Previously on Game of Thrones: Jorah made a gift of Tyrion, Jon headed off to Hardhome to try and persuade the wildlings to join in the fight against the White Walkers, and Arya began her training.
‘Belief is so often the death of reason.’
‘I don’t intend to stop the wheel. I plan to break the wheel.’
Jorah and Tyrion have been brought before Dany, who sits enthroned far above both of them. She asks Tyrion why she shouldn’t just go ahead and kill him and he tells her that he’s killed at least two Lannisters (his mother and father), so she should welcome him with open arms. He runs through Dany’s whole history and says that she’s come far in a very short time and he thought she was worth meeting, but if she’s going to go further, she needs help from someone who understands the land she wants to rule. He just so happens to know all about that. He offers to be an advisor to her. She asks what she should do with Jorah. After all, she swore to kill him if she saw him again, and she can’t be seen to go back on her promises. Tyrion says that, whomever Jorah was when he started informing on her, he’s not that man now. He’s hugely devoted to serving her. He asks if Jorah had an opportunity to confess his betrayal. She says he did, but he didn’t confess until forced to do so. Tyrion says that Jorah loves and worships her but didn’t trust that she would be wise enough to forgive him. She thinks he’s advising she kill Jorah, but Tyrion points out that a ruler who kills those devoted to them isn’t a rule who inspires devotion. And she’ll have to inspire devotion. But she can’t have Jorah at her side. Dany orders him removed from the city. Poor Jorah. He’s marched out of the Great Pyramid and looks down at the infection on his wrist.
A septa brings Cersei a ladle of water and tells her to confess. Cersei asks to speak to her son and gets cuffed with the water ladle. The septa leaves and Cersei sobs.
Arya is practicing lying, telling the story of how she became a girl named Lara, an oyster seller. She describes her day and makes a slight mistake and Jacqen taps her on the hand with a stick. She corrects herself. He tells her to take a different route in her story. In her guise as Lara the oyster seller, she makes her way around the harbor and serves an oyster to one man counting money. He orders four more. He’s apparently some sort of life insurance salesman and refuses one sailor who seems to want to buy a policy. Back at the House of Black and White, Jacqen explains that insurance is basically gambling. This man has apparently been cheating customers, and now it’s catching up with him. Jacqen tells her to keep an eye on this man, learn all she can, and then kill him. He hands her a vial and Arya takes it, looking both nervous and thrilled. As she walks away, the other girl comes over to Jacqen and says Arya’s not ready. He shrugs that she may be, she may not be, it’s all the same to the many-faced god.
Qyburn goes to see Cersei in her cell and tells her the High Sparrow will be presenting a case against her for fornication, treason, and incest. Quite the triple play there. Cersei’s confident that nothing can be proven, but Qyburn delicately says that this sort of court doesn’t need to rely on evidence, really. ‘Belief is so often the death of reason,’ he tells her. He adds that Kevan Lannister has returned to King’s Landing to preside over the Small Council, but he won’t come and see her. She asks about Tommen and hears he’s taken to his chambers in despair. She begs Qyburn to ask Tommen to come see her and he gently says he’s tried, but Tommen will see nobody. He advises her to confess in order to get herself out of there. She stupidly says that she won’t beg before some barefooted commoner whom she raised up. Oh, Cersei. You deserve to suffer. The septa returns and Qyburn departs, telling her that ‘the work continues.’
[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Cersei stupidly says that she won’t beg before some barefooted commoner whom she raised up. Oh, Cersei. You deserve to suffer.[/cryout-pullquote]Theon brings Sansa her daily rations and finds her up, dressed, and giving him a stony look. She asks him why he tattled on her and he says he was helping her, because she wanted to escape, but Ramsay doesn’t take well to escapees. He explains that Theon Greyjoy tried to escape, and ended up having pieces of himself cut away until only Reek was left. Sansa’s grimly happy to hear that, because she thinks Theon killed her brothers. He agrees that he deserves to be Reek, because he’s done terrible things, including killing those boys. But they weren’t the boys she thinks they were. Sansa’s astonished to hear that her brothers may still be alive. She asks where Bran and Rickon went, but he’s already had enough breakthroughs for one day and flees without answering.
Roose and Ramsay talk strategy downstairs. Roose is ready to batten down the hatches and just wait out any siege Stannis may bring and let Stannis’s army freeze, starve, and mutiny. Ramsay, on the other hand, thinks they should go out and crush these people. Roose points out that the snow is too deep to get an army through, but Ramsay says he doesn’t need an army, he only needs 20 good men.
Dany and Tyrion sit down together for some wine and realtalk. She’s still not sure about killing him or not. Tyrion’s not all that nervous, having already lived through a few death sentences. They talk about their fathers and how awful they were, and Tyrion says they’re two terrible children, though in Dany’s case, he’s hoping she’s terrible in the right way. That is, terrible enough to keep other people in line. He admires her for reopening the fighting pits and agreeing to marry Hizdhar. He tells her that Varys was bringing him to meet her, which surprises her a bit since he spent years trying to track her down and kill her. Tyrion says the guy did what he had to do to survive, and honestly, he was probably keeping her alive all that time.
Dany bluntly announces that she’s not going to kill Tyrion. Nor will she banish him. He’ll be her advisor after all, starting now. She wants to know how to get the Iron Throne. He wonders why she wants it, when she’s done pretty well for herself already. She’s an ambitious woman, and she wants to go home. Tyrion reminds her that the Targaryens have no supporters amongst the noble families of Westros. They might be able to call on the Tyrells under the current circumstances, but that’s about it. ‘They’re all just spokes on a wheel,’ Dany says of the great families. ‘This one on top, then that one, and that one, crushing the people down on the ground.’ He asks if she intends to stop this wheel and she coolly informs him she plans to break the wheel. What, and rule with no great families? Good luck with that.
Jorah returns to the fighting pits and asks his former owner to take him back so he can fight in the Great Pit in front of Dany.
The septa’s back, offering Cersei water in return for a confession. Cersei offers her money, and then threatens her with violence, so the septa meanly pours the water on the floor and leaves. Once she’s gone, Cersei bends down and licks the water off the floor. How the mighty have fallen.
Gillie bathes Sam’s wounds. He asks how she’s doing and if she’s scared. She’s fine, and she is, a little. He says he is too. Olly comes along with some food and says he heard what happened. Sam lightly tells him men fight from time to time, no big deal. He wants to ask Sam something, so Gillie excuses herself and Olly asks why Jon’s working so hard to save the wildlings, who seem so fond of slaughtering innocent farmers. Sam says that wildlings are humans too and deserve a chance not to be turned into zombies. And they need the wildlings to help them stand up against the army of evil that’s coming. He tells Olly that sometimes hard choices need to be made, and although they seem wrong at the time, you know, deep down, that they’re right. He urges Olly not to worry about Jon, because he always manages to come back.
Jon, Tormund, and the rest of the delegation from the Night’s Watch row to shore at Hardhome, Stannis’s fleet anchored at their backs. As they reach the shore, wildlings gather in their hundreds to stare menacingly at them. Tormund leads the way to the leader, the Lord of Bones, who asks Tormund how Jon went from being his prisoner to his captor. Tormund tells him war happened and LoB mocks him for allowing some southern king to chop his great army to pieces. Tormund suggests they find somewhere to talk. LoB asks why Tormund’s not in chains and Jon says he’s not a prisoner, they’re allies. LoB calls Tormund a traitor for now fighting for the crows. Tormund says that’s not the case and Jon adds that they’re not there to fight, they’re there to talk. LoB implies that Tormund and Jon are lovers and Tormund has had about enough of that and beats LoB to death. Not the best way to start this thing off, perhaps. Tormund tells the others to gather the elders so they can talk. He stomps past the body into a large hut that presumably serves as their meetinghouse.
There, Jon makes his plea for the wildlings to come below the Wall and help out when necessary, despite their shared, terrible history. One woman sniffs at Jon’s suggestion they could beat the White Walkers, so he shows her the dragonglass and says this could be their secret weapon. He adds that Mance wanted a new life for his people, and he’s prepared to give them that. One man asks where Mance is now and Jon says that he put an arrow through Mance’s heart. You might want to explain that a bit better, Jon. Indeed, everyone starts talking about removing Jon’s eyes, until Tormund steps up and says that it was a mercy kill, and doing that took courage. And it took a lot of courage to come here today. The woman from earlier (until she gets a name, I’m going to call her Kickass, because she is) says she’s lost several relatives to the crows and Jon snaps that he’s lost lots of brothers in this fight as well, and he’s not asking anyone to forget their dead, just to move past the bitterness for the greater good. ‘The long night is coming and the dead come with it,’ he warns them. Kickass asks if Tormund vouches for Jon and he says he does, and the free folk and the crows need each other. ‘My ancestors would spit on me if I broke bread with a crow,’ one man says. ‘So would mine, but f*ck ‘em, they’re dead,’ Kickass replies. Heh. She’s the first to agree to go with Jon, because she trusts Tormund. Others agree, including the giant who’s been hanging around in the background. Ancestor Lover refuses, of course, because he thinks Jon’s his enemy and will just slit all their throats as soon as they’re on the ships. Eh, whatever, he would have been a bummer to have along anyway.
Free folk start climbing into the boats to row out to the ships. Jon’s worried that too many of them are staying behind. Tormund informs him that it took Mance 20 years to get these people to get together to do anything, but they’ll come around eventually. Kickass loads her little girl onto a boat and sends her off, staying behind to help others.
The giant fingers a bit of dragonglass. Grenn stares at him for a bit before the giant tells him to get lost.
Dogs all over the camp start barking, and there’s a rumbling sound that catches Jon’s attention. Everyone looks up to some bluffs over the encampment and see a strange sort of mist, like a slow-moving avalanche coming down towards the encampment. Ancestor Lover tells the men to shut the gate at the stockade, as people begin running towards it. The gates are slammed and the people on the other side scream and press against it in a panic, and then, just like that, there’s silence. AL goes over to the gate and peers through a knothole. He sees nothing for a while, but then a zombie races towards him and thrusts its arm through the hole. The free folk start firing arrows at the charging skeletons while people waiting for the boats rush into the water, ignoring Jon, who’s futilely trying to get them to stay in line.
Zombies and walkers are climbing the walls of the stockade and tunneling underneath. Kickass helps some people into a boat as Jon orders his men to row the people out to the boats and then come back for him. Kickass asks if the boats will still be allowed through even if Jon’s not there to enforce his orders. Tormund arrives and tells Jon that, if the Walkers get through, everyone dies. Jon pulls his sword and rallies the crows.
The WWs are making it through the stockade wall and slaughtering free folk left and right. It’s a horrible massacre. Outside the stockade, more and more zombies are coming, thick black columns of them. Jon gets one pinned against a wall and Tormund and some of the others grab a table or something to keep the thing out. Kickass is, well, kicking ass. Jon looks up at the bluff and can see some mounted White Walkers up there, but he doesn’t have much time to contemplate that, because he has to go try and get that dragonglass. He fights his way to the meetinghouse, impressively chopping a few skeletons in half along the way.
The giant bursts out of the meeting hut, ripping apart and stomping zombies as he goes. Jon rushes in and finds the place ablaze. From the other side, a white-haired White Walker approaches. Jon’s joined by AL, who tells him to get the dragonglass while he goes up against the WW. The Walker shatters AL’s axe and kills him, then goes after Jon. Jon dodges the creature’s thrusts and grabs a sword, which shatters against the creature’s weapon. Jon is knocked from an upper story and falls, getting badly winded. He recovers long enough to retrieve his own sword, which was either dropped or abandoned, I missed that bit. He tries to get his breath back as the WW swings its weapon for a killing blow. Jon gets his sword up and blocks the blow. Apparently, Valyrian steel is effective against White Walkers. He shatters the WW with a single blow.
From the bluff above, the leader of the White Walkers watches everything with a cool (sorry) detachment.
Jon takes a moment to gather himself. Tormund and Kickass continue to fight fiercely, but everyone’s getting exhausted. Kickass manages to get rid of some attackers, but then she’s faced with a horrifying collection of zombie children that stare at her for a few moments, then rush her, and she’s overwhelmed.
Grenn finds Jon, who’s still gasping about the dragonglass, but Grenn’s like, ‘forget the damn glass, we need to get out of here!’ There’s a piercing roar, and then another wave of walkers and zombies comes pouring over the edge of the bluff and starts advancing. Jon and Grenn turn and run. The new advance knocks over what remains of the stockade, sending Tormund running, as well as the giant.
The three men make it to the boat and tell the men waiting to get them out of there. They start to row away, as fighting continues on the shore. Who’s still left alive to fight these things? The giant gets rid of a few walkers and starts walking towards the ships. Jon stands in the boat, looking back at the shore, hearing the screams of the dying, watching the horrifying slaughter. Tormund, too, looks fairly emotional.
At last, the White Walker leader strides out to the end of the dock, staring at Jon. It looks around, then slowly raises its arms, and the dead jerk back to their feet: men, women, children, and Kickass, all with those creepy ice blue eyes. There’s dead silence as Jon takes in this massive new army the White Walkers have just created. The camera pulls out on his one little boat, slowly pulling away from the shore.
Well, once again, Jon and the Night’s Watch got the best battle scene of the season. Unless we get something amazing from Stannis’s attack on Winterfell (if that comes this season) this one’s definitely a winner. That was great.
Just spitballing here, but I’m going to guess that Dany’s dragons are going to end up playing a very important role in the fight against the White Walkers. What else can kill these things, besides massive amounts of fire? Dragonglass and Valyrian steel are too rare to be effective weapons against this many Walkers. And Jon’s totally going to go head to head with the White Walker king.