WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
Now THAT was television.
No one does a battle scene like Game of Thrones. This one took 400 extras, 50 stunt men, a whole lot of CGI and nearly a month to film.
HBO reportedly funnelled extra money into the episode in order to make it truly spectacular – impressive when you consider even an average episode costs around US$6 million to make.
The Battle of Hardhome was well worth the effort. An all-absorbing 10 minutes at the end of episode eight, it showed us how truly frivolous the pursuits of Westeros are in the face of real horror.
After some fairly annoying politicking at the Wildling base camp, Jon Snow managed to get most of them on side (bar those darn Thenns).
A great quote in the episode comes from Tormund Giantsbane when describing Jon Snow: “He’s prettier than both my daughters but he knows how to fight.”
Touché, Tormund. Touché.
Alas, Jon and Tormund’s negotiating soon proves to be too little too late. Either the White Walkers have stacks of intel on Jon’s exact movements or they just have impeccable timing.
They arrive in their thousands to murder everything in their way and they partially succeed in doing so.
In fact, they could have done more damage had Jon Snow not been there, toting his trusty sword, Longclaw.
Apparently, Valyrian Steel is just as great at killing Wild Walkers as Dragonglass is – who knew?!
It was nice to see Jon and Tormund and that grumpy giant escape unscathed, not so nice to see our new girl crush Karsi (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) get eaten by demon children.
In the end, none of it matters because the White Walker army just got even bigger.
That guy at the end who made them all rise up? Yeah, his name is the “Night’s King” (HBO leaked it in an old script), he’s the one who iced that baby in season four and there are rumours he’s also a former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
That common ground could explain the lingering look between him and Jon Snow. Maybe he wants more from Jon than his crushed spine? Maybe they see something in each other?
…is a complete mess.
All the usual power players are in jail cells, leaving poor little Tommen cowering in his bedroom.
According to Qyburn, Cersei is set to be put on trial for “fornication, treason, incest, and the murder of King Robert” which is quite the rap sheet.
Still, she refuses to “confess” and would apparently rather lick water off the floor than accept it from the Sparrow septa who keeps visiting her and abusing her.
Power couple alert.
So Daenerys has decided Tyrion is worthy of being her advisor, and Tyrion has decided she’s worthy of being advised.
The collateral damage is poor old Ser Jorah Mormont who, on Tyrion’s instruction, is banished from Meereen for being a traitor for the second time.
Given he is riddled with Greyscale and has nothing to live for except Dany, it makes sense for him to plunge himself back into the fighting pits in an effort to impress her.
Whether Tyrion’s advice to have him exiled was a show of mercy or a tactical move designed to get him closer to Dany remains up in the air.
However, he and Dany do make a great team, and she’s clearly been charmed by his honest admiration.
“I’d given up on life when Varys convinced me you might be worth living for,” he tells her. C’mon, as if you wouldn’t hire him.
It’s in this episode that Daenerys so perfectly and eloquently sums up all of Westeros in what may be the quote of the season.
“Lannister, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell, they’re all just spokes on a wheel. This one’s on top and that one’s on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground,” she says.
“I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”
It’s an ambitious dream (one which we wholeheartedly support) but Tyrion reckons she’s better off focussing her energy elsewhere, away from the Iron Throne.
Little does he know the Iron Throne is literally Dany’s for the taking right now.
Cersei and half of the Tyrells are in jail, the king is a scared little boy, the Sparrows have nothing on her army and the loyalty of the people is wayward at best.
Strike while the iron’s hot!
As for everyone else…
• Olly is getting on our nerves. We get it, the Wildlings killed your parents. Move on and let Jon Snow do what he does best: save everyone. Literally.
• At Winterfell, Sansa Stark gets the best news she’s had in a long time: Theon didn’t kill her two brothers, Bran and Rickon. That news alone might be enough to get her through the nightly horrors she’s likely experiencing at the hands of Ramsay Bolton.
• Speaking of Ramsay Bolton, he apparently just needs “20 good men” to take on Stannis Baratheon. CAN SOMEONE PLEASE KILL HIM. Also, Roose Bolton has a strangely calming, authoritative voice that belongs more to the star of BBC period drama than a murderous heathen.
• Arya Stark has become Lana, the little oyster merchant. Jaqen H’ghar must finally be satisfied she’s up to the task of becoming no one, because he quickly assigns her to a job: use poison to kill off a dodgy insurance broker. Classic first job material for your average teenager.