[SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season 4 ahead.]
Over the course of four seasons, HBO’s Game of Thrones has always worked with a large ensemble cast spanning the continent of Westeros and even across the Narrow Sea. The series has achieved success -- and record-breaking viewership -- by following multiple concurrent storylines revolving around a handful of characters including Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), as well as Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and his companion, Hodor (Kristian Nairn).
At the end of season 4, many of these characters embarked on new storylines that will lead into season 5. However, seeing as the showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, are pulling from both book 4 and 5 of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, some characters won’t appear in season 5 of Game of Thrones.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Nairn revealed his character, Hodor, and Wright’s character, Bran, won't appear in the fifth season of Game of Thrones. However, Nairn did acknowledge that the characters’ storyline is an integral throughline of the A Song of Ice and Fire series and gave no inclination that his and Wright’s absence will last longer than a single season of the show.
Read Nairn’s full quote:
"We have a season off and we have a year's hiatus, solely because I imagine our storyline is up to the end of the books."
During season 4, Bran and Hodor -- along with Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) -- travelled beyond The Wall, were captured by men who had deserted The Night’s Watch, and (after making their escape) finally found the Weirwood tree for which they had been searching. Bran and Hodor’s storyline in the finale episode, ‘The Children’, included revelations about the existence of magic and the non-human race known as the Children of the Forest.
With Wright and Nairn sidelined for season 5, viewers won’t learn more about these revelations until season 6 at the earliest. But, as fans of the books will point out, this departure from Bran and Hodor makes sense. Game of Thrones closely followed Martin’s book series up until the third season.
In the fourth season, however, the show pulled from both book 4 and 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire. In fact, the scene of Bran and Hodor at the Weirwood tree in the season 4 finale is from A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book. Bran and Hodor are completely absent from the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, so in that respect it seems reasonable enough that the show will focus on the other characters’ storylines during the corresponding season.
A possible downside of this choice is that Game of Thrones fans who aren't familiar with Martin's source novels will have forgotten where they last left Bran and Hodor’s storyline after season 5 - or, if not that, will no longer find their plotline compelling after the break. It may prove to be a bigger challenge to make sure viewers re-invest themselves in that particular storyline come season 6, compared to the other characters’ storylines that will appear in season 5.
However, given that Game of Thrones has been largely successful in both adapting the A Song of Ice and Fire series and making the most of each episode in every season, it’s almost certain Benioff and Weiss have a plan for the next two seasons (at least) of Game of Thrones that will satisfy fans.
Game of Thrones returns for season 5 in 2015.