Game of Thrones S05 E08
'Hardhome' - Recap by Nikole Gunn
Just when you think you’ve got the Game of Thrones formula nailed, they go and shake things up in a rather dramatic way.
Traditionally, the ‘big’ episode each season is episode 9. It’s always been that way. Always. Ned Stark’s death, the Battle of Blackwater, the Red Wedding and The Watchers on The Wall all occurred as the penultimate episode of each season.
This season, they took us all by surprise with a jaw-dropping episode 8 and I doubt anyone was expecting events as they were played out under director Miguel Sapochnik. He also helmed the previous episode, The Gift, which explains a lot.
It was written by producers David Benioff and D.B Weiss, although I wouldn’t be surprised if author George RR Martin didn’t have a have a hand in it.
Looking back, there were plenty of hints that this was going to be the designated ‘epic’ episode of season 5 if you knew to look for them. And I didn’t. I was mentally prepping for NEXT week.
Just like in “Watchers on The Wall” last year, the majority of the episode was spent flitting around the Seven Kingdoms, before devoting the last 17 minutes to THE showstopper.
So, let’s recap events before the beast from hell was unleashed on viewers.
The storyline round up starts with Tyrion, Jorah and Daenerys. After presenting himself as Jorah’s ‘gift’, Tyrion then convinces her that she needs a Lannister to advise and guide her. She can’t build a better world on her own without someone by her side, who understands the land she wants to rule.
As for Ser Jorah, Tyrion convinces her not to have him executed on the spot. Jorah is spared the sword, but is booted out of Meereen and re-joins the Slave Master and his pit-fighting slaves.
I like the chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Peter Dinklage. It’s a smart move to bring Tyrion into the equation earlier than in the books. It should resolve the much-criticised ‘nothingness’ of Dany’s time in Meereen. It also gives Tyrion something to do.
Meantime, his sister Cersei is languishing in the dungeons of King’s Landing. After years of being ‘Queen Bee”, Cersei has been brought down by her own machinations.
Looking bedraggled and close to breaking point, Cersei is facing charges of fornication, treason and incest. Yet, she refuses to confess her sins and avoid the humiliation of a trial.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. And I might be wrong, but did I hear hints of “Rains of Castermere” playing as Cersei drank water off the floor? Delicious irony.
Arya is getting on with life in Braavos, where her training as one of the “Faceless Men” sees her taking on a new character; Alana the Oyster seller.
She’s been given a task. Get to know the moves of the Thin Man, who sells insurance for captains about to venture out on the seas.
It turns out he’s reneged on a deal, leaving a window and her children to turn to the Many Faced God for retribution. Arya has no qualms as she accepts a bottle of poison from Jaqen H’ghar – her mentor in the House of Black and White.
After her failed bid for freedom, Sansa is still ensconced at Winterfell. She confronts Theon/Reek, demanding answers to his betrayal.
“There is no Theon, there is only Reek”
She eventually gets an admission from the man she once considered a brother. He feels ashamed for betraying Robb and the Starks, but he didn’t kill the boys. Rickon and Bran are still living. Sansa did not see that coming.
And we begin the slow build to the game-changing moment.
Gilly is tending to Samwell’s wounds from last week’s run in with two brothers of the Night’s Watch. They refer coyly to their love-in when there’s a knock at the door.
It’s Ollie – the young boy who hero-worshipped Jon, until he came up with the plan to bring the Wildlings south of the Wall. He’s behaving like a sullen teen, who cannot understand the need to save the Free Folk.
Sam tries to explain the Lord Commander’s rationale.
“I have seen the army of the dead. I have seen the White Walkers and they’re coming for us. And when they come, we will need every man we can find”.
I suspect Samwell has totally misread the situation when he tries to reassure Ollie with the words:
“Don’t worry about Jon, Ollie. I’ve been worrying about him for years. He always comes back”.
That point is debateable as we follow Jon and Tormund to Hardhome – a free folk settlement north of the Wall. Here Jon convinces a few of them to seek safety in the south.
“The long night is coming and the dead are coming with it”.
The evacuation of Hardhome begins. The vulnerable are being placed on rowboats, when the dogs become restless and a cloud of snow pours over the nearby hills.
This is not good. This is the Army of the Dead and it’s coming towards the Wildling village. The gates are closed and thousands are left to the mercy of the White Walkers.
Their shrieks and hammering comes to a sudden halt. A deathly silence follows. You can almost feel the chill. And then …. all hell breaks loose as we are treated to 15 minutes of savage, on the edge of your seat action that has been lacking in season 5.
Those left on the other side of the gates are now the blue-eyed dead. And on the mountain ridge over-looking the settlement are Four Horsemen of the White Walker Apocalypse.
For only the second or third time in the show’s entire history, we see these mythical creatures up close and personal. They’re clearly sentient beings with an ability to command the dead. But who or what are they remains to be seen.
In a confrontation with one of the commanders, Jon realises that it’s not just Dragon Glass that can kill these creatures. Valyrian steel can also be do their undoing. As he brings the Lord Commander’s sword down, the creature shatters into thousands of ice shards.
Jon eventually makes it to one of the boats and as he’s rowed away, he makes eye contact with what appears to be the White Walker commander, who holds his arms out and commands the dead to rise.
And as the camera pulls back, we see a village of the damned. It’s a pointed message of what is now at stake in the Seven Kingdoms.
This is no longer just a Game of Thrones where the various Houses battle for supremacy. This is something much bigger that makes endeavours of Cersei, Daenerys and Littlefinger. This is a life and death battle with a force of a terrifying nature.
And this is episode 8, not episode 9. What can we expect next week? The teaser at the end sees Jon return to Castle Black, where Ser Alliser Thorne awaits him.
Could we see something even more shocking or confronting to top “Hardhome”? It’s hard to see it happening, but never say never on a Game of Thrones.
Let us know what you thought of Hardhome in the comments below.