(Writer’s note: This is an article about spoilers for a variety of things, but mostly last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, “The Door.” If that matters to you, you should maybe watch the episode first and then continue. You have been warned.)
The concept of the “spoiler” feels very recent. For shows and movies that rely on twists or storylines that build to a rapturous crescendo, finding out integral details beforehand takes the wind out of your sails sometimes before you even start. This can reach dizzying heights thanks to social media. Just the other day, when comedian Louis C.K. reached the top on “Jeopardy,” an acquaintance of mine posted just that as a Facebook status: “Louis C.K. just killed it on Jeopardy!” The comments found people not agreeing with him, but rather chiding him for spoiling the end of Jeopardy. Jeopardy! According to an article from 2014 by The Washington Journal of all sources, one of the first uses of the “Spoiler alert” tag online was in a Usenet group relating to the then-shocking ending of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” (Spoiler alert: Spock dies).
For six seasons, “Game of Thrones” has been the perfect middle of the Venn diagram of “Hardcore nerdery” and “wide public appeal.” Millions of people watch every episode live, and millions more illegally torrent it soon afterwards. Truthfully, I cannot admit to being a day one fan. I became a fan not long after the third season ended while I was still in college. Shortly before that, I overheard a classmate going over the plot details of the infamous “Red Wedding,” a major event where (SPOILER ALERT) Catelyn and Robb Stark are betrayed and killed by Roose Bolton and Walder Frey. Not knowing any of the character names, plot details or any of the preceding three season’s worth of events, I attempted to silence this classmate, but was met with a snicker. He said that “I should have seen it by now.” The episode had come out the previous week.
The “Game of Thrones” spoiler economy usually works like this: On Sunday night, an episode premieres and people who can’t watch either A. Stay off certain shadowy corners of the internet where they know spoilers lie in wait or B. Visit Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, etc. and immediately get hit with plot details leaking from jackanapes who can’t help but live-update every detail of note. Last night, we reached the halfway point of the season with “The Door,” an episode that has followed the example of the previous episodes of this season by seemingly moving at hyper speed with a lot of its plot points. I only want to focus on the end. (SPOILER ALERT, OBVIOUSLY)
(THIS IS THE ONE)
Bran Stark, due frankly to his own selfishness, enters a vision of the White Walkers, which allows them to find the hidden location of himself, the Three-eyed Raven, Meera and Hodor. Bran inhabits Hodor, allowing them to make their escape from the incoming throng of White Walkers. In Bran’s vision of Hodor’s youth, we find out that the reason why Hodor only said “Hodor” all this time was Bran’s insistence for him to “Hold the door!” The image of a young Hodor shouting “Hold the door!” until it becomes “Hodor!” repeatedly while flashing back to the real world as he dies at the hands of White Walkers is absolutely heartbreaking. Almost as heartbreaking as the poor souls who risked life and spoilers by going on the internet last night and not watching “Game of Thrones.”
My own Twitter feed involved a lesser type of spoiler, that being one that doesn’t directly say the thing that happened, but hints at it heavily. Many friends tweeted simply that they were very sad along with some sort of GOT-inspired hashtag. Punk rocker Ted Leo went right up to the line with this tweet:
— Theodore Leo (@tedleo) May 23, 2016
Even right now, if you just search “#Hodor” on Twitter, there’s an absolutely fascinating array of spoilers to be found, like this one or this one or even this one. On the other side of the coin, of course, are those who have clearly been hurt in a real way:
I can look past vague spoilers but the one I’m referencing made it pretty clear what happened, hold the door but don’t go beyond that 😛 — Ohmwrecker (@Ohmwrecker) May 23, 2016
As with most things, there’s no side of the argument that’s really right. People who have no means to keep up with “Game of Thrones” shouldn’t have to avoid the entire internet for days or weeks just to stay pure with no spoilers. Diehard fans of the show shouldn’t necessarily have to silence their thoughts on major plot points around the ol’ virtual watercooler. Also, (Spoiler alert) spoilers aren’t really that life-ending, no matter what the fleeting piece of ephemeral culture you’re indulging in. Honestly, (spoiler alert), we’re all going to die one day and (spoiler alert), there just might be more important things happening than a (admittedly excellent) television show. Maybe.