Tuesday, June 2, 2015

GAME OF THRONES Finds a "Hardhome"

Article originally written for Seat42F.

This week’s installment of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES is called “Hardhome.” That is the name of a Wildling seaport where many of those who live north of the wall have gathered, and it is the place where Jon Snow (Kit Harington), along with Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), leads a band of men to save these savage people. It is also the set point of the biggest battle scene in years on the series, which results in the bad guys increasing their army significantly.

The war at “Hardhome” is quite impressive. Waves of dead soldiers attacking the Wildlings should motivate the latter to join with Jon Snow in a way all of his words will not. Jon can argue until he’s blue in the face, and even with the support of some of their number, including Tormund and Karsi (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Borgen), he’s not going to sway a majority of minds. These people are too ingrained with hatred for the Night’s Watch, and until the imminent danger is upon them, they cannot change their minds.

Jon is wise to realize that most of them will never be his friend, but he is banking on the fact that they might want to survive, as he does. He’s not asking them to swear fealty to any throne, which would always been a requirement to move south before, instead defying kings himself to save the kingdom and recruit more fighters. He’s a very intelligent and canny leader. If only he were a tad more persuasive, his plan might just work.

Still, the war sequence is a cool piece of filmmaking, with neat effects and a relevance to the characters. It’s not just for show, the scene meaning something very important to the story, and it lends an urgency and intensity that GAME OF THRONES has been lacking. I love this program most for the character development, but it needs some war bits every now and again to keep it interesting.

The rest of “Hardhome” is much quieter, with a few pivotal scenes for important people. Samwell (John Bradley) gives Olly (Brenock O’Connor) some advice that the lad is sure to misinterpret and will cause problems with. Cersei (Lena Headey) is as low as we’ve ever seen her, the actress doing a fantastic job of showing the queen mother’s despair and hopelessness. Sansa (Sophie Tuner) learns a vital secret from Reek / Theon (Alfie Allen) in a wonderfully charged moment. Arya (Maisie Williams) is given her first kill assignment. These are all excellent bits, and while they don’t need paragraphs to discuss them, taken together, they make for a heck of a great episode.

The other major story in “Hardhome” I do want to talk about, though, is the meeting of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). Obviously, Daenerys’ first instinct when faced with a member of her rival house is to kill him (after bringing him home, apparently), and you can see that in the rage that emanates from her body. Thankfully, she holds back, as fans know that Tyrion is a smart and fair individual, not one to let clan disagreements drive his behavior. He really has come to help her, having no place else to go himself.

It isn’t easy for Tyrion to convince Daenerys to keep him on as an advisor, and a man less skilled at the art of conversation would fail. Tyrion decides to just be honest with the queen, telling her about Varys sending him, and giving a balanced opinion on Jorah (Iain Glen), whom Daenerys ends up sparing but banishing again. Tyrion knows he can’t talk Daenerys into anything, but if he’s open with her and she’s the type of queen he’d respect enough to serve, she’ll listen. Thank goodness this pays off.

Yet, Tyrion can’t help but recommend Daenerys gives up her dream of the Iron Throne. He has valid points on that, but being newly hired and precarious in his position, now might not be the best time to bring them up. It speaks to his honor that he does so, but that’s a Ned Stark-type mistake, being honorable to the point of foolishness. Let’s hope that Tyrion doesn’t share Ned’s fate.

GAME OF THRONES’s fifth season has been an exciting one, and if history is any indication, the penultimate hour of the season next week should be a doozy. But then again, the writers do like to do the unexpected (such as abandon the source material from the book series five years in), so you never know.

GAME OF THRONES airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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