Forget everything else that happened in the episode. I want to go straight to the end, the last twenty minutes of the episode where it was wall-to-wall dead versus the living.
It. Was. Awesome.
I have accepted that “Game of Thrones” can’t be all war, but man, when the fighting comes, it is all-in. Maybe it is because they keep the battles sparse – it makes the big ones all the more special. Whatever; that was an awesome, epic fight.
The last few episodes, I have really noticed GoT piling on the horror tropes. It seemed to culminate tonight in an orgy of Night of the Living Dead imagery. It was beautifully shot in the bleak tundra to look remarkably close to black & white. Of course, the skeletons punching through the walls was a very “They’re coming to get you Barbara” moment; but it also had some Army of Darkness feel, too.
Okay, I think I have calmed down. Let’s get back to the episode.
Daenerys meets with Jorah and Tyrion and inquires as to why she shouldn’t kill them. Tyrion is a good talker and convinces Daenerys not to kill Jorah. Killing those devoted to you does not inspire devotion in others. However, he also does not advocate Jorah remaining by her side. Jorah is expelled from the city. He returns to Yezzan and asks to fight for him before the queen, in the great pit. If he wins, he belongs to Yezzan.
Daenerys and Tyrion are discussing their potential team-up over lunch and wine. Both are wary, unsure why they should trust the other. They commiserate over being “terrible children from terrible fathers,” and Daenerys finally announces that she will not execute Tyrion; he will advise her. His first bit of advice is to think beyond the iron throne. “There is more to the world than Westeros.” He runs through the families, how none of them will back her, and many are so broken she shouldn’t want to partner with them. He points out that maybe she could get the Tyrells to align themselves with her, but even then it likely wouldn’t be enough. “They are just spokes on a wheel,” Daenerys says. “I don’t want to stop the wheel – I want to break it.”
Arya has taken her first step in the Game of Faces with Jaqen. She has created an alter-ego by the name of Lanna, an oyster vendor, who, on her daily route, sees an old man who may be cheating his clients. Pleased with her progress, Jaqen gives “Lanna” a gift for the old man: a vial of poison. The other, nameless girl doesn’t think she is ready. “It’s all the same to the Many Faced God,” Jaqen says.
Cersei, unsurprisingly, isn’t doing well in captivity. Unella is withholding water from Cersei until she confesses. Cersei won’t do it, so Unella pours her water on the floor. It is a classic moment, watching a dehydrated Cersei try to suck water off the dungeon floor. Qyburn visits with a number of upsetting updates for her. The charges against her include intercourse, treason, and incest; there has been no word yet on Jaime; Kevan has taken control of her small council; and Tommen has sealed himself away in his room and is refusing to eat. Cersei begs Qyburn to speak to Tommen, make him come visit, but Qyburn insists he has tried. He does suggest there is a way out. Cersei refuses to confess, but I suspect he is hinting at an escape route. Unella enters, putting a pin in their conversation.
Reek brings food to Sansa, who is locked in her room. She is furious with him and begs to know why he ratted her out. “There is no escape, not ever. Theon tried to escape, but the master knew. He knows everything,” Reek says, explaining Ramsay strapped him to a cross and cut away piece after piece until there was “no Theon left.” Sansa has no sympathy for him; in fact, if given the option, she would do the same to him. Because of him, her brothers are dead. Reek lets slip that it was not Bran and Rickon he killed; it was two farm boys. He couldn’t find the Stark boys so he killed the other two and burned their bodies so no one would know. Sansa is stunned, and Reek panics, realizing he has said too much.
The Boltons discuss Stannis’ troops. Roose is confident that they are prepared for a siege. Stannis’ men can’t get past their walls, so he wants to wait until they freeze and starve and mutiny; then it will be like taking candy from a baby. But Ramsay is bloodthirsty. He doesn’t want to wait; he wants to hit first, and hit hard. He is confident he doesn’t need an army, just twenty good men.
Olly brings some food to the injured Sam, and takes a moment to talk to him about Jon going to save the Wildlings. They slaughtered his entire village, so he has misgivings about joining forces with them. Sam assures him that the Wildlings are people like us, “some are good, some are bad.” Olly is worried about Jon, and Sam tells him Jon always comes back. Normally, that would be a death sentence for Jon, but he lives to fight another day – barely.
Jon and his brethren arrive in Hardhome, which is dense with Wildlings. Tormund approaches Rattleshirt, requesting the elders gather. Jon assures them Tormund is an ally; Rattleshirt proclaims Tormund is a traitor. Tormund beats him to death with his own staff. The elders finally gather and hear Jon out. He says their alliance is not about friendship; it is about survival. Together, they can beat the white walkers. He shows them the dragonglass daggers and promises them weapons and land to farm if they join him south of the wall. When asked about Mance, Jon admits he is dead by his own arrow. The wildlings start to riot, but Tormund stands up for Jon, explaining the death was one of mercy. He vouches for Jon. A woman named Karsi doesn’t trust a man in black, but she trusts Tormund – she’s in. Several others agree, but most do not.
Out on the docks, Jon and his men facilitate getting the wildlings into their boats. Approximately 5,000 are with them, but Jon worries they are leaving too many behind. Tormund is certain they will come around.
The dogs start barking, and Jon knows to listen to the dogs. It looks as if an avalanche is coming – it is a sea of snow. It is the army of the dead, the wights. As many wildlings as possible press into the gates of Hardhome, but many are left out to be swallowed up by the living dead. Those who can’t make it into boats try to swim for it. Jon stays to fight. He fights his way through the now-collapsed gates, trying to get to the dragonglass. He can’t quite get ahold of it and is cornered by a white walker. The walker defeats any weapon he throws up against him, until Jon gets his hands on the valyrian sword. That shatters the white walker neatly, but Jon is still badly injured. Karsi is set upon by a group of grotesque white walker children. Since she just sent her two daughters off in a boat, she cannot raise a sword to them. They destroy her.
Another wave of skeletons throw themselves off the cliff and surge towards the remaining humans. For a moment it appears as if the fall killed them – but you can’t kill the dead that easily. Edd collects Jon, who is vomiting, and tells him to forget the dragonglass, they are going to die if they don’t leave now. The Night’s King watches all this from above and takes note of Jon’s heroics. Jon, Edd, Tormund, and a few others make it into the boats and sail away as hundreds of wildlings are left on the shore, getting massacred. There is absolutely nothing Jon can do to help; they are overrun. Things quiet down as everyone on the shore is dead, and the Night’s King emerges, walking to the edge of the dock, eyes locked with Jon. He raises his arms slowly… the music gets darker… more intense… and those just killed wake, with the bright blue eyes of the dead. The Night’s King has an army now.
You can check out the promo for episode 5.09 of “Game of Thrones” in the player below. Titled “The Dance of Dragons,” the episode is officially described as follows:
“Stannis (Stephen Dillane) confronts a troubling decision. Jon (Kit Harington) returns to The Wall. Mace (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) visits the Iron Bank. Arya (Maisie Williams) encounters someone from her past. Dany (Emilia Clarke) reluctantly oversees a traditional celebration of athleticism.”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by David Nutter. “The Dance of Dragons” is set to air June 7. “Game of Thrones” airs Sunday at 9 P.M. EST on HBO.