Game of Thrones

What has Hollywood got to learn from Game of Thrones?

Hold the door. Hold Door. Hodor. RIP.

For everyone that has read the books or seen the show from season 1, the fifth episode of season 6 named “The Door”, was a heartbreaking one. Every viewer must have been touched by the impact of the sacrifice of Hodor. And in a mind blowing reveal, turns out that Hodor had lived in the shadow of his own ill-omened destiny for as long as anyone could remember.. and that makes me a sad panda.


But out of this tragedy comes a lesson for all (screen)writers. A prime example of how to write a character’s backstory. Hodor was a minor character. The impact of his death didn’t come from the fact that we had invested so much into him, like when a main character leaves. But the kick came from the way he left, in a completely selfless act and by a sudden revelation in the backstory, that made the viewer reconsider the entirety of this characters life. During the entire time we thought we knew this individual. He had only one word to contribute, what’s there not to get, right? But as it turns out, he had a death that had as much impact to fans as Ned’s decapitation or the Red Wedding.

G.R.R. Martin and the showrunners made the perfect move. They knew that fans were interested in Hodor’s background. The easy way would have been to give a nice juicy bit of expositional dialogue and that’s it.  But that’s not how they roll. They saw a chance for a big revelation, heartbreaking moment and a way to make one minor character become the highlight of the season. They ushered us in with a vision of Hodor’s past, who once was Wyllis, a simple stable boy very capable of having a conversation with more than one word. That made the mystery only larger, as the anticipation grew. Why the hell will this boy be able to speak only one random word in the future?

And in a clever move they made us understand the what and the why. Hodor was never one word, it was three: “Hold the door”, as in “Hold the door and accept that I’m going to die”. By merging the past and the present, by letting us simultaneously see both the moment of the change in Wyllis and the realization of his fate, the show gave us one of the most memorable moments of the entire saga. And it seems to me that it only made sense the way they presented it. There was one way to pull it off and they nailed it. They hit the spot so good that they had to apologize for it:

I don’t even know which scenario makes G.R.R. Martin seem more ingenious – if he planned it since the beginning of the first book or if he just looked on what he had and came up with this solution midway. But the determination of this kind of writing is exemplary. Do not let any opportunity go to waste.

Come up with a backstory. Take time.Build on it. Keep secrets. Reveal.

What comic book movies have been trying to do recently, is achieve the same emotional impact without any of the attachment. Hodor had 6 years, movies have 2 hours. There are franchises, that could gain the same momentum. It would be a delight to see what James Cameron has to offer with his upcoming Avatar sequels and Marvel cinematic universe has also nailed some moments that they have built up with several preceding movies. The recent Civil War was a prime example, as the headbutting of Captain America and Tony Stark felt completely natural, whereas the clash of Superman vs Batman felt utterly rushed.

All in all, Hodor’s demise is a bitter moment, but out of it comes a sweet example of brilliant storytelling that is truly inspiring.


Are you making the right decisions?

Aside from Michael Jackson, few of us believe that they are “bad” people. It has almost the same effect as the “I’m better than average” thinking. When everyone believes that they are better than average drivers, then there is a logical error. Everyone can not be better than average. When there is a conflict, usually both sides think they are right, that they are the good people. But everyone cannot be good in reality right? Or can they..?

In a very large proportion of literature/movies/series, there are strongly distinguishable good characters and bad characters. Harry Potter has his Voldemort, video games have the final boss, we do not need an example out of horror movies and history has Hitler. Pretty straight forward plus there is less figuring out to do for the consumer. But I enjoy a good moral dilemma, when I see one. That’s why shows like “Dexter” and “Breaking Bad” and films like “Fight Club” and “Blade Runner” are so interesting to watch. We do not see the line of right and wrong so clearly, we see the dilemma, a point of view. You get what seems to be wrong, but still discover that you’re rooting for the “bad guy”, because the intentions were kind of right. And in my mind, Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) series excels in this kind of morality issues.

[On a side note, one of my recent discoveries in the social world has been that nowadays, „Game of Thrones” is the safest choice for a conversation starter. I have been to a few gatherings, where I don’t know almost anyone, but finding someone who watches “Game of Thrones” has been very easy. And usually, people are quite enthusiastic about it, too. That’s why I am quite sure that most of you who read this post, understand what I’m on about next.]

At a first look, we have the same classification of good and bad sides – Lannisters vs. Starks. But getting to know the characters and their way of thinking, we see that everyone just has their own hidden motives. The main idea in the book and in the series is the one that the mothers most clearly unveil. Cercei’s conversation with Ned reveals the motives behind her actions. All the deeds she has done or will do come from the desire to protect and make a future for her children. Can anyone blame her for that wish?

Good or Bad? Good in their own minds. Is Cercei bad for wanting to create a future for her children? There is some kind of “spider sense”, an innate feeling of what is bad. But the look on her motives does not generate that feeling. Protecting children is one of the noblest motives for actions. When you harm someone, it is bad. If you harm someone, while trying to save your children, then it becomes passable as morally correct. Likewise for Catelyn, while Jaime had killed 2 of Lord Karstark’s sons, Catelyn still aided Jaime’s escape – for her daughters could have a chance to be freed from King’s Landing. Aiding a criminal to escape, but doing it to save her children.

Tywin is another example, but from a different angle. He places his family’s name above all else, he does everything in order to preserve the “good name” of Lannister. In his mind that is the ultimate goal. All actions are moral for him, as long as those actions help to keep red the dominant color in Westeros. And as a final example, there is the spider Varys. He’s motto being “for the good of the realm” or as the city council in “Hot Fuzz” would say: “for the greater good.” Aiding the killing of young Daenerys in order to prevent the hordes of Dothraki from invading and save tens of thousands – what is one life worth, when you could save 10 000.

Everyone has their own motives and their own philosophies to back them up morally. But we can not see into others’ minds. We can only assume. That’s why we should not make assumptions for others’ behavior. We can perceive the reflection of their desires through the mirror of their actions, but those mirrors can be deformed and create images that are mutations of the real figure. Subjectivity is the keyword here. We could fully understand only our own thoughts and even that is a complex and tricky task. But when we see the mirror of others’ thoughts, we see them from angles that create illusions.

Young girl or old lady?

The same image, but what you see might be different from what others see.

All this leads to the fact that there is no universally good or bad. All is subjective. One person might see the same situation as morally acceptable and a different person might not. Who’s to say, which one of them is right, for there is no right thing to do, only the right thing for every particular person to do.

I strongly believe that it is important to practice to think like that. That everyone is entitled to their own opinion and no one is right or wrong. Everyone has their own experiences and beliefs that shape their opinions and morals. Everyone can see the same situation differently. Of course there are acts, that are universally wrong, but that does not mean that no one could perceive those acts as the right thing to do. They are just acting according to their philosophy. We should brace ourselves for that.

Practical uses for developing this kind of thinking include enabling you to become a better negotiator. When you start to detect different sets of ideals in a negotiation, then with this kind of thinking you are more likely to arrive at a win-win situation. If you understand that both sides see the subject at different angles, then you ought to understand, that compromise is just the easy way out. Try to see, what you hold dear and what the other side sees as most valuable. Almost always there is a way for you to get what you want and for your counterpart to get his desire also. Let loose from what you see less desirable, but is important for the other and get the same treatment in return.