The fifth season of Game of Thrones’ eighth episode is serving the purpose typically covered by the ninth episode, where the shit hits the fan and for at least one group, one location, everything changes. This was a great episode all around though, some say the best the series has ever produced. I don’t know all about that but I do know some monumental things occurred this week, not the least of which was the long awaited meeting of Daenerys and Tyrion.
True, they first came face to face last week but this episode sees the “two terrible children of terrible fathers” have a sit down and hash out their few differences and many similarities. The good news? The Mother of Dragons takes on The Imp as her Adviser. The bad? Jorah is exiled for all his efforts to help Daenerys, finding herself still unable to forgive his betrayal. Mormont rejoins the pit fighters he previously abandoned to try to get back into Meereen. Tyrion tries to keep Dany grounded. Claiming she can do more good in Slaver’s Bay than Westeros, where “stopping the wheel of great families rolling over the common people” seems futile. But Daenerys has no plans to stop the wheel, she wants to break it.
Meanwhile Tyrion’s favorite sister Cersei continues to enjoy all the comforts of home in a King’s Landing dungeon, being denied water due to her refusal to confess, The Boltons plan an ambush for Stannis just as Sansa learns from Reek that Bran and Rickon aren’t really dead, and Arya’s training with the Faceless Men continues apace as she’s sent on a mission to poison a crooked land baron while posing as a fish monger.
The real meat and potatoes here though was Jon Snow’s continued Wildling adventures with enemy turned uneasy compatriot Tormund Giantsbane. They arrive at titular Wildling settlement HardHome and are immediately greeted by the Lord of Bones, who accuses Tormund of being a traitor for his dalliance with the Crows and gets beaten to death with his own stick for his disrespect. Snow and Giantsbane then make their case to the Wildling elders, laying out their offer of safety in the north and dragonglass weaponry to join forces against the coming storm of White Walkers. The majority of the Wildling families agree with the plan but a few remain unconvinced (head scars guy hears you, head scars guy don’t care), and just as the exodus begins in earnest we’re treated to that shit hitting the fan I mentioned earlier.
The White Walkers come and they come in full force before even a fraction of “King Crow’s” new Wildling allies can make it off the shore. This is a battle bigger than anything we’ve seen on the show so far. Hell, it rivals most epic fantasy films I can recall. Think the battle of Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings, only with snow zombies, and you have the idea. The sky teems with a wave of undead bodies, including disturbingly ragged children, similar to the monsoon of undead from World War Z. It’s truly remarkable and absolutely frightening to behold. Jon Snow takes on one of their leaders one on one after a futile attempt to retrieve the dragonglass from a burning hut, and discovers in the process that his Valyrian Steel blade is instant death for the Walkers. The hordes keep coming though and our heroes (including one of those awesome giants from the Wildlings’ assault on the Wall last season) barely escape with their lives. As they sail away the White King raises his arms and the Wildling dead snap back to (un)life with glowing blue eyes. A taunting show of strength to the young Lord Commander.
Did the Wildling extras look particularly badass and metal this week? That’s because three of the four members of Prog-Metal titans Mastodon were in attendance.
So how can the last two episodes of the season possibly live up to this? We can almost guarantee Stannis won’t make it to Winterfell by season’s end now, given that HBO probably blew their whole special effects wad for the year already. Maybe for next year too. Expect more Lannister intrigue and Meereen shenanigans in the coming weeks, and also whatever the hell’s going on in Dorne, but I don’t think we’ll be blown away like this again for a while, maybe ever. I think I’m going to go watch it again…