You know whenever Game of Thrones spends almost half of an episode run time in one location that some serious $#&@ will go down. Doesn’t get much more serious than what we just saw.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, lest we forget the plenty of quieter, but no less interesting things that happened this episode.
Tyrion and Jorah are granted a tense audience with Daenerys Targaryen. Jorah barely begins his supplication before Daenerys forbids him from speaking. She’s skeptical of Tyrion and wonders why she should give him so much as a second thought.
Tyrion’s wit and reason prove true. He tells of his tumultuous crimes against his own Lannister family, of the miraculous story of a girl who started out as a pawn to other players of the game and grew to hold great wealth, armies and lands along with three dragons, all on her own all while her enemies pursued her. Tyrion wished to see this would be ruler for himself and see if she would be truly capable of leading to a better world.
“So,” Daenerys says. “You want to advise me? What would you have me do with him?” Indicating Ser Jorah.
Tyrion says that he has never seen any sane man more completely devoted to anyone in his life. Not to mention Jorah sailing through the Doom of Valyria to return to Daenerys. Tyrion asks about Jorah’s deception, and whether he ever confessed his treachery before being forced too. “No,” Daenerys utters with a cracking voice.
“A ruler who kills those devoted to her is not a ruler who inspires devotion.” Tyrion’s councils against killing Ser Jorah, but also that he’s not proven trust worthy enough to stand by Daenerys’s side when she reclaims Westeros. Jorah is once again banished from Meereen in shame. He looks almost as heartbroken as the first time. It was really the only thing Tyrion could do, poor thanks though it may have been for taking Tyrion all this way.
Jorah’s feeling of déjà vu is visibly sad as he sets out from the gates of Meereen again. He returns to the fighter captain he embarrassed and begs to for him to let Jorah fight for Daenerys. That Greyscale is still creeping on his wrist.
Meanwhile, Tyrion continues to make his case to Daenerys mindful that she could have him executed at any moment. It really is fascinating seeing these two characters compare the perspectives they have had on events in the series so far. Both are striving to leave legacies as far removed from that of their fathers as possible, both have experience with politicized, unhappy marriages.
Varys and Jaime happen to be people that Daenerys can’t sympathize with, the former being the spymaster for the Robert Baratheon the Usurper and latter having betrayed and murdered her father. But Varys did convince Tyrion that Daenerys might be worth living for, and here he is.
Daenerys decides to accept Tyrion as her adviser. Alright! Now we’re getting somewhere! What’s next? Reclaiming Westeros? Tall order. Tyrion uses the present example of Meereen to show what would happen if Daenerys rallies the support of the common people, without the established noble houses. Hasn’t gone well, and all the noble houses left in Westeros are far too intent on having the Iron Throne to themselves to support her.
“I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”
I still remember feeling meh about that boast the first time I heard it and feeling much more impressed when I heard the full speech. Finally seeing it in context as a riposte to Tyrion’s eminent practicality has made me less impressed with it again. So Daenerys wants to establish a new world order where the good of the common people is served without subservience to the rich and powerful few? Noble, but Daenerys is going to need real solutions to real problems before she can realize such a high-minded vision.
A girl named Lana was orphaned when she was eight, but now she’s earned herself a cart of oysters that she pushes around the docks of Braavos. But this girl has higher master than her station suggests. A man instructs a girl to take a different route in the docks now and there she sees a rich thin man withhold payment from a merchant sailor, payment that his wife and children need desperately.
The way Jaqen and Arya talk about this man is a little vague but what’s perfectly clear is that House of Black and White decide to bring this rich insurance gambler the gift of the Many Faced God. Look how excited Arya is to be sent on her first assassination! Poison them oysters.
The other Stark daughter is still desperately stuck in her home by contrast. Sansa is looking daggers at Reek as he brings her meal. Sansa wants to know why Reek told on her to Ramsay, and Reek tells of how Theon was punished for trying to escape. “I did terrible things. I deserve to be Reek.”
Soon enough, Sansa’s true anger at Theon for murdering her younger brothers comes out. Theon feebly protests that Ramsay will hear but Sansa ultimately gets the truth. The boys Theon burned beyond recognition at Winterfell were in fact two farm boys. It’s rather odd to think that Theon’s cruelty and haste so long ago could be such a source of relief for Sansa now. Theon’s fear at remembering too much of his old self prompts him to scamper. Will this revelation fire Sansa to bold action again?
Roose and Ramsay are planning for Stannis’s siege in Winterfell’s great hall. With the walls and gates repaired and reinforced, Roose decides to wait Stannis out while his armies freeze or starve or mutiny. But that’s too boring for Ramsay. He tries to couch his thinking in terms of making a show of strength to the people of the North but really, Ramsay just wants to sneak into Stannis’s camp with some good fighters and cause some mayhem. Looks like Roose is going to let him.
I just had a terrible thought. What if Ramsay manages to capture Shireen? Would Sansa and Shireen be able to work out an escape?
Every day in Cersei’s cell, a septa comes with a bucket of water and asks her to confess. And every day Cersei only makes demands or threats or insults. And every time the septa hits Cersei with her ladle.
Cersei is finally visited by Maester Qyburn. Dark robes, dark words today. Cersei will be tried by the High Sparrow for fornication, treason, incest and the Murder of King Robert. The whole enchilada.
“Of course, your Grace.”
No word from Jaime. Grand Maester Pycelle has summoned Kevan Lannister back from Casterly Rock to serve as the Hand of the King, and King Tommen seems to have succumbed to grief over his wife and mother’s imprisonment. Neither have deigned to visit Cersei, despite Qyburn’s imploring. Cersei’s pretty much stuck.
“There is a way out,” Qyburn whispers.
“Confess? To the High Sparrow? I made him. I rose his up from nothing. I will not kneel before some barefooted commoner and beg his forgiveness.” Just as I thought. Cersei did believe that the High Sparrow would be loyal to her.
The septa reenters and Qyburn is escorted out, but he does remind Cersei that his work continues.
Bribes and more threats aren’t working on the septa. I would say the septa is almost enjoying taunting Cersei, forcing her to claw at puddles on the dirty stone of her cell.
It would be satisfying to see Cersei so completely helpless, if Lena Headey didn’t do such a fantastic job that she actually makes me feel sorry for Cersei.
At the Wall, Sam is still recovering from his beat down by the other brothers. There’s some palpable morning after-awkwardness between him and Gilly but they seem to be getting along still. Olly comes in with food, Gilly goes to check on her son. Olly asks Sam about Jon’s mission, whether he thinks it’s a good idea.
Sam’s trust in Jon is absolute and he has seen the Walkers and the Army of the Dead himself. But Olly hasn’t. All he’s seen are Wildlings slaughtering his village. I think what Olly heard when Sam talked about making choices that you alone know are right is, I have to make sure the Wildlings stay North of the Wall, even if I have to stop Jon to do it.
Hardhome is bleak place, crowded with Free Folk all along the shore and not feeling particularly hospitable to crows. Tormund and Jon have an uneasy truce and enough mutual respect and foresight to do this together. There had to be at least one Free Folk figure who would represent the initial hostility and skepticism to Jon’s offer. The Lord of Bones would do just fine.
Could you imagine the season briefing for Ross O’Hennessy, who was recast as the Lord of Bones? We’re going to have you play a recast character for one scene in one episode this season just so you can get your face smashed into the muck with your own staff by Tormund Giantsbane. Brilliant.
It’s quite a colorful group of elders in the keep at Hardhome. Not exactly colorful, they’re all in white, but many clans are clearly represented. There’s even a giant sitting in the corner. Hard to imagine how he fit through the door.
There’s rehashing of the old-feud vs looming threat as one might expect. But seeing Jon make as convincing a case as he can with Tormund’s help is still gratifying. And he offers to share the Dragon Glass daggers with the Free Folk to help fight the White Walkers. The Thenn present wants to know what happened to Mance Rayder.
“I put an arrow through his heart.”
You could have chosen your words a little more diplomatically there Jon, seriously! How did you expect that to go over?
Tormund vouches for Jon.
“He’s prettier than both my daughters, but he knows how to fight. He’s young, but he knows how to lead.” Hearing the words from Tormund is a powerful factor for many of the elders present. Except the Thenns, unsurprisingly. Everybody #@$&ing hates the Thenns. The Night’s Watch begin ferrying the Free Folk onto Stannis’s ships.
How do you ask a giant to hand back a Dragon Glass dagger? You don’t.
I knew as soon as the evacuation started proceeding smoothly that it was going to go south fast. But I never expected this. The dogs start barking anxiously as the cold wind blows down from the mountain sides. Screams overtake the Free Folk gatherings like ripples towards the main camp, followed by throngs of running living trying to outrace the dead.
The desperate cries of hundreds of Free Folk fall eerily silent. After a moment a horde of dead take their place, battering the gate.The bared gates of Hardhome are well made but panic overtakes those still on the shore side. There aren’t enough boats to ferry the Free Folk fast enough.
Jon rallies the Night’s Watch and fighting Free Folk to hold off the dead as long as possible. But their mythical masters, the White Walkers are here to oversee the onslaught, silhouetted on the hill atop their rotting horses. The only hope of killing them is the Dragon Glass, still in the keep.
Good to see the Thenn cover Jon in the end. Plot Armor saved Jon’s ass bigtime in this fight. He loses the Dragon Glass but it turns out his Valyrian Steel sword Longclaw is just as capable of killing a White Walker.
It’s still a losing battle when the White Walkers can turn the Free Folk’s own children into undead soldiers and reanimate their minions from fall damage. The dead feel no fear, no pain, no pause. The gates of Hardhome splinter into nothing as the tide of corpses rush through it. Even with a Giant warding the dead away with a flaming beam, Tormund, Edd and Jon are the only characters to make it to a boat before the dead reach the shoreline.
The Night’s King, armored like a man and crowned with horns of ice, walks towards the edge of the pier. His pale blue eyes lock with Jon’s. Jon, Edd and Tormund can only watch in horror as the Night’s King raises his arms, and with them, the slain from where they lay. Eyes all turned to azure.
Jon and Tormund sailed into Hardhome to find a pretty lukewarm reception but at least there were potential allies. They barely sailed away with their lives, looking back into the faces of Death itself.
Wow. That was devastating. Nothing like that happens in the books. Certainly not that the reader gets to see first hand.
If there was any doubt of the danger the White Walkers posed, it died in the massacre at Hardhome. Will Alliser listen to Jon and Tormund’s stories? Or will Alliser only see another attacking army of Wildlings at the Wall?