Game of Thrones upped the ante in “Hardhome”, bucking the trend of Episode 9 being the big action-packed set by giving us a ferocious, layered, and brilliantly executed big battle in the episode’s last half. That isn’t only why “Hardhome” is the best Season 5 episode yet though, every other story line during the first half was paced well, full of substantial happenings that truly hammered home the divergence between source and show that has been progressing this season.
The threat of winter has been looming over Game of Thrones since the opening scene of “Winter is Coming”; some characters have caught onto the threat and have it firmly locked into their sights, while others in Westeros have barely begun blinking an eye at it. The fact that THIS – this incredibly terrifying battle scene – is what we’re getting at what seems like only the beginning of the white walker invasion makes it highly likely that Game of Thrones will be throwing some even bigger things our way next season. Especially given that the fight sequence was handled so well that you could have sworn the show was on a Hollywood blockbuster budget.
I almost forgot how ominous dogs barking could be. The quick change of atmosphere in the wildling storyline after Jon Snow and Tormund had convinced only some of them to join their cause (except the Thenns, I fucking hate Thenns) gave me chills. This was a process taken straight from a big disaster flick and it was so effective in catching us off guard, leaving us ill-prepared for the fast pace to come. This wasn’t no hack-and-slash action scene either, although there was plenty of that; this was treated with the same character-focused delicacy of the big action scene at The Wall last year, with the battle handled in stages. The most exciting stage, of course, being Jon versus White Walker; as he discovers that Long Claw, the sword bestowed upon him by Jeor Mormont, is just as if not even more effective than Dragon Glass.
Tension was thick in the very final scene, where The Night’s King stares down Jon Snow and then we realise that all he needs to do is raise his hands to get the thousands upon thousands of dead to rise as White Walkers. No soundtrack or such was necessary here, all noise was drowned out so all you could hear was Jon’s puffed breathing as he realised that the odds are even more skewed than he thought.
Before this action we got a significant moment between Reek and Sansa as that long-awaited confession was made: those boys that Theon killed were not Bran and Rickon. I had been waiting for this ever since Sansa got to Winterfell, and now that she knows that her younger brothers may be alive – in addition to finding out that Jon was Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch from Ramsay – this makes it likely that Brienne and Pod will be used to help Sansa track down her brothers.
Visiting King’s Landing didn’t have much of a point to it besides letting Qyburn bring Cersei up to speed on what’s happening to the Small Council now that she is desperately licking water off a floor in a dark cell. Grand Maester Pycelle has summoned Kevan Lannister back to serve as Hand of the King and Tommen is starving himself; it’s small, but effective in setting up the changing dynamics where the crown is concerned.
Tyrion and Dany shared some brilliant scenes, really drawing on their distinctive personalities and showing us what a great back-and-forth they can have over some wine. Jorah was once again exiled because of Tyrion’s advice, but his life was spared. That hasn’t stopped him from trying as hard as he can to serve Dany though; with his greyscale progressing, Jorah has gone back to the lord that purchased him as a slave and asked to be sold to the fighting pits. I’m assuming Dany’s dislike of slavery overrides her stubborn distaste for Jorah.
Arya’s situation is quickly turning into Assassin’s Creed. She is now Lana (of the Canals), an orphan who sells oysters around the village. With her sights now zoned in on The Gambler and The Thin Man, we have what is probably a predictable – though exciting – arc to keep Arya busy for the next two episodes.
Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
– The Night’s King: “Come at me”
– Jon Snow VS White Walker
– Tyrion and Dany bond over wine
– Battle shot in stages
– Reek reveals the truth to Sansa
– Arya given a mission
– Lord of Bones killed off quickly; I liked him.
– If a giant walks into water and keeps walking, doesn’t it just eventually drown?
Game of Thrones airs in Australia on Showcase, Foxtel every Monday at 11am with a second screening at 7:30pm