast deaths, slow deaths, brutal deaths, and even deaths that make us cry. That last one we experienced when the gentle giant known as Hodor died saving Bran and Meera from an army of wights. Even in the middle of all the action with White Walkers and the undead swarming everywhere, his death touched us all.
It was an impressive bit of tone for the show that made Hodor’s death one of the most powerful parts of the season, and it was almost very different. Director for the episode Jack Bender, best known for his work on Lost, explained that they almost went a different, more violent route.
“I said, ‘What the dead would be doing to Hodor would be ripping his clothes off once they got through that door,” he admitted in an interview. “They would be ripping his flesh off. If the dead can go through wood, they’re going to be tearing Hodor apart.”
Yet showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss pointed out that tearing Hodor apart might make the scene more horrific than sad. Think Red Viper of Dorne. So Bender relented and we got the scene we watched that traumatized us in a very different way.
“I still wanted to make it scary enough, see Hodor surrounded and engulfed by these skeletal arms and long fingers, that were eventually going to smother and kill and rip him apart, or whatever they were going to do that we didn’t see. But to not let the horror of it overwhelm the emotion of losing that character and making it really land on the idea that he was sacrificing himself so his friends could get away. That was the dominant idea.”
The scene ended with Hodor still holding the door as his friends escaped into the white wilderness north of The Wall. No flesh rending, no pieces of Hodor torn off. His death was left largely off-screen, to the point where some show watchers have stubbornly decided he must still be alive. Perhaps after holding the door successfully, he wandered further north and met himself a nice wife among the giants.
Now that’s a Game of Thrones theory we can get behind.