Season Five, Episode Eight — “Hardhome”
By Jarrod Jones. Well, then. Since we’re making all of this up as we go along, why the hell not: let’s have ourselves a big ol’ muddy zombie fight. And I guess Valyrian steel is enough to kill a White Walker? That’s handy; the Walker’s narratively convenient, but no less pants-shittingly terrifying raid on the Wildlings citadel just informed us that all the dragon glass in Westeros is no match for a good Valyrian blade at your side, kid.
Yeah, season five of Game of Thrones keeps on with its butterfly-effect parallel universe (and in most cases, keeps on making stuff up), but when it finally bothers to toss us breathless spectacles like this, who would ever give a shit? This makes the Battle of Castle Black look like a schoolyard slap fight. And because we finally get a general idea of what the Zombie King is capable of (“hey, thanks for the army, you jackass” – Zombie King), there’s really no reason to care about Stannis vs. Roose anymore, now is there? Is there?!
(And don’t get me started on the symbolism of those “four horsemen”. Brr.)
WHAT WORKED: Aw, jeez, Louise. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) finally get some face time this week, and the banter that comes with it is absolutely priceless. “So here we sit: two terrible children of two terrible fathers,” Tyrion coos between sips of his coveted wine, as Dany (yeah, I guess I’m calling her Dany now) ponders what there is to do about this strange little man who has come her way. I don’t pretend to know what’s coming around the corner, but if Dany plans on storming all of Westeros armed with her legions, dragons, and Tyrion’s salty hangover logic, the safe bet is she’ll rule the land before the Zombie Mash makes her dance to the Graveyard Smash.
Cersei takes several ladles to the head. (Posting without comment.)
The tale of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) might normally have me ripping out my hair in frustration (are we watching Gotham here? what’s with all the riddle-speak?), but now that she’s finally getting some sunshine and trying out this whole “anonymous assassin” thing, I found myself actually rooting for the Wee Stark.
When you look at the sheer scale of Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) sail towards the Hardhome, you really get an impression of where HBO has been allocating their money. For a minute there, it felt like they’d been squandering their writer’s salaries in order to adequately pump up the spectacle, but “Hardhome” found a balance between Game of Thrones‘ high-fantasy and the exhausting melodrama that surrounds it. Once Jon’s boots hit the mud, it’s time for negotiations with Tormund Giantsbane’s (Kristofer Hivju) people, and it’s as confounding and tense as you’d imagine. Convincing the Wildlings to join the Crows was never going to be easy. I’m grateful it wasn’t.
WHAT DIDN’T: Actually, with an episode so busy it forgot to rape, there was very little to rip apart this week. Maybe because war is on everyone’s minds (with the exception of those robe-wearing chumps up in King’s Landing), Game of Groans has to start setting its priorities on getting this show on the road. Give me CGI Zombie Head-Squish over rape any day of the week.
Though it was spectacular (see below), the surprise attack by the White Walkers (a surprise not just for the Wildlings, but for everybody else) was quick to remind everyone that Game of Thrones is essentially an ostentatious Zack Snyder fever dream. Ceaseless depictions of violence, rape, and zombies? Somebody pinch that guy; he’s REMming like crazy.
“So here we sit: two terrible children of two terrible fathers.” – Tyrion.
“I’d given up my life, until Varys convinced me you were worth living for. But if you chop off my head, my final days were interesting.” – Tyrion.
“Gather the others. And let’s talk.” – Tormund.
BEST MOMENT: Zombie Snowman Tastes Valyrian Steel. Jon Snow, fighting against a monster the likes of which would make Van Helsing soil his pantaloons, takes one hell of a beating from White Walker: the Tormund Giantsbane Edition. Jon’s on a quest to salvage the dragon glass he pin-headedly left in a hut somewhere, but standing in his way is the undead embodiment of the Shao Khan boss fight in Mortal Kombat II. So, obviously, it’s looking pretty grim. Until Jon has himself an Andúril-level epiphany and sends that albino Mike Tyson’s Punch Out back to the abyss that awaits him. I savored that ass-whuppin’.
EPISODE’S MVP: Say whaaat? Jon Snow? That’s right; Mr. “Don’t Know Shit” not only galvanized a legion of Wildlings (and one particularly obstinate giant) into moving South to prepare for the cold to come, he sent a Boss Level 10 White Walker straight to hell right afterwards. And he tossed out a casual “fuck” just to show how far beyond giving a damn he’d finally become. Welcome to your life, Jon Snow. There’s no turning back.
– This episode had a big opportunity to show whether or not Jon could be hurt by fire, and they fucking blew it.
– I know this may be kinda shitty, but does anybody miss Joffrey at this point? I mean, Cersei has had it coming for over five seasons now, but all these nimrod cult Sparrows would see their heads on a spike had the other Little Lion been around to see such days.
– Tommen is so worthless, the show didn’t even bother to cut him in on the action this week.
– Now Sansa truly has something to live for (beyond shanking Ramsay in his sleep): Bran and Rickon are alive. You guys, I want a Stark family reunion so bad. So, so bad.
– Maybe it’s just me, but vanilla on oysters sounds like it would be pretty gross.