As hard as it is to believe, yesterday’s episode was the eighth of Season 5, meaning we only have two episodes left before we have to say goodbye to Game of Thrones until next spring. The quality of Season 5 so far has been somewhat up and down this season, but the latest installment, Hardhome, was nothing short of excellent. We got some great, satisfying moments and an epic battle scene.
One of the things that made this episode the best of the season was the interaction between Tyrion and Daenerys. Now, I’ve made it no secret that I have found Dany’s story pretty uninteresting up to this point, mostly due to the fact that what she is doing has had little-to-no impact on what we really care about – Westeros. That all changes now that Tyrion is in the picture. The dialogue between the two of them is captivating as Daenerys, who has worked so hard to be taken seriously despite her youth by putting up a wall of formality, must learn to adapt to Tyrion’s sharp wit and biting sarcasm as he tries to convince her not to kill him and Ser Jorah and offers her his services as an adviser. This is the most interesting Daenerys has been the entire series and I find myself actually looking forward to seeing what she does next.
In Braavos, Arya is continuing her training toward becoming “no one.” She has adopted the moniker “Lana,” and goes into the city to sell oysters from her cart. Along the way, she observes people and learns about them. She encounters a man who J’aqen describes as basically a dishonest life insurance salesman. He tells her that the only recourse for the man’s victims is to appeal to the Many Faced God, and he sends her into the city to learn all she can about him and gives her a phial of poison that she is to give the man once she knows all she can find about him.
In King’s Landing, we see Cersei still imprisoned for her adultery. She is visited by Qyburn, who advises her to confess to the accusations against her in order to shorten her confinement. She ignores his advice, and is later visited by one of the septas who offers her water in return for a confession, which she again refuses. The septa pours the ladel of water onto the stone floor, giving viewers an extremely satisfying moment of seeing the once proud villainess of the series forced to degrade herself by lapping the water off the floor.
Back at Winterfell, Sansa confronts Theon/Reek about revealing her plan to escape to Ramsay. Theon explains that he was helping her by sparing her the punishment of an escape attempt that was doomed to fail. Uncovinced, she begins to berate Theon about his past transgressions, among them murdering her brothers Bran and Rickon when he conqured Winterfell. This prompts Theon to inform her that the two boys he murdered were not her brothers, but instead two farm boys. This is a huge development in Sansa’s storyline as she now knows that she is not the last remaining Stark. It will be interesting to see how this information will affect her actions and Littlefinger’s many schemes going forward.
The brightest point of this episode, however, comes in its final scene, when Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane travel to Hardhome to convince the wildlings to join their fight against the White Walkers. Initially, they are met with resistance from Rattleshirt, but Tormund quickly neutralizes that threat and convenes the elders for a meeting. After Jon and Tormund state their case, some of the wildlings (5,000 by Jon’s estimation) agree to go back to the Wall with Jon. Soon, however, the wildling village is laid seige by thousands of wights under the control of a small group of White Walkers. One of the Walkers descends upon the village himself and engages Jon in single combat. Jon uses Longclaw to cut the Walker down, confirming the suspicison that the Walkers can be killed by Valyrian steel as well as Dragonglass. Later, we get a look at the Night’s King, who reanimates the fallen wildlings into wights as Jon looks on in horror from a boat. The battle scene was the highlight of the episode. It was pure chaos, but did allow the viewer ample opportunities to appreciate the excellent battle choreography, making this one of the best battle scenes of the series.