Game of Thrones‘s latest episode, “Hardhome,” begins with an uneasy silence. Similar silences followed through to the end of the episode. Sometimes, silence is far more effective than sound and fury.
The first half of this episode gets most of the politics and individual character drama out of the way for the melee that closes it. In the beginning, Tyron stands in front of Daenerys Targaryen, effectively selling her on a partnership. She is, naturally, uneasy in pursuing their alliance, yet he seems to sell her on it. The decision making point? What to do with Ser Jorah Mormont. Daenerys has said she will kill him if he shows again, so she asks Tyrion what to do. He soundly advises her, claiming that no one is more dedicated to Daenerys than Mormont, and tells her he cannot stand with her as she progresses. It isn’t good for a ruler to go back on her command. This leads Daenerys to banish Mormont from the kingdom. Later, after further conversing with Tyrion, she agrees to accept him as her advisor, setting into motion a power play for which fans have been screaming. Out of this agreement comes the fighting words about the endless cycle of King’s Landing rulers that will forever be associated with her character: “I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”
But the biggest sound in the episode comes not from this interaction but from the monstrous battle that closes it. Jon Snow returns to the titular Hardhome with Tormund, the red-bearded Wildling. Together, they convince many of the Wildlings to board boats bound for the great wall in order to flee the approaching hoard of White Walkers. Just as many are able to board the ships, a booming sound echoes in the distance. It is the White Walkers, of course, and their army of the dead.
Suddenly, Game of Thrones becomes second cousin to The Walking Dead. Or maybe Evil Dead. Whatever the analogy, there were a lot of skeletons and rotten corpses to fight.
Many Wildlings do not make it, including a mother (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen of Pitch Perfect 2‘s Das Sound Machine) who promised her children that she would follow them in the next boat. She was overtaken by a small band of skeletal children against whom she could not fight. Another eerie moment of silence happens when the Wildlings become separated on either side of their protective wall. Those trapped outside of the camp scream to be let it… until they stop. Even Jon Snow is nearly overtaken as he battles a White Walker. Fortunately for him, the White Walkers are extremely susceptible to Valerian steel. As Jon Snow sails away from Hardhome, what appears to be the chief White Walker watches him sail away in silence. Just before, that is, he raises the dead Wildlings and creates an even bigger army.
It was a breathless and thrilling twenty minutes.
Here are some of the other items that happened in the wildly unbalanced episode:
- Arya continues her training in the House of Black and White. It appears she’s apprenticing some bizarre form of roleplaying. More of the same “a man” and “a girl” stuff that’s plagued her for weeks now. Personally, I’m growing extremely tired of this storyline, and the only thing that can rescue it for me is a purpose.
- Cersei screams and writhes in agony in her cell. You know she’s tormented because her hair is a complete mess. Anyway, she is visited by her former advisor, informing her that her trial will be coming up soon. It is recommended that she confess to her crimes (all of which she actually did commit) to save her life, but she refuses. Later, a sadistic nun pours her drinking water on the floor. The image of Cersei drinking the spilt water from the ground was one of the more powerful of the night.
- In Winterfell, Sansa Stark confronted Reek about his betrayal. Reek tells her that he deserved everything that’s happened to him because of the boys he killed. After yelling and screaming at him, Sansa finds out Reek/Theon did not burn her brothers as originally thought. Meanwhile, the Boltons plan an attack on Stannis Baratheon’s army.
I loved the battle sequences nearly as much as I loved the dialogue between Daenerys and Tyrion. But the filler clearly had no interest to the creative team as it felt more like filler material. Those scenes aren’t the ones people will be talking about tomorrow.
They will all be discussing the White Walkers instead.