A Beautiful Reminder of the Larger Threats Still Looming
Let’s take a look back at season one, shall we. Remember when the White Walkers were this imminent threat bound to attack Westeros at any moment? And remember the season one journey of Daenarys who, towards the end of the first season, had an army of Dothraki ready to ride across the Narrow Sea and take the Iron Throne for her? Chalk it up to long-term story telling or the writing style of George R.R Martin, but both of these threats to the people of Westeros really lost steam with scant appearances from White Walkers over the last five seasons and the Mother of Dragons getting bogged down abolishing slavery.
But this week’s episode, “Hardhome,” reminded us that yes, Dany still wants to sit the Iron Throne one day while smacking us in the face with the fact that the White Walkers still pose the greatest threat to Westeros. And both of these points were made using plot devices outside of Martin’s text (at least they haven’t appeared there yet). While the arcs in Hardhome and Meereen rightfully took up most of the time tonight, we still saw how prison life is treating Cersei, what “somebody” Arya is going to be, and Sansa confronting one of her family’s many tormenters.
Daenary’s and Tyrion!!! Finally!!! And it did not disappoint. It feels like Dany has not had a truly intelligent and challenging conversation with someone in awhile. The Halfman wants to be Daenary’s advisor, but she is skeptical of his intentions. His first test is to advise her on Jorah, who the Mother of Dragons does not allow to speak. While Tyrion advises against killing a man so loyal, he cannot recommend bringing a man who betrayed Dany back into her service. So Ser Friend Zone is banished from the city for a second time. Now where does one go when the queen whom he serves kicks him out of her city twice? How about back to the slave master he punched in the face on his way to being a freedman. No, it wouldn’t be my first choice either, but Jorah thinks fighting for Dany in the fighting pits will somehow convince her to take him back. Yes, Dany did seem impressed by Ser Jorah when he fought with a mask on, but these are the same fighting pits she vehemently opposed to opening and needed riots to break out in the city before agreeing to open them.
Meanwhile, Tryion and Dany meet to discuss their fathers (more on this later) and the queen’s intentions. Though Tyrion recommends staying in Meereen, Dany insists her intentions to “Break the Wheel” of noble families in King’s Landing. My favorite Tyrion season was season 2, when the Halfman was Hand of the King. I look forward to a similar role with Tyrion advising Dany moving forward.
For the first time in her life, Cersei is powerless. She has no soldier or family guards she can call to assist her. But the Queen Mother doesn’t seem to believe or understand this. Despite her terrible position in life, she refuses to confess when Septon Unella shows up with water. It’s a cruel method of torture used by the Sparrows: confess your sins or watch the water brought for you to drink dumped on the floor. Cersei’s pride bubble finally bursts when Qyburn (possibly her only remaining ally) informs her there is nothing to be done. And things are not any better on the outside. Tommen is not eating, no one has heard from Jamie, and her Uncle Kevan (who refused her offer to serve has hand) has returned at the urging of Pycelle to take the position. As a sign of her crumbling pride, Cersei leans down and drinks water on the floor that Unella dropped there.
Arya is out of the House of Black and White, and I could not be happier. That doesn’t mean she’s left, but she’s allowed out. Her first mission: poison a “gambler” who steals money from poor fishermen whose families are in tough situations, oftentimes arranging for the male of the house to be killed after stealing their money, knowing that his wife and kids have no means of stopping them. Her weapon: poisoned oyster!!!! Now personally, I don’t believe oysters actually need anything added to them to make them disgusting. But Arya (under a different name and posing an seafish sales girl) sells one to the “gambler,” putting the poison Jaqen gave her inside the oyster. I look forward to seeing Arya out and about playing the young assassin. It can’t be any worse that hanging out with a thousand creepy faces staring at you while Jaqen speaks vague cultish nothings to her.
Not much time was spent in the North, but both of the short scenes were significant. In one scene, Sansa gets an accidental confession from Theon/Reek that her younger brothers are still alive. I am not sure how she can use this information since no one knows where her brothers are, but it’s out there and might just give her some hope as she endures what seems like an impossible situation.
We also see a brief war council has House Bolton discusses their strategy for fending off Stannis and his men (who we can assume are still playing around in the snow somewhere). Roose believes they should stay behind the Wall and make Stannis come to him. But Ramsey thinks they should attack. And he means to do it with just twenty men? What are you up to you sick freak? Maybe Stannis can do a little Ramsey hunting at the end of this season. Also, will Reek be accompanying Ramsey on this mission?
Now to the main event!!! Though it didn’t start at the island. Instead, we have a foreshadowing conversation at the wall between Sam and Olly. Olly still cannot support Jon’s intentions to save/work with the people who raided and killed his family. But Sam wisely points out the threat of the White Walkers is much greater. I’m not sure Olly is buying that yet. But everyone who survived Hardhome with Jon sure is.
Jon and Tormund arrive on a boats with several others. Their intentions are to convince the wildlings to come with them and get to the other side of the Wall away from the White Walkers. Rattleshirt (he appeared back in Season 3) is the first man to parlay with Snow and Giantsbane. But a few insults are exchanged and Tormund proceeds to brutally murder the Lord of Bones (I did not expect his death to come so quickly). Jon and Tormund try their luck next with a group of Wildling elders. An old man, a woman, and a Thenn are the main people speaking (I was going to look up their names later, but now that they are all White Walkers, what’s the point?) Most everyone in the tent thinks it wise to get on boats with Jon and leave the island. But some, led by the main Thenn and a giant (!!!!!) want to stay.
But then, the mountains shake and the grounds rumble. Anticipating what is going to happen, those who are outside the gate lock it, trapping the Wildlings who chose to stay inside in hopes of keeping the wights emerging from the ground locked in. Also locked inside are the giant and Dolorous Edd. Things grow quiet before Wight’s start showing up at the gate attempting to get out. Much of this scene was confusing and difficult to follow, but that didn’t lessen the overall impact: showing just how imposing a force the White Walkers and their Wight soldiers truly are. Jon, Tormund, and the wildling leaders turn and fight while others are getting on the boats and rowing off. Despite fighting valiantly, the female is overrun by about six children of the corn like zombie kids. Jon looks over at the house where the meeting with the elders took place and sees the giant (call him Wun Wun from now on!!!) emerges smashing zombies with his giant feet. Jon and the Thenn enter and are met by what looks like a higher up in the White Walker chain of Command. He kills the Thenn and looks to have a similar fate for Jon, but that “Valyrian Steel” sword he received stops the White Walker blow and delivers a decisive one as well. While all of this is going on, several White Walkers on horses (that would be the Board of Trustees for the frozen zombies) looks on while on top of the mountains and the Night’s King (the leader of the White Walkers appears. Now these are Wight’s and the only way to kill a wight is with dragon glass. So everyone of them that had been stabbed or “defeated” before reemerges in a terrifying charge that Tormund, Jon, Dolorous Edd, and Wun Wun (with a giant flaming fence post!!!) run away from, leaving many wildings behind to be slaughtered. As Jon sails away, the Night’s King gets on a pier and raises his hand, bringing all those who were dead (including the female wildling leader) back to life with blue eyes. Jon floats away in terror with a new appreciation of the evil they now face.
-In the text, Hardhome is an island where a Wildling spiritual leader named Mother Mole leads many survivors to receive a rapture like salvation. The problem is the land has very poor vegetation and is likely to be death of thousands more that will join the White Walker army.
-I am very curious to see if the show, for the first time, has spoiled book scenes. The Hardhome scene has yet to play out in Martin’s text. And Dany and Tyrion’s meeting has also not happened yet. It is possible the show went in different directions with both of these, but we won’t know until Martin (finally) releases “Winds of Winter.”
-The full name of the giant in tonight’s episode was Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun. But it is much easier to call him Wun Wun and I am really glad his character made the cut for this show.
-Brilliant quote by Tryion tonight: “A ruler who kills those devoted to her will struggle to earn devotion.”
-I also really look forward Tyrion discussing matters with the rest of Dany’s crew. What will he say to Greyworm? Will he hit on Missandei? And what are his opinions of Hizdahr? Will he agree with Daario’s mistrust of the man?
-I may have mentioned this previously, but Tyrion’s father served Dany’s father as Hand of the King. Many believed Tywin, not Aerys (Dany’s father) was the reason the seven kingdoms prospered at the time.
-Greyscale update: Jorah’s greyscale mark has grown slightly. At this pace, he will be a stone man after the series is finished.
-The series has hinted strongly that the leader of the White Walkers is a man known as the Night’s King, a commander of the Night’s Watch who married a white walker and declared himself king at the Wall. His reign was so awful that the Stark king and the “king beyond the wall” joined forces to defeat him. Also, the White Walker Jon fought tonight had a very strong resemblance to a Targaryen. Or could he be someone else we knew from previous seasons?
-How will the Night’s Watch respond to Jon, the Wildlings, and his story about the horror of the White Walkers?
-Is Jon’s sword made of Dragonglass and not Valyrian Steel? Or can Valyrian Steel handle the weapons of the White Walkers?
-Will Ramsey leave Sansa at the castle without him? And can she use that to her advantage?
-Mace Tyrell and Meryn Trant were sent to Braavos earlier in the season? Will they finally run into Arya next week?
-The previews hinted that Stannis may consider the sacrifice Melisandre wanted him to make last week? Will Stannis go through with “sacrificing” Shireen?
-Who will Ramsey take with him on his journey to attack Stannis?
-Will Cersei confess or choose trial before the High Sparrow?
-And what about Littlefinger’s gift? Will that be revealed next week and what will it’s effect be on the happenings at King’s Landing?
-What will Wun Wun step on next week?
-And will Dorne actually matter? Doran Martell will speak again and you’re going to have to take my word on this for now that he’s very important. Hopefully, the show will emphasize that importance before the season ends.
As you can tell by this week’s questions, the pace has really picked up for the season’s final two episodes. See you in the fighting pits next week.