After last week’s dramatic meetings and departures (and boobs, always boobs) Game of Thrones brings its all-new plot developments Beyond the Wall, where Jon goes on a diplomatic mission even stupider than Jaime’s in Dorne, but at least contains exciting things like White Walkers and jerky Thenns and my pretend soul mate Dolorous Edd. So I’m not even mad.
Major episode spoilers ahead.
Spoilers for the currently published George R. R. Martin novels are discussed in the review and fair game in the comments. We highly suggest not discussing early preview chapters, but if you must, white it out. Have courtesy for the patient among us who are waiting and waiting (and waiting) for The Winds of Winter. Play nice. Thanks.
I enjoyed this episode a lot more than last week’s. Stuff happened. Despite no one being raped or almost raped. A golden dragon egg for you, Game of Thrones.
I still think Jon leaving Castle Black vulnerable to mutiny while he travels far away on a dangerous and unpopular diplomatic mission is insane and smacked of showrunners desperate to manufacture some spooky action scenes in a season of… not very much happening.
But it worked for me.
Like “Blackwater” before it, “Hardhome” did an excellent job of establishing characters in a short amount of time, so we’d feel some empathy for these wildlings we hardly knew. The fight scenes were well-choreographed, the tensions and reversals were high—waves of wights weren’t bad enough, then we get White Walkers and then we get the enigmatic Night’s King! There was a lot going on on the screen and I thought the cinematography and sound were definitely up to Game of Thrones‘ standards. I particularly loved the silence when Jon met that particularly badass Other in battle.
I also loved Dolorus Edd’s giant buddy, though I wish we got to see how Edd got out of that house. For all his complaining, he’s capable of great heroics. He’s survived five seasons!
That chieftainess was pretty badass, too. No Mother Mole sighting from the book, though. But I liked her right away, even as I knew she was doomed the moment she kissed her kids goodbye. (If she looked familiar, the actress was most recently seen in Pitch Perfect 2.) Too bad Jon didn’t, you know, keep some dragonglass on him when he’s traveling beyond the Wall? A dragonglass dagger and some arrowheads would’ve helped him fight and deliver some of his famed mercy to zombified allies who got speaking parts. Except for the Thenns. Fucking Thenns.
Before we got to the mini-episode within the episode, we get to continue where last week left off, with Tyrion meeting the Eastern Queen for an actual conversation. And it was pretty enjoyable. Tyrion basically listed all the reasons why fans agree that she needs him. Clever, funny, handsome, excellent Lannister-killer, walking Google search of Westerosi house gossip, etc. He did bring up some good points to Dany already: Seven Hells, Lady, Westeros is a cesspool of trouble. Why not be queen of Essos instead? Is Westeros really her home? And I particularly love that he asked her how having the love of the commonfolk without the support of the rich is going for her current rule.
She can spout off admittedly badass lines about being beyond Baratheons, Lannisters, Tyrells, and what not, but she has a long way to go.
Meanwhile, in Braavos, Arya gets to be a tiny spy for the Faceless Men. With her cute hair and cockles cart, she’s now a cat of the canals. I thought she’d be wearing the face of the girl she killed last week instead of her own. I really thought the director would do what they did in that other great show about mortality, Dead Like Me, where viewers saw Ellen Muth as unlucky George Lass but the living in the show saw her as a different actress. But I guess we’re just not going to delve further into the cavern of faces beneath the House of Black and White. Not a dealbreaker, but a show choice of note.
Lastly, we get a quick check-in at Winterfell, where we see Sansa have what for a Stark passes for a good day, i.e. finding out some family might not have been horribly slaughtered after all. Roose prepares for Stannis. Still. And Ramsay, Bastard Prince of Low Self-Esteem, asks for twenty good men (or will it be nineteen and one Reek?) to bring some fight to the Southern invaders.
That’ll go well, I’m sure. My only hope is that he doesn’t die before Sansa can stab him twenty times.
- Line of the night: “I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.” –Daenerys or “The fuck you looking at?” (translated) –Giant
- R.I.P., Rattleshirt. No, Tormund is totes secure in his heterosexuality, why do you ask?
- Sam and his nursemaid/girlfriend Gilly are still towing Jon’s party line at Castle Black. I’ve got a real bad feeling about conflicted little Ollie.
- Damn, Jorah is really commited to dying in the Friend Zone, no? It’s like he’s the star of his very own Smiths song. “This Charming Knight”? “Khaleesi in a Coma”?
- Cersei’s only visitor in Religious Jail is Qyburn. That’s how you know she’s hated. And that she raised another lame king in Tommen, who’s sulking like the child he is. I’d say “Worst. King. Ever.” but he’s had some pretty stiff competition.
Next week: “The Dance Of Dragons.” Oh boy, episode 9 is historically the biggest episode of all prior seasons—”Baelor,” “Blackwater,” “The Rains of Castamere”—so expectations are high for some fiery action.
Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing. Send her a raven through Twitter.