Review: Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 8 – Hardhome

The action hots up as Jon Snow gets his first taste of the White Walkers, and Tyrion finally gets an audience with the Queen of Dragons...

Let me start by saying that I completely agree with our Chief Editor, Harriet Matthews, about the spate of unnecessary and meaningless rape scenes in Game of Thrones.

The show’s popularity has taken a hit due to these scenes and I can understand why someone would choose to stop watching. However, as someone who has stuck with many TV series that weren’t worth watching to the end – I stayed with Lost despite its chronic misuse of twists – I will stay with Game of Thrones and hope that these gratuitous scenes are removed from future episodes.

I came to Game of Thrones about a year ago after many people told me I should watch it, specifically because I’m a massive geek and they couldn’t fathom the idea that I was ignoring the best fantasy show on television. For this reason, I’ve found watching the show on a week-by-week basis something of an enigma, as I caught up by binge-viewing. It means I’ve found this season a bit ponderous at times, when storylines should be developing quickly.

But this eighth episode seemed to fit perfectly into the formula of past series – a massive plot point revealed before an epic finale – and it was thoroughly enjoyable.

The great thing about Game of Thrones can sometimes be its downfall. The massive intricate world it’s created can sometimes become too much, and you can forget important plot points. For me, this occurred with Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Theon’s (Alfie Allen) storyline, because it completely slipped my mind that everyone still believed Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) were dead. Luckily, this episode put me right rather quickly.

As for Ramsay (Iwan Rheon), no doubt he’ll take 20 of his finest men to do something sadistic to Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), and whatever it is will likely be very shocking. I do think the writers missed a trick with Ramsay’s story, not in the character development of the Boltons, but rather Sansa. When Ramsay first met her, it felt as though she’d be a strong character to rival him, someone who could manipulate him. Instead, she’s reverted to the girl who was stuck in King’s Landing under Joffrey’s (Jack Gleeson) control, and that’s disappointing.

Events in King’s Landing involving Cersei (Lena Headey) are a welcome progression. She’s finally getting what she deserves. Cersei is a villain we love to hate and her naivety has been threatening to destroy her for a while. I’m not a huge fan of the religious fanatics plot, but I enjoy the games being played by both sides.

In terms of getting something of note in this episode, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) storyline stood out. Those two sitting down together was something we’ve all been waiting for. Tyrion pushes her in a way that none of her previous advisers have. It’s always been assumed that she would take the Iron Throne, but it’s interesting that he questions why she wants to rule a kingdom in such disarray, and how she plans to conquer it without the support of the rich.

Another development involved Jon Snow (Kit Harington). The mopey bastard has gone north of the wall to ask the Wildlings to join the fight against the White Walkers. As someone who’s been asking for five seasons why no-one cares the army of the dead, it was nice to get a first glimpse of what it’s truly capable of.

The second half of the episode is almost entirely dedicated to a huge fight scene, much like the eighth episode of last series, when the Wildlings attempted to breach the wall. The White Walkers are often forgotten in Game of Thrones, but it’ll be difficult to do so now, especially after the terrifying finale when all the dead Wildlings are revived to replenish the ranks of the world’s greatest enemy.

Jon Snow’s attempts to gather an army are intriguing, as they further reveal the politics of Westeros, and also allow the writers to explain the mythology of the White Walkers.

Of course, the fight scene between the Lord Commander and an undead soldier smacked of a Terminator-versus-Human battle. Instead of stabbing Jon straight away, the enemy takes time to throw him around a bit, giving him an opportunity to show why Valyrian steel is so valuable in the land of the living.

Game of Thrones always ramps up towards the end of a season, and this week’s episode stuck to the formula, as Westeros plunges deeper into war, and the north sits of the precipice of a battle between Stannis and the Boltons.

Winter has finally come, and it’s damn cold.

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