Sunday, June 14, 2015

Game of Thrones 5.08: "Hardhome"

“Killing and politics aren’t always the same thing.”

This is the type of episode I’ve come to expect near the end of a season of “Game of Thrones,” although usually it’s the penultimate episode. There was some fantastic interaction between Tyrion and Daenerys. It was great to see two of my favorite (still living) characters finally get to know each other. I think they were both impressed by what they discovered. This episode also featured a rather epic battle, which is really why I’m comparing it to past penultimate episodes like “Blackwater.” The battle in question was north of the Wall between the Wildlings (and Jon Snow) and the White Walkers. It was an opportunity to see just how dire a threat the White Walkers really are. We’ve seen them before, but in this battle, waves of them just keep coming and coming. It makes me wonder how the people of Westeros are going to survive the coming winter, even if the (surviving) Wildlings are willing to help. I guess we will find out soon enough!

We start with the scene every good “Game of Thrones” fan was probably itching to see – a real conversation between Tyrion and Daenerys. Tyrion decides to make a play to be one of Daenerys’ advisors, and Dany asks him to prove his usefulness by telling her what to do with Jorah. Tyrion recommends re-banishing. It wouldn’t look good to kill one of her devotees, but Jorah can’t be trusted. Dany agrees and banishes Jorah once again (who goes back to one of the slavemasters and asks to be put in the top fighting pit to fight for Dany yet again . . . dude just can’t take a hint). With Jorah out of the picture, Tyrion and Dany have a real conversation. Tyrion observes that they both had terrible fathers and are kind of terrible themselves, but maybe they are the good kind of terrible. Tyrion makes the argument that his knowledge of Westerosi politics could be useful to Dany if she truly wants to rule. Dany says she wants to break the cycle of Westerosi monarchies (I’m not quite sure what she means by that, since she’s not immortal), and she wants Tyrion to be one of her advisors.

Next we pay a visit to Cersei, who is not taking imprisonment well (as you would expect). Septa Unella is Cersei’s minder in the dungeon, and she seems to kind of delight in giving Cersei bad news. She encourages Cersei to confess her crimes, as confession apparently leads to some leniency in the justice system of the Faith. When Cersei refuses, the Septa withholds water rations from her. Qyburn (the new-ish Master of Whispers) stops by to deliver all the latest news from King’s Landing. Apparently the Sparrows are building quite the case against her, including all the gory details of the incest with Jaime. As for Jaime, there’s been no word on his progress in Dorne. Kevan Lannister has been installed as Hand of the King and refuses to help in the matter of Cersei’s imprisonment. Gentle Tommen is so upset by the imprisonment of his wife and his mother that he has shut himself in his room and is refusing to eat.

There are also brief scenes in the North and in Braavos. In Winterfell, Ramsay and Roose debate strategy against Stannis’ coming attack. Roose thinks they should just wait it out, because Stannis’ army is in bad shape, and they may mutiny soon. Ramsay, as you might expect, wants to be a bit more proactive. Roose doesn’t want to waste his army on something like that, but Ramsay claims he will only need twenty men to do what he needs to do and defeat Stannis. Also in Winterfell, Sansa and Theon have a brief conversation about why he betrayed her to Ramsay. In the course of the conversation, Theon inadvertently lets it slip that he didn’t actually kill Bran and Rickon. We also make a quick journey to Castle Black, where Olly asks Sam why he should support Jon when Jon is trying to make nice with the Wildlings who destroyed his village. Sam explains exactly how much worse the White Walkers are, and he says that every man will be needed to defeat them. In Braavos, Arya and Jaqen are playing the Game of Faces. While she’s still not perfect, Arya has improved at the game since the last time we saw her, and we see her construct a backstory for an oyster selling girl. Which makes me kind of want to run down the street to my favorite seafood place and order some oysters fresh out of the Chesapeake Bay. But I digress. Anyway, since she is improving, Jaqen gives her a job. She is going to watch a man who has been cheating his clients and give him a “gift” from the Many-Faced God.

Finally, we head north of the Wall. Jon, Tormund, and their contingent have arrived at Hardhome, the Wildling base. To say the reception is chilly would be an understatement (and not an attempt at a pun, I swear!). The guy who seems to have been left in charge when Mance left is not at all happy to see that Tormund has brought a Crow back with him. In fact, he calls Tormund a traitor. Tormund gives him a fatal beat-down in response. Of the remaining Wildlings, they are split on whether taking Jon’s offer is a good idea, even when he offers the dragonglass daggers and explains their significance. Many board boats to head for the Wall, but many also elect to stay behind – too many, according to Jon. Just as the boats are about to leave, everything gets cold and the White Walkers make their attack. The remaining Wildlings secure the gates to Hardhome, and anybody who isn’t inside Hardhome or on the boats is easy pickings.

The last twenty minutes or so of the episode are a series of big action setpieces. The White Walkers come in unending waves that the Wildlings just can’t fight them off. Jon tries to salvage the dragonglass daggers, but he is waylaid by multiple White Walkers. It’s pretty epic. Most weapons just shatter when they come into contact with a White Walker, but Jon’s sword, made of Valeyrian steel, miraculously holds up. With the help of a giant (I had no idea there were giants in the Song of Ice and Fire universe), Jon and a few Wildling elders eventually make it to the boats. Significant damage has been done, though. The White Walkers now have tens of thousands more members for their army, and presumably, they will head for the Wall sooner rather than later.

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