Episode eight opens with the most exciting thing to happen in Daenerys’s throne room since, well… probably ever. The long awaited, totally Off Book, scene between The Mother Of Dragons and The God Of Tits And Wine was the perfect coming together of two of the most recognisable characters from the show. Tyrion plays at being in control of his situation, of course he’d rather advise Dany than die, but he’s not going to admit that and give her all the power. Meanwhile Jorah just stands there looking so stern and heartbroken. Don’t worry Jorah, Dany might not love you but the audience does.
Over in King’s Landing we are treated to the most beautiful scene in Game Of Thrones - a grubby, wild looking Cersei Lannister desperately drinking water off the dirty floor of her cell. How the mighty have fallen! She might be all threats and defiance to her unpleasant Septa, but Cersei’s obviously getting desperate and it is wonderful to watch. Cersei, who caused the deaths of Robert and Ned, who treated Tyrion with such spite, who allowed her son to get so ridiculously out of hand, brought so low - who wouldn’t enjoy seeing it?
Arya is being trusted with her first assignment for the Many Faced God: become an oyster seller on the canals, watch a ‘gambler’ (insurance-seller) do his business and when the time is right, take care of him. As always the Arya scenes are intriguing and fun to watch, but you can’t help wish it wasn’t going so slowly over there. After being quick-paced and quick-witted with The Hound it feels like Arya’s story is slowing down, and it’s a shame because we’ve come to expect a certain level of excitement from her. Luckily we get excitement by the ton elsewhere in the episode.
What with Jon and co heading there on their diplomatic meeting the word Hardhome gets said a lot.
Game Of Thrones can achieve more in one hour long episode than many feature films can with budgets in the hundreds of millions and "Hardhome" just reminded us of that. This season has felt like the calm before the storm but now that storm has broken, both figuratively and literally.
With Hardhome we are finally treated to a glimpse of the peril Westeros faces if the Seven Kingdoms don’t get their stuff together and prepare for the upcoming winter. There was a true sense of scale to this battle - the sweeping shots of the landscape, wildling camp and stormy seas all perfectly balanced between CGI and stunning sets. And yet there’s a claustrophobic feel to the events at Hardhome too - trapped between the walls, the sea and the Walker topped cliffs, surrounded on all sides by the undead, the living have no where to go. The quick camera pans add a frantic energy and the constant onslaught of the dead has you genuinely worried for everyone there. There seems to be no escape and it rivals "The Watchers On The Wall" for best battle sequence of the series. If only Game Of Thrones had had this kind of budget in earlier seasons - think of the battles we could have had!
Standout moments from the battle include Wun Wun the giant picking skeletons of his back like they were fleas, watching a tide of undead throw themselves off the cliffs and of course the heartstopping fight between Beardy Walker and Jon. That was the kind of on-the-edge-of-your-seat, nail biting stuff this season has been missing.
Another high-point was the addition of Karsi, played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, a strong-willed, single mother, warrior goddess. We may have only seen her for a few scenes but her death hits hard. She would have been an amazing addition to the show. At least her death at the bony hands of the baby-wights was hauntingly memorable.
If this was episode eight’s offering we can’t wait to see what will happen in episode nine - the traditional high point of every season of Game Of Thrones.
They Said The Other Thing!
During the House Bolton strategy meeting Ramsay tells his papa to make Stannis’s army into a feast for the crows - paraphrasing the title of the fourth book in A Song Of Ice And Fire.
History of Hardhome
According to the books Hardhome was once as prosperous a town can be beyond The Wall until a disaster struck the settlement. Something terrible happened to Hardhome, leaving behind nothing but ruins and corpses - though what exactly befell the town is unknown. From that point on the place was shunned by free folk and crows alike as it was believed to be cursed. That is, until a few thousand surviving Wildlings fled there after Stannis’s victory over Mance.
This big, somewhat friendly, giant is called Wun Wun. Presumably the same Wun Wun (or Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun if you want his full name) from the books - a character who has a fairly notable role to play in the events of A Dance With Dragons.
Thought you spotted some familiar faces in the Wildling crowd? Brann Dailor, Bill Kelliher, and Brent Hinds from US metal band Mastodon cameoed as Wildlings at Hardhome, joining a long line of musicians who have appeared as extras in the show.
|Writers||David Benioff & DB Weiss|
|The One Where||Tyrion and Dany bond over what to do with Jorah, and Jon tries to save the Wildlings from a fate worse than death.|