Game of Thrones – Episode 5.8 “Hardhome”

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Synopsis: Jorah and Tyrion appear in Dany’s throne room. Dany refuses Jorah the right to speak. Tyrion makes a case for his continued existence. He speaks of what he heard about Dany and why he might be good to advise her. She asks him for advice on what to do with Jorah, and why she shouldn’t kill him. He says he’s never seen anyone so devoted as he saw Jorah to her. He suggests Jorah is in love with her. Dany orders Jorah to be removed from the city. A nun beats an imprisoned Cersei yelling at her to confess. Cersei basically tells her to fuck off. Arya practices lying to Jaqen. Later, Arya works as a girl selling oysters, her new identity. She encounters a man, a gambler, who Jaqen tells her to keep an eye on. He wants her to spy on the man, learn everything she can, and then poison him. Arya leaves with the poison. The waif (ugh, the waif) tells Jaqen that Arya isn’t ready, but Jaqen says that’s up to the many faced god. Qyburn visits Cersei and tells her about her pending trial. The High Sparrow will be her judge. The charges are incest, fornication, treason, and the murder of King Robert. Cersei says they are all lies, but Qyburn cautions the burden of proof for the faith is less than in a court. He also tells her that Pycelle has brought her uncle Kevan back to serve as hand of the king, and that Tommen hasn’t been eating and won’t talk to anyone. Theon sees Sansa and she asks him why he told Ramsay. As he cries about what he suffered from Ramsay, Sansa is supportive because of what he did to her family. She’s also starting to see how brainwashed he’s been. As she berates him, Theon confesses that the boys he killed weren’t Bran and Rickon.

Roose talks to Ramsay and his men about Stannis’ pending attack. Ramsay thinks they should go on the offensive and says he only needs twenty good men. Tyrion and Dany continue their discussion over wine. Tyrion shares a bit about his history and they bond over their complicated fathers. Tyrion shares how much Varys is in Dany’s corner and how he’s the one that convinced Tyrion to seek her out. Dany decides not to kill Tyrion and that she wants him to advise her. He says she’s doing good in Mereen, but says it will be more difficult to take over Westeros, but Dany tells him that she wants to break the entire system. Jorah returns to the fighting pits and offers his services. Septa Unella returns to Cersei telling her to confess, but all Cersei wants to do is keep imagining ways the Septa could die. For her honesty, an obviously thirsty Cersei has to lap up what little water she can off the ground. Gilly tends to Samwell’s wounds. Olly brings him some food and asks Sam why Jon is saving the Wildlings, especially after they murdered his family. Sam tries to impress upon Olly how bad the White Walkers are. He says he trusts Jon.

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Jon, Tormund and the others cross the Deleware, or whatever the waterway actually is as they reach Hardhome, a Wildling camp. They meet with their leader, the Lord of Bones. Tormund and Jon say they are aligned and want to speak with the leaders, but the Lord of Bones isn’t having it, so Tormund beats him to death and asks again to talk with the leaders. In private, Jon talks of the White Walkers and explains the threat. He gives the Wildlings a bag of dragon glass and tells them it will kill the White Walkers. He offers them safe passage south of the wall if they agree to help them when the real battle comes. Karsi, one of the Wildling leaders, challenges Jon on everything but eventually asks Tormund if he vouches for him. Tormund does. On his word, she agrees, but not everyone supports it. Thousands load onto the boats, but Jon cautions that they are still leaving too many behind. Karsi puts her daughter on the boath, but stays behind to get more elders on board. Tollett and Wun Wun, one of the Wildling giants, are about to argue when they, and everyone else in camp, notices the dogs going crazy and a doings transpiring beyond the camp. A Thenn leader shuts the gates to the camp before everyone can escape and is the first to see the assault of the Wights. Now, the Wildlings begin to storm the boats as the rest of the camp is under attack from an army of undead and they all learn how difficult they are to kill. Battle erupts and Jon and Tormund see the White Walkers watching from above. Jon and the Thenn leader fight their way throught the camp to retrieve the dragonglass. A White Walker, one of the big guys, the hippie one that was leading the charge, kills the Thenn leader and fights off Jon until Jon swings his sword and he shatters into a million pieces. Turns out Valyrian steel is also deadly to White Walkers. Karsi fights off wights but when she faces an army of undead children she succumbs. Jon, Tollett, Tormund and Wun Wun make their way to the boats as the undead army grows. As they sail away, they watch those left behind get slaughtered,  and see the Night’s King reanimate the dead including Karsi, as the undead army gets larger, with only the water holding them back.

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Comments: As substandard as the rest of this season has been, this episode completely redeemed the season, propelling all the storylines forward but delivering the complete what the fuck experience that I expect from Game of Thrones. With just one scene, Sophie Turner elevates Sansa beyond the growth she has already shown. She was defeated before, suffering with Ramsay and seeking salvation from another external force, but learning Bran and Rickon are indeed alive, there is new motivation for her to get out of this mess and she steels up in a way the character never has before. It’s a powerful moment that is completely overshadowed by all the other powerful moments in the episode. Cersei, one of our villains, is shamed and locked up but it just doesn’t feel right. I’ve always liked Cersei and while I feel she deserves her comeuppance, I don’t want it at the hands of these other bad guys. It should be a Stark or Tyrell, or someone she’s truly wronged, even and especially Jaime. It’s a trademark of the show to continue to show us that we aren’t going to get the stories we want, but the ones we deserve. Dany and Tyrion make for a good pairing, balancing this epic union of characters and the weight of their separate years of stories, with the right amount of levity. It’s quick, but earned, how quickly they come to respect each other. This episode, however, is all about the final battle. As the Wildlings and Jon Snow attempt a truce, the show veers into complete horror show with the Wight attack. Nearly every year there’s an epic battle, usually in the penultimate episode, and they never feel rote. The style and tone are always unique. This one was more horror show, coupled with the harrowing revelations of how much the undead army is growing and how powerful they are becoming. There’s the glimmer of hope that Valyrian steel can destroy the White Walkers, but there are only a few swords like that in existence. There’s Jon’s sword, Longclaw. The two swords forged from Ice, Ned Stark’s original sword: Oathkeeper, which Brienne has at this point, and Widow’s Wail, Joffrey’s sword that remains with the Lannisters. Another sword has yet to appear at this point, and then there’s the dagger that was used on the attempted murder of Bran, which hasn’t (yet) been seen since Ned last had it. These weapons will likely grow in importance going into season 8. Special shoutout to Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, who played a Karsi, a one-episode wonder who in just a few scenes established a character to make you care enough when she died and to center the ghastly reanimation moment around. It wouldn’t have worked with a lesser actor in the part. Those final moments as Jon and the Wildlings row away and the White Walkers watch from the shore all playing out in silence, is truly magnificent TV.

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Quotes:
Tyrion: A ruler who kills those devoted to her is not a ruler who inspires devotion.

Thenn Leader: My ancestors would spit on me if I broke bread with a crow.
Karsi: So would mine, but fuck ‘em, they’re dead.

Karsi: I fucking hate Thenns.

Tyrion (to Dany): Someday, if you decide not to execute me, I’ll tell you all about why I killed my father and on that day, should it ever come, we’ll need more wine than this.

Dany: I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel. 

Foreshadowing: Sam says Jon always come back, which is true in a lot of ways we will see. Cersei imagining harm to the Septa will come back again. And as Dany mentions breaking the wheel, her continued insistence on upending everything is a continual beat for her in the series.   

Title: The name of the Wildling camp where the White Walkers attack. 

Deaths: The Lord of Bones via Tormund. Karsi via the Wight kids. And hundreds of other Wildlings, although technically they come back.

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