Spoilers for this week's "Game of Thrones" throughout:
Last Sunday's "Game of Thrones" brought the death of a fan favorite character who seemed too pure not to make it at least to the end of the journey. As Bran's erstwhile packhorse and best friend, Hodor has been carrying the crippled kid since Season One, it only made sense that Hodor would continue to be Sam to Bran's Frodo. Yet innocence and purity have never thrived North of the Wall (and don't do any better South of it), and Hodor's untimely and brave demise was well earned.
What makes this death more interesting, however, is that it's the first truly massive one that comes from a book the readers of George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series haven't read yet. There are many characters dead on the show that still live in the books, but this is the first that really rocked the audience and created a precedent for Season Six of the show.
HBO's series has finally outpaced the novels as the upcoming sixth book ("The Winds of Winter") still doesn't have a release date. Book readers are now in a position where they have to parse what happens on the show with guessing what will happen in the books. Just because Stannis dies sitting against a tree in the Battle of Winterfell doesn't mean he'll go out like that in Book Six. Anything can happen this season and book readers and non-readers alike will share the surprise together for the first time.
In a short featurette after Sunday's episode, show-runners and creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were quoted saying that Hodor's fate came from Martin himself and wasn't an invention of the writers for the show. According to a recent Vanity Fair article
, "Winds of Winter" will still have the reveal of Hodor's name (Hold the Door), but the context will be different in the novel. This should placate some of the book's fans who are struggling with the fact that the TV show is basically spoiling all of the plot development in the upcoming novels.
The books are the books and the show is the show, and while the television series has done an excellent job adapting the big moments and characters from the novels, Martin's work is where it's at. There are dozens of characters that don't appear in the show and the fact that each chapter is from a different character's viewpoint means we get to see how their minds work. As much as it was fun to see Jon Snow come back to life, understanding what it feels like from his point of view will be a completely different and equally rewarding experience. The show will not ruin the books, instead the books will add depth and shading to the series that will only enhance what is already there.