All aboard the Hype Train! In preparation of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, Kelly is doing a rewatch for the greater good to refresh our memories, catch the things we might have forgotten, pick up the things we might have missed, and maybe make predictions! Hold onto your fur rugs from Ikea and AWAY WE GO.
Rules of this series: We’re deep diving into these episodes and I’m watching them on a per-episode base because I like digesting the episodes. Spoilers lie ahead. As much as I can, I am going to try and keep things episode/season specific. It’s out of respect to the narrative as well as the later seasons. Onwards!
Hardhome is widely recognized as one of the best episodes of all time, due to the colliding of certain worlds and the pacing of the episode. It’s the first, ah, big scale wight/White Walker episode we get and there are a lot of stunning moments, but it’s just not up there for me. That is all.
Hardhome starts us off in Meereen, where Dany immediately sets about interrogating Tyrion about where his loyalties are and Tyrion’s first thought is, “Hold up, I NEVER said I was on your side.” Tyrion drops a story about a story he heard when he was a teenager about a baby with no wealth or land or army, but was protected and moved from place to place; when she grew up, suddenly she had all three and people were beginning to believe in her. Tyrion proves himself to be a valuable resource by pointing out that no one on Dany’s side- Missandei, Greyworm, and Jorah (Westerosi but hasn’t been home in ages) don’t actually know the land she wants to rule and that’s where Tyrion will stand. He’s also the first one to tell Dany to her face that killing and ruling don’t go hand in hand.
Dany tests Tyrion by asking what he would do with Jorah, a person who pledged his name to her while plotting to kill her. Tyrion acknowledges both Jorah’s undying loyalty and betrayal before asking Dany processing questions- did he have the chance to hurt her and did he ever? Tyrion muses that people won’t be inclined to side with her if she rewards supposed loyalty with death, but recognizes that she doesn’t want him in her service, so she ends up sending Jorah away. Again.
Let’s hold up for a moment- this might be more of a play of what Tyrion wants rather than what Dany actually wants. As much as we’d like to think all the good characters on the show are on the same side, we should know better- there are no truly good characters here completely absolved from their poor decisions. Even Brienne at some point fucks up. In this particular case, if Jorah is gone, this means that Tyrion is her only spyglass into Westeros and more or less cements his role as her advisor. Missandei and Greyworm won’t have the insight to challenge him. But Tyrion advising Dany against Jorah’s death does somewhat pay Jorah back for saving Tyrion’s life along the way.
Over in King’s Landing, our other queen is getting very different treatment: Septa Unella is slapping Cersei around and telling her to confess to having sex with her cousin Lancel.
And then across in Braavos, Arya’s assuming the new identity of a young girl Lanna who sells oysters, clams, and cockles along the pier. She recites her skit to Jaqan, I assume, to show that her tale carries enough truth to be believable. Jaqan directs her to poison a harbor master, who has been cheating money out of ship captains by when selling them insurance. Arya walks away and smirks at the prospect of her first assassination, while the Waif continues to plead that she’s not ready to be a faceless man.
Back in King’s Landing, Qyburn pays Cersei a visit and lets her know that she’s being charged with fornication, murder, and incest! On top of that, Tommen doesn’t want to see her and Uncle Kevan is on his way to take Cersei’s place as Hand of the King in her absence. Cersei still refuses to confess and before leaving, Qyburn tells her, “The work continues” and I can only assume he’s talking about the Mountain’s status.
Up at Winterfell, Theon tells Sansa he showed Ramsay the candle for her own good- once upon a time, Theon tried the same escape but Ramsay knew and started cutting away at him; Sansa more or less says it served him right because most of the Starks are dead due to his abandoning Robb, taking over Winterfell, and feeding the Boltons information. Not false, Sansa. Not false. When Sansa names Bran and Rickon among his victims, Theon lets slip that it was actually two farm boys that were killed because Bran and Rickon couldn’t be found.
Downstairs, Ramsay is bragging about how the Bolton army has 6,000 more men than Stannis and Roose is more in the mindset of, “That’s great, but we also have really high walls, lots of food, and plenty of warmth. Let’s just not bother and leave them outside. It’s only a matter of time before they die or turn on him or abandon him. I like my odds against a siege!” Ramsay is eager to show off and possibly squirt a little blood. He thinks Roose needs to show the rest of the North the lengths House Bolton will go to in order to protect its land and its people from invaders. Roose is still Strategy Man and rightfully refuses to abandon his defenses and Ramsay’s all, “Dad, give me 20 good men and I’ll show you.” And Roose lets him go because if Ramsay wins, it’s a win, and if he loses, he’s only lost a crazy bastard son with another heir on the way and 20 disloyal soldiers.
Back in Meereen, Tyrion gets to drinking and they commiserate over having terrible fathers- Tyrion with the father who sentenced him to an execution and Dany with a mad, murderous fool. Tyrion lets Dany know that he’s heard rumors about her bloodthirstiness and decisions to punish injustice with violence, but points out that Dany has made some good moves in getting people to look at her differently by reopening the fighting pits and marrying Hizdahr. After some serious thought, Dany agrees to let Tyrin advise her- and is the first person since Tywin to forcibly take his cup away.
Tyrion declares that if Dany is really going to take over Westeros, she’s going to have to learn how to get along with the rich and not just fight for the common people, as gold controls the wars in the Seven Kingdoms. Dany doesn’t care about any of the noble houses, as they just keep controlling the Throne and the wheel they are on keeps turning and rotating who is in power- and she’s going to break the wheel. For the good of the people! A sentiment immediately forgotten about in Season 6, when all she says is that she wants the Throne and “Bend the knee!” and “I have three dragons!” and all that noise.
Anyway. In the fighting pits, Jorah once again enters Enzo Cilenti’s (I forgot his character’s name) service- again- so that he can see Dany in the pits again.
In King’s Landing, it’s demanded again that Cersei confess and blah blah blah. Septa Unella pours out her spoonful of water on the floor and Cersei kneels over it to drink. It’s the lowest we’ve ever seen Cersei- so far.
Up at Castle Black, Gilly is taking care of Sam post-sex and post-beat up, when Olly strolls in to play kiss up. He asks Sam if he thinks Jon is in the right to save the Wildlings and especially Tormund, who have invaded lands and slaughtered people. Sam stands up for Jon and tries to show Olly how hard it is to make the right decisions that only certain people can see in the long run. Sam is all jolly and optimistic about it, but he can’t see that the wheels in Olly’s head are turning in the opposite direction.
Let’s all chuckle at the bit where Sam says, “Don’t worry about Jon- he always comes back!” Ha.
Sailing up to our title location, Jon is pulling a George Washington. Hardhome looks to be a small harbor village, where a few different tribes of Freefolk are shacked up. There are even a couple of Thenns hanging out. Our pal, The Lord of Bones, strolls up! We haven’t seen him since Season 3! Jon proudly declares that he and Tormund are allies and when the Lord of Bones starts to beat in on Tormund for being weak and submitting to southern rule, Tormund grabs his mace and beats him to death with it! Tormund is a badass.
Jon takes a seat with the elders of the Freefolk and acknowledges that while they’re not friends, he’s aware of what Mance was running from and they need to stand together. He gifts them some dragonglass as evidence that there are tools to kill White Walkers- if the Freefolk will come south and join them when the war begins.
The Freefolk are all, “Maybe, but we want to know what Mance thinks of this” and they’re rightfully ready to take Jon down when he admits that Mance died at his hands. Tormund steps up to the plate and defends Jon’s actions as defying his own “king” (lol, Stannis) and the two of them are like… evolved versions of their mentors. They’ve seen the wrong steps that each Jeor and Mance took and they’re rectifying it. It’s cute. The rest of the Freefolk must realize this too, because they’re immediately on board with whatever Tormund wants to do.
TORMUND! TORMUND! TORMUND! Even Wun Wun the last giant says Tormund.
The Thenn is like, “Fuck this noise,” and everyone shrugs because everyone fucking hates Thenns. And there are a couple of Freefolk that disagree and just leave but the majority of them start loading up on the boats like the Titanic is evacuating.
Tormund reassures Jon that the Freefolk that aren’t following him are just hangry and they’ll change their minds eventually, while Dolorous Edd flirts with Wun Wun a little bit- and the dogs outside start howling. Jon, knowing Ghost, immediately suspects something is off and the Freefolk turn to spot an avalanche coming their way.
Only, it’s not an avalanche. It’s a shit ton of wights running down the hill that started an avalanche. The Freefolk shut some of their own people outside the gates and they immediately go silent- and then the wights begin to attack the gate.
Cue the “They have a cavetroll!” as the Freefolk start defending the closed gates and other begin swimming themselves to the ships. The elder’s hut has some rumbling on the roof and wights begin spilling inside.
From here, it’s pretty brutal. There are some savage, relentless beat downs and lots and lots of stabbing. At the gate outside, the Freefolk are doing a decent job of defending the gate as a Thenn immediately takes down any crawlers and arrows are hitting any open patches. Jon tells his men to get the last of the boats on the ships before turning around to get him, choosing to help defend rather than escape. He, Tormund, and some Night’s Watch members arm up and move to help guard the gate, but it’s too late. They actually start working together though, which is the most important bit. As the Freefolk sees how fearless Jon is when he rushes to defend them, they cover him nicely with some arrows.
Jon then looks up to see the White Walkers observing the massacre from the top and panics when he realizes that the one weapon they have against the White Walkers is in the elder’s hut that is about to collapse. Wun Wun makes a grand entrance from the hut as he scrambles inside- with the Thenn of course.
The White Walker entrance music hits and Old Hippie White Walker comes out and immediately extinguishes any nearby flames. Hey, that’s a neat trick! The Now Friendly Thenn tells Jon to grab the daggers, but his axe is quickly rendered useless as the Old Hippie shatters it. The whole thing. Shattered.
Old Hippie White Walker then stabs the Thenn through the heart and we’re all confused because we fucking hated Thenns and then the Thenn wanted to play and… Anway. The White Walker then choses to fight Jon, knocks Longclaw out of his hand, and proceeds to shatter every other weapon Jon tries to pick up.
Jon finally gets his hands on Longclaw and there’s an OH SHIT moment for all parties when they realize that in addition to dragonglass, Valyrian steel is also dead useful against White Walkers. Jon promptly shatters the Old Hippie and the Night King is not pleased.
Despite Jon’s small victory, the rest of the Freefolk get slaughtered, including everyone’s For-One-Episode-Only character, Karsi, who for some reason gets very emotional whenever the subject of children is brought up and she’s murdered by a band of wight children even though she does a hell of a job swinging around perfectly fine before that. Whatever.
Then we get a ton of wights just flinging themselves off cliffs because they’re too lazy to walk around and they’re rather reanimate themselves when they hit the bottom. Hardhome is finally overrun and if a couple thousand Freefolk couldn’t defend themselves against the first wave of wights, it’s completely believable that the rest of Westeros will be obliterated in just one episode.
Tormund, Edd, Jon, and the rest of the survivors watch helplessly from the rowboats as the rest of the Freefolk on the shore are slaughtered. The Night King steps forward and pretty much immediately reanimates the people he just killed, raising his arms, and somewhat inviting Jon to bring it. It’s pretty much a “What now, bitch?” kind of move.
And these are fresh corpses, so they’re got scratches but they still look like people. It’s a jarring sight. Like when Raine saw JD for the first time post-bites. God, I’m so glad Jon burned Ygritte’s body so he didn’t have to look at it all growly. He definitely would have let her bite him.
Question, does Wun Wun actually get on a ship or do they like… tie a rope around him and tow him to where they need to go? Think about it.
On deck: 5.9 The Dance of Dragons