Every week throughout season six, a handful of Vox's writers will discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Before you dig in, check out our recap of Sunday's episode, as well the archive of our entire discussion to date. Next up is politics writer Andrew Prokop.
Andrew Prokop: Emily, among the many ways to interpret the scene where Arya watches a Braavosi theater troop reenact her father's downfall, perhaps my favorite is that Arya is a die-hard fan of George R.R. Martin's books, gazing on with horror at how that crude, gratuitous nudity-filled, crowd-pleasing HBO adaptation gets so much wrong!
As a big fan of the books, I've been in Arya's position before. But "The Door" took us into even weirder adaptation territory, when it revealed a twist Martin has been planning for decades … before he managed to do so in the books.
Of course, I mean Hodor's tragic origin story and fate. Game of Thrones is inventing a lot of stuff from whole cloth at this point, but when I watched the Hodor revelation, I felt in my gut that this twist was just too cruel and too perfect to come from anywhere but Martin's brain.
And indeed, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss confirmed as much in HBO's "Inside the Episode" segment for "The Door." Back in February 2013, the two famously visited Martin in Santa Fe to get as much information from him as they could about where the story was headed, and Hodor's fate was one of the revelations they came away with.
In fact, Benioff and Weiss told Entertainment Weekly's James Hibberd that Hodor's fate and Shireen Baratheon's death by burning (depicted last season) were two of the three biggest shockers Martin revealed to them in that meeting. The third, Benioff tantalizingly added, "is from the very end" of the story.
Now, it feels really strange even for me as a reader to know that two of Martin's three biggest planned future shockers have already been adapted before I've gotten a chance to experience them in his prose. And it must feel even more bizarre to him, especially since he's seeing them onscreen without any real control over just how they are depicted.
Martin's powwow, after all, took place shortly after filming had wrapped on the show's third season. Back then, Martin still believed he'd be able to write quickly enough to reveal everything first. He was starting to get nervous, though — around that time, he compared the feeling to trying to lay train tracks as a train was speeding toward him:
"Well, I’m writing book 6, The Winds of Winter. I’m starting to worry because everybody keeps asking me, ‘What are you going to do, if… the show catches up to you?,’ and I didn’t think it was a problem before, but they’re moving faster than I am and it’s beginning to scare me. I have not failed to notice this.
I feel sometimes as if I’m laying track for a railroad and I can hear the locomotive coming up behind me. It’s building speed and I see the smoke and I hear the whistle coming, and I better keep laying that track pretty fast 'cause I’ll get squashed, if the locomotive comes. But I still have a pretty considerable lead, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself."
Three years later, we know that the train did indeed end up barreling past Martin, and it's a weird feeling, both for him and for book readers like me. According to a report posted on Reddit, Martin opened up about this at an event in Santa Fe this week, revealing the Hodor twist is something he had been planning since 1991(!):
Someone asked him about the show's Hodor name reveal. He said that his name reveal in the books will differ in the context and how it happens. So while the name will still mean the same thing (Hold the Door), it will be very different from the show's reveal. He said he came up with the name idea in 1991 and seemed depressed that the show got to reveal it before he did. He said he had no one to blame but himself for his slow writing.
Martin is, of course, correct that his writing speed is to blame — it has been five years since he published a book, after all, and The Winds of Winter is still not done. So I'm admittedly comforted by his promise that the Hodor twist will be handled differently in the books; it makes me still really interested to see how it plays out.
But Martin has long been obsessed with surprising his readers, and now that another of his most mind-blowing twists has been revealed on HBO, the same moment in the books will unavoidably lose much of its "oomph" when he eventually catches up. I can't help but wonder whether he might be feeling a bit like Arya in that theater audience right now.
Read the recap. Come back soon for more discussion.