TV Review: "Game of Thrones" 05x08: "Hardhome"

Well, that does it. That does it good. Anyone who wanted to call the creators of Game of Thrones 'hacks' for not sticking to the books' plots can go right ahead and shut the fuck up, because "Hardhome" just showed Martin how the fuck it is done.

It almost feels redundant to speak of the first half of this episode. In any other show, hell, in any other episode of Game of Thrones, this first half would've made some great TV. But after that second half, I'm having a hard time even remembering what the hell happened. I saw it two days ago and I still needed to check the Wiki for a recap because all I could think about was the battle. I'll leave my stupid fanboy drooling to the end, so let's get to the rest.

Arya's finally begun her training beyond the wax-on-wax-off standard the show had been working with. I didn't have that much trouble with the generic training at first, even if it did go for a bit too long and had an awesome payoff in episode six (also I love those sets). That in mind, I'm still so glad that we finally got to something new. Arya, though awesome, had been caught in a bit of a rut for a while where the only way we got to see that character was as a dirty, angry, little girl. She was still that, until now. Suddenly she's taking someone else's identity, and it's a breath of fresh air for the character, us, and no doubt for Maisie Williams.

I also appreciate that they used her scene efficiently to both show a bit more of Braavos, explain some of its darkness and corruption, and make us like Jaquen again. Not bad!

Finally Sansa got a very small bit of fresh air thanks to Reek's confession (re: Bran and Rickon's "death"). It's easy to forget that Sansa hasn't seen her little brothers since the first episode of the show, and that she was convinced that literally every other Stark was dead. That was nice, but the best part about the scene was that Sansa finally got to show an emotion other than sad weepiness and coy shyness. Both girls got to act a little this episode! Good for them.

Cersei reached rock bottom at the cells and I legit felt bad for her. I'm sorry, I know she's a bad bitch who deserves everything that's coming to her, but it's still a pretty sad sight. The scene was very obviously filler meant to show us just how low the once mighty Queen had fallen (and to show us that fucking scary nun), but it was still welcome.

Everything that had anything to do with Dany was great this episode, and that's a crazy thing for me to say. The two scenes shared by Tyrion and Dany were fucking phenomenal thanks to just how well Tyrion's dialogue was. He was shown being clever and witty without trying to hard, and all while pushing the story ahead and developing the character even more. I appreciated his show of rationality towards the Queen without seeming cold towards Jorah. Nice to know he appreciates the Bear to a degree. Also I'm not surprised he's a DanyXJorah shipper. The second scene was even better; Tyrion is exactly what Dany needs. I loved how she seemed even intimidated by him throughout their conversation.

Jorah needs to stop breaking everyone's heart, though. Dude, please. Move on. You can do better than that stuck-up witch. I do not like what's going on with him because it doesn't look like it's going to end up well for anyone. I'm afraid he will not be making it out of this season.

Enough about that. Let's talk about the last scene.

The producers referred to it as "the most intense 15 minutes we've ever shot". Though there's a Red Wedding to consider, I'm not sure that I can argue with this. Every goddamn thing that happened in Hardhome, from their arrival reminding us that Tormund is a God Tier badass (sorry, Rattleshirt), to Wun Wun showing up, to someone "fucking hating" the Thenns (because, who doesn't fucking hate the Thenns?), to the moment when it all went to hell.

I haven't seen many movies or TV shows that capture so well such a powerful sense of impending doom as the Hardhome scene did. Suddenly you knew something was about to go down, you got the chills the characters got, then there was that merciful last moment's breather before it all began. There was that one scene when the white mist took over the other side of the gate that was just breath-taking. Who storyboarded this? They need an Emmy ASAP.

The battle against the zombies was intense enough to start (and seeing Wun Wun literally stomp several to death was a highlight), covering all the bases: from incredible moments of tension caused by the well-established idea that anyone can die, books or not, characters displaying their abilities in combat, quick moments of emotion (I felt bad for the poor Wildling who couldn't kill the kids), and of course full-on zombie badassness. Who needs The Walking Dead?

Two types of people: those who shat themselves here, and dirty fucking liars.
But this didn't really go well beyond the acceptable levels of fucking crazy until the White Walkers showed up. I swear the chills I got with the shot of the big cheeses on their horses atop the mountain were apocalyptic. Holy shit that was insane. And it was so insane because it's finally a payoff we've been waiting for four years, one book readers are still waiting for. The cadences of the action were crazy well executed, creating tension in waves and never over-saturating it to the point that we get comfortable. I was particularly tense with the Rotted Body Landslide (actual Cannibal Corpse song, by the way) . . .

. . . but nothing fucking compares to the shot of long-hair White Walker walking past the smoke and into the cabin to face Jonny Boy and the Thenn. Holy fucking shit I almost died during that bit not only because of the sheer badassness but because the danger felt way, way more real. The entire battle between Jon and the Walker was ridiculous, and I was legit worried about Jon, because he's had too great a season and he's overdue to loss of limb or life. I swear he's been promoted, showed people who's boss, grabbed some boob, and now this shit? I don't know how magic sunglasses haven't materialized on his pretty fucking face.

Even that last scene when there was no more fighting involved was phenomenal thanks to the Night King's complete confidence and nonchalance. This scene served not only to give us all strokes, not only to give us a payoff the books haven't bothered themselves with, but also to raise the stakes to ridiculous heights. Winter is here, mother fuckers. Soon you'll have to stop playing musical chairs around the Iron Throne because something far more heavy metal is coming to fuck all of you up.

Jesus, I love this goddamn show.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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