Season 5, Episode 8: "Hardhome"
Last Week's Rankings: "The Gift"
In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.
1. Show Viewers
Just two weeks after Sansa's rape scene doubled as the annual "Why do I subject myself to this show?" debate amongst viewers, we suddenly got an episode that shattered the all-time Giving the People What They Want score. Three and a half aspects of this episode had me (and pretty much all Throne-Watchers) absolutely giddy: the amazing Tyrion/Daenerys meet & greet, seeing Cersei suffer while getting slapped in the face with a spoon and slurping water up off the floor, the truly epic battle/slaughter of Hardhome, and the tantalizing possibility of Ramsay actually trying to attack Stannis' army with 20 men and promptly getting his ass handed to him.
In all four of these cases, we were not only given something we've been waiting years for, but had it delivered to us in the most resplendent presentation imaginable. We're all winners here.
2. The Night's King
But now for real talk--the real winner of "Hardhome" was obviously this badass:
He's effectively saying to Jon Snow some combination of, "Go tell everyone in the Seven Kingdoms how fucked they are," "No seriously, you really know nothing, Jon Snow," and "Come at me, bitch."
As Grantland's Andy Greenwald quipped, seeing the White Walker army in action makes the Iron Throne look like a "particularly heavy deck chair on the Titanic."
3. Tryion's Rhetoric (Yet Again)
I ready a funny piece that listed Tyrion's "Seven Steps for a Successful Job Interview" as 1) Don't provide references, 2) Brag about your criminal record, 3) Bad-mouth former bosses, 4) Undercut other applicants, 5) Insult your interviewer's family, 6) Turn the tables, and 7) Drink heavily.
Yes, Tyrion did all of these things while convincing the Mother of Dragons to employ his council, and it was amazing to behold. It's times like this, when it's clear Tyrion is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers, that you realize he and Tywin had more in common than either of them cared to admit.
4. Jon Snow
Ignore, for a moment, the way the battle of Hardhome ended, and our favorite bastard really fulfilled his potential with this episode. He united at least several of the Wildling factions to his cause, he charged into battle while everyone around him was frozen with fear, and he discovered Valyrian Steel can kill White Walkers.
And then there was the way Tormund described him: "He's prettier than my daughters, but he can fight, and he can lead." Words we can all aspire to!
5. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
They endured a lot of criticism a few weeks ago with the way Sansa's wedding night played out, and now they've delivered what might be the best episode of the series. ("Hardhome" has a 9.9 IMDb rating, which is the highest of the series. The Red Wedding episode comes in second at 9.7.) And this wasn't a case where the episode was just great because it had a major death (it didn't), or that it had an awesome battle (though it did)--it also had some of the best dialogue we've ever seen in the show. Do yourself a favor and watch that Tyrion & Khaleesi scene again. The way it's written is just masterful.
Honorable Mention: Water, which seems to be an oddly effective way of holding back an unstoppable army of the dead. I've been saying this for at least two years, but clearly it's time for everyone to ditch Westeros and go across the Narrow Sea! With the Walls of Qarth, the Titan of Braavos, the brothels of Volantis, and the Fighting Pits of Meereen, it's way more fun in Essos.
Since Westeros is clearly meant to symbolize England and Essos is the rest of Europe, I'll quote my dad--a frenchman--when I once asked him what's so bad about England: "Bad food, bad weather, and the fucking English."
Just to reiterate, in case it hasn't been made clear yet: Things do not look good for the Seven Kingdoms.
2. Jon Snow
Yes, yes, lot's of things went right for the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch this week, but the episode still ended with him looking like this:
I suppose we have to take a moment's break from reveling in her imprisonment to acknowledge that she's highly displeased with her situation.
Okay, good form. Now carry on with cheering for her misery! (And don't forget, the season finale is titled "Mother's Mercy!")
4. Jorah Mormont
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Jorah couldn't even get a word in to Khaleesi, then Tyrion outed him as being in love with her and recommended she banish him again (which she did), and, oh yeah, he still has a highly contagious and accelerating disease which is likely to either kill him or turn him into a Stone Man. But hey, at least he has those fighting pits! If he never shouts the words "Are you not entertained?", I will be highly disappointed.
5. The Walking Dead
Look, Game of Thrones has been a better show than The Walking Dead since Day 1. But it was great this week to see Walking Dead really beaten at it's own game. While Dead has "walkers," Thrones has now given us sprinters. Dead had The Governor, but Thrones just revealed The Night's King (who, allegedly, was the 13th Lord Commander of The Night's Watch).
If you really want to see a terrifying army of the dead, Game of Thrones is the place.
Honorable Mention: Wun Wun, the giant who's apparently doggie paddling all the way back to Castle Black.
Confirmed Kills: 3 + Thousands of Unnamed Wildlings (I mean, what am I supposed to do with that Battle of Hardhome? It was a massacre beyond the capacity of any tallying. So instead we'll just honor the three people who died after having dialogue in the episode: The Lord of Bones, beaten to death with his own bones; Karsi--the attractive Wildling--who made the fatal mistake of telling her children she'll be right behind them; and Loboda, the Thenn who quickly found out that non-Valyrian steel is a bad strategy against a White Walker.)
Season Death Tally: 57 + Thousands of Unnamed Wildlings