Game of Thrones: Hardhome

Going into this episode I worried that things might go pear shaped for certain characters. I worried that Sansa would suffer more abuse, or that Tyrion might not be treated very well by Daenerys. I even kind of wondered if Jon's story would progress far enough that we would see an actual deal worked out between the Crows and the Wildlings.

Heh, I guess my worries were unfounded. What the f**k just happened?

To be clear, I know those final fifteen minutes were not in the books. I don't really care. They were simply jaw-dropping. Fans of the show have been clamoring for anything concerning the White Walkers for years now, and they just got their wish. Every single moment during that relentless, brutal, chaotic siege was awesome, as in inspiring awe. Culminating in one of the quietest and most chilling moments in the entire series as the Night's King raised his hands while staring at Jon, and every one of the thousands of Wildlings that were slaughtered in that battle rose up to join the Walkers. I think Westeros is totally boned (pun intended).

The really funny thing is that this came out of left field. Normally episode nine is where things usually hit the fan, and this episode didn't really set up the conflict with the White Walkers. (Well, maybe it did, but I didn't catch the foreshadowing.) Probably the strongest indication that things were going to go all awful for Jon and Tormund was when Sam had that conversation with Olly about why Jon was dealing with the Wildlings at all. Then there was all that talk about the Dragon Glass as a gift of the deal. And yeah, that attack was almost a foregone conclusion. But those connections are things I realized in retrospect. In the moment when the Walkers invaded, my jaw literally dropped.

There were some major stand out moments during the battle. It was totally eerie and tragic when Karsi saw all those child Walkers and froze, unable to defend herself. I had already started to like her character and it was a shame she died so soon, but we had to have an emotional reaction to all those Wildlings dying, so her death made sense. I also liked how the giant helped Jon and Tormund escape, using a massive log to sweep the chasing Walkers aside, then jogging into the sea literally ripping the undead from his back.

And yet the real stand out moment was the fight between Jon and that White Walker leader with the weapon that could shatter swords. It was the first time we could see the value of Valyrian steel, beyond the superficial when Longclaw successfully blocked the Walker's attack without shattering. That means it is the only kind of weapon beyond the fragile looking dragon glass that can kill a White Walker. Watching Jon shatter the monster, and the reaction from the rest of the Walkers, was both cool and terrifying.

Meanwhile... in the rest of the world

Cersei flipping between offering the world, and making threats in a pathetic attempt to bribe or scare anyone into granting her freedom, was a bit sad. She has realized, far too late, that arming the extreme religious set was a really bad idea. The irony, of course, is she totally deserves to be locked up and charged with those very valid crimes, she is absolutely guilty, and in a way it is nice to see her humiliated like this.

Tyrion and Daenerys had two very interesting conversations, the latter of which was just wonderful. It was sad to see Jorah banished yet again, and when he threw himself back into the fighting pits. But honestly, Dany didn't really have a choice, and I thought it was great that she is already listening to Tyrion. Is it possible that the one person in the world that can truly respect and understand Tyrion is our dragon queen? Wouldn't that be lovely.

Arya has made a bit of progress in her training under Jaqen H'ghar. I'm not entirely sure what the mission was, but if the many faced god is tasking her with assassinating a man who openly steals from the poor and needy, I think she might be in the right place.

Sansa and poor wretched Reek had the most intense conversation of them all. He is so broken, and so terrified of Ramsay, that she had to force the truth out of him about her brothers. I hope he doesn't tell Ramsay that he told her. My hope is that now that Sansa knows, and the weight of the Stark bloodline is no longer exclusively on her shoulders, she will feel more brazen and willing to do what she needs to do. Namely killing the Boltons, or at least sabotaging their war efforts.

Bits:

There is another Valyrian steel sword in the north, Oathkeeper. Brienne is near Winterfell after all.

Nothing more about Dorne and Jamie and Bronn's fate. Although we did hear that Tommen is locked himself in his chambers and is refusing to eat. I fear that prophecy about Cersei's children each wearing a crown only to die is going to happen sooner rather than later.

I really liked how Dany put Tyrion in his place by forcing him to put down his wine. I wonder if she will be able to get him to quit his drinking, at least for a while.

Tyrion defended Varys, and even insinuated that Varys might've been the one responsible for Daenerys' survival as a baby.

Fortune's Wheel is a real medieval concept, used throughout the middle ages. The idea that fortune is always turning, and sometimes you are on top and sometimes you are on the bottom, is a neat concept. I love the fact that it is an old one. Of course Dany intends to break the wheel.

Even if we didn't get those final fifteen minutes, this was a solid episode with a lot of important revelations. But we did get that amazing battle, so what would've been a good episode was turned into a great one.

4 out of 4 Spokes in Fortune's Wheel.

Reminder: The comments on these episode reviews are appropriate for newbies. If you haven't read the books, you're safe! If you have read the books and would like to talk about upcoming events, please do so here, in our Season Five book spoiler thread.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.

13 comments:

Juliette said...

That was some episode 9 level awesome there - what on earth are they going to do to top it next week?!

I wish they hadn't had the women - Karsi did you say? - tell the kids she'd be right behind them though. The minute she said that I realised a) there was about to be an attack and b) she would die during it. Don't spoil the surprise by using one of the biggest cliches in the book!

Loved everything with Tyrion and Dany too. I wish they could find a way to take Jorah back, though I'm looking forward to seeing him as a gladiator. And I see now why they wanted to kill off Ser Barristan - so Dany has one more incentive to listen to Tyrion, the only man around (other than Jorah) who knows Westeros.

Jess Lynde said...

Those final 15 minutes were definitely not in the book, but that just made it all the more fantastic and intense (except for the clear implication that Karsi wouldn't be rejoining her kids, as Juliette notes). Not knowing how things would play out in such an exciting sequence was probably a first for me with this show and it was really, really great. The husband and I were so tense that our cat (who was sitting between and touching both of us) started grumbling at us because of all the taut, nervous energy in that space. (How dare we disrupt his peaceful lap time!)

This was a pretty engaging episode all around because so much of what was on screen was taking us into new and promising territory (even as I can see some of it leading into known plot turns). I absolutely loved the material with Tyrion and Dany. I can't wait to see more of this partnership, and look forward to wherever it might lead.

Even the more familiar material was pretty solid this week. I've been waiting a long time for Cersei to get her comeuppance, and so far I'm enjoying her humiliation. I also liked how they didn't show us Margaery again, but instead paired the beginnings of Cersei's downfall with Dany making the connection with Tyrion --- potentially the key to her successfully making it across the Narrow Sea to break the wheel. Cersei has been operating all season with the notion that Margaery is the prophesied threat who will usurp her position, but there's another pretty young queen out there, just chomping at the bit to take her place.

TheShadowKnows said...

Best episode of probably the last two seasons, and not just for the battle - the whole episode was strong and moved the plot forward in myriad ways. Finally!

Mark Greig said...

Every time I think I am starting to get sick of the Wall storyline they go and do stuff like this and I'm pulled right back in.

Paul Kelly said...

You know nothing, Mark Greig.

Josie Kafka said...

I really enjoyed this episode! That fight was amazing.

I loved the way that, in the middle of it all, both Jon and Edd took a few minutes to marvel at the giant.

Does anyone else wonder if the dragonglass attracted the White Walkers? It seems so convenient that they just happened to arrive at Hardhome right when Jon was there. (Okay, maybe it's just narrative efficiency, but still, I wonder.)

Tyrion's conversation with Dany got me thinking: what's her game plan at the dynastic level? She wants to rule Westeros, but who would rule after her? I hope Tyrion brings this up at some point.

TheShadowKnows said...

Daenerys is pretty young. She has plenty of time to have heirs... and several willing candidates for the job!

Although it could be interesting if she plans to set up something a little different from the usual dynastic monarchy - maybe an elective monarchy along the lines of the Holy Roman Empire, or a non-hereditary military dictatorship similar to the (actual) Roman Empire. Or maybe even a republic; that would certainly constitute "breaking the wheel".

TheShadowKnows said...

D'oh! I just remembered Daenerys can't have children. Oh well. I guess that leaves one of the other options.

KidLazarus said...

Wow. Just...wow.

After the second Dany-Tyrion conversation, I reflected that I could have enjoyed an hour of just those two having interesting discourse, and how this was a pretty good episode. Then the final act happened, and my mind was blown.

J.D. I think you hit the nail on the head, describing the final act as "inspiring awe." Amazing stuff.

Mark Greig said...

I do indeed, Paul, and he's a decent fellow, despite his odd name.

TheShadowKnows said...

Daenerys could always adopt an heir (another procedure sometimes used in the Roman Empire).

Anonymous said...

OMG! Did the Leader of the White Walkers just gave Jon the "come at me bro" gesture at the end? Great episode I'm glad Tyrion pointed out to Danys there are other things in life than just the Iron Throne of course Danys is not going to listen to him but i'm glad Tyrion pointed it out. Did anyone else get the vibe that Olly is planning something bad to Jon for forcing the Night Watch to join forces with the Free Folk?

Korlis said...

I'm kind of surprised that no one is mentioning the battle at the Fist of the First Men back at the beginning of Season 2, that occurred off-screen and we only got the aftermath of, between the Night's Watch and the dead. I think this more than makes up for the wait.