There are spoilers in this review. Duh.

This is what I’ve been waiting for this entire season. What an incredible episode that was! It was an episode that hit all the right beats, had great acting, full character arcs, pushes forward the greater themes and story forward, and it was just entertaining as hell to watch. I’ll admit I’ve already seen this episode (or parts of it) at least three times now. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the season has been so iffy, because clearly they still have the capability of being excellent. I only had one criticism, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but otherwise, this might be one of the best episodes of the whole series. I actually cheered at one point. But first! Previously on Game of Thrones, Jorah brought Tyrion to Dany, and everyone was excited to see them finally face off. Jon Snow was going up to meet with the wildlings and convince them to help the Night’s Watch with the White Walkers. Sansa’s being raped and tortured by Ramsay, and when she tried to appeal to Theon/Reek, he betrayed her. Cersei learned that getting religious fanatics on the throne who had no problem arresting Queen Margaery meant they had no problem arresting her either. Arya’s joined the Faceless Men and she is chilling with Jaqen being awesome.

I have no idea where to start first. So many good things to start with. Let’s start with the smaller things. Sansa confronts Theon/Reek over giving her up, but he says he’s trying to protect her, since Ramsay would find out and make it worse. He knows this from experience. She says she’s glad he’s suffered because of what he did to her brothers, but he finally confesses her brothers are still alive. So she has a gleam of hope left! Hopefully Brienne will also at some point tell her about Arya, so she’ll find her family is still holding on by a thread. Sam talks with Olly about Jon siding with the Wildings, and I think he should have chosen his words better. He says sometimes people have to do things that seem unpopular, but make sense, and this is going to come back to haunt him in a big way by the finale. I have a sneaking suspicion I know where that storyline is headed, and fans of the book will know what I’m talking about. Roose plans on just letting Stannis and his people starve out the winter, but Ramsay says he wants permission to take twenty men to go attack them. I really hope this leads to him getting his ass kicked. At some point in the books Ramsay was a prisoner; it’d be great if that happened now too. Arya is training a new persona (Lana) with Jaqen and she gets her first assignment to poison a life insurance salesman who didn’t keep his word. Cersei is suffering in the cells and everyone demands she confess to save herself. She refuses.

game-thrones-season-5-episode-8-hardhomeNow to the two big storylines! First off, Tyrion and Dany finally meet and are fabulous together. She challenges him to advise her on what to do with Jorah. Tyrion gives very good advice that she shouldn’t kill Jorah, since he’s devoted to her and punishing devoted servants doesn’t encourage people to be devoted. Too bad he wasn’t around for when she executed that former slave friend of hers, hmm? Jorah is banished instead, but he decides to give himself to the slaver again so he can continue to fight in the pits. He knows his days are numbered due to the scales. Tyrion offers Dany a legitimate reason to be her advisor: he knows the Seven Kingdoms and the houses. If anyone can give her a good idea of what to expect when she comes to conquer, it will be him. They bond over being “terrible children of terrible fathers” and Tyrion gets wine. She pulls the cup away from him, pointing out she needs him sober. Maybe now that he has someone actually challenging his mind again and giving him something to do, he’ll have less need to be drunk constantly. He suggests she stay where she is and not bother with the Seven Kingdoms at all, and that she’ll be hard pressed to get nobles to join with her. She suggests she wants to break the wheel of the noble houses, I’m not sure what she means by that, outside of maybe making the commoners and nobles on the same level? I guess we’ll see. It is amazing to see these two together and their scenes lit up the screen. I can’t wait to see what’s coming ahead for them, and how he might assist her in coping with the city problems. Yay team Tyrion and Dany!

And then there’s the epic story. Listen, I’m terrified of zombies, and every time the wights show up I start shivering. So this episode was both agonizing and fascinating to me. Jon goes up to the wildlings lair and while some agree to join the Night’s Watch (most notably warrior woman Karsi, marked for death since she had loving children), others are like noooope. Of course they don’t get much of a choice since the village is attacked by the White Walkers and an enormous amount of wights. Everyone tries to flee to the ships Stannis gave them, while Jon and the others try to fight them off. Jon gets into a battle with a White Walker, and he shocks both of them when his Valyrian steel blade is not shattered by the Walker. The Walker is too surprised to attack for a moment, and Jon shatters him with the blade. This was an epic way to show the audience that dragonglass isn’t the only weapon that can kill the Walkers. There are a limited amount of Valyrian swords out there – remember Tywin Lannister melted down Ned Stark’s sword Ice, and now Brienne and probably Tommen have the two made from it. The Night’s King, the leader of the Walkers, watches Jon from afar and seems intrigued by him. He proves that they are in an impossible fight by then raising all the dead wildlings and Jon and the others only barely manage to sail away. If only the south understood how serious the north’s problems were!

My only complaint should not be shocking. They introduce the character of Karsi, make her awesome, and immediately kill her because she wouldn’t kill children. I think that’s ridiculous. She’s been around wights and Walkers, all the wildlings know those stories. She would know that those are no longer children, and they were freaking zombie children. I don’t believe someone as dangerous or as grizzled as her would just give up the fight because they looked like kids. Not to mention now she’s making her children motherless, so good job. I think that was unnecessary, although it was a cool effect to watch her eyes ice over when she rose up. Considering their issues this season with how they’re handling the women on the show, I side eye them. Otherwise though I really enjoyed every aspect of it. All the scenes were well acted. I know the battle took most of the budget this season, and it showed. I just wish we’d seen this momentum earlier. I know Game of Thrones usually has slower episodes to start and then the best episodes at the end of the season. But usually it is at least decent all the way through, with some solid entries in the middle. This hasn’t been the case lately. I hope they keep going from here and it doesn’t slog down again. So the wildlings most likely can head to the North and potentially help Stannis right now. He will need it. It would be cool if Jon comes to save him the way he saved the Wall. I’m actually excited to see the next episode, which is a feeling I’ve lacked for most of this season. Please keep it up, Game of Thrones!



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