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Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 8: The Dead Rise in ‘Hardhome’

Review: 'Game of Thrones' Season 5 Episode 8: The Dead Rise in 'Hardhome'

PREVIOUSLY: Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 7 ‘The Gift’ Doesn’t Bounce Back From Last Week’s Trauma

Post-“Game” Analysis

After last week’s episode, which meandered in and out of too many story lines and jumped around with little development in each, it was great that this episode, “Hardhome,” focused on a select few that actually went somewhere. In King’s Landing, Cersei discovered the meaning of suffering. In Braavos, a girl finally became someone else. In Meereen, two our our favorite characters finally sat down to talk (over wine!). And North of The Wall, well… those blue eyes might just haunt some dreams tonight.

Most Magical Moment

Arya has finally learned the fine art of lying. She’s become Lana, salesgirl of fresh oysters. Naturally the identity is a ruse, as becoming someone else is merely a way to get to “The Thin Man,” who has earned the ire of Jaqen. The set up of this entire sequence, with Lana going about her daily routine as Arya relayed the story to Jaqen, was richly done with some interesting cuts and a nice change of pace. It will be nice to see how this plot plays out; with only two episodes left and Arya’s story line rather isolated from the rest of the show, we hope it pays off.

Most Poised to Take the Throne

Fans of the HBO series, who have not read the books, may not know quite how satisfying it is to see Daenerys and Tyrion finally interact, and with Tyrion on her side, Daenerys’ quest to conquer Westeros just got a whole lot more believable. Tyrion even managed to talk her into some mercy. Though she promised to kill Jorah if she ever saw him again, Tyrion’s ability to see the best in people managed to convince her to let Jorah live.

Wit of the Week

“Some day, when you decide not to execute me,” Tyrion said, “I’ll tell you all about why I killed my father. And on that day, we’ll need more wine than this.” As hilarious as it was to watch Dany and Tyrion have a bitch fest about their horrible fathers over wine, it was nice that the conversation between the two of them maintained a sort of melancholy air. Tyrion mentioned that he has resigned to die, and that even if Dany does chop off his head, at least his final days were interesting. She finally asks him to advise her (though only without the wine, while he can still speak in complete sentences), but his suggestion that Dany give up on Westeros because of her lack of support didn’t sit well. “Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They’re all just spokes on a wheel,” Daenerys said. “I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel.”

That Time Something Happy Actually Happened

Seeing Cersei in prison is just epically satisfying. Though it’s not kosher to dwell happily on the suffering of others, what Cersei is going through doesn’t remotely compare to the torture she’s imposed upon her victims. Schadenfreude it is.

Theon/Reek may have betrayed Sansa, and she surely has no pity for the fact that Ramsay mutilated him, but if these two are ever going to team up and get the Boltons out of Winterfell, Theon coming clean about the boys he passed off as Bran and Rickon was inevitable. There was no way Sansa would ever trust Reek without that revelation. The happiness upon learning that her two young brothers are alive may not have splashed across her face, but the emotion was still evident. And now that Sansa knows that they’re out there somewhere, in addition to learning last week that her half-brother Jon Snow is Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, there’s got to be a plan brewing in that red head.


Jon Snow’s quest to lure the Wildlings south of The Wall went better than expected. Though some, like the Thenns, rejected his plea and his assurance that winter is still indeed freaking coming, many chose to vacate Hardhome and head south. Do the Wildlings’ matching coats look like they all got them from the winter-camo section of REI to anyone else?

Great Moments in Feminism

New characters can be a gamble on “Game of Thrones.” Thankfully, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen’s Wildling Chieftainess Karsi was a welcome addition, though the show didn’t get to keep her for long. Sørensen may be singing her ass off in “Pitch Perfect 2,” but her character here was smart, strong and engaging. And on that note, did you all know that Kristofer Hivju, who plays Tormund Giantsbane, is the Wyndham Hotel’s Rewards Wyzard?

Who’s the God of Tits and Wine?

Like last season’s ninth episode, “Watchers on the Wall,” Jon Snow and the men of the Night’s Watch got one of Season 5’s more watchable action-packed battle sequences. As the Wildlings who chose to leave were gathering to depart, a crack of thunder was heard and a cloud of snow began to fall over the mountains. Winter, and the dead, had come. As Karsi put her children into a boat, she claimed she’d be “right behind them,” which is an immediate sign that she wouldn’t make it. As the dead wights bombarded the Wildling village, the white Walkers appeared on high and Snow ordered the Night’s Watch to attack. The battle was detailed and frightening, with these zombies a little more vibrant than those we see on shows like “The Walking Dead.” Snow faced off against a White Walker, got a hold of his sword, “Longclaw,” and managed to turn the blue-eyed freak into ice chips. So wait, now how did Longclaw suddenly defeat a White Walker? More on that in a minute.

Snow made it to his boat, but Karsi did not, and the wight children who attacked and killed her were creepy as hell. The imagery of an army of the dead falling over a cliffside was also pretty terrifying; one of those moments where, if picturing yourself in any similar cinematic situation, no one would be blamed if they just saw that and died of absolute fright. Then, The Night’s King emerged, and though, when he raised his arms, it looked like he was summoning an epic wave to take out the boats, something even smarter, and more terrifying happened: the dead Wildlings simply rose in their place, their eyes turned and icy blue. Jon Snow stared at the scene in terror and the episode ended in a stunning silence.

For the Book Nerds (May Contain Spoilers from “A Song of Ice and Fire”)

For those who may be confused, George R.R. Martin’s wights and White Walkers are, in fact, different beings. The White Walkers are an ancient race whose magical powers relate to the ice and cold. The wights are merely the reanimated corpses that the White Walkers use as their army. Though it was previously established that it’s necessary to use fire to kill a wight, it looked in this episode that they’d die (again) if one chops them into enough bits, or steps on them as the giant chose to do. The White Walkers, however, can only be killed by dragonglass, but that seemed to have been disproven as well this episode, since Jeor Mormont’s sword “Longclaw” is said to have been forged of Valyrian steel. Though it would make sense that Valyrian steel might do the trick as well, considering that Valyria is where the Targaryens were born and where dragons first emerged.

It Is Known

Though it may seem “trendy” for “Game of Thrones” to hop on board the zombie wagon, it’s important to remember that George R.R. Martin began writing this story back in the 1990s, before “World War Z,” before “The Walking Dead” and before the zombie trend of this decade emerged. It’s easy to compare them, but while shows like “The Walking Dead” and books and movies like “World War Z” attempt to plant their interactions with the undead in the realm of possibility,” or as realistically as possible, “Game of Thrones” really has the freedom to go as wacky with the wights as they want to. In a way, they’re almost more frightening at this point because the gross-factor on “The Walking Dead” has gone so epically overboard that it doesn’t shock as much as it used to. At least here we’re getting to see how a fantasy world deals with the undead. And if magic is the only way to defeat them, then the stakes are even higher.

Grade: A

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