Warning: Book spoilers ahead!
As a die-hard fan of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, I went into Season 6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones with an unsteady emotional mix of excitement, trepidation, and skepticism. HBO and the cast would certainly bring their A-games ("The Red Woman" premiere and the "Battle of The Bastards" episodes were particular highlights for me), and, sure, some developments would be exclusive to HBO’s already altered version of Martin’s story, but I was still wary of the impending show reveals that would likely make up the backbone of the unreleased books.
Read on for some select “spoiler” moments this books-lover found both satisfying and totally unexpected before the Season 6 conclusion airs tonight on HBO. Of course, I don’t know which of these developments will actually make it into the books, but as someone well-versed (OK, obsessed) with the worlds of Westeros and Essos, these revelations packed a major punch.
1. The Origins of The White Walkers
Bran’s segments this season have been some of my favorites, as his visions allowed the show to hint at the histories of the noble families of Westeros, which are richly developed in the books. And prior to rise of the Starks and the Lannisters, Westeros was occupied by the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, the last of which clashed with the continent’s original inhabitants, the Children of the Forest. Readers certainly knew of this conflict prior to HBO airing its latest season, but the fact that the Children of the Forest created the White Walkers in order to fight the First Men was completely unexpected to me. The mystery of the White Walkers' true nature loomed over absolutely everything else (the "Game of Thrones" won’t matter once the Night King arrives, after all), so this origin story proved especially powerful.
2. How Hodor Became Hodor
I don’t need to remind anyone of the effect the noble death of Hodor had on GoT fans, but the sacrifice of such a good guy (a rarity on this show) left the Twitter-verse pretty devastated. Hodor’s death also came with the explanation of his name, as well as his mental state, which both of which totally surprised me. I’ve read scattered claims of prior knowledge of “hold the door” among fans, but I'm skeptical on that front. And I can't imagine anyone foresaw Bran’s pseudo-time-travel having lasting effects. I found this development to be a surprisingly satisfying paradox, as well: Hodor died saving Bran because of who he was, and he became who he was because he died saving Bran. Whew!
3. Melisandre’s True Age
I’ve been eager for some time to learn who Melisandre truly is, especially since she became a POV character in the books (albeit briefly). The notion that she uses her magic to maintain her youth, especially given her mysterious origins in Asshai, doesn’t seem too out there, and yet the sight of her as old and decrepit without the aid of her magic choker was totally shocking for me. The transformation also served as a powerful symbol of Melisandre’s mental grip on her beliefs as a follower of R’hllor, one that became shaken after the death of Jon Snow. And Twitter’s reactions were pretty darn funny.
4. The Dothraki’s Claim on Daenerys
This development doesn’t fall into the shocker category so much as the I-thought-we’d-moved-on category, but it was an unforseen moment of gratification to witness the Dothraki’s return to Daenerys’s life, despite all that she had accomplished since the death of Khal Drogo, asserting their claim she must live out her life as a widow amongst the Dosh Khaleen. Not only did this storyline bolster Dany’s army with new Dothraki converts when it was all said and done, it provided a reminder of Dany’s growth as a character and the incredible journey she’s been on. The development also reinforced for me what makes the books, and the show, so great: the vastness of the world these characters inhabit, as well as the different cultures Martin imagined, each with its own motivations and traditions, that will never fit neatly into one story.