Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 8 “Hardhome”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Braavos: In an intercut flashback/forward scene, we see Jaqen asking Arya who she is, and Arya telling him a story about her being an oyster seller down by the harbour, intercut with images of her dressed as the oyster seller, walking around and observing the people of Braavos. She says she takes a turn onto a specific street, and Jaqen tells her not to take that turn, but to walk a different way. Then we see her do that, and pass a man by the docks, who calls her over and buys some oysters, asking for them served with vinegar. While preparing the oysters, Arya overhears the man’s business dealings with a sailor. She tells Jaqen that the man seems to be a gambler, taking bets that the sailors won’t return hom due to some accident at sea. One of the two (I forget which way around Jaqen/Arya had this conversation) asks why a sailor would make a bet that they have to die to win, and the other answers that the gambler would pay a large sum to the family of the missing sailor. In other words, this is a life insurance scheme.

Then for some reason, Jaqen gives Arya a vial of poison, and tells her to put it on his oysters next time she goes out. Maybe he doesn’t like insurance salesmen? Otherwise I think I missed the motivation here. But anyway, Arya has been given her first assassination job! It’s not clear how she’ll go with it, but I think Arya is tough enough to go through with it. She has motivation to please Jaqen and progress through this training of his. It should be straightforward… which means there’s always the chance that something will go spectacularly wrong and Arya will be caught red-handed or something. But I think the odds of that are low.

Mereen: Daenerys holds an audience with Tyrion and Jorah. Daenerys wants to know why she should listen to Tyrion and not simply execute him, since the Lannisters deposed and killed her father. (In fact, Tyrion’s brother Jaime killed Daenerys’s father, thus becoming The Kingslayer, his nickname). Tyrion utilises his eloquence in weaseling his way to anything, pointing out to Daenerys that: (a) he killed both his mother (during birth) and his father (crossbow bolting him on the privy after he sentenced Tyrion to death), so it’s not exactly like he’s working for the Lannisters any more, and (b) he knows the politics of King’s Landing inside out and can provide Daenerys with valuable information and political strategy.

Tyrion tells Daenerys that he doesn’t believe any of the contenders in Westeros can do a good job, but he’s heard good things about Daenerys and wants to see if she can rule well. He says that to retake the Iron Throne, she will need the support of at least one of the Houses of Westeros, then rattles them all off, saying they won’t support her… except maybe House Tyrell. Daenerys says the Houses have been turning into and out of power like spokes on a wheel – but she doesn’t intend this just to be House Targaryen rising to the top of the wheel – she wants to break the wheel.

She also wants to execute Jorah for spying on her, but Tyrion argues that that was in the past and he is loyal to her. In fact, he says, he thinks he loves her, which causes Daenerys to raise an eyebrow, and Jorah to look embarrassed. Tyrion pleads mercy, but also advises that he can’t be let stay in the city. Daenerys has him exiled. But Jorah goes back to the slave-gladiator trainer and asks for another opportunity to fight in the pits.

Well, Tyrion did much as I expected, using his gift of the silver tongue to get on Daenerys’s good side. She seems to be seeing the wisdom in listening to him. Hopefully this will strengthen her resolve and get her starting to do some action. Jorah looks like he wants yet another chance to talk to Daenerys and beg forgiveness, this time by appearing in front of her at the fighting pits. You have to hand it to him, he’s persistent. But he’s still monitoring the slowly spreading greyscale on his arm, which is a problem. He might infect a bunch of slaves/gladiators or something.

King’s Landing: Cersei is rotting in the High Sparrow’s cell. She’s devolved into a mess very quickly, her hair looking ragged and dirty. The female devotee who she threatened last time comes to offer her water, but only if Cersei confesses, which she refuses to do. The woman whacks her and spills the water on the floor, then leaves. Cersei laps up what water she can from the stone.

A visitor comes to tell her what she’s been charged with, and to say that Maester Pycelle has taken charge and asked Kevan Lannister to come back from Casterly Rock to lead the Small Council. Tommen, he says, is too distraught to do anything, and is holed up in his chamber not eating. Pretty much status quo here. Hopefully we see more story development next episode.

Winterfell: Theon brings Sansa some food. She tries again to remind him of who he really is, calling him Theon when he says he is Reek.Theon tells her there’s no escape from Ramsay, telling her that Ramsay captured Theon and slowly peeled his skin off, until nothing was left of Theon. Sansa says good, because Theon was nasty and murdered her brothers. But then Theon says no… he had two farm boys killed and burnt and said they were Bran and Rickon’s bodies. Sansa goes, “What??!” She asks what happened to Bran and Rickon, and Theon says he doesn’t know. Sansa realises they might have escaped.

Roose and Ramsay discuss battle plans. Roose wants to wait inside Winterfell, while Stannis’s army freezes and starves and slowly deserts outside. Ramsay wants to attack, but Roose says that it would be reckless to send an army out of the defensive walls. Ramsay says he doesn’t need an army, just twenty men. Okay, so Ramsay has another one of his plans. We’ve seen how effective he is at these sneaky guerrilla operations. Roose hasn’t said yes, but if he does, then Ramsay might be in with a chance of decapitating Stannis’s army (if not Stannis himself). It’ll be interesting to see. Hopefully this time it’ll all go wrong and Ramsay will be captured or something.

Sansa now has renewed reason to live and to hope for better times. Maybe this is the revelation she needs to grit her teeth and find some resolve, and hopefully stab Ramsay with that corkscrew she stole last episode.

The Wall: Sam is recovering from the fight with the other guardsmen, with Gilly tending his wounds. The young kid whose village was wiped out by Tormund’s wildling party enters and asks Sam why he trusts Jon’s plan. Sam says that he’s seen White Walkers, and there’s no way the men at Castle Black can stand up to them alone. They need the help of the wildlings to stand any chance at all. He says sometimes leaders have to make hard decisions, but they do it for the best of everyone. The boy seems to consider this, then leaves.

Hmmm. I thought this kid could be a potential catalyst for a mutiny against Jon. But maybe now he’s starting to come around to Jon’s way of doing things? Hard to say. At any rate, it seems like he’s being set up as a character with some significance to the future.

Hardhome: Jon and Tormund and some followers of each of them arrive at the wildling settlement of Hardhome, in a fleet of ships borrowed from Stannis. I’m not sure of the geography here. I thought Castle Black was kind of in the middle of The Wall, a long way from any sea. Where were Stannis’s ships? I suppose they had to land on a coast to get here from Dragonstone. I guess the overland hike wasn’t too far then.

They meet with a very suspicious group of wildlings, lead by a guy in a skull mask. He isn’t happy that Jon is here and is about to attack him, when Tormund suddenly kills him and then casually says, “Gather the leaders, and let’s talk.” They move to inside a tent and have a discussion, with Jon presenting his offer. Some of the wildlings are convinced, some are sceptical. They ask what happened to Mance Rayder, and Jon – stupidly – says he killed him. They are about to attack, when Tormund stops them and explains that Jon killed him out of mercy. Someone asks Tormund if he trusts Jon, and Tormund says he does. This gets most of them on side, but one guy is still opposed and heads out to take his clan away.

The people of the town start boarding Stannis’s ships to leave, when there’s a disturbance in the surrounding cliffs, and lots of snow starts rumbling off the clifftops. Then an army of undead come down the cliffs and start attacking the town. They are stopped by the stockade wall for a while, but overwhelm the town as people flee to the ships. Jon and his rangers fight alongside wildlings against the undead. A White Walker appears and battles Jon. It cuts right through some weapons, but for some reason Jon’s sword is immune, and when he swings it it destroys the Walker. Jon was carrying dragonglass to show the wildlings, but he wasn’t wielding it, so I don’t know what happened there. Maybe his sword has a similar power?

A female wildling leader puts her kids on a boat, and tells them she’ll be right behind them. You just know this means she’s not going to make it. And indeed, she fights some undead and ends up being overcome and killed. So predictable. But Jon gets away and runs with some rangers towards the last boat as the undead army breaks down the wall and overruns the town. They get away just in the nick of time. As their boat pulls away from the dock, another White Walker appears and strides onto the dock. He raises his arms, and all the dead wildlings and rangers get up with an undead gleam in their eyes, including the woman who sent her kids away.

Wow. Well, Jon got there just in time – a few hours later and there wouldn’t have been any wildlings to offer safe passage to. And it seems Tormund wasn’t planning to backstab him after all. At least not this early – I suppose there’s always time to do it later, after Jon trusts him more. That would be annoying though, especially given that what they’ve just seen should really cement the fact that Jon is right – they don’t stand a chance alone. That undead army looks pretty overwhelming.

Which raises a question for me. How is it that in previous winters this undead army hasn’t already wiped out all the humans in Westeros?? What’s so special about this time around? I don’t know if this is the sort of question that will ever be answered. Anyway, the stakes have certainly been raised, and it’s probably only a matter of time before the undead attack The Wall. That should be a sight worth seeing.

5 Responses to “Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 8 “Hardhome””

  1. Mikko Parviainen says:

    You are correct, Castle Black is almost in the middle of the Wall, so there was a long walk to the coast until they got to the ships. The geography in the tv series is not very good compared to the maps in the books.

  2. Ragnar says:

    Jaqen work is involved with the Many Faced God (the god of Death). Maybe his cult believe that you can not gamble the will of his god.

  3. Javier says:

    you can see a map here (it doesn’t spoil anything as far as I can tell)

    you can see that castle black is at the middle of the wall, they should have boarded the ships at Eastwatch by the sea, where Stannis manned his ships, and went north up to Hardhome.
    The map is book-based, which is best than the TV Series, but also it’s a lot like how the TV show uses it…

  4. Glen says:

    “I think I missed the motivation here” — I don’t think any was provided yet.

    “I thought Castle Black was kind of in the middle of The Wall, a long way from any sea.” roughly, yes, and it’a a perceptive thought. I will mention a particular issue I had when the time is ripe.

    “They meet with a very suspicious group of wildlings, lead by a guy in a skull mask” — he led the wildling group Ygritte was with that took Jon to Mance the first time.

  5. Glen says:

    Oh, and a very enjoyable writeup, thanks

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