Did Jon Snow just kill a White Walker? Are Tyrion and Dany friends now? Did Sansa just find out THAT big secret? Game of Thrones threw away all fan expectations this week, resulting in one of the greatest episodes to date.
To put it simply, episodes like “Hardhome” are why Game of Thrones has such a devoted following. While shock value will always be a big part of the show, watching Jon pick up up his Valyrian steel sword, Longclaw, and shatter a White Walker to pieces was awe-inspiring. There’s no doubt in my mind it will become an iconic moment of the series.
The whole battle at Hardhome was both a heart-stopping ride and terrific way of reminding us and the remaining Night’s Watch brothers exactly why Jon made the right decision in becoming allies with the wildlings, empowering his earlier speech. The writers may not always make the best choices when they adapt from the page to the screen, but the way they’ve handled the threat of the White Walkers has been spot on. The inclusion of the Night’s King especially has raised the bar in showing how big and frightening of a threat they really are. That moment when he raised his hands and all of the dead stood up at once was chill-inducing in the best way. In fact, I can still feel goosebumps as I write this.
While the battle may seem like a defeat, I think it was a defining moment for the show and the war against the White Walkers. Now that we know Valyrian steel can kill them, the people of Westeros stand an even greater chance of beating them, even if it is slim. I know I will be first in line to see Brienne march up to the Wall and take them all down with Oathkeeper.
Hardhome wasn’t the only great moment of the episode either. The confrontation between Daenerys and Tyrion was chill-inducing in an entirely different way. The whole season she’s been advised by warriors or people with other agendas. Obviously we all have a bias when it comes to Tyrion, but he’s in the unique position where he has no other loyalties, no secret agenda. Dany wants to see the destructive wheel of power in Westeros broken and that’s exactly what he wants as well, after seeing what it did to his family. If Tyrion and Dany are able to form a lasting alliance, they stand an honest chance of retaking Westeros. Of course, she still needs to stop her dragons from misbehaving first.
Wasn’t it satisfying to see Cersei locked up in a cell, thanks to her own ruthless attempt to take out Margaery? Lena Headey was great to watch here as she continued to lash out at the Septa, who refused to give her water until she made a confession. Qyburn came to visit her and urged her to confess, but it will take a lot more torture than that to make Cersei submit, even if it means slurping up drops from the floor. Though I think the real torture for Cersei is the fact that all of the influence she has and the threats she’s made have no power over this one woman. The small exchange at the end about Qyburn’s “work” was a great little reminder about what he’s cooking up in his mad laboratory with the body of The Mountain.
Meanwhile, Arya’s assassin training went up a notch this episode, where Jaqen led her to a ruthless liar of a gambler who may turn out to be her first real assassination. While not everyone at the House of Black and White thinks she’s ready, Jaqen seems to have faith in her. To be honest, I think there’s even more to this test than meets the eye. Mace Tyrell, along with Meryn Trant, who just so happens to be on her list, will be arriving at Braavos any day now. Jaqen seems to know everything, so the real test may be whether Arya’s emotions will overcome the work that Lana, the oyster girl, is sent to do for the Many-Faced God.
Finally, Sansa was given some actual good news when Theon/Reek confessed that Bran and Rickon are still alive. It’s no secret that I haven’t been thrilled with how her story has progressed, but this could be a moment that changes things for her. Part of her training with Littlefinger was knowing how powerful the right information can be, so will she be able to use this to her advantage and garner some leverage with the North? I’m more than ready to see the Sansa that manipulated the Lords of the Eyrie back near the end of season 4. Now that Stannis is at Winterfell and Ramsay is set on fighting his forces with his 20 men, maybe he’ll meet the end we’ve all been hoping for and Sansa can regain power for herself.
More thoughts from the Realm:
It’s too bad we haven’t seen Kevan in his role as the Hand of the King yet, but are we really that interested in seeing a small council meeting where people are reasonable and work actually gets done?
At this point I think Jon and Sansa are tied for the amount of times they’ve been told how pretty they are. Clearly it’s a Stark thing.
Poor Jorah sold himself back into slavery because he wants to spend his last moments with Dany. It’s sweet and sad, but also kind of creepy. No means no, Jorah.
The giant at Hardhome (better known as Wun Wun in the books) was definitely the MVP of that battle, squashing the undead like ants. Not to mention he’s just going to walk through the sea like it’s no big deal.
RIP boss lady wildling. We didn’t know you long enough to hear your name, but your death was still heartwrenching to watch. In case they did name her and I missed it, feel free to correct me.
Are you still pumped from that outstanding fight with the White Walkers? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We’re already at the last two episodes of the season, which means we’re due for yet another big jaw-dropping moment of the season (think Ned’s death, Red Wedding, etc.). They will certainly be hard pressed to beat this week’s, that’s for sure. Either way, I’m excited to see them try.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Canada.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.