Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 8: Hardhome


Tyrion and Jorah stand before Daenerys in her throne room. Jorah doesn’t get to speak – Tyrion does and, as ever, he’s very good at it. He sums up Daenerys’s achievements which do sound very impressive when he summarises how much she’s achieved and how quickly but he also lays the trump card for why Daenerys needs him – she’s not Westerosi. No-one around her is Westerosi, certainly not informed Westerosi (now that Baristan is dead). She knows nothing about the land she actually wants to rule. While Daenerys’s points out she has armies and dragons Tyrion makes the case that killing and politics aren’t the same thing and he was a pretty awesome Hand of the King even when said King was Joffrey and a complete failure at humanity

She asks Tyrion’s opinion on Jorah and, with a series of well reasoned thoughts, he proposes banishing him. Of course Jorah is the saddest of sad pandas.

Later, Tyrion and Daenerys discuss fathers (a fraught topic for both of them) and being terrible people (Tyrion’s words – and something he admires). He compliments Daenerys on opening the fighting pits and agreeing to marry someone she hates. After some brief contemplation of execution due to Tyrion’s trust of Varys and his brother Jaime (the kingslayer – the king he killed was Daenerys’s dad) before she decides to take him as an advisor. Preferably sober. So he advises her – and asks why she wants to go to Westeros anyway since she’s apparently settling in and doing good in Slavers Bay. Why go “home”? And who does she have to support her? Tyrion doubts the common people do – or whether they will be enough – and throws in that Targaryen is, effectively, a dead House (as is House Stark) and the only chance she has to win any house is Tyrell (dubious – though I want to know why he never mentions Martel, traditional Targaryen ally).

But Daenerys has different plans – the great houses constantly vying for position and crushing the common people in their squabbles: she’s going to stop it, she’s going to break them

Jorah the truly desperate, returns to the fighting pits, wanting to fight and win.

Kings Landing

Cersei is imprisoned in a filthy cell with an abusive Septa demanding she confess. Her pet Maester visits to sum up the charges – incest, fornication, treason and the murder of King Robert (she’s guilty of all) and worries that the Sept won’t have the same standards of proof as the crown (which is kind of laughable when we consider king’s justice). As for her family – Kevin, her uncle and de-facto controller of House Lannister is now Hand of the King and happy for her to rot there, her brother Jaime is in Dorne and Tommen, so naïve, has completely fallen apart and is hiding in his room

The way out is for Cersei to confess – but she is outraged at the idea of confessing to a commoner she raised up (in a monumental moment of utter ridiculous decision making). Evil Septa also wants her to confess, withholding water until she does. Cersei is reduces to licking water off the floor.


Arya has “become someone else” which seems to be part of her whole Faceless man training, assuming the role of Lana the shellfish seller which is the perfect way to become a spy. There she sees the Braavosi equivalent of an insurance salesman only one that Jaqen points out is crooked – since he insures ship captains and if they die he pays their families: but widows and orphans have little means to make him pay. The only justice they have access to is the Many Faced God. Arya now has a mission to prepare to kill the man – though the other apprentice/whoever she is is doubtful Arya is ready


Sansa demands to know why Theon betrayed her, even as Theon refuses to answer to his name and refers to who he was in the third person. He considers the betrayal as helping Sansa because escaping from Ramsay is impossible. Sansa isn’t sympathetic and is quite happy for his suffering for what he did to her family: and Reak confesses it all and agrees he deserved it, but refers to the boys he killed as “those boys” not Rickon and Bran. Sansa pushes him about it until he tells her the truth – Bran and Rickon are alive. But Theon leaves before he can say more as she keeps calling him Theon

Roose Bolton is preparing with his advisors for a siege – and it’s looking up. Stannis’s army isn’t that huge, is heavily made up of cavalry (which aren’t that good in a siege – or in snow for that matter) and Roose is far better supplied than Stannis’s forces. Roose sensibly thinks all they have to do is wait Sannis out

Of course, Ramsay is not a fan of such a non-brutal method – he wants to attack through all the snow and cause a slaughter. Something he thinks he can achieve with 20 men.

The Wall

Gilly treats Sam’s injuries and they both admit they’re scared, Olly bringing them food while Sam downplays it. Olly wants Sam to explain why Jon would save the Wildlings. Sam starts by pointing out all people are good and terrible, but it doesn’t help Olly since saw Tormund slaughter his people
 – so Sam invokes the threat of the rising dead and how the numbers the Wildlings bring are their only chance.

Tormund and Jon arrive at the Wildling port and greet the Lord of Bones in his grisly armour. He’s not super eager to talk and he insults and attacks, resorting to homophobia and then getting beaten down by Tormund for suggesting the other Wildling is gay. Beating someone to death or near to death is sufficient to get an audience. He makes his offer and sweetens it with a gift of dragonglass with which they can kill White walkers. Several of the elders are willing to listen, especially a woman. The news of Mance’s death nearly breaks out in violence but Tormund describes the mercy Jon showed Mance. Jon adds a brilliant inspiring speech and Tormund speaks for him. One wildling proclaims “my ancestors would spit on me if I broke bread with a crow,” to which that female elder who is rapidly scoring awesome points replies with “so would mine, but fuck ‘em they’re dead.”

Some others support – but the Thenns don’t and they leave (not a great loss). They load the people who agree to come on the ships but Jon notes far too many are staying behind. As Tormund points out, it took 20 years for Mance to unite the Wildlings.

Then the weather turns, there’s lots of ominous signs and the Thenn close the gate, trapping some of the people suddenly fleeing back inside outside. Who all, suddenly, fall ominously silent.

And then the dead attack. Lots of fighting and desperate fleeing for the boats. Jon, naturally wants to make an epic sacrificial stand but Awesome Wildling Lady (Karis) tells him to get on the boats – if her people, including her daughters, arrive at the Wall without Jon to enforce his orders, how likely are the other Nights Watch to accept them?

Jon still leads a charge of the Nights Watch as well as Tormund and lots of Wildlings to help seal the gate – and they see ominous figures on horseback watching the conflict – White Walkers. They, extinguishing the fires as they pass. Jon and the Thenn fight one– their weapons shattering every time they touch it – except Jon’s Valyrian steel sword, which both holds and shatters the White Walker. The Night King looks on all ominously.

Alas, awesome Wildling Karis is killed by utterly horrifying zombie children. An overwhelming wave of zombies appears and Jon and the remaining wildlings (including Tormund) run for the last boat to escape – watching the remaining stragglers be slaughtered. The Night King then raises all the dead as part of his army.

The Walking Dead I think Game of Thrones has scarier and more horrifying zombies than you.

Not only was that an overwhelmingly awesome fight scene and utterly terrifying it kind of puts the whole series into context. Tyrell and Lannister and Baratheon all struggle against each other- but it’s meaningless with this vast and utterly impossibly terrifying force ready to descend on them all. The epicness of it, next to the political wrangling really does stand out.

I still wish Karis had survived.

It also looks more and more like Sansa’s rape is going to be all about Theon’s redemption.

Tyrion makes a compelling point about Daenerys and it harks back well to his previous comments to Jorah about why Daenerys is entitled to the throne. For all her lineage, Daenerys does know nothing about Westeros – more, we’ve already seen her fumble trying to lead Meeren while knowing nothing of the local culture or customs. This needs to be a lesson she learns – as an exile in Pentos, Daenerys knows very little about the lands she presumes (and it is presumptuous) to rule. No matter what her intentions are, in effect she is a coloniser – one who takes over with superior force and largely relies on said force to hold control over a people she knows nothing about and who continually bemuse her.

An extra problematic element of this is the whole concept of Daenerys conquering Meeren and the other cities of Slavers coast when the whole idea of this is basically a stepping stone to Westeros and the whole concept of her CHARACTER ARC is “Daenerys learns to rule by practicing on POC before taking on the proper white country”. That is her characterisation this season

I do like Tyrion questioning whether Daenerys gets his service – yes it’s clever words to stop him being totally on the defensive, but we have repeatedly seen Tyrion’s worth on this show even as he faces prejudiced derision from all sides. Tyrion is an incredibly skilled and useful ally and he does not downplay his own worth. Something he proves by rapidly grasping Daenerys’s political situation

As to Daenerys breaking the great Houses… can anyone say that’s a bad thing, to be honest? There are few decent, good houses in Westeros and they, inevitably, are falling before those who are cunning nasty arseholes who then snipe at each other even as they destroy the whole nation in the process.