TV Review: Game of Thrones: Hardhome

Hardhome by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Warning: Major Spoilers!

Hi everyone, exam period got in the way of these reviews, but Hardhome seems a good time to restart them. Season 5 has had some pretty harsh criticism (almost entirely unjustified in my view) – yes there has been a change of pace from the last two seasons – but there hasn’t been a change in quality – and if you were book readers you wouldn’t complain – the show has done a remarkable job adapting the weakest part of George RR Martin’s work and going their own way – and no episode is a better example of this than Hardhome.

First up we see Cersei at her lowest, even drinking water off a cell floor after refusing to confess to the High Sparrow, her fall from grace is well deserved. Lena Headey is excellent in these scenes, but i doubt Cersei will be out of the game for long with Qyburn working on her behalf. Arya got her first mission from Jaqen, hopefully signalling her storyline is about to get more momentum and screentime in the final two episodes. There was some excellent work from Alfie Allen and Sophie Turner as Theon/Reek finally confessed to Sansa that he didn’t actually murder Bran and Rickon, only two farm boys. Might this be the start of Theon’s redemption? We’ll have to wait and see, though Ramsay’s plan to attack Stannis by surprise with 20 good men sounds like an interesting idea…

This episode also included what some of us have waited 57 episodes (or 5 books and counting) to see: Daenerys sparring with Tyrion. Tyrion proclaims himself a great ‘Lannister-killer’ and proves his worth to Dany by advising her on what to do with Jorah (she shouldn’t kill him because of his devotion to her, but can’t forgive him for his treachery) leading to Jorah to again be banished from the city. He then rejoins the slaver who brought him, pledging to fight in the arena as it is the only way of serving the queen left open to him. Daenerys and Tyrion then talk about her planned invasion of Westeros – with Tyrion at first trying to dissuade her, then being skeptical about her chances due to her lack of support among the royal families leading to Dany’s ‘break the wheel speech’ from the season trailer. Her appointment of Tyrion as an advisor sets up the final episodes (and seasons!) intriguingly.

But now the part everyone’s been talking about – Jon Snow at Hardhome. Jon’s been the central character all season and here faces a difficult task in uniting the wildlings and the Night’s watch. Jon and Tormund at first encounter resistance, especially from the Thenn leader Loboda and the Lord of Bones (who promptly has his head smashed in by Tormund) and then all hell looks set to break loose when the wildlings discover Jon killed Mance. Tormund fortunately difuses the situation by explaining it was a mercy kill, leading several of the wildling leaders, including the fiery Karsi (an excellent new character who could have easily been a new Ygritte) and the foul mouthed giant Wun Wun. However just as the wildlings start being boarded onto Stannis’ ships, all hell breaks lose.

The build up was really well done – the dogs suddenly starting barking, the mist creeping down from the mountains… then the sight of the normally fearless wildlings fleeing the far side of the camp – it was really tense and part of Miguel Sapochnik’s superb direction (can we get him back for S6?) and built up to a shock battle that wasn’t even in the books – with the White Walkers making their first appearance for 14 odd episodes in spectular fashion. The prolonged battle scene that followed had everything: the giant Wun Wun fighting tons of undead single handed, Karsi brutally being killed by a bunch of undead children, Jon Snow and the Thenn Leader facing off against a White Walker, the four White Walkers (including their leader – credited as the ‘Night’s King’) watching from above in the mountains as their army swept through the camp (4 horsemen of the apocalypse anyone?). Two scenes were particularly brilliant – first off Jon fighting the White Walker after it swiftly dispatched the Thenn Leader, only for the White Walker to find it couldn’t break Jon’s Valyrian steel sword – an epic moment that has already gone viral. Second the ending of the episode where after Jon, Tormund, Edd and the giant escape, Jon looks back and sees the White Walker’s leader, who raises the thousands of fallen wildlings as Wights… this was a major victory for the Walkers and for the first time since the final scene of season 2, they feel like a real threat – hopefully they will now have a larger presence in the next few seasons!

Overall: the episode we’ve been waiting for. The best episode of season 5 with some excellent character scenes in the first half and an epic battle in the second – this rivals anything the previous 4 seasons produced.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Next Time: Episode 9 is here… brace yourselves everyone…

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