Game of Thrones Review: Sn5ep8 Hardhome
The greatest hero of last night’s Game of Thrones episode Hardhome is not a human being.
Nor is it a giant, dragon, white walker or magically-summoned spirit.
The episode’s greatest hero is a sword.
If there are two things we’ve learned from nearly five full seasons of watching Jon Snow’s emergence not only the show’s most handsome character but also its most morally intriguing, it’s that A: the last season’s bitterest enemies usually become the current season’s most unlikely allies, and B: though he probably should have died long ago, Jon’s limitless channeling of insane heroic courage are what’s keeping the show’s dramatic reputation alive.
That—and Longclaw, Jon’s sword made of Valyrian steel.
Seriously, Jon deserves a medal just for sharing a tent with the Thenns, who just last season were found making leisurely detours to roast entire farm villages to ravenously feast on. Yes, Styr, we haven’t forgotten how “meat is so much better south of the wall.”
Hardhome is sure to go down as not only one of the best episodes of the season, but of the series as a whole. Tyrion and Daenerys toast their new alliance, nay—companionship, with a glass of wine; Arya cements her status as nobody; and Cersei drinks mud from the dirty concrete floor of a jail cell.
What’s not to like?
For perhaps the first time this season there was enough actual drama to make the dedicated viewer’s heart pound. We know Jon Snow is unlikely to die in the series, but isn’t that what made Ned Stark’s death all the way back in season 1 so genuine? GOT is a show notorious for sacrificing even its most beloved characters, and Jon’s fate in the book series is left unexplained as of now…
The vast, sprawling battle scene at the wildling fishing village that gives the episode its name supposedly took HBO weeks to film; it came as little surprise, however, considering a promotional video released before the season began showcased a battle scene between a combatant wielding a sword made of ice (ie., only White Walkers) and one wielding a two-handed battle axe, a weapon typical of Wildlings.
Unable to damage the White Walker that had descended along with the wight minions with ordinary steel swords that break on contact with the ancient Northern race, Jon prolongs the climactic battle, searching for Dragonglass, the only known material with the ability to harm and kill a White Walker. The search is futile, however; Jon, ready to face his death but still resolutely believing himself capable of “giving the fuckers a fight,” strikes the Walker with Longclaw, made of Valerian steel, his eyes as bright as the Walker’s own blue ones when the sword remains solid and instantly kills the mortal Walker, Jon’s superior swordsmanship never in doubt.
Like The Rains of Castamere and The Lion and the Rose before it, Hardhome is sure to go down as an episode that will define not only this season, but the ones coming after it. We finally get an extended glimpse of The Night’s King, the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who now rules as the king of the White Walkers in the Lands of Always Winter.
Though he’s yet to speak a word, the Night’s King is acknowledged as the true “villain” of the show, the ultimate threat to the people of both Westeros and Essos. The emigration of the White Walkers south is the cataclysmic apocalypse foreshadowed and forewarned from the first episodes of the show; while the Lannisters and Baratheons wage wars south of the wall, weakening all, the true danger is the one no one wants to believe—and it’s coming, coming soon.
We’ve finally arrived at the moment we’ve all been waiting for, GOT fanatics, when we can no longer say Winter is Coming.
Winter is here.