Game of Thrones: “Hardhome” Season 5 Episode 8 Review

Winter is now.

The joy of season five of Game of Thrones is that a lot of things that have been teased are now coming into fruition. On what other series has it taken five seasons for arguably the two most popular characters to meet? How many times have we heard “Winter is coming” only to see no real proof?

What makes “Hardhome” not only the best episode of the season but also one of the all-time best of the series is that the show is drastically shifting its direction to a convergence of all these different plot lines. When White Walkers sick their army of the dead on Jon Snow and the wildlings, their threat is suddenly real, and it’s not just a threat to those characters. This is the start of something that will affect everyone.

It helps that the actual battle itself was absolutely insane. There was a great tension in watching sh*t finally get real, but the fight had no shortage of cheer-worthy moments. Jon cuts zombies in half while a giant whips around a fiery wooden plank, mowing down everything in site. It was a fantasy masterpiece. And that’s before Jon’s duel with a White Walker that ends with that latter’s body being shattered by Jon’s sword. I mean, if you didn’t yell in pure triumph at that moment, you may be wasting your time watching this series.

The battle ends with the terrifying notion that everyone that just died fighting the army of the dead is now part of that very army. The Night’s King could come to define the second half of the series as its lead antagonist. Winter is finally here.

But the happenings beyond the Wall weren’t the only great scenes tonight. “Hardhome” didn’t hold back in delivering a true first meeting of Tyrion and Daenerys. The opening scene already had Tyrion giving her advice, imploring her to have mercy on Jorah. Later, the two share wine and discuss the politics of the different houses in Westeros and who she might be able to align with when she arrives. Their initial lack of trust was very entertaining, but this pairing makes complete sense the more they talk to each other. They share a similar vision for a better world.

Arya’s training also took a turn for the better this week with her getting her first assignment. Her slight smile after receiving it was infectious, even though it means she’s just becoming a more damaged young soul. She’s to learn everything about a cruel man running things down at the docks before slipping him some poison. Arya working this out on her own is sure to be fun to watch.

Meanwhile, Cersei starving in prison was startling to watch. She’s finally paying for her atrocities and has no one to blame but herself. Still, the writing injects enough genuine motherhood in their to make you feel slightly bad for her. Slightly.

Even Sansa’s overly depressing storyline took a few steps in the right direction, as she snaps back at Theon harder than she ever did to anyone in King’s Landing. He even admits that he didn’t kill Bran and Rickon. Sansa may just be enough to bring him around.

So obviously “Hardhome” was an absolute winner. Just in time for the end of the season, Thrones kicked into high gear with a battle against the dead while two of television’s most iconic characters finally met. It’s hard to imagine the next two episodes outdoing what we saw this week, but there’s still a lot of payoffs needed before we wrap for the year. Grade: A

 

Some Other Notes:

– Not even the boring Sam and Gilly relationship could slow down this behemoth of an episode.

– This was the first episode where I really started to feel Bran’s absence. With so much happening over the wall, and even a bunch of zombie children, it was hard not to think of the other young Stark in training. I hope season six updates us on him quickly.

– Poor Jorah just can’t catch a break these days.

– Who else made Darth Maul jokes in reference to the Night’s King?

 

By Matt Dougherty

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