As a story teller, I like to note those remarkable moments when a story line I am engaged in transcends the usual level of interest and pulls me in fully, makes me ponder life, ties me into a character’s arc in a deeper and more profound way. Those moments when you have a deeper emotional connection to the fiction. I find myself wanting to analyze what the writer did and how they achieved that moment.
And then there are these moments, where you find yourself so deeply wounded and hurt, crying at the outcome of a fictional character that you can’t analyze anything but your own emotional state and look at yourself in the mirror and say, “seriously?”
I have a love, hate, love, hate again relationship with Game of Thrones. I caught the tail end of the first season and, after the season finale, read all the books that were finished up to that point. I numerous times found myself literally tossing the books across the room in anger and disgust at a series of event that left me shriven of joy, angry at decisions the writer made for his world and the characters that inhabited it, and stating I wouldn’t read any more. But I always returned to them, so good was the writing, and acknowledging that it was, indeed, the quality of the story that left me having such reactions.
The television show didn’t have quite the same impact on me. Some of it was from reading ahead and knowing some of the outcomes. Some of it is the medium, a remoteness I feel in watching television that doesn’t let it touch me as deeply except in rare moments (last episode of M.A.S.H. comes to mind). And some of it was a willing desire to avoid getting to close to these characters, knowing full well that anyone’s head could be on the block at any moment. To love them too deeply was too risk wounding myself.
But those bastards snuck Hodor right by my radar. And I cried and still find myself getting teary eyed when I think of his life and his death. They wove him into the story as a background figure, steady as a rock but never overshadowing the importance of anyone else, innocent and strong. He was there, almost like comic relief, and we passed over him, not realizing how they were entwining him in our hearts and souls. They gave him a purpose that we didn’t know, and when the purpose was finally revealed, when the reason for his name was presented to us, when his death came calling and we witnessed it, all we could do was sit back in horror, in sadness and in grief and cry for him, for us, for the loss of this person who didn’t even really exist in the world.
We wanted him to exist. We wanted to know that person, that noble, self-sacrificing gentle giant. Maybe I did know him in the form of my brother, another gentle giant who was handicapped by mental deficiencies. Maybe that’s why it felt so intimate to me, felt so horrifying to watch him die as I did six years ago. Maybe it was simply his innocence and the knowledge that even those who are good and kind and always helpful still end up being killed in the end. Maybe it was also our pride in him, realizing he knew one day this would happen, that this was what he was living for, what his mind was broken in the cause of, and he still did his part to save others.
Whatever I know, it won’t be enough. Hodor is gone, and I miss him, and I want him back, damn it. That’s good writing; that’s good acting. That’s every quality a lover of fiction, of television, movies, could ever possibly desire in a story. So thank you to everyone who created the connection for the millions of us who feel this grief today and will carry it for a long time to come. That’s really something special you’ve done.
A special word of thanks to the young man who played young Hodor this season. Beautifully done, perfectly acted, and you hit all the marks I could have expected. It never felt silly or trite, and I hope you continue to grow in your craft, you deserve more parts.
Goodbye Hodor. Hold the door.