This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 5, "The Door."
Last night's Game of Thrones episode, "The Door," marked the end of a beloved and mysterious role in the Game of Thrones family at the hands of the White Walkers and their army of undead. Yes, we're talking about the death of the gorgeously-designed weirwood tree cave at the center of the Three-Eyed-Raven's (Max von Sydow) greenseeing network. Introduced at the end of Season 4, the tree cave is one of Westeros' few truly mystical locations, perhaps dwarfed only by the Wall, and it was a tragedy to see it go. "It was an absolute labor of love to create that space," production designer Deborah Riley tells The Creators Project. Put to a fiery end in a show of VFX force unlike any we've seen since "Hardhome," Season 6 Episode 5 is the last time we'll see this treasured locale. Says Riley, "I couldn’t be more proud."
The set was born from the ashes of Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon's stronghold, using what Riley describes as, "Truckloads and truckloads and truckloads of rhododendron branches," meticulously sanded, painted, and arranged along a hanging grid by the greens team. "And then we brought in soil and rock, tons and tons of that to create texture for the floor. So it was a huge, organic set," says Riley.
"Everything else I sort of try to base in reality, but this was the first set I had tackled with the show that had slightly magical content," she continues. This set was a departure for the greens team, normally responsible for gardens, woodlands, and altogether less sureal work than we see in the Three-Eyed-Raven's home. His seat, tangled in the tree's faux roots, was a particular challenge because von Sydow had to be able to sit comfortably for hours at a time. "There’s an office chair on rails behind him that enabled him to be wheeled in and out accordingly," Riley reveals.
The internet is also mourning several other major deaths at the hands of the Night's King and his icy comrades. Summer, Bran's direwolf, was one of just three canine companions left alive since each Stark child got one in the first episode. Von Sydow's Three-Eyed-Raven perished seemingly without even chewing Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) out for leading the White Walkers right to their vegetative hideaway. Leaf, one of the Children of the Forest, sacrificed herself to delay the army of wights chasing Bran, Meera (Ellie Kendrick), and Hodor (Kristian Nairn). And Hodor, sweet giant that he was, sacrificed himself to let Meera and Bran escape into the frozen tundra. In the process, it is revealed that Hodor took his name after Bran warged the message, "Hold the door," at him while greenseeing into his childhood.
It's at once tragic that everything Bran touches turns to garbage and sweet that Hodor, who has seemingly led his whole life in anticipation of this moment, is able to save someone he cares about with this sacrifice. As Nairn says in an official Game of Thrones interview, "I like that he sacrificed himself for his friends. It feels very true to Hodor for me." Hempstead-Wright, for his part, seems sufficiently ashamed of Bran's carelessness. "It's mortifying, it's so sad," he says in the same clip. With the memes already piling on top of him, time will tell whether the internet can ever forgive him for royally fouling up the situation—without even showing us what's inside the Tower of Joy!
If you love sadness, check out our last glimpse of Hodor (and the tree cave, R.I.P), plus a behind-the-scenes look at how the cave battle was made, in the clips and images below.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 PM EST on HBO and HBO GO.