Wow. Just…wow. Usually Game of Thrones waits until the ninth episode of the season to deliver a jaw-dropping climax (the Battle of Blackwater, the Red Wedding), but this year they may have moved it up. “Hardhome,” season 5’s eighth episode, ends with a 20-minute action sequence that is as epic and amazing as anything the show has done.
Do you want to see a giant stomping on skeletons? Do you want to see Jon Snow fight a White Walker? Do you want to see thousands of dead wildlings and a look of absolute fear in Jon’s eyes? This episode has it all, plus a bunch of scenes of the two best characters, Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen, bonding.
Jon and the Wildlings vs. the White Walkers
Jon Snow arrives in Hardhome to convince the wildlings to come back with him, but it’s not easy. Luckily, Tormund Giantsbane vouches for him and reason triumphs with about 5,000 wildlings (but not those damn stubborn Thenns).
However, as they’re boarding the boats, Hardhome is attacked by the Army of the Dead, those creepy skeletons Bran faced last season. It’s an all-out bloodbath with amazing action as the wildlings fight the skeletons. Highlights include a giant stomping on the skeletons while flinging them off his back and Jon slicing a skeleton in half while running.
Things go from bad to worse when White Walkers arrive as well. It’s the moment that’s been five seasons in the making as Jon Snow gets to fight an actual White Walker. Jon gets his ass kicked while scrambling to retrieve his sack of dragonglass to defend himself. The White Walkers sword destroys all other swords…except for Jon’s made of Valyrian steel. Just as it looks like Jon is going to die, he stabs the White Walker with his sword and kills him! I guess we can add Valyrian steel to the list of things that can kill a White Walker.
Jon, Tormund and others retreat and get back on a boat to head home. As they row, the White Walker King walks out on the pier to stare down Jon. King Walker raises his arms and as he does, all of the dead wildlings in Hardhome come back to life, eyes glowing blue. Jon Snow looks positively terrified as he looks on to see that the White Walker’s Army of the Dead is now stronger than ever because every person they kill comes back to life. It’s truly epic in a way that even outshines that Battle of Castle Black in last season’s ninth episode.
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Tyrion and Dany Join Forces
In an equally amazing storyline, Tyrion comes before Dany and uses his silver tongue to get on her side. He advises her to banish Jorah again without killing him, but Jorah just runs back to the man who bought him asking for an opportunity to fight in the Great Games.
Meanwhile, Tyrion and Dany bond over the many things they’ve accomplished and it’s the kind of sizzling dialogue fans could want between the show’s two most interesting characters. Eventually Dany decides to work with Tyrion and take his advice. He suggests that she will have a hard time gathering support from all the important families in Westeros, but Dany has no interest in playing the game of thrones and spinning on the wheel. Instead, she wants to change the game and break the wheel.
The Stark Girls
Between Hardhome and the Tyrion/Dany scenes, there wasn’t much room in this episode for other stuff. Arya continues her training by adopting a new persona, Lana the oyster vendor, and patrolling the canals of Braavos. She comes across the Thin Man, a disreputable bookie who takes advantage of poor families, and it’s obvious Jaqen is grooming her to make her first kill on behalf of the Many-Faced God.
At Winterferll, Sansa confronts Reek about his betrayal and Theon momentarily shines through as he confesses that he didn’t really kill Bran and Rickon. Finally, Sansa has a glimmer of hope. Also, instead of waiting for Stannis Baratheon’s army to freeze to death, Ramsay wants to take 20 men outside the walls of Winterferll to attack him.
Cersei in Prison
In King’s Landing, Cersei is still in prison, vowing to murder the nun who brings her water. She doesn’t want to confess, but Qyburn suggests it might be her best course of action. King Tommen is so distraught without his wife and mother that he’s refusing to eat. But that’s nothing compared to Cersei, who literally sucks the water off her dirty floor. My, how the mighty have fallen.
Next week on Game of Thrones: It’s the ninth episode of the season, which usually means something big. And since the episode is titled “The Dance of Dragons,” I’m guessing it has something to do with the Great Games at the Fighting Pits.
(Image courtesy of HBO)