Wow. After a couple of down weeks, Game of Thrones rebounded in a big way with ‘Hardhome’. We had our much anticipated Tyrion and Dany banter, Arya’s faceless man training, and of course, the battle in the North.
We all know that Game of Thrones central conceit has thusfar been, “Things can always get worse”. The last two weeks we saw a creepy, extremely devious, and mustachioed young man in love with his niece, as well as a religious fanatic, take the top spot. This week, we will get our first champion born into a major house: The House Stark. That’s right, emerging out of the fighting pits is…
1) The Night’s King (Last Week, Irrelevant)
Technically, we aren’t supposed to know his name. But our man the Night’s King, complete with his icy thorn-in-head crown, ruled this week. Despite saying nothing (as Walkers do), he added a whole new layer to his army with Wildling Warriors and Crows, doing it all with his powerful, straight-outta-Bollywood arm raise.
A little background is probably necessary. The last time we saw the King, he was giving a Craster baby some dope blue eyes. But who is this mysterious ice creature? According to the Game of Thrones Wiki,
“Night’s King lived during the Age of Heroes, not long after the Wall was complete. He was a fearless warrior named the thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Later, he fell in love with a woman “with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars”. He chased her and loved her though “her skin was cold as ice”, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well. He brought her back to the Nightfort and after the unholy union, he declared himself king and her his queen, and ruled the Nightfort as his own castle for thirteen years. During the dark years of his reign, horrific atrocities were committed, of which tales are still told in the North. It was not until Brandon the Breaker, the King of Winter, and Joramun, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, joined forces that the Night’s King was brought down and the Night’s Watch”.
According to Osha, the Night’s King was also a Stark by the name of Brandon. This provides some interesting implications for our own Brandon of Winterfell, who is presumably watching most of this from his Northern tree fort. It also raises some questions for Jon, another Stark warrior who quickly rose to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. There was a knowing look in the eyes of the Night’s King as he watched Jon battle. The way this season was going, I half expected Jon to be killed and resurrected as a new general of the Night’s Army, which he would lead into battle against Dany and her Dragons. A Song of Ice and Fire, anyone?
Regardless of his ancestry, The Night’s King has an army, basically immortal status, and the ruthless, soulless mentality to destroy the Seven Kingdoms. Dude is riding high.
While we’ve had a string of unknowns and villains on the throne this season, I’m happy to report that our next two spots go to two of the most popular characters in the ASOIAF Universe…
2/3) Tyrion Lannister & Daenerys Targaryen (Last Week, Unranked/5th From Last)
“Here we sit… two terrible children of two terrible fathers” …
Meanwhile, over in the sunny paradise of Mereen, Dany and Tyrion have begun what I can only hope is a long and fruitful partnership. Peter Dinklage hasn’t had nearly enough dialogue this season to show off his thoughtful, wise side (though the focus on his humor has been more than satisfying), so it was nice to see him council Dany through the episode. The dialogue between the two of them, and Dany’s recognition of his usefulness, were more than I could’ve hoped for a first episode together. For those of us reading the books, this moment has been building since Tyrion first sailed the Narrow Sea some 15 years ago. Yes, that’s right, it’s been 15 years since A Storm of Swords, and almost 4 since A Dance with Dragons. Pls GRRM, give us some more material! In the meantime, though, we’ll be content to witness exchanges like this.
4/5) Sansa Bolton Née Stark/Theon “Reek” Greyjoy (Last Week, 2nd From Last)
Another pair of unlikely companions in the Top 5! Though Sansa and her former foster brother are not hard to imagine together, it appeared going into this week that whatever opportunity Theon had for redemption was squandered last week when he gave up Sansa’s desire to Ramsey. That, paired with his current body situation and the fact that it’s hard to ever consider Sansa a winner when she’s locked up in her Winterfellian Tower, made this a near impossibility last week. However, with Theon/Reek’s admission this week (finally!!!) of his innocence in her brothers’ deaths (another great piece of acting my Alfie Allen, who is quickly regaining his spot as one of my fav Westerosis), Sansa got the best news she’s heard in a long, long time – and Reek was given some redemption. Though she doesn’t know their location, safety, or current magical abilities, this provides a sliver of hope for our beloved Stark heiress that there may be a savior for her yet. And that’s not to mention the motherly affinity she had for the younger Stark brothers. No doubt (… okay well some doubt. Maybe more like, much hope) this admission from Theon, along with his description of his torture, resolves him of most any wrongdoing in Sansa’s eyes and sets the former crib-mates on the road to salvation from their shared gatekeeper.
Halftime: Disney as Game of Thrones!
My personal favorites are Loras/Renly; Dany, Darrio, and Jorah; Arya and the Hound, The Night’s Watch; and Brienndrick.
Okay I lied. This week’s rankings are gonna take a bit of a different turn. Because of the Battle @ Hardhome, there are only 3 real losers this week (due to the small screen time given to the rest of the characters). So not actually in the bottom 3, but fittingly on her own in the ether and definitely worth a paragraph is
Somewhere in between) Arya Stark… er.. a girl.. er.. Lana the Oyster Merchant? (Last Week, Unranked/Unranked/Unranked)
Arya’s quest to become a many-faced assassin continues, as she faces her first real challenge: Killing a slimy life-gambler. I love the way her new identity is portrayed in the books, and the righteous causes she is to carry out during her training. I know I’m not the only one wondering where Arya’s story is going and when it’s going to resolve itself, but I think these scenes can be interesting (and are definitely a good way to explore Maisie Williams’ ability). My entire Game of Thrones group text(when not dominated by White Walker talk) has been asking itself wtf is up with Arya. Under the tutelage of Jaqen (another great line this week, “It’s all the same to the many faced god”) Arya will continue to adopt new identities and do the work to seek vengeance for those who ask for it. I can’t help but hope that Arya rejoins Jon in some capacity, even if unknown. Those two had the one of the closest and sweetest sibling relationships in the world, Jamie and Cersei aside, and hopefully her training pays off in such a way that she can retrieve needle and go to her family’s aid. Also – it’s worth keeping in mind the theory that Syrio Forel was actually a member of the guild, doing the Many-Faced God’s work in Kings Landing. Though the theory that he is one in the same as Jaqen has been debunked, it’s always worth keeping your mind open. The twists in Westeros and Essos will knock ya on your ass, kid.
3) Jorah Mormont (Last Week, 4th From Last)
Admiral Friendington didn’t say more than like three lines this week. Yet, the agony on his face was palpable as Tyrion made the brutal (though honest and rational) recommendation that he be thrown out of the court. Poor Jorah only has a few months before he turns into a scaly, rabies-infested beast, so I don’t know what he does from here. So he wins the battles in the fighting pits.. then what? Is his goal to die honorably in battle in front of the woman he loves (side note: Huge move by Tyrion just nonchalantly outing him like that.. tuff)? Does he think some more fighting will win her back? I don’t know, but even his terminal diagnosis and the scorn of the woman he loves wasn’t enough to overtake our reigning loser…
2) Cersei Lannister (Last Week, Last)
Nothing much has changed for Quinn (Queen Incest, I’m tryin it out). She is stubborn as ever, but now, without a plan, our decadent Queen has gone from drinking 4 bottles of top shelf wine a day to slurping water off of the prison floor. Qyburn’s “work continues”, which offers her hope, but there’s no telling if that salvation will come before the end of Season 5. She better hope so, because the faith is cruel, the seven are just, and Ser Pounce can’t take care of Tommen by himself.
1) All of Westeros, but especially Jon Snow, Tormund Giantsbane, the Lady from Pitch Perfect 2, Wun-Wun, and the Rest of the Wildling/Night’s Watch Company (Last week, Unranked)
In keeping with the tradition of one huge all out battle a year, we were gifted this week the CGI heavy Battle for Hardhome. Jon was making some real progress with his classic “long winter” stump speech, and had won the loyalty of a very talented A Capella singer, and her clan of wildings. Though he didn’t win the loyalty of the fuckin’ Thenns (great callback to this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ls31-UKBxWY Season 4 moment), he had a good amount of Wildlings to show for his effort. But, then shit hit the proverbial fan. To break it all down, just as Jon was getting somewhere and loading wildlings onto his ships, disaster struck in the form of the zombies. Yes, this walking dead crossover episode had all the battling we could’ve hoped for, and more. We had Jon Snow the Winter Soldier going Valyrian 1v1 with a Wight General. We had Wun Wun the Giant playing hockey with re-animated Wilding corpses. We had the heartwrenching moment where a woman says goodbye to her children, fights off 50+ zombies, and then falls, unwilling to fight, as zombie Wildling children eat her alive. It’s a shame, I was hoping we’d acquired a new badass female Wildling to replace Ygritte. Sadly, she, like Jon’s lost love, was taken down at the hands of children. Of course, all of the Wildling and Night’s Watch might wasn’t enough to take down hundreds of zombielings, and now they march, stronger than ever, towards the wall. Next weeks episode sees our conquering… or in this case, conquered, heroes return to the wall, with Ser Thorne waiting for them, disapproving look and all.
What this episode seems to have revealed to us is a sad, nihilistic truth. Without Jon and the Night’s Watch, it doesn’t matter who wins the Iron Throne; it doesn’t matter what happens to Cersei, the Tyrells, Littlefinger, and the like; and it doesn’t matter if Sansa escapes. Because finally, after almost 6 long seasons of hearing it over and over and over again, we finally know it to be true. All must stand together, or fall to the might of the walkers, because…
Winter is coming.
Jaqen, The Girl Arya Trains With, Sam Tarly, Gilly, Baby Sam, Olly, The Cock Merchant, Hizdhar, Drogon, The Martells, the Unguarded Water Gardens, Jaimie Lannister, Tommen Lannister, Bran, Rickon, Osha, Ramsey Bolton, Myranda the Jealous, Fucking Thenns, Alliser Thorne, Bronn the Bard, Tyene 1 and 2, Doran Martell, Don Draper, Richard Hendricks, Grey Worm, Melissandre, Stannis, Shireen, Davos, Ghost, Daario, The Skinny Man, The Gambler, and Tyrion’s Wine Addiction