Can we take a moment to appreciate the last fifteen minutes of what will soon be known as the best episode of season 5?
The general consensus among the fans is that the pacing is slightly off this season. However, with this episode the season finally picked up steam. I have no doubt that momentum will continue over the next two episodes but nothing can top these last moments, nothing except perhaps Jon turning into a White Walker towards the very end of the season. Fingers crossed. And let’s be realistic here – who wouldn’t want to belong to the most badass army that ever existed?
THE GREATEST LANNISTER KILLER OF OUR TIME
No time was wasted this week, “Hardhome” opened with Tyrion and Jorah facing Daenerys in her throne room. I loved the way Tyrion introduced himself. “I’m the greatest Lannister killer of our time” he told Dany. I must admit, I missed his humor this season and yes, it was well worth the wait. With Tyrion by her side, even if it is for the brief time, Daenerys has a potential of growing. Yes, heavyhearted I admit I enjoyed her today. In fact, I enjoyed every moment the two characters shared except for the “Wheel” speech, which just threw me back to being bored with the Mother all over again.
On the other hand Jorah will never learn. But, considering he is already dying, dying in the pits for the love of his life is hardly a choice. Poor Jorah. Yes, I finally feel sorry for him. He got the short end of the deal. Again.
IS MARYN TRANT FAN OF OYSTERS?
Today, at the House of Black and White, Arya has finally started taking her lessons. And at last she understood Jaqen H’ghar’s training better. She’s become proficient at telling stories and is definitely learning, but is this her true path? She is the only Stark that is somehow fighting someone else’s battles. With Maryn Trant’s arrival in Braavos there is a possibility Arya continues with narrowing her list down but is that the true way of the Faceless Man? We know they don’t kill random people they dislike or for personal gain (unless they are trying to save their own life), so will Arya get punished for avenging Silvio Farrell (Syrio Forel) or will Jaqen just let her slide this time? Either way, I never saw much point in her becoming the Faceless Man, that is, unless she plans on simply using the order to gain new abilities before she hops on a boat and heads back home ready and willing to aid her siblings.
DUNGEON BREAKS THEM ALL
Poor Cersei. Yes, for the first time, ever since I begin with this healthy Game of Thrones obsession, I felt sorry for the Queen Mother. There are many fans out there that love this character, who find her amusing and funny and thrilling but I am not one of them. I despise her. Tonight, however, I felt sorry for her. Not because her uncle doesn’t want to see her, or her son doesn’t want to see her, or because he brother/lover is away on a “delicate diplomatic mission” unable to help her, or because she is forced to confess to the crimes she committed as well as those she didn’t, no, I didn’t feel sorry because of that; I felt sorry because she drank water. I don’t know about you but I personally cannot recall seeing Cersei drink water from the glass let alone from the dirty floor… And I felt compassion.
But then I remember Ned. Ned Stark, the Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell, who sat in the same dungeon several years ago, an innocent man forced to confess the crimes he never committed and all that compassion I felt, even if it was just for a brief moment, just went away. In that moment I wished for one thing and one thing only – to be able to walk into that dungeon with a gallon of wine all to myself, forcing her to watch from the safe distance as I drink it, sip by sip. I f*ing hate that bitch! Next episode is going to be so rewarding.
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!
At first I was not. In several seasons the Wights basically went from Romero/The Walking dead slow moving zombies to 28 Days Later/Prates of the Caribbean fast-moving bastards. They tore down the fortress like the pack of rabid animals. And that awful, clicking sound. Not to mention the fact that they again appeared as bones. What is up with that?! Yes, I know I sound like a “book purist” but if we know that the bones cannot come to life and if we know that once the meat falls of the the body of a Wight stops moving then why did they have to do it like that? Wasn’t following the book and the scene from the epilogue of Season 2 enough? Now, I have the impression that we have two types of Wights: 1) meaty ones that are slow and dumb and 2) boney ones that are agile and intelligent. Wights are neither agile nor intelligent. They represent quantity not quality. Anyway, if we are to ignore this “minor” detail the rest of the Battle for Hardhome looked and felt spectacular.
The scene begins with Jon arriving to Hardhome. Lord of Bones (Rattleshirt) is there and he is not pleased to see the “King Crow” again. After his initial outcry, Tormund, fed up with pretty much everyone by now, knocked him to the ground demanding the meeting of the elders. Efficient. In the tent/cabin Jon, with Tormund by his side, explains his plan. Most of the Free Folk comply except of course the Thenns. “I fucking hate Thenns”, which was my favorite line from Season 3 has somehow found its way into a dialogue today. It made me chuckle. As the willing boarded the boats that will take them south of the Wall to the area called “The Gift” the dogs started barking. Almost instantly the surrounding mountains started moving. The winter is finally here. And with it all hell broke loose. But first came the fog…and the silence. The fog descending in from the nearby mountains was eerie on its own, but the way the Wildlings left outside the gate just disappeared was truly haunting. And for a moment I thought this is it. It is over. But then the Wildlings, now turned to Wights came crawling, together with their former enemy, underneath the gate, digging their way out. The grumpy Thenn took them out one by one in a steady pace. Jon came to help. Tormund as well and the battle just grew larger and larger beyond my wildest dreams. Meanwhile the dragonglass remained in the tent/cabin together with the magnificent giant and my beloved Edd. Together with the Thenn, Jon, knowing the dragonglass is the “only” thing that kills the Walkers, rushed in to look for it. But then, out of the fire emerged the glorious White Walker, now dressed in black armor. I wanted to scream!
We still don’t know why the White Walkers want to do this. Their silence is haunting in this regard, a voiceless threat with no demands except for undead subservience. We know more about what the High Sparrow wants from Cersei, or what the Faceless Men want from Arya, or what Ramsay wants from Sansa or what Daenery wants in general but what do White Walkers want, that we do not know. That is why I won’t jump to any conclusions yet. We are well aware that George likes to push us into believing one thing only so he would reveal something else completely. Trying to view things from that angle one can argue that White Walkers are misunderstood. Yes, they kill people, but who doesn’t? Arya just killed her first victim. Stannis killed thousands in battle. Ramsay kills to satisfy his sadistic needs. Theon killed two innocent boys to keep his word and not end up looking like a fool in front of his men. Daenerys fed a grown man to her dragons just so she would enforce her rule. King Aerys burned men alive. Ned beheaded a “deserter” who fled from ranging in order to save his life. White Walkers are just the same, except they look different. Is being different such a crime? Is it their only crime? No wonder they are being called the Others in the book.
If you think about it, Wildlings were there for months, living in Hardhome, and the White Walkers chose to attack now. Why? Is it a coincidence or is it because Jon Snow was there? We are well aware that Night King is a Stark. Those who read the books know this. He was a Stark and a Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who fell in love with a White Walker female. No one had a problem with that until one day he claimed “The Gift” for himself and his bride, thirteen years later. Once he started treating the Night’s Watch as his own personal army and “The Gift” as his household the Lord of Winterfell, his brother, and the King Beyond the Wall gathered forces in brining him down. All the records of him were then erased. History now tells us that he was a monster, who committed great atrocities during his rule, but can we really trust said history knowing fully that it is written by those that won, by those who wanted his name off the records? I cannot. Not because I am blind or because I want to be controversial but because my experience has taught me otherwise. That said, I want more of the White Walkers, i.e. the Others, I want more of the Night King, i.e. Brandon Stark and overall I want more of their general as well as their specific background (what is their motif, do they speak, what language do they use, how they came about, were they the first inhabitants of Westeros, did the Children of the Forest drive them away, can they kill dragons, can dragons kill them, are they Starks, can only a Stark become a White Walker and if not why are the brothers and Wildlings turned into Wights and not White Walkers and so forth) and I want it not via history but via first hand experience we just had while watching “Hardhome”.
What struck me as odd was the Night King’s and Jon’s newfound relationship. Majority of the fans see that Night’s King started paying attention to Jon only after Jon shattered the awesome looking Walker with a beard.
Everyone knows that Valiryan Steel kills a Walker. Everyone but Jon, who, as it turns out, really knows nothing. On the other hand, Night King, being the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and the ruling leader of the army of dead, made of ice that can shatter at any given moment as long as there is dragonglass and Valiryian steel around, must know this. He must.
Therefore, I don’t believe his interest in Jon started with Jon’s discovery of just what Longclaw is capable off. No. I believe he was observing him.
I believe he knows Jon is a Stark and I believe he was demonstrating his power to him. He didn’t feel scary to me. At all. He looked more like a person demonstrating how cool is to be him and a person that is luring Jon onto his side. I am probably wrong, and if I am, then the emphasis put on this particular relationship (I didn’t imagine it, it was there) was there as a form of heavy foreshadowing. Yes, I believe and yes I am hinting that somehow, somewhere and soon Jon will become a White Walker. It is what I have been saying for years. I know, no one wants this for Jon. But, realistically speaking, it will further the plot. We all know that he is so done with the Night’s Watch. So what can he possibly do afterwards? Return to Winterfell? Get back what is his? March on King’s Landing and become the next king? No. I don’t think so. Yes, the army of the dead is killing the living for the soul purpose of getting more men into their horrific army. But isn’t that what Daenerys was doing in Essos? Isn’t that why Stannis sailed to Braavos, to get the money so he would raise his army? Isn’t that what Jon was doing at Hardhome? Everyone in Westeros and Essos is apparently getting a free pass for raising an army except the White Walkers. They are not diplomatic but they are efficient, and they have lived on this land, in Westeros, long before the humans came, at least give them that. Sure, their methods are harsh but harsh times are coming. And besides I don’t see humans joining the army of the dead on a whim, not after all the terrible stories past on from one generation to another. After all, weren’t the Wildlings and Southerners fighting and killing each other just few short seasons ago? So, once again, until I learn the whole truth about them, White Walkers are, as of this episode, the most badass fighters of the realm.
Speaking of which…. The scene showing the Night King walking calmly and steadily down the pier never taking his eyes of off Jon was the best scene of Game of Thrones to date. And then he opened his arms and what felt like he is going to freeze the Shivering Sea turned into one of the greatest moments on television – the dead came back to life. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. And he just kept staring at Jon calmly. It felt like he was asking him: “Can you do this F8cker?” This huge sorcery advantage the Walkers have (among other things like weapons and who knows what else) that turns any dead body into their weapon. Arghh. Goosebumps.
WORST OF THE EPISODE
-Spokes on the wheel speech delivered by Daenerys. It was the only cheesy moment of this otherwise phenomenal episode.
BEST OF THE EPISODE
Everything else. But to narrow it down:
-The Giant! I loved every scene with him. But him just walking slowly towards the ships got to be the best one!
-White Walker’s and Jon’s expressions when they realize that Longclaw is not only a sword. Now the audience knows that dragonglass is not the only thing that kills them.
-Tormund. He is always great but today he was the greatest.
-Grumpy Edd trying to interact with the grumpy Giant.
-Jon is the perfect Lord Commander.
-Lena gave her best performance as far as I am concerned. It is so refreshing seeing Cersei in a different setting than her usual one.
-Tyrion is back! His lines were priceless…and just for a moment it felt like Daenerys will actually listen to her advisor for a change. We shall see. We shall see.
-Sansa finally learning her brothers are still alive. This, the way I see it, is the only thing that will help her gain the remaining strength and turning into a Stark like she is suppose to. And her performance was just…
–I was right about Qyburn. The work continues and I am sure we shall witness it in the finale episode Mother’s Mercy.
-White Walkers are in black armors. Granted they are not made of ice but I cant wait to see Jon in one. Black was always his color anyways.
-Fire can’t kill a White Walker. It is a White Walker that kills the fire. How great is that? But can a dragon fire kill the White Walker, now that is a question. Considering dragon fire is what creates the VS blades it is only logical to assume as much. However, in order for VS blade to work dragon fire is not enough. Magic, now completely lost, is the crucial ingredient here otherwise every Targ would turn into a smith. Therefore, the dragon fire on its own can do no real harm. One without the other is not enough. This of course makes the story so much more interesting. Otherwise what would be the point of White Walkers if three dragons could melt them away in a single battle?
And if you don’t believe me then here are the words of the writer himself: “Forging techniques and spells, actually. There is magic involved in the making of Valyrian steel.”-GrrM
“Starks are gone. Our terrible fathers saw to that.”
Well if I am right then the time of the wolves and the most epic army ever existing is at our doorstep. Just imagine them all together – undead Catelyn Stark, Darth Sansa, Faceless Arya, Wild Rickon the Warg, Bran the greenseer and a weirwood tree coupled with the direwolves – lead by the bastard of Winterfell turned White Walker who gathered all the forces of the North (from remaining giants, over the Wildlings, Northerners and Stark supporters alike to White Walkers) via diplomacy, ability he demonstrated over and over again, sweeping the south. I am sure Lannisters, Tyrells, Boltons, Freys and the rest would wish they did something to save Ned Stark’s head when they still had a chance…A girl can dream, no?
To wrap up, this is my favorite episode of Game of Thrones to date and what a way to end it. Dead silence. How fitting. And if it is not the best it was certainly the most thrilling. Gradual discovery and revelation of its key points was crucial to it, particularly if you—like me—have never had this experience with the show before. I knew that wildfire would engulf the Blackwater, I knew that “The Rains of Castamere” signaled Robb and Catelyn’s death, I knew Joffrey would choke on a piece of pie, I knew Jon would become the next Lord Commander of the Knight’s Watch, I knew that Stannis would ride to its rescue and I knew that Oberyn would lose his eyes and life to the Mountain. I did not know what this battle might entail, I didn’t know if the Night King will make an appearance and in what capacity and all of this meant I got to experience the same breath-holding excitement that show viewers have experienced with almost every season. Next year, every episode will be a revelation especially if they are as good as this one.
Text written: Monika Ponjavic