Show: Game of Thrones
Watched: Episode 48 – May 31, 2015
Summary: Zombie attack!
NOTE: SERIOUS SPOILER WARNING. This review/discussion contains tons of spoilers about the episode and even ones crossing over from the books. It’s really my free-for-all musing given all the information at my disposal.
Dany – entertains Ty and Jorah in you guessed it, her favorite, the throne room. And thus begins some first rate work by the ever excellent Mr. Dinklage. Dany is trying to tease out this new opportunity. A chance to string up an enemy? Or, as he offers, a new advisor to fill the roll vacated by Barristan and Jorah (even if he is in the room). Having perked up from his post murder funk, launches into an enthusiastic self sell. Dany puts him in the difficult spot of advising on what to do with Jorah (right in front of him) and Ty, using that perceptivity he (and the writers) are well known for, does what he does best, telling the truth as he sees it. He sings Jorah’s praises at the same time convincing Dany that she out to exile the poor guy again. So for a second time the (newly) old bear is given the boot and stuck back on the original GRRM track. He notes his grayscaled arm, decides he has little to lose, and marches right over to the gladiator boss to sell himself as the new great pit champion. Why he thinks showing off in the arena will win Dany back is anyone’s guess, or maybe he just hopes to die fighting where he can make her feel guilty.
Meanwhile, Ty and Dany sup in her second favorite set, the bedroom. Ty, long deprived of his favorite beverage pounds back the wine They bond over they’re shared shitty fathers. Tyrion does an amazing job with his little speeches and comes off perceptive as usual. Dany feels a bit more like the innocent girl. He talks about the different houses, weighing this one and that for what advantage it might yield her, and she retorts with her “I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break it” line that we’ve heard 1000 times on the previews. Interesting how these quotes are almost always in a slightly different context in the show itself. But Ty does his job and she takes him on as advisor, although not without getting a good joke in (about his drinking).
This dining scene was one of those awesome typically GOT banter scenes that rocked, much like Ty and Varys, or Olena and Tywin, etc.
Arya – is in the House of Black & White practicing her lies. Jaqen watches, switch in hand, ready to whack her at the slightest crack in her story. She imagines “Lanna” (Cat of the Canals in the books) as an orphan girl selling oysters and the like. The way in which Arya’s story segues into the visual coverage of her new roll though felt a bit odd for GOT. Was the first clip on the streets something that happened — flashbacks being very rare in the show — or her imagination of how it might happen. This POV inconsistency jolted me out of the moment, as much as I enjoyed seeing “Lanna” in her new outfit and hair. Her smile even seemed like a different girls, coming more freely then Arya’s mischievous smirk. Anyway, Jaqen steers her to the fish market and to what appears to be a cold-hearted naval insurance salesman with a taste for oysters. She is told to further investigate and given a Nameless God special brew for the guy. The jealously angle with the blonde initiate comes up again as she complains to Jaqen that Arya isn’t ready.
In not entirely clear on the role of the temple here — other than in setting up this guy’s death, which is obvious. Did one of his wronged customers pay them to knock him off? Is it an assassination business? Or is there a justice component? But regardless, even at 2-3 minutes, this was a fun little bit of Arya time.
Cersei – Is not loving the dungeon time. The obnoxious Septa Unella has a simple but effective torture method of holding out water and demanding she confess. Loving Cersei getting a taste of the bad life. Eventually, Qyburn is admitted as a guest. We haven’t seen him in a while but he remains the only one strongly in the ex-queen’s camp and proceeds to info dump the goings on in King’s Landing so we can save the minutes and the money for the big zombie battle to come. Apparently Tommen is sulking in his room and not eating and Pycelle has summoned Kevan back from Casterly Rock to serve as hand of the king. Qyburn hints that Cersei should consider confessing to buy her freedom. He for one agrees with Karl Marx, faith is the death of reason. Cersei, however, hasn’t hit rock bottom yet.
Then Septa Unella gets back to withholding water again and she slips a few notches down. Her pride holds while the giant woman stays in the room, but she isn’t too proud afterward to lick the water from the filthy floor.
I still am not totally sold on this takeover by the faith of the normal apparatus of power. Yes, this kind of thing has happened historically, but it requires a complex infiltration of the fanatical in said power structure. The normal mode of this is that established rulers would surrender individuals at the second tier of power to the church in order to appease the fanatics and avoid excommunication and other political/social nastiness that the church hierarchy threatened. I can’t think of a scenario where (two) reigning queen(s) were imprisoned against the wishes of the king. But there are limits to showing this kind of religious fear in a the context of a show, particularly one with other focuses.
Sam and Gilly – continue to bond as works some salve onto his wounds. He asks how she is after their bone in encounter, and while she deflects his question, it’s a sweet evasion. Then Olly interrupts to help remind the viewers as to the purpose of Jon’s mission and the fact that he hates the wildlings because they ate his parents. Sam does a good job with the defense and I can’t tell if Olly has turned the corner or is being set up as a major ringleader in the et tu brute action that is to come.
Sansa – puts the emotional/verbal flaying knife to Theon next time he brings her dinner. She asks him why he did it, and she lays into him. Reek, for his part has sufficient self-loathing, and lays it bare, which lets him slip out the important little fact that the boys he burned weren’t actually Bran and Rickon. Uh, oh, bad Ramsay wouldn’t like Sansa knowing that little factoid.
But the Boltons – are busy downstairs plotting their defenses against Stannis’ invasion. He has cavalry, but they have tall walls. Ramsay isn’t one for sitting around waiting and suggests that if dad gives him 20 good men he might take the fight to the enemy (and leave a Feast for the Crows in an obvious book nod).
Jon – finally heads to Hardhome. I like that instead of making this a “Hardhome” only episode (like Blackwater or The Watchers on the Wall), the battle is essentially the second half. Anyway, Jon, Tormund, Edd, etc row into Hardhome. In the background is an armada of CGI ships and their destination is a giant glacier-front resort. The show pulls out the big bucks from the get go and really shows off the scope both in terms of extras and the vast CGI host.
The Wildlings for their part look on grimly as the party disembarks and the Lord of Bones marches up to provide a bit of opposition to the idea of getting together for a friendly chitchat. Tormund reacts to this, and importantly a personal insult, by literally beating the life out of the man. This serves the dual purpose of moving them along to their goal and of putting the Lord of Bones right back where GRRM had him (in the grave). Now some might say this is gratuitous writing, but really it isn’t so off from medieval Danish warrior code (aka Viking).
Speaking of Vikings, the big wooden building the pow wow moves into looks right off the set of that other less fantastical show. Inside are the “elders” including show invention “Karsi”, tough Wildling woman, a big Thenn, the remaining giant, and the like. Jon intros himself and like Tyrion early does a sales pitch. For Jon, he does a pretty good job of it. He and Tormund tag team back and forth selling the move south of the wall as the Wildling’s only chance at survival and the rest of humanities best bet at defeating the dead. Jon hands them over the dragon glass daggers from last week as a gift and confesses to killing Mance. At first this goes over badly, but Tormund leaps in with a save. Eventually, the woman comes over to their side, then the giant, leaving only the Thenn to balk. Well, apparently Karsi “fucking hates Thenns” too.
So about half the Wildlings load up on the army of CGI boats and start off for the bigger CGI boats in the distance. Karsi has a couple little girls that she packs off too, laying on the emotional baggage (uh oh for her).
Then the dogs start barking. If you’re living in a movie/show/book with monsters, get really worried when the dogs start barking.
A storm, or an avalanche, or who knows what form of white graphics is boiling over the far glaciers and pouring toward them. People start to rush the boats, the big Thenn slams the stockade gates shut, locking out hundreds of Wildlings who scream and cry then suddenly vanish. He peers through into the storm to be shocked by — surprise! — the undead! And so begins TV’s most epic zombie attack. Frantically, zombies hurl themselves at, through, over, and under the walls. Jon, Torund, the Thenn, Karsi, etc all hustle to the fight.
What ensures is quite the epic battle, if a tad divorced from the political maneuvering that often dominates the show. World War Z combined with Dead Alive! Inside the Viking hut the giant and Edd fight another wave that pours through the ceiling. The shots of the giant pulling the skeletons off himself and stomping them, then bursting through the walls and stomping some more are totally awesome. Karsi slays, slays, then is finally confronted with a wall of the creepiest kid zombies ever, they overwhelm her physically and emotionally.
Up on the ridge line above stand the White Walkers on their dread steeds (my WOW Warlock has one of these!)
The Thenn and Jon go back into the hut after the dragon glass, but a White Walker joins the fray. After a bit of valiant effort, the Thenn crosses weapons with the creature and has his shattered by the cold, then is speared himself. Thus the principal that White Walker weapons can freeze and shatter normal ones is established. Jon looses his own sword, Longclaw, and spends a bunch of time dodging and bending away from the walker. Finally he grabs back his sword and blocks a blow — but it doesn’t freeze! As we know from the “previously on”, Longclaw is Valayrian steel. Apparently good stuff to have when fighting White Walkers because Jon slashes into the monster and HE shatters. So now in the show, two things do that, obsidian and Valayrian steel. I doubt that will be the case in the books, but who knows? (GRRM)
The Night’s King (that Walker with the icicle crowns on his head) glowers down at Jon and calls forth his signature move. A new army of zombies pours over the cliffs like water (or WWZ) to fall still below, then rise again. Very effective both for the Walkers and as a theatrical move. They just swarm the camp and anyone not on a boat heads toward one at full speed or ends up hacked, bitten, or clawed to death. The giant grabs up a huge burning pole and plays zombie cricket. Then covered in the creatures wades into the bay, which is a pretty great shot. Jon, Tormund and Edd manage to get on the last boat (good) thing and row out into the water. Seems zombies and Walkers aren’t much for swimming, but the Night’s King strolls out onto the docks, raises his hands, and in terrifying silence raises all the dead.
All in all, a pretty awesome episode. We have Arya, Cersei getting the shaft, Tyrion at his best, and then the ultimate TV zombie fest. Sure, the giant scale of the attack distances it a bit from the more intimate creepy of a scene like the one where Sam killed the Walker. That big action scene operates on a different vibe than the more personal or political scenes. Still, it’s an element that has always been a part of the show, all the way back to the very first scene of episode 1.
One of the most exciting hours this year!
HBO’s official inside the episode videos: