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Monday, 1 June 2015

Game of Thrones S5E8: Hardhome.

Game of Thrones
Series 5, Episode 8

It's been a trying weekend, and is set to be an equally trying week, so what better way to start it than with an hour long dose of murder and treachery? Well, there are probably a couple of betters way to start it, but let's not think too much about those.

In this week's episode, Tyrion meets with Daenerys, with intent to possibly becoming an advisor to her. Elsewhere in Essos, Arya is given her first task by the Faceless Men - one that will bring her in contact with a brutal merchant and loan shark. In King's Landing, Cersei is tormented by the Sparrows as they attempt to force a confession out of her. In the North, Sam faces a brewing mutiny in the Watch, the Boltons plan for Stannis' invasion, and Sansa questions Theon. Beyond the Wall, Jon arrives at the wildling fort of Hardhome and attempts to convince them to ally with him, only for the meeting to be interrupted by the White Walkers themselves.

I'm really liking the pace of this series, by the way. While we had one very filler-y episode earlier on in the series, this episode - which sees a meeting we've probably all been waiting for and another glimpse at the ever-elusive White Walkers - really hammers home that the series is advancing in leaps and bounds, having already overtaken the books in several ways.

Characters are nigh constantly making reference to how pretty Jon is, and alluding to
Tormund and him performing the horizontal tango.

The prize for best storyline this episode doesn't go to anyone, as it's a tie. I can't choose between Daenerys and Tyrion's storyline and, oddly, Jon's, whose storylines usually deeply bore me. 

Daenerys and Tyrion's scenes felt almost dreamlike to me, because despite all of us wanting this meeting, on some level I didn't quite believe it was going to happen, and the realisation that it was only set in some time during their second scene. They have a wonderful dynamic, with both of them being sharp and brutally honest with each other, and with the sense behind that of a friendship very rapidly forming, especially as they both seem to understand each other. Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke both put on excellent performances in their scenes, as well. I'm eager to see more of these two, and I hope we have an episode this series that has significant focus on them - but with their storyline for the year mostly resolved, and with almost every character due to have major and time-consuming events taking place in the last two episodes, it seems unlikely that they will.

Jon's negotiating with the wildlings was not of much interest to me, meanwhile, but the White Walker siege of Hardhome, which took up the last twenty minutes of the episode, was a joy to watch. We're getting to see more and more of the White Walkers now, but they're still impressively terrifying, and the siege had a real sense of fear and desperation to it, as the wildlings and watchmen attempt to fend off a seemingly never-ending tide of corpses. It's also worth noting that the show is very specific in showing the audience how many Walkers are executing this siege - four, with their casualties amounting to one, courtesy of Jon and his Valyrian steel sword.

Also, there's a boat.

The siege also gives us a good look at the mysterious crowned White Walker, last seen in the last series (yes, whiny book fans desperately clamouring for spoilers to hold over people now that the series is heading into unknown territory, I know all about who he was credited as. Whether that turns out to be a mistake or a spoiler remains to be seen). He mostly stares and intimidates Jon, who he has now seemingly taken an interest in, but still. 

It's difficult to pick a worst storyline for this week, because they were all basically fine, but it should probably go to Sansa and the Boltons, whose story was more connecting tissue than anything, very briefly establishing plot elements that will no doubt be important in the last two episodes.

Cersei's storyline was much the same, but it had a lot more emotional impact, because seeing Cersei dirty, cold, and so thirsty she'll lick water off the floor, being tormented by a severe female sparrow, is genuinely impactful, since we're so used to seeing her surrounded by wealth and at least somewhat in control of events around her. She does very vaguely acknowledge that she should have seen this coming, though, so yay for 20/20 hindsight, one supposes.

That leaves us with Arya's storyline, which in all honesty feels more like half an episode's storyline, but a very fun half. In it, we see Arya assume the role of a young orphan who has taken up selling oysters - a position she uses to get close to and observe Thin Man, a merchant and loan shark who gambles on whether the ships carrying his wares to and from Slaver's Bay will survive. Arya's ultimate goal is, of course, to kill him, but it is apparently important to do so in the right fashion. We'll most likely see that storyline conclude next episode, and I'm looking forward to that.


All in all, this is probably the best episode we've had so far this series, and an excellent set-up for the last two episodes, where we'll presumably (hopefully) see some form of resolution on the remaining hanging plots: Cersei and the High Sparrows, Arya and Thin Man, the Night's Watch's discontent, Stannis vs the Boltons, Sansa and Brienne's potential rescue of her, and, I suppose, Jaime in Dorne, although I'm not too fussed about that.

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