Tuesday, June 02, 2015

It's Hard

Before I discuss the eighth episode of this year's Game Of Thrones, "Hardhome," let me note that season two of Halt And Catch Fire just debuted on AMC.  The show is about the computer industry in the 80s, and while it hoped to have the cachet of Mad Men, it was not treated well by the critics or the audience.  Yet, for all its frustrating stops and starts, I found the show interesting.  Season two has rebooted a few years ahead and it looks like this season will be even better.

"Hardhome." It's a village north of the Wall, and where much of the action takes place this hour. But we have to wait to get there.  Instead we start in the warmer climes of Meereen.  Last week, we had the long-awaited meeting of Daenerys and Tyrion (and from what I understand, it hasn't even happened in the books--the way his the story is expanding, I expect George R. R. Martin will finish his epic some time around 2030).  And this episode starts off with the continuation of that plot.

Jorah and Tyrion stand before the Queen, who only has Missandei at her side. It looks lonely.  Barristan is dead, Grey Worm is injured, Jorah is...well, you know.  For that matter, Daario is probably walking the streets, taking care of business, and who wants Hizdahr around any more than necessary?

Jorah would like to speak, but the Queen will not allow it.  Tyrion, on the other hand, has plenty to say. He's got to explain why he shouldn't be put to death, of course.  He notes he's killed more Lannisters than anyone.  And he jokes he's not sure if she deserves his service.  He explains how she might be a good queen, but she needs an advisor who understands leadership and Westeros.  Ahem.  As for Jorah, Tyrion advises some mercy--don't kill people who are hopelessly devoted to you.  But he can't be by her side, so he should be banished (or re-banished).  As Jorah is led out, I had to wonder if this was the last we'd see of him--he's dying, he's done his duty by bringing the Imp in, maybe that's all his character's got.

Back in King's Landing, Cersei's in her cell, being treated poorly by the...nun?  I don't know what they call the sisters in the Faith Militant, but they're tough cell-keeps--when you don't confess, they strike you with a ladle.  Is this how they treated Martha Stewart?

In Braavos, Arya has a new identity--Lana the Oyster Girl. She sells seashells by the seashore.  Looks like she's ready for an assignment.  Jaqen sends her to a new spot where she spots a guy selling insurance, or something like that, for sea voyages.  Apparently being an insurance salesman is enough of a crime to get you offered up to the many-faced god.  (Actually, I think he's an insurance salesman who never pays off--okay, kill him.)  Jaqen gives Arya some poison to do the deed, even though the other girl at the House of Black and White doesn't think she's ready.  Jealous, much?  While walking away, Arya smiles like it's an episode of Homeland.

Back in Cersei's cell, she gets a visitor. About time.  It turns out to be Qyburn.  Took me a while to recognize him. He was a nobody and she made him a somebody, so why can't he help her?  All he can tell her is the news: Tommen is a pantywaist who weeps in his chambers and Kevan Lannister has returned to be the Hand thanks to Pycelle's invitation.  (Tyrion should have killed the wily Grand Maeseter when he had the chance.). She's charged with fornication, treason, incest and murder.  She calls them lies. Ha.  He also explains the level of proof required by the Faith Militant is not the same level required by the regular court system. (I'm fighting the urge to compare this to certain activities going on today.) Qyburn suggests confession might be the best way out, but Cersei won't have it.

At Winterfell, Theon/Reek still serves Sansa.  She wants to know why he told Ramsay about her plans (clearing up my confusion last week about who did what).  Theon explains there's no escape, as he found out.  Sansa says she's glad Ramsay tortured him. Theon let's slip that he didn't actually kill Bran and Rickon.  Wow!  So there's a sliver of hope for Sansa, though I'm not sure what she'll do with this info.  Send Brienne on another quest?

Downstairs, Roose and Ramsay discuss strategy.  So Roose has been in Winterfell all along?  Why does he allow a valuable asset like Sansa to be treated so poorly? Roose doesn't fear Stannis.  His army can barely make it through the snow, while Winterfell has enough provisions for six months.  They can withstand a siege.  Ramsay says let him take some men to attack and show the North what they can do.  Sounds foolhardy to me, but why would he mention it unless it's going to happen? Not sure what this will lead to, but I guess we'll see some action before the season is out.  (If Ramsay dies, and everyone wants that, it's far from clear who'll do it. Sansa?  Stannis?  Davos?  Brienne? Roose?  I still think it'll be Reek, somehow.)

Back at Meereen, Dany sits at a table with Tyrion, who finally gets some wine. (Too much--Dany has to stop him.) Dany must feel pretty comfortable with him, since there are no guards.  Doesn't she know he's a killer? They have a nice talk. We like these characters so much we don't need to have any action in this scene.  Just an hour of them talking would be fine with me.

He's as smooth as always.  She's not bad either, though Dany has become a bit high-handed--do we need the Imp to dial down her imperiousness?  They talk about their pasts--terrible children of terrible fathers.  He mentions Varys.  (And just what has become of the Spider.  Is he still searching for Tyrion?  Has he gone on to Meereen?  Does he dare go back to King's Landing?  Have we seen the last of him?)  Varys had Dany spied on, but he's also the guy who sees greatness in her.  She decides not to kill Tyrion.  Finally, she'll have an advisor she's taller than.  His first bit of advice is asking why bother with Westeros--why not stick in Meereen?  Nope, her home is Westeros.  But she'll need the support of the people.  Here is where she makes her speech we've been waiting for all season--the wheel spinning around, with great families each getting their moment on top.  She's not going to stop the wheel, she's going to break it.  Good luck, sister.

Now we see Jorah.  Yay! He returns to a fighting pit and tells the master he struck last episode that he wants to do battle in the Great Pit, in front of the Queen.  Is it one last hurrah, or does he have some other plan?  Whatever, it seems he wants to go out big.

Cersei, meanwhile, still won't confess.  She's full of hatred, but has to lick the floor of her cell to get water.  Is she breaking down, or getting ready to unleash revenge?

At the Wall, Gilly attends to the injured Sam.  Olly comes in and wants to know why Jon Snow is making peace with the people who savaged his village.  Sam tries to explain that sometimes you have to do what's right, even if others disagree.  Sounds like wise advice, but the way this speech is put, it suggests Olly is going to do something to Jon that we may not agree with.

Now we cut to the main action of the hour. I have to admit I had trouble following some of it, and had to watch it twice (and read some stuff on the internet) to make it clearer.

Jon and Tormund lead the expedition to Hardhome, where they're met with skepticism.  Enough from the Lord Of Bones for Tormund to beat him to death.  Okay, now let's meet with the village elders.

Jon makes a good case.  We're not friends, and we won't forget our dead, but this is about survival.  We'll let you live south of the Wall as long as you fight with us against the White Walkers.  He even gives them some dragonglass.  He does make an odd point when he notes he killed Mance--Tormund has to step in to say it's an act of mercy before they kill Snow.  Dramatic, but stupid.  Anyway, some are convinced, but because of Tormund's support as much as anything else.  Of course, plenty don't agree, especially those nasty Thenns.

So a lot of the Free Folk start to leave, and it would seem that's the episode.  There's plenty left to do in the next two hours.  But then we get what has been promised since literally the first few minutes of the show--a full-on battle with the White Walkers.  The ships are loading (including one of the female leaders of the village who's sending her kids on first) when there's a rumble in the distance, and snow rising.  The zombies start rushing at the people.  The gates of the village are closed, leaving those outside to be slaughtered, but they undead keep on coming, forcing themselves in, as the White Walkers on horses watch from above.

Mayhem.  Tormund and Snow and a bunch of Crows rush back into the battles, and one of the fancy White Walkers battles inside the gates as Snow tried to retrieve his dragon glass. No luck, but Snow swipes at him with his sword and he disintegrates, just like the Walker did when Samwell attacked him.  I wasn't sure why, but I've gleaned from the internet that it's because his sword, Longclaw, was made of Valyrian steel, which apparently has magical qualities.  Brienne has Jaime's sword, made of such steel, as did Joffrey. I assume this will play a part in future episodes. (Actually, it's not clear how to kill these undead. I think they can be burned, and dragonglass as well as Valyrian steel seems to do the trick.  Doesn't sound that hard to get them, actually.)

There's a pause in the battle, then from the mountains above tons of skeleton-zombies jump to the ground, take a second to compose themselves, and start rushing onward.  The women (I know she has a name but I didn't catch it) sees a bunch of kid zombies and is frozen.  They attack and kill her.

Tormund and Snow run to the last ship and tell the oarsman to start rowing.  As they leave, the White Walker known, apparently, as the Night's King, stands on the shore, glaring at Snow.  Then, in the coolest moment of the show, he lifts his arms and the dead arise, now part of his army. And that's where we leave the hour.  Not even any music to play us out.

A great ending, not just for the fight. In fact, the big fights are usually my least favorite part of this show. But I like how unexpected it was. Usually, we get the big battle in the ninth episode, and this one came on us, unexpectedly, like it did to Snow.  Also, we have literally been waiting since the first few minutes of Game Of Thrones to see such a battle, and we finally get it.  Too bad Snow and Tormund were the only significant characters to see it.  It puts things in perspective--all the silly battles to take the Iron Throne don't matter next to this.  If whoever rules doesn't recognize what the real problem is, then all is for naught.

With so much action north of the Wall, there was a lot left out this episode--not that it was missed.  There was no Jaime or Bronn or anyone in Dorne. (Very little has happened in Dorne.  This entire season's venture there has, so far, amounted to almost nothing.) No Brienne, who apparently still waits for a signal.  No Varys.  No Stannis, still mired in the snow, apparently.  Even King's Landing was fairly barren, with no High Sparrow, no Olenna, no Margaery, no Tommen, no Loras, no Kevan, no nothing but Cersei's cell.

And so with only two hours left, the outline of what must be done is becoming clear.  At the Wall, Jon has to return and deal with what looks like a mutiny, as the Free Folk try to fit in.  At Winterfell, Stannis and the Boltons will somehow have to face off, no doubt with Sansa, Theon and probably Brienne involved.  In King's Landing, the Faith Militant is in charge, but will it be taken down? Are Margaery and Loras finished.  Above all, what will Cersei do? (And with no one in charge at King's Landing, who will fill the vacuum.  Kevan?  Pycelle?  Qyburn?  If only Stannis knew what was happening.)

Out east, in Braavos, Arya (or whatever her name is) in finally on the move.  I expect she'll get her first kill before too soon--the question is will she ever come back to Westeros. (For that matter, now that Sansa knows about Bran and Rickon, will there be a search for them?)  Then in Meereen, we've got the big fight coming up.  Everyone will be there, and I get the feeling not everyone will make it out alive.  For that matter, will Dany's dragons ever get out of the dungeon.  I'm certain we'll at least see Drogon come back.

But even though we've got expectations, with the mandatory "big battle" behind us, the future is fairly open.  And that's how I like it.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems to need to be made clear in every post discussing this episode:The White Walkers are the blue guys. The Wights are the gray/black zombie creatures who make up the White Walkers' army.

4:16 AM, June 02, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I apologize for this confusion, but the show hasn't been clear on the distinction, so neither am I. The show isn't clear on many aspect of their lives, or un-lives.

In fact, I wonder why Jon Snow didn't just turn the boat around, step up on the dock and slice the Night's King to pieces, ending the war right there.

9:18 AM, June 02, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point- But that trick only works on the big guys- he would have to have cut his way through the murderous dead to get to him and they need to superkilled not just touched

12:53 PM, June 02, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have only seen the "Night's King" name in the comments- where was it spoken in the show?

12:54 PM, June 02, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Purely speculating- I know nothing actually

I'm thinking maybe the White Walkers have some sort of energy which enables them to use formerly living things as their instruments and appendages. That's why only one could fight- the rest were back on their[dead] horses powering up.

12:59 PM, June 02, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry last one- I think I have seen the Wildlings' winter camo wear at Cabela's

1:00 PM, June 02, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I don't believe "Night's King" has been mentioned on the show. I got it from the internet. I would guess the character is in the books, and fans assume it's the same guy on the TV show.

1:18 PM, June 02, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ramsay can't do anything against Stannis with 20 guys and knows it. He needs those guys to turn on his dad, or at least his dad's wife Walda, taking out any competition for the inheritance of Winterfell.

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