Tuesday, June 2, 2015

[Musings] Game of Thrones 5.8 "Hardhome"

Right. Right. I'm not even interested in the eighth episode of Game of Thrones, even though last week saw me being more positive. It's not really the show, though - it's just that there's so much stuff going on that I haven't had the opportunity to watch it.
Been trying to catch up with some of the books I'm reading, been tinkering a lot with my own stuff, been reading through the new, fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which I happen to think is by far the best version of the game produced. The books, while pricey, are of a very high standard, except for the horridly bad covers (sadly). I've always loved reading RPG books, particularly setting books, I like kind of immersing myself into a setting this way, and often I find some idea or concept that I can drag out, rebuild and use for my own stories or games. As I've mentioned before I really like reading non-fiction Forgotten Realms books, they are brimming with material. A lot of it too silly for my tastes, but there is also a lot of evocative material that gives me that good nostalgia feeling. Which is why I keep turning to Realms novels, hoping against hope that there are some actually good stories there, stories that paint the picture that the sourcebooks suggest. Last time it was R.A. Salvatore's The Companions, which I was not able to finish because it was so bad (and this book has sold in the millions, I can't get over that). The last week I've been reading an anthology of novels called Realms of Valor. It is as if the editors said to the authors, "Read all these books on writing, and don't follow any suggestions." That's how bad it is. While the stories vary in quality, the best is only barely managing to climb to the lowest tier on my fantasy novel ranking list. The worst is so bad it feels like pages are missing because the author is all over the place, lol. I better finish The Red Knight, a book that for the first half was a very promising title, but which is kind of slowing down to a point that I must force myself to open it before going to bed. Anyway, enough chit-chat, time for episode eight of Game of Thrones. "Hardhome." Oh. Jon Snow and stuff. Right. Not promising a lengthy review, just a few thoughts. A new re-read post should be forthcoming this week as well, given time and opportunity.

[One hour later.] Whoops. Totally forgot about this. Wrote a review of the new Paradise Lost album instead. Right. Game of Thrones. What surprises will it force upon my gentle soul today? I am curious, now that I think about it, about Tyrion and Dany meeting up. Book six material for sure. Sheeeet.

Oh wow, right to the matter. Good. I don't have to wait. The exposition here, for once, is clever, as it reminds viewers of Daenerys Targaryen's background. Tyrion also reminds us why he is useful to Dany, making it more believable - and also reminding us of Tyrion's stint at Hand of the King. While the sparks aren't exactly flying, they make it more interesting when Dany asks what he would do with the traitor Ser Jorah Mormont; Tyrion, being such a nice chap, at first tells her that nobody is as dedicated to her as him, but he did also betray her. Nice. I like this stuff. And so Jorah is sent away (again). I thought she was going to give him a fleet or something (to fulfill Connington's role) but all we get is a repeat of Ser Jorah's first dismissal? That's weird. Having him lead her army would a) keep him out of sight and yet b) keep her most loyal man in her service.

Next: Cersei! Hehe. In a prison cell. Comeuppance feels so good in this series. Oooh! A mad yelp. Is she cracking?

Arya selling clams, nice and quite true to the book. Cat of the Canals! I have to say I think they really nail the essence of Braavos, and Arya's story in general. I like this.Wow, Arya's got a creepy smile going on there when she's given a bottle o' poison to kill a gambler down in the harbor.

More Cersei. Qyburn! "Belief is so often the death of reason." High five! Ooh, Kevan has been summoned back. Why did they let him go in the first place if he's coming back? They could've had him in the very small council, if only for color. Cersei asks for Jaime, for Tommen...but Tommen doesn't want to see her...Cersei is desperate - but Qyburn promises a way out. Cersei is pretty angry with the High Sparrow, lol. She thinks Qyburn means that the way out is to confess, but as he leaves he says "the work continues" - the way out, of course, is UnGregor. Yay...I guess?

Theon Reek time! Sansa is sitting at a table doing nothing. Kind of weird. Reek says there "is no Theon". Sansa asks why he went to Ramsay. He says it was to help her - that if she tries to escape, she will suffer more. Alfie Allen so deserves awards. Sansa's "Good" to Theon's "I've been cut to pieces" is chilling. Whoops Theon is about to reveal he didn't kill Bran and Rickon...AND he reveals the truth! Wow. While the reveal comes off a little blunt, I do like that Sansa now knows / believes they were not killed. That will of course also help Sansa forgive, in some minor way perhaps, Theon when the time comes.

The Boltons plan in Winterfell's great hall. Again, the lighting is fantastic. Ramsay doesn't entirely agree with Roose. Ramsay wants to hit first, and leave "a feast for the crows". His father wants to stay safe inside Winterfell. Ramsay, however, only needs "twenty good men" to go north and meet Stannis and kill him. Wait. What? Whaaat? WHAT? Is that what we're getting in The Winds of Winter? Holy... well that was a revelation. Ramsay is going guerilla? How..how does this..why...fuck. Right.

Tyrion and Dany continue their expositional dialogue, now with wine in their hands. Tyrion certainly seems to have a better position now than he's had since season two. Maybe he's been rubbing his own head for luck. He's a little more boring now, though. But not as boring as the books. That's good. Come on, Tyrion, give us some wit. Oh, there's a little of it, but he's "not entirely joking", heh. Daenerys and Tyrion together. Wow, I never thought I'd see the day. And more exposition, but again, it works here as Tyrion actually needs to tell Dany stuff about the political situation as her advisor. But I really don't like the "wheel" metaphor. "Break the wheel"? What? Is she saying, like, "I'm going to abolish feudalism?"

Jorah goes back to his slave master and tells him he wants to fight in the Great Pit. Jorah really wants to get back in Dany's graces, so he goes to pick up the sword again. Right. Fair enough.

The big nun asks Cersei to confess. Cersei is her true self, spitting venom. I like it, I like that she doesn't immediately succumb to the horrors of being imprisoned and watching the nun empty her water on the floor. She does stoop - literally - to lap up the water, and weep. Boy has she fallen far.

Next! Sam the Slayer and Gilly the Whiner. Like many other viewers, I found last episode's almost-rape-turned-sexual-debut sequence unbelievable, but I didn't really ponder it until after reading other people's comments on the matter. The fellow playing Sam (I forget his name) also deserves some kind of award, by the way. Solid actor. Satin arrives, asks Sam about Lord Commander Jon Snow. He wonders why Jon goes to save wildlings when wildlings slaughtered his family. Sam tries to explain that wildlings are people. Oh, sorry. "Olly." Sam speaks of the army of the dead and the white walkers (yeah, where the hell are they anyway?). Sam admits that Jon is taking a risk, but that there is no other way. It's not a bad scene, really. "He always comes back," Sam says. Mmm.

Next: Jon Snow looking heroic as he and his wildling group comes rowin'. Nice panoramic effects shot. Is this where the band Mastodon are hanging out? Yeah. I spotted one. Hey, it's the good ol' Lord'o Bones. Nice tense scene between Jon, Tormund, and the Lord of Bones. Well, until Tormund can't handle the guy and kills him. Showing who's the boss! But .."Let's talk"? There's been enough talky talky, let's fuckin' rock.

Oh. Talk. Time for Jon to convince the wildlings to join him. And there's the giant. Cool. I'm just waiting for the scene to be finished, because I know what the scene is supposed to do. Oh, well. The scene gets some tension when Jon admits to putting an arrow through Mance Rayder's heart. Tormund defends JOn; nice. And there's this new (?) wildling woman who might end up filling some of the roles of Val and Dalla from the books, perhaps? I didn't catch a name. I like "King Crow" as a nickname for Jon Snow. Not everybody wants to join, however - the Thenns refuse Jon's offer of lands south of the Wall. But most join. All right. Get on with it! I guess since they built the set of Hardhome they want to let the camera linger a little on the people, the boats, the buildings. It does add atmosphere, of course. But it could have been more tense if we saw the army of the dead approach and they had to flee for their lives instead of just boarding the boats. There's a scene reminiscent of the attack on Rohan from The Two Towers. That woman sure gets her screen time.
Dolorous Edd has a moment with the giant (could it be Wun Tun Mun Sun or whatever he's called?) Hey, now, dogs start to bay. Haha, would you look at that, something is going on to give the leaving of Hardhome some tension, just as I wanted. Wildlings begin to run for their lives! Hehe. But what is it? A blizzard? Such fortuitous timing! A Thenn-se moment there, looking through a gap in the wooden palisade doors. What is going on outside? The army of the dead!! Hahaha. About fricking time. I'm reminded several more times of The Two Towers - people barricading themselves against monsters in both, I suppose. It seems that an arrow is enough to stop a dead guy, however, which takes away from the scariness a bit. They should've shown a couple of them ignoring being hit by arrows. Jon the Brave decides to join the fight instead of fleeing on a boat. And there's this scene between him and that wildling woman...suspicious. Jon raises his sword and calls for the Watch to move with him to the battle. I bet he wished he had Ghost at his side. How stupid is it that Ghost is never around Jon? Yup, that stupid.

Battle? More a slaughter. Some hideous CGI effects contrast sharply with the good costume and make-up designs. Mm. I really didn't expect such an intense, gory battle scene here. I love it. Say one thing about the show, say it's either all talk or all fight. Love the scene of the Others on their dead horses watching from the cliff heights! Why isn't the giant fighting? Where is he? Oh, there he is. And Game of Thrones becomes a bit more Lord of the Rings again. Lol at the giant stomping around, crushing the dead. The room where the dragonglass gifted by Jon - it's on fire. Oy, here comes Ol' Papa Other. The Thenn tries to fight him, while Jon gets the dragonglass! Holy shit. Jon has seen an Other! Holy shit, an Other has touched Jon and slung him across the room. How did it start burning anyway, and why is the building suddenly not on fire anymore? Did I miss it. Holier than holy shit! THe Other struck Jon with his ice-javelin and wounded him! Again, very Lord of the Ringish. replacing Other/Jon with Wight/Frodo! Why does the Other look more real now than he did before? And why can LONGCLAW shatter the Other like so many fucking ice cubes?!?!?! Darth Maul sighting again!! Geeboz what an episode. What the hell. Sorry. Well wow. Sad music being played too. The wildling woman certainly knows how to fight. Ooo spooky undead children. HER children!!! WOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAA? And she gets eaten alive!!!1 Holy SHIT people. This episode is really turning up the volume and giving me the FEELS. "Fuck the glass," is that all you can say, Dolorous?!!?!?! The undead just throw themselves over the cliff. Lol. But an arrow kills them. Desperate times for Jon indeed. Ooooy palisade wall gives in. Time to flee. Wun Wun! Tormund!  The dead! Okay, say what you will, I thought this was pretty intense and cool, if a little silly at times. My suspicions about the wildling woman were unfounded; they set her up to make her death more dramatic, s'all. So how are they going to get the giant on a small boat, lol. Nah, he stay back and smash undead. Nope, he's walking into the icy waters, with undead climbing him like annoying flies. The giant seems rather unaffected though. He just wades to a larger ship. Well let's hope she can hold such a massive guy.

But the Others...geez, I'm kind of disappointed they're just like army generals. But the one Jon shattered...is whole again? And giving Jon a pretty cold stare. As does the silly silly oh so silly looking Darth Maul Other. Man. MAN. Why am I watching this? The Others...underwhelming...but now Darth Other is raising his hands, is he working some magic, what the hellll.....oh. Yeah of course. He raises the fallen wildlings and black brothers to join his army, reminding everyone that by fighting them, they only grow stronger. I suppose that's a neat reminder. Boy, but now they really need to keep pushing the undead/Others as an actual threat and not just something we saw twenty episodes ago..perhaps...if you remember..huh? It's over?

Right. As you might surmise, the episode really took me by surprise and packed a punch. And I bet I'll be working harder to get to see episode nine the moment it's out next week! Best episode of the season, beating last week without breaking a sweat.

Was Jon actually hurt by the Other? I need to watch it again. But first things first: There are dishes to do, laundry to be dried, a turd to let loose upon the world, GoT tweets to read, and coffee to be drunk. Oh, and work and stuff. Wacked.

Score: I don't know, is this a niner?


  1. This episode had the same director as last episode. The final two episodes have the director that did the red wedding. Probably means the next two episodes are going to be solid as well!

  2. Interesting seeds for an eventual confrontation between the high septon and Dany. He clearly thinks the time before the Targaryen conquest was the glory days for the faith. She is clearly in alignment with the high septon's negative view of feudalism. Maybe they'll align, or better yet somehow avoid reflecting on their common goals and go at it.

  3. The Dany "wheel" speech has always reminded me of Henry VII blaming "overmighty" subjects for the war of roses. I would imagine it implies that she would put an end to individual houses having an army.

  4. Sorry if this is a repeat, but the wheel speech has always reminded me of Henry VII blaming the war of the roses on "overmighty" subjects. Henry went on to ensure no subject had wealth and armed forces that rivaled the crown.