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Game of Thrones



Episode 8 - Hardhome

1 June 2015

Credit HBO

Synopsis: Tyrion wins Dany over but Jorah is exiled again. He commits himself to fighting in the pits again. Arya learns to be someone else and deliver justice from the Many Faced God. Cersei continues to suffer in her cell but Qyburn is busy at work. Sansa learns that Bran and Rickon maybe alive. Ramsay volunteers to attack Stannis’ army before they reach Winterfell. Jon and Tormund convince most of the Wildlings to join them. The White Walkers then attack Hardhome forcing a hasty retreat.

The Good: The Hardhome sequence took me by surprise. I’m sure smarter people anticipated an appearance from the White Walkers but I was pleased to be taken unawares. I don’t normally feel the need to comment on cinematography but the attack was completely breathtaking. In one sense the attack lacked drama because of the shortage of characters we care about and Jon’s essential role in the story. But on a purely visual level this was so good that it made itself into can’t-miss television. Of course the best moment of the episode was that final, chilling moment.

There remains something inspiring about Jon’s story. And I don’t mean the sword-of-destiny part. I just mean the young man thrust into great danger and forced to show wisdom beyond his years. We know that his argument for unity is right but it’s believable that some would refuse to cooperate. I particularly liked his line about not asking them to forget their dead. There is a problem of course with Jon being seemingly un-killable and then going up against the White Walker. But it was still an exciting fight scene despite that.

Several listeners have commented this season about the apparent repetition in many locations. So I was very pleased with the economy of storytelling in Arya’s scene. Through one game of faces with Jaqen we were instantly able to imagine her daily life selling oysters and learning the streets of Braavos. The morality of what is going on there remains fascinating. Jaqen shrugs at whether she is ready to kill while she feigns doubt and then grins behind his back.

The idea of religion delivering justice where the state fails connects us nicely to Kings Landing where again there was economic writing to let us know that Tommen is paralysed and Kevan has taken charge. Qyburn’s performance was as obsequious as ever and surely his “work” means the Mountain will be up and running before seasons end.

The Bad: I really would like to know what Cersei’s punishments would be. Surely penance must be possible if Qyburn is suggesting she confess. But if she confesses to killing the King then surely that would be punishable by death? Can she use trial by combat to get out of this one?

The Unknown: When zombies attack Game of Thrones does feel like a different show. In some ways that’s a good thing. Finally one can have an uncomplicated emotional response because what you’re seeing is simply good versus evil. Or if you want to be more nuanced life versus death. There were plenty of clichéd moments in the battle though. Introducing a pretty Wildling woman to have her own life, death and resurrection within twenty minutes was always asking a lot.

However my real issue is whether the show’s smaller subplots can stand up to the onslaught of the World War Z army. I mean I really want to see Walder Frey dragged from behind his dinner table screaming. But should I be concerned with petty vengeance when the dead march on the Wall? I really want Tyrion to find respect and love but is that important when the dead march on the Wall? I really want the Starks to be reunited but shouldn’t they all be running south when the dead march on the Wall?

Basically will the shows other plots suffer because the threat from the north is so existential? Shouldn’t they all become insignificant after this? Will it become really annoying that still people bicker over the iron throne even when Jon and Tormund send raven after raven begging them for help? I’m just asking the questions. I don’t know how I will feel going forward. But so often Game of Thrones delivers stunning moments only to let the raw emotions wither rather than lead to satisfying conclusions.

As nice as it was to see Tyrion and Dany chatting it all felt too easy. Why would she welcome him and take his advice so readily? It felt like we’d run out of time to have him win her over so we just skipped to him being her new adviser. The absence of Daario, Hizdahr or even Grey Worm to comment on Jorah’s return felt like a missed opportunity. As for his decision to fight for Dany in the pits...meh. With the greyscale spreading I can see his logic. All he has left is to win her approval again before he dies. But still it just feels like it’s a giant contrivance for him to save her life when the Harpies try to kill her in the arena.

The show has had a curious attitude to “secrets.” Everyone seems to know that the Lannister children are illegitimate just as everyone knew that Renly and Loras were lovers. But now Tyrion blithely admits to knowing that Cersei killed Robert. When did he discover that? Did Varys tell him? Or did he know it while serving Joffrey?

What is Ramsay up to? Stannis situation sounds terrible which suggests he’ll have to sacrifice Shireen if he wants to survive.

Can Valyrian steel kill a White Walker or is there something extra special about Jon’s sword “Longclaw.”

Best Moment: The White Walkers remain so mysterious that I feared the raising of his arms would see tidal waves engulf Stannis’ fleet at the episodes end. However the spontaneous rising of the dead in total silence was brilliant. It was a beautiful shot and encapsulated the threat facing Westeros.

Conclusion: This was a very fast paced episode and you got the sense that most of the non-Hardhome scenes were cramming in information we’ll need for the final two. I enjoyed the battle in the snow very much. But I don’t know how it will leave me feeling about the rest of the world.



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  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    This episode delivered big time!!

    • Boy, Tyrion could talk his way into getting anything he wants. I love how when he knew Ser Jorah was too much of a liability, he quickly figured out a way to get rid of Jorah without getting him killed; whilst preserving Dany’s integrity with her people and simultaneously drawing himself closer to being one of Dany’s trusted advisors and also giving him access to wine.

    • Wow!!! Cersei is in hot water!!! Fornication, Treason, Incest and the murder of King Robert! That could be basically everything she’s done wrong…However, I think the incest part is only with Lancel. I don’t think it includes relations and children with Jaime.
    Here’s my logic on this:

    S5E7, Lady Olenna told Baelish if ‘If my house should fall, I will have nothing to hide.’ Lady Margaery is part of that house, so I think this also goes for Margaery losing her crown as queen as well.

    The whole point for why Joffrey was murdered was so Margaery could retain the crown later on by marrying Tommen and give House Tyrell power and heirs in the Crownlands.

    This means Tommen has to stay legitimate and nothing can happen to him. Therefore he can’t be exposed as the child of Jaime and Cersei.

    Therefore, Cersei cannot be exposed as having incest with Jaime.

    If we follow Roberto’s theory about Baelish blackmailing Lancel:

    This means to me Baelish blackmailed Lancel into only admitting he had incest with Cersei or he would tell the High Sparrow additionally that Cersei had incest with Jaime and the King would become illegitimate which will bring shame and ruin over House Lannister and cost them the Throne and Stannis would end up being the rightful King. Kevan Lannister would also probably kill Lancel for doing that.

    • It appears then that the narrative revolves around what does the Faith of the Seven charge Margaery as punishment for perjury if she throws herself on Mother’s Mercy before a Trial?

    1. If it’s death then Tommen has to step and do something (as you guys said last podcast). However, he appears to be cowering behind closed doors with no appetite. That leaves Qyburn using the Mountain to crash through dungeon doors to rescue Margaery and Cersei like the Kool Aid Pitcher in the Kool Aid commercials. Or if Tommen gets some courage in his anger and despair, that leads to a battle between the crown and the Faith Militant.

    2. The other way this can go is Margaery will be released and still be Queen. Cersei ends up facing whatever the punishment is for incest with Lancel only and Tommen remains in Power. Cersei goes along with this because nothing will happen to her legacy (son and daughter) or her brother.

    The Good:

    • Tyrion has balls. Dany is debated whether to execute him or not and he says if she chooses to allow him to live one day he would tell her why he killed his father, however he would need more wine then what they are drinking.

    • I loved the logic the Wildlings have with Jon Snow and vice versa. The Wildings are still frenemies to each other and now with Men the Night’s Watch.

    • Valyrian steel kills White Walkers! Awesome!!

    • This was the most intense, fast paced, muddy, gory battles I have ever witnessed on this show! I loved every bit of it!

    • The King of the White Walkers raising the dead in front of Jon Snow and the Wildlings was eerie powerful and reinforced Jon Snow’s line about the Wildings joining the Army of the Undead!!

    • Sansa now has something that Ramsay doesn’t know; that her brothers are probably still alive! The longer she keeps that a secret, the longer Theon stays alive.

    The Bad:

    For me most of the bad is with Cersei and the stuff happening at King’s Landing.

    • Cersei says to Qyburn of the High Sparrow ‘I made him. I rose him up from nothing’. If that is the case (and the High Sparrow only became powerful from Cersei and not by the populace around them) then this is simplistic soap opera type of writing for me. I am finding it hard to believe that Cersei would so quickly be able to give the High Sparrow and his flock more power than the City Watch and then allow for the Queen and then herself to end up in jail. It makes her look like an idiot who doesn’t know how to use her absolute power rather than delusional about the extent of her power and I think the show runners were going for delusional and failed.

    • In order for Cersei to be delusional in her assessment of her perceived power, as you both (and others) brilliantly said last podcast and in comments, the show runners need to show the reality of the High Sparrow’s ascension to a place of power by helping the population of Westeros on his own; prior to his involvement with Cersei.

    We need to see people being in trouble and being assisted by the Sparrows (especially after Rob Stark’s assassination in the Riverlands at the end of Season Three.) Unfortunately we have never been provided more than one scene of them doing this over the past two seasons. One scene of the High Sparrow serving up soup to the poor doesn’t cut it. We need the interactions and opinions in a number of scenes from the populace to establish his power over the populace and to show what a moral, well intentioned man he is. If the Show runners had built up the ascension of the sparrows using the details provided by @Syrio in the S5E7 post podcast comments that would have brought out how delusional Cersei is being right now.
    Although that would help establish how powerful the High Sparrow is with the people, however it still doesn’t give us the extent of the power the Faith Militant have over the land or how delusional Cersei is being. What we needed additional was a formal royal decree announcing the Faith Militant have more power than the City Watch, so it is established. Otherwise you are left saying, why doesn’t the City Watch or King’s Guard bust Cersei (or Queen Margaery) out of Jail?

    • I don’t understand why Tommen is so stupid and feels so powerless. Doesn’t he know the King’s orders reinstated the Faith Militant? If he knows this can’t he also decree an order that dismantles them as well? Again, this goes back to what the decree about the reinstatement of the Faith Militant actually allows.

    The Unknown:

    • What is the Mother’s Mercy for Ser Loras, Queen Margaery and Dowager Queen Cersei? The High Sparrow said the punishment depends upon the acts themselves and the degree of contrition. I would say Cersei has no contrition whatsoever so she stands the worst chance of fairing well (as far as the Mother’s Mercy goes). What if the woman she threatened in this episode and last represents the Mother’s mercy? Oh boy!!

    • What does Dany mean by She’s going to ‘Break the Wheel’? Does she mean eliminate King’s Landing or the Iron Throne? We have seen it in ashes a couple of times already. Once in Bran’s sights and another time when Dany saw it in the Tower of the Warlock.

    • Why does Jorah want to fight for Dany? What will that prove? What will it accomplish?

    • I suppose Ollie is an ally now to Samwell and Gilly?

    • Why did Theon/Reek tell Sansa he didn’t kill Bran and Rickon? Is it because he’s been broken by Ramsay in a way that makes him tell the truth and feel shame and deserving of punishment for killing those farm boys? The confession did provide Sansa with hope about her family and her situation. If Ramsay ever finds out won’t that lead to him being beaten or killed by Ramsay? I don’t think Sansa would ever tell Ramsay she knows her brothers are alive, however Reek might tell Ramsay he told Sansa the truth about the Stark boys right?

    • Will Sansa ever tell Baelish her brothers are still alive?

    • If the Snow’s so deep an army couldn’t get through (according to Lord Bolton), how is Stannis going to lay siege to Winterfell? Wouldn’t it be equally difficult for his army to attack Winterfell?

    • What precisely is Ramsay going to do with 20 men to Stannis?

    • How many Wildlings were at Hardhome before the battle? I believe Jon only was able to rescue 5K of them right?

    • How many Wildings are now amongst the dead and how many are at the Wall right now? There’s supposed to be 100K total. It’s unclear how many are currently at the Wall. Are there more Wildlings hidden in some other areas as well in the North? Shouldn’t there be more giants?

    • If Bran or Rickon are ever found alive how does affect Sansa’s value over Winterfell?

    • Where is Stannis getting his supplies from? Castle Black?

    • Will Lana (Arya) be successful at her first hit for the Many Faced God?

    I think the White Walker King wins this week’s Game of Thrones.

    Viewer score: 67 / 100

    Posted by Fluids, 01/06/2015 4:17pm (4 years ago)

  • This was a great episode with a wonderful climax.

    Starting with Cersei, I found it telling that her awful treatment of Pycelle came around to bite her. Since she's fired everyone else on the Small Council it seems like Pycelle has filled the void and is making his own decisions: a) caling Kevan back as Hand of the King (remember, he's a lannister loyalist) and b) NOT sending nyone out to free Cersei because she's been ignoring his advice ever since he got himself thrown in the black cells. Tough luck, Cersei; no gold cloaks of King's Guard will come to save you because everyone thinks they're better off without you and the king is so indecisive and unprepared for this kind of situation that he's starving himself and not taking any initiative. Well done, Cersei. On the other hand, she has the possibility of repening, which she as a proud woman refuses, only to be reduced to licking water off the floor of her cell while the Rains of Castamere are playing in the background.

    But at least "the work continues" for Qyburn and whatever he's doing. Do we think that he was referring to confession when he told Cersei that there was a way out or did he mean something else entirely? We shall see...

    Arya's story has been progressing nicely and it was great that they fit this part of the books into the show: she now has to create another persona and observe other people, learn everything about them and maybe sometimes she gets to poison them? Do we now for sure that the man at the docks was not Jaqen? She's also becoming better at lying it seems. The actres has recently said that all 10 episodes are necessary to understand Arya's arc this season so I'm pumped for whatever future developments are in store.

    The Dany and Tyrion momets were good but it seems that Jorah's fate seems to be to get exiled everywhere he is: he first got exiled from Westeros for being a slaver and now Dany has exiled him twice and each time in episode 8 but this time his reaction is different and some of his inner feelings are brought to light and I especially like the visual touch of Tyrion going up the stairs to at least seem like he's Jorah's equal. It is also noteworthy that Tyrion suggests to Dany to forget about the Iron Throne because other things matter in the world and breaking a feudal society is not easy nor wuld she be the first one to attempt it. I also liked that he emphasised the point that ruling without all classes within society behind her would not last long. While it seemed a bit quick for Dany to sit at a table with Tyrion without him mentioning the fact that he and Jorah were bought as slaves, I do not think that Dny is under any illusion that the former masters have been giving up slavery in secret because at the very least the Sons of the Harpy have been fighting her, partly to restore the previous set of social norms.

    The idea of the game of thrones being ultimately meaningless was well-emphasised by the Jon plot this episode, where they essentially fought Death and War itself. The White Walkers on the show seem like an embodiment of War: creating death and forming life and purpose from death in a vicious circle that has no purpose other than creating death creating death until everything is gone.
    The other zombie show on AMC (*cough The Walking Dead cough*) should take notes: this is how you make zombies scary, terrifying and eerie.
    We also got many newly introduced wildlings each getting their own moments, some of them emotional (not attacking children because it feels like killing your own is very sad and moving, and having the Thenn finally come around and work with Jon was good as well).

    I think if Sams Raimi had watched this before we got Army of Darkness his film would have been better too and not just camp fun. We also now get more context of what the people in Westeros have actually faced thousands of years ago during the Long Night and it clearly outweighs any sort of power plays for the throne, hence why having tyrion mentioning the potential irrelevance of that dirty iron chair was important to let the viewers focus on the bigger picture.

    While Jon, Tormund, Wun Wun and Edd have to flee and essentially lose here, they also now know that Valyrian Steel, as well as dragonglass are effective against the White Walkers, whereas only fire works against the wights, hence why the fire vanished as soon as the White Walker came in (although a giant stomping on the wights might be useful too) so unless you have been paying attention to the who's who of White Walkers and wights little details like these are likely to go by unnoticed, which is why paying attention to everything is important on this show. There are ony a few Valyrian Steel swords left though: one belongs to Jon, the others we've seen belong to Brienne and Joffrey. There are likely to be others but even then those are a rarity, as even the Lannisters until season 4 did not possess any of them so how effective this will be to fight against War and Death itself? We shall see.

    There is also a question about whether or not this is the only battle we'll see this season, given that Roose favours a siege that is likely to be in his fabour or whether Ramsay will preempt any battle by murdering Stannis before a fight can happen. In any case, it seems ike Sansa's words last episode have prompted Ramsay to prove himself to his father once more, hopefully without success. Sansa now also knows that Theon did not kill Bran and Rickon and she has also learned of Jon's new position last week, all very valuable information and it is telling that she seems much more angry and stern than we have seen her previously so it will be interesting to see what she does with this new piece of information.

    This episode is a great example of the really important player remaining unseen and it signals at least to us that the really important story is not the families vying for the throne and power but the fate of everyone involved here, which is why getting together and overcoming differences will be essential as the show moves into its last 2 seasons. Given however, that most people in Westeros on't pay attention, the story might still spell doom for everyone.

    It will be hard for episode 9 to top this but I am confident that the show can manage it.

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Beric, 01/06/2015 12:16pm (4 years ago)

  • I have been watching G.O.T. for several weeks now and caught up this week. What a fine episode this was! I mean it was a blockbuster and thats not just good in itself but its obviously one of the climatic moments in this series. It was really well done and Im not a big fan of such scenes.
    Tyrions taking control of the meeting with Dany's was brilliant as he plays the role so well and so commanding.Maybe it was a bit too easy but there is so much going on in the series that depth has to give way,I guess,to width and length.
    Cersei's situation is not good but she has deserved it and there is a little light there for her (they always seem to spribng out the main characters when they are not beheading them)
    Top notch TV though.

    Viewer score: 78 / 100

    Posted by Ronwol, 01/06/2015 11:42am (4 years ago)

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