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TV Review: Game Of Thrones 5.8 “Hardhome”
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Game Of Thrones
Episode 5.8 “Hardhome”
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Written by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
Starring Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Aidan Gillen, Kit Harington, Natalie Dormer, Sophie Turner, Dean-Charles Chapman, Jonathan Pryce
HBO
Air date: Sunday, May 31, 2015, 9pm

Spoilers ahead for Season 5 of Game Of Thrones, and a recap of Episodes 5.7 and 5.8.

In last week’s Game Of Thrones, Episode 5.7 “The Gift,” sweet, elderly Maester Aemon — the last Targaryen aside from Daenerys (that we know of yet!!!) — dies a peaceful death of natural causes (a rarity in this show); newlywed Sansa Stark was repeatedly abused by her new husband Ramsay Bolton with no escape in sight; Stannis continued his march to Winterfell to take it over from the Boltons, even though his hired guns are deserting and they’re running out of provisions; Queen of Thorns Olenna Tyrell met with the High Sparrow in an effort to get her imprisoned grandchildren released to no avail, but her recently returned ally Littlefinger had a plan for revenge on Cersei; and Cersei, who had armed the High Sparrow and his followers as the Faith Militant so she could get rid of the Tyrells, found herself arrested by them and thrown into a cell. At Castle Black, Sam loses his virginity to Gilly, while Jon Snow takes off with Tormund to convince the other Wildlings to ally with the men of Westeros against the coming White Walkers. In Meereen, Jorah Mormont returned to battle in the fighting pits, which ended in his triumph and Daenerys’s first meeting with Tyrion Lannister!

For this week’s episode of Game Of Thrones, 5.8 “Hardhome,” there was only two things we wanted to see: that bitch Cersei rotting in her jail cell, and what’s up now with Tyrion and Daenerys. But, we got much, much more! There was just a small dose of the Queen Dowager, who, yes, is rotting in the cell, just like we saw poor Margaery Tyrell doing last week, but a heaping load of interaction between Daenerys and Tyrion. On top of that, we finally got to see the new Arya look that was teased for months; Sansa’s learns some important information that brings her some hope, and oh man there’s a ton of epicness at Hardhome where Jon Snow journeys to speak with the Elders of the Wildlings, the mortal enemies of the men of Westeros.

Ok, let’s start this with some viewer satisfaction: We see Cersei Lannister barefoot in her cold, stark, damp jail cell beneath the Red Keep, where she once ruled from above. The High Sparrow has brought her up on charges of fornication, treason, incest, and the murder of her husband King Robert, thanks to testimony from her cousin/former love Lancel, now one of the Sparrows. Her jailor, a septa who’s a staunch follower of the High Sparrow, brings in water for her prisoner, but won’t give it unless Cersei confesses to her crimes (i.e., sins). But the Queen Dowager refuses, choosing instead to continue with her threats against her keepers. In the end, the septa spills the water on the ground. Showing us how far the mighty have truly fallen, we see the extremely dry-mouthed Cersei slurping the water up from the floor. Before that, she did have a visitor — the former maester Qyburn, who has been in her employ in a Dr. Frankenstein capacity, as he’s been slowing bringing the Mountain back to life. Qyburn tells her that Jaime has not returned, but her Uncle Kevan has and he’s now the Hand of the King and has no interest in coming to see her. Meanwhile, her son, the young King Tommen, is so distraught over his mother and wife’s incarceration that he hasn’t eaten or left his quarters. This was not part of Cersei’s plan — none of this was. It was more important for the former Queen to control her son and try to get rid of the Tyrells, who were actually her allies, than to just let things be. We didn’t get enough of Cersei in this episode, but just knowing she’s rotting away and getting a massive dose of her own medicine is so fulfilling. Before he leaves, Qyburn reveals, “The work continues.”

Then there’s the Stark girls: At the House Of Black and White, Arya — the younger Stark daughter who is presumed dead — learns more about the Faceless Men and continues her training. Her mentor Jaqen H’ghar sends her to the docks, where she’s assumed a new persona — Lanna, who runs a oyster cart. Here we see Arya in the new costume that’s been hyped for months. She comes across someone Jaqen says is a gambler. We learn right away that this is not a good man, and that Arya will eventually dish out some retribution. Over at Winterfell, older sister Sansa, who feels like she has nothing left to lose, confronts Theon Greyjoy, aka Reek. She hates him for killing her younger brothers back when he overtook Winterfell in his father’s name. She screams at him that he shouldn’t be breathing while her brothers are dead, and he agrees. She ends up berating him so much that he spills the beans that he never actually killed her brothers! He couldn’t find Bran and Rickon, so he killed two farm boys and burned their bodies so they’d be unrecognizable and pass as the Stark boys. This revelation changes things for Sansa and brings her hope. Downstairs in the war room, Warden of the North Roose Bolton plans his strategy to defeat Stannis Baratheon — he’s going to stay put inside the walls of Winterfell, where they have about six months’ worth of food and supplies, and let Stannis and his army freeze and starve outside. Sounds like a plan! Oh but wait, crazy Ramsay wants to instead lead an attack. He just needs “20 good men.” What the hell is this psycho up to?

Now on to Tyrion and Daenerys, the gathering of forces we’ve been waiting to see. Interestingly enough, Daenerys seems very willing to place her trust in Tyrion, who she — not surprisingly — makes her advisor. If ever there was a wise advisor, it would be Tyrion. He says he’s impressed by Dany’s decisions of reopening the fighting pits and her plan to marry someone she loathes for political gain. Tyrion helps her make her decision on what to do about Jorah (exiled yet again), and reveals that Varys was his ally in seeking Dany out for an alliance. Dany knows that Varys was the one Jorah fed all her secrets to for 20 years, but Tyrion explains that Varys did what he had to do and was likely the only reason she wasn’t slaughtered in her crib when her family was killed. Dany seems to think all she needs is her massive army to march to Westeros and win over the common people, but Tyrion knows she needs more. She needs backers in the important families of Westeros, and he knows from experience that there were many before like Dany who wanted to change things, but it seems an impossible task. Dany rattles off the names of the high houses — like Lannister, Stark, and more, including her own house Targaryen — and explains that they are all spokes on a wheel taking their turns on top crushing the people beneath. Tyrion says she’s not the first person with this dream of stopping the wheel, but her plans aren’t to stop it, it’s to crush the wheel. The conversation was one of the best ones on Game Of Thrones and is worthy of many repeat viewings!

Over at Castle Black, Gilly is tending to Sam’s wounds post-coitus. The young Olly comes in to talk to Sam. He is upset that Jon Snow is going to Hardhome to gather the Wildlings and get them to join forces with the men of Westeros against the coming White Walkers. The Wildlings killed Olly’s parents and everyone in his village, so he cannot understand or accept this alliance. But Sam explains that Jon is doing what he must to save mankind from the undead and that sometimes a man has to make hard choices.

While many of the men of Castle Black can’t seem to grasp why Jon is forging this alliance, it seems like a pretty easy choice to make. There are near-impossible-to-kill White Walkers and their minion wights, corpses reanimated by the White Walkers to act as their army, coming to kill the living. What’s there to think about??? Band together and fight them!

We see Jon Snow and the wildling Tormund and their respective men arrive at their destination at Hardhome north of the Wall, where they are greeted not so pleasantly by the infamous raider The Lord of Bones. When Bones learns that Tormund has made an alliance with the Crows, he unleashes a string of vulgarities, going too far to insult Tormund, who swiftly and quickly beats him to death. Times like this you have to ask, was it worth it to open your big mouth? Nope, it wasn’t.

With Bonesy out of the way, Tormund and Jon meet with the Elders. Jon explains that the White Walkers don’t care if their victims are Crows or Free Folk – they are out to kill all the living. The Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch even offers the gift of dragonglass, which we saw in previous episodes can kill the White Walkers. He also offers them lands south of the Wall that they can live and farm on, in exchange for joining the men of Westeros when the ‘real war’ against the undead comes. Jon makes a compelling argument, reminding them that the Long Night is coming and the Undead with it, and manages to convince nearly everyone except the stubborn Thenns, who still don’t trust him. Soon, 5,000 Wildlings agree to go south of the Wall to the new lands and are gathering by the sea into boats to start their new life. Jon doesn’t think this is enough people, but Tormund assures that the remaining Free Folk will come around soon since there’s no food and nothing for them to hunt. But, as they are gathering into the boats, oh look, it’s WINTER! It’s here. Once everyone realizes what’s happening, it’s too late for half the people left on land who are stuck on the other side of the gates when snow storms down the mountain along with the fast-moving wights! Unfortunately, the gates don’t hold for long and many of the Wildlings are slaughtered, with those who survived jumping on the boats in a mass panic. Initially Jon plans to stay and fight, but one of the Elders tells him that if he doesn’t arrive to the Wall with the boats, there’s a good chance that his men won’t let the Wildlings in. Jon must escape, but first, he needs to gather up all that dragonglass. As he makes his way inside for the weapons, he comes up against one of the main White Walkers. Jon is unable to reach the dragonglass, and nearly breaks his arm when he tries to fight his attacker off with a random sword. Jon seems doomed as he lies on the snow-covered ground, while the White Walker doesn’t seem worried at all. With one last ditch effort, Jon brings up his own sword — Longclaw, the Valyrian steel weapon he was gifted by his old master Jeor Mormont — and meets the White Walker’s spear — and it works!!! Valyrian steel, baby!!!!!!!! Both Jon and his opponent are shocked by these results, and Jon uses that second of confusion to strike down the Walker, killing it. Main walker dude, the Night’s King, sees all of this from above. When Jon and his men of the Night’s Watch finally make it into the boats to flee, the Night’s King stands on the pier staring Jon down. He raises his arms up to his side slowly, making the recently slaughtered Wildlings rise from the dead. They will be part of his army now. In horror, Jon looks on, realizing now more than ever that he and the kingdom of man are up against an unstoppable force.

Video

Game of Thrones Season 5: Inside Episode 8 (HBO)


New episodes of Game of Thrones air every Sunday at 9PM, only on HBO.

Game of Thrones Season 5: Episode #7 Recap

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