Game of Thrones – Season 5 Episode 8: “Hardhome”

I went into this eighth episode of season five of Game of Thrones feeling really cynical because, to be honest, I haven’t been super in love with the season so far. I love seeing the book material represented on screen but because this show is now 75% non-book content, it has been a bit frustrating to watch. How did I feel about this episode? Read on to find out!

(Luckily this episode only had a couple of characters so I wasn’t able to go H.A.M. with a 3000+ word monstrosity. Phew).

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Meereen
We begin the episode with Tyrion and Jorah in front of Daenerys Targaryen in her throne room. Tyrion is quite funny in this scene as he describes himself as “the greatest Lannister killer of all time”, hence Daenerys should trust him and definitely not kill him. Tyrion tells a nice story of how he came to know about Daenerys’ existence, and that Lord Varys had described her as the best chance for a better world. Tyrion ponders whether he would want to join Daenerys’ service. Daenerys proves that she is pretty clueless about politics (surprise) as she threatens to kill both Tyrion and Jorah, seriously woman, get a clue already. Tyrion states that she definitely needs help and could be her adviser as she plans to conquer Westeros, given that she knows nothing about the politics there. Daenerys asks what Tyrion would do with Jorah, as a bit of a test. Tyrion says he would exile him. And indeed, off Jorah goes, back to the Land of the Friendzone where he belongs, showing off his developing greyscale to the camera as he leaves Meereen. Both Jorah and Daenerys shed a couple of tears here which I thought was sweet.

There was great lighting in this scene and I really like the dynamic between Tyrion and Daenerys. Also, this literally never happened in the book. (Which is becoming my catchphrase this season – “this literally never happened in the book”.) Also it just occurred to me that we haven’t seen anything of Grey Worm and Missandei and their dumb fake non-book romance, which in a way is a relief because it’s such a huge timewaster, but is also really frustrating and annoying because it was such a waste of time in the first place.

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Later, Daenerys and Tyrion are having a nice discussion with some wine. Daenerys says that killing Tyrion would have been the safest option, seriously, she is completely silly. She asks what Tyrion’s father would have done, and there’s some nice banter here as the two discuss their family history, and Tyrion describes them both as “two terrible children of two terrible fathers”. They seem to get on well. After discussing Varys, Daenerys decides that she will not kill Tyrion, but that he will be her adviser on how to obtain the Iron Throne. Daenerys proves she is clueless again as she assumes that the common people of Westeros “love and support” her. Hmmm, no. Tyrion talks about all the Houses of Westeros and how the Targaryens don’t fit in with the political climes anymore. Daenerys then gives her wheel speech that was featured in the season trailers. I’m honestly excited to see more of Daenerys and Tyrion together. I think this was actually a good change from the books as things were travelling at a snail’s pace over in book five of George R R Martin’s magnum opus.

Then, Jorah returns to the slaver who bought him last episode. He says he won the fight last episode and wants to fight again, at the Great Pit of Daznak to fight in front of the queen. The slaver basically agrees given that he’s seen Jorah’s talents and knows he’s worth a lot of money. But let’s all agree that this is just a death mission by Jorah. He’ll die of greyscale anyway, since it’s basically incurable (apart from flawless Princess Shireen of House Baratheon).

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King’s Landing
A Silent Sister (although, is she Silent, given that she keeps talking?) visits Cersei in her disgusting cell as Cersei is still jailed after last episode. The Sister offers Cersei some water from a spoon in exchange for a confession. Cersei states that she will not confess and the Sister beats her with a spoon, leaving Cersei desperate, crying, and screaming all alone.

Later, Cersei is visited by creepy Qyburn, who tells her that there will be a trial soon and that there’s a whole heap of evidence against her. Cersei is being charged with fornication, treason, incest, and the murder of King Robert Baratheon from back in season one. Qyburn tells Cersei that the Faith look for different types of evidence and that she is sure to be found guilty. She is told that there’s been no word from Jaime who’s off in Dorne, and her uncle Kevan Lannister is serving as Tommen’s Hand of the King, and he won’t visit Cersei either. Tommen remains in his chambers not eating, he hasn’t taken the incarceration of both Margaery and Cersei well. Cersei is well and truly alone. Qyburn says there is a way out – she could confess. Cersei refuses, she won’t kneel for anyone. Qyburn leaves saying “the work continues”, presumably regarding the creepy Frankenstein’s monster-type situation in his workroom.

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We return to Cersei in her cell later in the episode, as the Silent Sister asks her to confess again. Cersei states that she will not, and attempts to bribe and then threatens the Sister. She is beaten again and the water from the Sister’s spoon is poured out onto the filthy floor of her cell. Left alone, Cersei is so desperate for water that she licks the water from the floor. This is a huge turning point for her. Being locked away is very different from her life as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and now she’s learning how some of her victims have had to live. Will this have any implications for how she lives life on the outside? Will she even get to the outside?

I love Lena Headey. She’s amazing as Cersei and I look forward to seeing her every episode, especially as the season begins to wrap up. That’s all.

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Braavos
Over at the House of Black and White, Arya is practicing telling lies to Jaqen, telling the story of how she is Lana the oyster seller. Arya walks the city of Braavos looking like a huge badass with her new costume and cute hair. Proving to Jaqen that she is a good liar, Arya wants to know how Lana will serve the Many Faced God. Jaqen tells Arya that Lana will see what she is meant to do when she sees it. Arya/Lana walks through Braavos shouting out “oysters, clams and cockles” which makes me laugh for some reason. She stops past a gambling man who wants an oyster and there is some nice quick editing here as she opens the oyster shell. The gambling man wages on sailors’ ships not making it to their destinations which is frankly a strange wager to make, but it’s definitely not an ethical thing to do, and hence Arya/Lana learns who she will target for the Many Faced God. Jaqen tells Arya that Lana is to watch the gambler and learn his habits, and then poison him. This is Arya’s first step in becoming a badass assassin and I love it. She walks away from Jaqen smiling. Meanwhile her bitchy friend doesn’t believe that she will succeed, but wat does she know. There’s great creepy music here as well.

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Winterfell
Theon/Reek brings a meal to Sansa, but as opposed to the last visit where she was lying in bed, this time she sits watching him as he enters the room. She asks him why he told Ramsay of her escape plan. Theon/Reek says that he wanted to help her but there is no escape from Ramsay and the Boltons. He states that Theon Greyjoy (aka, himself) wanted to escape, but “the master” (aka, Ramsay) knew, and that he knows everything. Sansa says she’s happy Theon/Reek was mangled and that she would do it again if she could. She says he deserved it all, given that he did terrible things, e.g. killing Bran and Rickon (her younger brothers, it’s easy to forget given that they’re not in this season at all). Theon/Reek then confesses that he didn’t actually kill Bran and Rickon, but some miscellaneous farmer boys. Sansa is visibly shocked, and Theon/Reek leaves. Sophie Turner’s acting here was great again, so far I’m very impressed with her this season. What’s Sansa’s next move? Where did Bran and Rickon go? Does she want to find them?

Then, Roose and Ramsay Bolton are planning their next move regarding Stannis. They know he’s on the way down to Winterfell, but they also know his Southern army isn’t faring too well in the snow. They say he has no more than 6000 men, and Roose is prepared for a siege, waiting for Stannis’ army to freeze, starve, and mutiny. But Ramsay disagrees and says he can get rid of Stannis’ army with 20 good men. Personally, I’d like to see him try.

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The Wall
At the Wall, Gilly and Sam appear to be having a nice post-coital chat but it’s way more awkward than Daenerys and Daario’s post-coital chats. So awkward. They talk about being scared and I don’t quite get why, although she may be pregnant given that the people of Westeros don’t seem to have any birth control apart from a special tea that’s mentioned in the books. Little Olly enters and questions Sam about Lord Commander Jon Snow going to Hardhome to rescue the wildlings that are residing there. Olly says that wildlings killed his family, but Sam says that he’s seen the army of the dead. Sam tries to tell him that sometimes men have to made tough decisions, but Olly doesn’t get it because he’s still a little kid, and also the fact that the wildlings killed all his family in front of him, which I still think is fair enough. This little conversation is but a snippet of the dissent that is brewing in the Night’s Watch regarding Jon’s difficult decision as to whether he should save the wildlings or not.

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Hardhome
Jon and Tormund are off to the titular Hardhome to rescue the wildlings before they become undead zombies and descend upon the South. The wildlings look like they all hate the Night’s Watchmen who have come to Hardhome, which again, I think is fair. The two groups have a long history of hatred and war which neither can forget. Tormund (my fave) kills the Lord of Bones in front of the rest of the wildlings to show how deadly serious he is about their two peoples coming together.

Jon speaks to the elders of the wildlings hoping to bring about an alliance, to protect them from the White Walkers and the army of the dead. He says that together they can beat the White Walkers, but a female wildling (apparently named Karsi) is skeptical. Jon shows the dragonglass daggers and shares them amongst the wildlings. He says that he’ll give land to wildlings who cross the Wall, if they promise to join him “when the real war begins”. Both he and Tormund give some nice speeches here about togetherness but the elder of the Thenns disagrees. Anyway, some of the wildlings agree to go with Jon and Tormund, which is great.

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My favourite thing about this episode so far was the introduction of the most badass giant of all time – Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, or, Wun Wun. The above moment was amazing.

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The wildlings are being helped onto boats, but in the distance some dogs start barking and a frozen fog descends upon Hardhome, and this can only be bad news. I’m having Pompeii (2014) flashbacks as it feels like Mt Vesuvius is erupting again. The gate to Hardhome is shut with wildlings left outside, screaming as they are attacked by an unseen force. They disappear, and then reappear with ferocity as the army of the dead attack the gate and are trying to get through to the wildlings within. The wildlings get their swords out and chaos begins as the wildlings fight the undead who are getting through the gate. People try to get to the ships and Jon and Tormund fight the undead. This is paired with some of the most frenzied direction we’ve seen throughout the whole series, way more frenzied and quick than the battle at the Wall last season.

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In a creepy moment, Jon sees the White Walkers on horses atop the mountains surrounding Hardhome, commanding the dead to attack. Jon finally figures out that they need the dragonglass – what an idiot. Meanwhile, Wun Wun the amazing giant is generally amazing as he fights off multiple undead at a time and stomps on them.

Jon goes to the hut where he gave the wilding elders the dragonglass and looks for it. But one of the White Walkers knows he’s going to find something which can easily kill them, and he walks through some flames towards Jon and a Thenn (so, White Walkers are now immune to fire? or is it only the high-ranking ones?). Jon and the White Walker fight in a pretty intense scene. Jon gets his Valyrian steel sword out, and where normal steel swords shattered upon contact with the White Walker’s ice blade, this one is able to work. Jon stabs the White Walker with the Valyrian steel sword and he shatters into a million ice pieces. Interesting stuff – Valyria is the land of doom and fire, dragonglass comes from dragons who control fire, and both are able to successfully defeat the White Walkers who are ice creatures. I’m sensing a pattern here.

The Night King from last season looks on at Jon who has just defeated the White Walker.

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Meanwhile, Karsi is being a general badass and fighting the undead, but when it comes to undead children, she’s unable to fight them and just lets herself be attacked and killed. My question is – this character was actually pretty cool and a badass female character, which I always love seeing on screen (particularly in a show that appears to love bringing women down for some reason). What the frick was the point of developing an awesome character like this, only to kill her off within the same episode? She even sent her two daughters off on a boat to go to the Wall. I sincerely doubt that a mother and a fierce wildling who is good at killing people would just surrender to the undead children.

Next, in a very The Walking Dead or World War Z (2013) moment, the White Walkers send down what feels like hundreds of dead people off the side of the mountain; they tumble down, pile upon one another, and awaken, ready to kill more wildlings and Night’s Watchmen. Tormund, Jon and Edd decide to cut and run, and get out of there as this clearly was a doomed mission.

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Jon and friends escape on a boat to head to their ships which are moored further away. Wun Wun also comes with, which I am seriously celebrating about because I thought the showrunners had cut him from the show altogether. Jon looks at the shore and sees the Night King standing on a jetty – he looks on and locks eyes with Jon. Jon watches as the entire population left at Hardhome are slaughtered on land, and are then resurrected by the Night King and recruited to the army of the undead. The Night King holds up his arms as if to embrace Jon as he resurrects the undead, and the undead stand up to face Jon silently. Jon now knows that he is really in for when fighting the undead and the White Walkers – it’s a huge army, way more populous than the Night’s Watch and the wildlings they have recruited. Ruh roh.

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Sing it with me everyone – “this literally never happened in the book”. But at the same time, this is one of the showrunners’ better inventions this season. This part of the episode was really intense and a well-constructed battle scene. It injected some serious adrenaline into a season that has been floundering for a while. I loved the progressions in Arya’s and Cersei’s storylines, and having Tyrion and Daenerys meet one another and engage with one another was super watchable. My only gripe is that I wish the wildling Karsi could have stuck around for longer. I’m picking this episode as the best episode of the season so far. The direction was great as well, so props to you Miguel Sapochnik.

The next episode is the fateful ninth episode, where something huge always happens. According to next episode’s trailer, we’ll get to see more Wall, Jaime and Prince Doran in Dorne, Arya being more of an assassin, Stannis and Melisandre and Davos, and Daenerys at the Great Pit of Daznak – a scene I am really, really looking forward to seeing. Can’t wait!

5/5

9 comments

  1. Such a spectacular episode!
    Hardhome wasn’t in the book. It was actually in the book but only as a mention of past events. Survivors describe the horrific slaughter.

    I am extremely glad we actually get to see πŸ˜€

    1. I agree! And I’m glad we got to see it too, it made for some super creepy imagery and music. I suppose the fact that we got to see it also provides more strength to Jon’s argument that this is the real war the Night’s Watch should be fighting, that is, if the NW believe him. Given what happens in the book, I’m pretty nervous for the last episode!

      1. Haha yeah am not sure i’ll like the last episode.
        Loved the latest one short of an earlier more disturbing scene.

        Dragons though πŸ˜€

  2. abbiosbiston · · Reply

    Finally something actually happens! I was on the edge of my seat for the last 20 minutes. I have also been wondering about Bran and Rickon. At the end of this series I am going to do a post on 10 GOT characters that seem to have disappeared.

    1. I am totally looking forward to that post, that is an amazing idea! Please write about poor Gendry who has been rowing his boat for a couple of seasons now!

      1. abbiosbiston · · Reply

        Gendry is definitely on the list. I miss him!

  3. They’ve been saying “Winter is Coming” since Season 1, but for the first time it felt like… Winter Has Come!

    This is certainly the finest episode of the season, better than previous 7 combined & definitely one of the show’s best so far, if not the best already, for every segment was expertly narrated in this one. And the final 20 minutes are in a league of its own.

    1. Absolutely agreed! Winter is finally here!

  4. […] Black, Jon and Sam are having a chat about Hardhome and the terrible things that happened there in episode eight. Jon tells Sam about how the Valyrian steel of his sword saved the day. Sam says that he wants to […]

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