Game of Thrones can be a frustrating show to watch. Most fans already know what is going to happen. They have read the books to G.R.R. Martin’s ongoing series A Song Of Ice And Fire. There are some significant differences between the books and the TV-series. The frustration is made worse because it is not becoming clear at all who will sit on the Iron Throne. So far season 5 has been especially hard hit by circumstance. The deviations from the source material is wearing out some hard-core fans while casual viewers are left wondering what has happened in any previous episode they might have missed. Perhaps expectations ran too high before the season aired. Season 3 and 4 also had their flaws but after a slow start they managed to come to an incredible conclusion.
Game of Thrones S5Ep8 Hardhome Review
After yesterday’s episode ‘Hardhome’ things have suddenly changed. Secondary characters such as Brienne and Baelish didn’t get any screen time. Meanwhile Stannis and Jaime were left out to pasture for the showdown of their respective storylines which will come in the next two episodes. ‘Hardhome’ focuses primarily on the encounter between Daenarys and Tyrion and, beyond the wall, the encounter between Jon Snow, the Wildlings and the White-walkers. The latter storyline takes up the entire second half of the episode and is simply brilliant. Several smaller scenes at Winterfell, King’s Landing and Braavos propel a few other stories closer towards their dénouement.
In King’s Landing
Cersei (Lena Headey) is visited by Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham), who offers her water in exchange for a confession of her sins. Cersei asks to speak with Tommen, and is struck by the Septa. Later, Qyburn (Anton Lesser) visits Cersei and tells her about the crimes she is charged with, including incest and the murder of Robert Baratheon, which she rejects as lies. Qyburn also tells her that Grand Maester Pycelle has taken control of the Small Council and has sent for her uncle, Kevan, to return from Casterly Rock and serve as Tommen’s Hand. Before leaving, Qyburn tells Cersei that “the work continues”.
Arya (Maisie Williams) assumes the identity of Lana, an oyster seller. While playing the game of faces, she describes her typical day to Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha), who tells her to change her daily route. At the harbor, she sells oysters to a man Jaqen calls a gambler, who takes wagers on whether or not ships arrive at their destinations. Jaqen tells Arya to return to the harbor and learn everything she can about the gambler before poisoning him.
At the Wall
Gilly (Hannah Murray) treats Sam’s (John Bradley) wounds, before Olly (Brenock O’Connor) asks for a word with Sam in private. Olly asks Sam why Jon trusts the wildlings, noting that the wildlings attacked his village and killed his family. Sam explains that Jon has to make a difficult decision, and that they have no chance of defeating the army of the dead without help from the wildlings.
Reek (Alfie Allen) brings food to Sansa (Sophie Turner), who continues to be locked in her chamber. She asks Reek why he told Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) about her escape plans, and Reek replies that there is no escape from Ramsay. When he tries to leave, Sansa confronts him about murdering Bran and Rickon, but Reek confesses that he was unable to find them, and killed two farm boys instead and passed off their charred remains as that of the Stark children. In the great hall, Roose (Michael McElhatton) and his advisors plan for battle with Stannis’s army. Roose plans to wait out the invaders, noting that with Winterfell fully repaired and supplied, they are adequately prepared for a siege. Ramsay wants to move on Stannis, and asks his father for 20 good men.
Across the Narrow Sea
Jorah (Iain Glen) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) are brought before Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). She asks Tyrion why he should be allowed to live and serve her, to which he responds that he understands how politics work in King’s Landing, due to his service as Hand of the King. Tyrion is able to convince Daenerys to spare Jorah’s life, though he tells her that Jorah should not be allowed to serve her, and she orders Jorah removed from Meereen. Later, Daenerys tells Tyrion that she will not have him killed or exiled, and intends on allowing him to advise her. When she claims that the common people of Westeros will support her claim, Tyrion points out that her rule of Meereen has not gone smoothly with only the support of the common people, and tells her that she will not succeed without the backing of a powerful Westerosi house. She informs him that the powerful houses of Westeros are spokes on a wheel, and that she intends on breaking the wheel. Meanwhile, Jorah returns to Yezzan zo Qaggaz (Enzo Cilenti) and asks that he be allowed to fight in front of Daenerys in the Fighting Pits.
Arriving in Hardhome, Jon (Kit Harington), Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), and a group of Night’s Watch brothers meet with the Lord of Bones (Ross O’Hennessy), who has become the de facto leader of the wildlings. After a tense standoff, Tormund kills the Lord of Bones and orders his advisors to gather the elders. At the meeting, Jon shares the dragonglass with the wildlings, telling them about Sam killing a White Walker with a dragonglass dagger. Jon offers to allow the wildlings to farm the lands south of the Wall, if they will aid the Night’s Watch in the coming war against the White Walkers. When asked what became of Mance Rayder, Jon admits that he killed him. The assembled wildlings move to kill Jon, but Tormund is able to calm them by explaining that Jon killed Mance out of mercy. After more discussion, Jon and Tormund are able to convince roughly 5,000 wildlings to come with them, though the Thenns, lead by Loboda (Zahari Baharov), do not join them.
While loading the ships with wildlings, Hardhome is attacked by an army of wights. Hundreds of wildlings attempt to flee, forcing their way onto the boats and attacking each other. Jon and the Night’s Watch brothers assist in the defence of Hardhome, helping defend the walls from wight attacks. Jon and Tormund see several White Walkers observing the battle, and Jon moves to recover the bag of dragonglass weapons. Entering a large hut, Jon and Loboda are attacked by a White Walker, who easily kills Loboda before moving on Jon. Jon is attacked before he can recover the dragonglass, and manages to escape the hut. The White Walker pursues him and they fight, but the Walker is momentarily stunned when he is unable to break Jon’s Valyrian steel sword, and Jon manages to kill it. His victory is short-lived, as the walls surrounding Hardhome fall to the wights and Jon and his remaining allies are forced to flee. As Jon returns to the boats, he witnesses the Night’s King reviving the deceased wildlings as wights.
I was skeptical when I heard most of the episode would take place at Hardhome. I am no fan of the Jon Snow / Wildling storyline. The season 4 episode where the Knight’s Watch are under siege by Mance Raider’s Wildings was in my opinion too much of a distraction. This episode manages to beat my expectations by not cheating the audience. Events that happen at Hardhome are not in the books while the intense dialogue, special effects and gore are just marvelous. Two of the Wilding leaders, one a Thenn called Loboda and Karsi (played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) show considerable character depth despite their little screen time. Sadly both are killed by White-walkers and join the army of the dead. If rumors are believed it may not be the end for Karsi. At the same time Tormund had become a much more important characters. After the death of Mance it is his job to lead the remainder of the Wildlings after most were killed at Hardhome. No longer is Tormund the guy who has tall tales about sexual encounters that he reenacts besides a good campfire. Though I do hope we will see that again as well.
For those wondering whether Peter Dinklage will get another Emmy rest assured that he will. Tyrion’s judgment of Jorah was tense, but even Jorah will have to admit it was not a betrayal. How can Jorah ever expect to win back the heart of his Khaleesi. After his second eviction from Meereen he seems to accept he never will. Yet he does join the fighting pits. Like Stannis and Bronn it becomes clear that he will suffer the fate of a tragic hero. After Daenarys accepts Tyrion as her new advisor, in a scene I can watch a thousand times over, it suddenly adorns to the viewer that she and Jon Snow are truly the only contenders for the Iron Throne. What has escaped viewers for almost 5 season is not crystal clear. It simply becomes a game of ‘who lives?’ and ‘who dies?’ as so many other characters need to be killed off because there is no place in the world or through some unforeseen events settle down in another position of power. This episode made no reference to Dorne in that regard, even as Tyrion sums up the most influential factions of Westeros.
This was – Game of Thrones S5Ep8 Hardhome Review – See you back next week for the episode ‘The Dance of Dragons’.
Score; 9.3 / 10. A great episode but some of the secondary storylines showed too little meaningful development.