Anyhow this episode opened up with Daenerys trying to decide what to do with Tyrion and Jorah. She wonders openly as to why she shouldn't just kill them both. Tyrion being Tyrion snarks that it's too early for him to decide if Daenerys would be a good ruler or not but he is impressed and intrigued that someone who was sold to a warlord as a wife and later lost her husband has managed to rise to a position of power and leadership. However as Tyrion sees it she needs an adviser like him because of his intelligence and political acumen. As a test Daenerys asks Tyrion what would he do with Jorah. After all she did order Jorah not to return on pain of death. Who will take her seriously if she doesn't follow through. Tyrion agrees that keeping your word is important. But it's also important to inspire devotion. You can't do that if you kill a man who is obviously devoted to you and also in love with you. Tyrion counsels exile. So once again Jorah is banished. Only this time he has greyscale. Life is just not working out for Mr. Mormont. But a man will do anything for love. Jorah sells himself back into slavery for the chance to fight in the pits and once again sneak back on Daenerys' radar. A faint heart never won a fair lady. But then again this lady has dragons. She's denied Jorah twice already. I hope Jorah knows what he's doing. Two's company but three's a crowd. Now that Jorah is out of the picture Daenerys and Tyrion relax and share guarded stories about their fathers, or in Daenerys' case stories she's heard about her father as she never knew him. Tyrion cautions her that it might not necessarily be a good idea for her to invade Westeros as Daenerys has no base of support. Why not just stay in Meereen? Daenerys says the common people of Westeros will support her. Politely declining to inform her that she might be a tad deluded on that front, Tyrion points out that none of the leading families of Westeros will rally to her banners. It's not in their interest. Politics in Westeros is just a spinning wheel that goes around and around and around. Daenerys gives her "I will break the wheel" speech. Daenerys doesn't lack for confidence, that's for sure.
In Braavos, Arya has received her first formal undercover mission from Jaqen H'ghar despite the worries of the other woman that Arya is not ready. Arya is to pose as a seller of fresh oysters so that she can watch and interact with a corrupt merchant/insurance agent. This man has accepted premiums for life insurance contracts for ship captains but has refused to pay the policy to the family of a deceased captain. Once she gets the man's trust, Arya is to poison him. In King's Landing Cersei, like Margaery ,is stripped of gowns and robes and shoes. She resides in a filthy cell where a large septa urges her to confess her crimes. Cersei is not about to do that and as a result gets smacked around and denied water. Qyburn visits Cersei. He confirms that she will be tried for murder, treason, adultery and incest. He warns Cersei that the Faith is not really bound by enlightenment era standards of proof. Qyburn tells Cersei that King Tommen is depressed and inactive. He refuses to see anyone. There's no news from Dorne. Pycelle has called Kevan Lannister back to be the Hand. But so far Kevan has refused to interfere. Qyburn obliquely suggests that confession might be the smart move here. He also lets her know that his secret project is continuing. Cersei still refuses to confess anything. She still sneers about the horrible acts of revenge she will order upon all those who have wronged her. But she is so thirsty that she will drink from the cracks in the floor. My how the mighty are fallen.
Up North, Sansa, with as much contempt as she can muster in her current condition wants to know why
As Gilly tends to Sam's wounds, Olly enters to talk to Sam. Olly can't accept that Lord Commander Snow is trying to make peace with the wildlings. Again, remember that Ygritte and her group murdered Olly's parents and his entire village. Olly doesn't want to trust or ally with such people. Sam says that he trusts Jon. Sometimes a man must do difficult things for the greater good. Olly appears unmoved by Sam's rock solid faith in Jon. Speaking of Jon, he and Tormund along with a small group of wildlings and Night's Watch men have arrived at Hardhome. They don't exactly receive a warm welcome. Everyone is confused to see that neither Jon nor Tormund is a prisoner of the other. Let's not forget that just as the Night's Watch has lost people fighting the wildlings or Free Folk as they call themselves, so has the Free Folk. The wildling leader Rattleshirt is particularly unimpressed with Jon's plan to move the wildlings onto the ships and south of the Wall. He vehemently expresses his disdain to both Jon and Tormund in the most profane of ways. However he evidently crosses the line when he casts aspersions on Tormund's sexuality. Tormund grabs Rattleshirt's staff and beats him over the head with it until Rattleshirt lies on the ground, bleeding and unmoving. That's always a clear way to settle disputes.
The other wildling leaders are careful not to suggest anything untoward about Tormund,(they don't want to end up bleeding on the ground) but they will not easily let go of their hatred and distrust of the Night's Watch. This is amplified when Jon, in typical blunt Stark fashion, casually reveals that he killed Mance Rayder without also pointing out that it was an act of mercy. It's up to Tormund to do that. People still don't trust or like Jon or his people but if Tormund says Jon is okay they will trust Tormund. They are however still a little worried about what happens if they get on the ships but Jon doesn't make it. Will the Night's Watch still honor his commitment? Jon says all those concerns can be addressed later but right now they have to move. He shares the dragonglass (obsidian) and explains how it can be used. The Thenn leader and a few others still refuse to trust Jon or leave but most of the other wildlings start to make preparations to depart. But just as they do in what I thought was the episode's best scene, cliched though it was, the guard dogs start to give off frantic warnings. Winter really is coming. From the hills overlooking Hardhome, cold and mists and snow start to flow down to the camp. Everyone knows what that means. People redouble their efforts to leave but for many of them it will be too late.
There's an attack by the wights. The humans close the gate to the camp but there are so many wights that a wooden gate won't hold them for long. They tunnel below the wall or climb over it. Ultimately they force it down through sheer force of numbers. A desperate battle breaks out. But it's all very chaotic. There are no battle lines or anything like that. It's just the dead vs. the living. Things are starting to look grim. When Jon sees the White Walkers looking down on the melee he decides that now might be a good time to go get the dragonglass. He's assisted by the Thenn leader who doubted him before. But they are prevented from reaching their goal by a White Walker. As you might expect this creature is inhumanly fast. The Thenn's sword shatters on the White Walker's ice spear. The White Walker kills the Thenn. Now it's Jon's turn to dance. He can't match the White Walker's speed. However once he regains his sword Longclaw he's able to parry his opponent's blows. Longclaw does not shatter. There might be just a hint of surprise in the creature's cold blue eyes. You may get yours but brother don't let me get mine. Jon's strike hits home. The White Walker explodes into a million pieces of ice. Valyrian Steel. Never leave home without it. The White Walker Night King orders his entire wight army into the battle. There is no way for the humans to stay and fight any longer. It's the get to the choppa moment. As Jon and team are rowing away to the ships, the Night King saunters to the edge of the water and seems to rest his gaze on Jon. If he were human you might even think he was smirking. Never taking his eyes off Jon, the Night King casually spreads his arms and slowly raises them. All of the dead suddenly open their eyes (now solid blue) and rise from the ground, wildling and Night's Watch alike. There is no sound. It's a very creepy and effective end to the episode.
What I liked
- The battle at Hardhome was not as epic as the Battle of The Blackwater but felt just as desperate. Well done.
- The reveal that Valyrian Steel is unaffected by the White Walker's nature.
- The meeting between Daenerys and Tyrion. Daenerys is still naive about Westeros but has matured enough to know she needs advisers.
- Olly seeking out someone else he knew and trusted to share his misgivings about Jon's course of action.
- That I knew the wildling mother/leader was going to die as soon as she told her children she'd be on the next boat behind them.