Game of Thrones Memory Lane 508: Hardhome

Jon WW

Game of Thrones has had more than its fair share of riveting battle sequences, marrying dramatic weight with tremendous production values – but, even more impressively, it’s also had a good run of battle episodes. “Blackwater” (episode 209) is a taut, all-encompassing narrative rollercoaster, changing in a heartbeat the characters’ fates – and the larger tides of war – several times throughout its hour run-time. “The Watchers on the Wall” (409) is a rough, never-ending siege, both literally and figuratively, that may not pack the same gut-punching plot wallop but which contains its own heart-wrenching, character-based moments.

Neither, however, can hold a candle to “Hardhome” (even though, ironically enough, the episode isn’t exclusively devoted to the titular battle). The fifth-season battle extraordinaire is, for all intents and purposes, the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back tale of the Thrones mythology, the conflict that sees the dark (or, in this case, the icy) side reign supreme in what amounts to a long, slow, simmering struggle that is the metaphorical equivalent of watching your main character bleed out slowly in the snow – which is ironic, given what fate befalls Jon Snow just two episodes later. Resistance is futile; defeat is the only possible outcome.

This grim, unsettling tone may be most apparent in its outcome – when several thousand wildlings and Night’s Watch brothers are raised from the dead, simultaneously depleting the ranks of the living and increasing the host of the undead – but it’s also reflected in Jon’s losing his dragonglass cache, what was the only known weapon capable of defeating the White Walkers and their wights, and in Tormund Giantsbane’s brutal murder of the Lord of Bones, which is yet another variation on the folly-of-man theme: instead of cooperation out of self-interest, there is only savage slaughtering out of tribalism.

The only ray of light in this funeral procession of an episode? The discovery that Valyrian steel is the rough equivalent to dragonglass, providing another means of defense against the Night’s King and his supernatural brethren. It also results in the single moment of triumph for both Lord Snow and all of the Westerosi: the killing of the White Walker in single combat – though, even here, it is a victory that is, as Shakespeare would say, “sicklied over with the pale cast” of defeat, as the Night’s King himself watches the development and immediately adapts his battle strategy to nullify the threat.

The end of the Battle of Hardhome in "Hardhome"

By the time the inexorable, excoriating ending arrives, viewers are left drained. The Battle of Hardhome is visceral and thrilling in a concentrated and protracted way that the show had only flirted with for a fleeting moment here and there previously, and audiences are all the better for it – a week later, that is, once they’ve had time to decompress.

But that, of course, is not all “Hardhome” has to offer.

In the 30 or so minutes before Jon arrives at Hardhome to begin its evacuation, there is a plethora of scenes that either add to or contrast with the thematic dirge but which all help to create a whole that is just as dire. Olly has a heart-to-heart with Sam Tarly about the necessity – and, indeed, the bravery – of making a decision that most others might find to be wrong, a conversation that, of course, inevitably helps lead to Lord Commander Snow’s assassination; Queen Regent Cersei Lannister learns that “the work continues” from her only remaining loyal servant, Qyburn – work whose ultimate consequences remain unknown but certainly look to cause massive disruptions across Westerosi society (and, therefore, affect the coming war against the White Walkers’ zombie horde); a captive and increasingly depressed Sansa Stark receives her own lone ray of light from Reek: the revelation that her two younger brothers, Bran and Rickon, still live and are somewhere out there, waiting to be found (yet another payoff waiting to happen in season six, one can only assume).

Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen discuss the invasion of Westeros in "Hardhome"

But perhaps the biggest development of note before the Battle of Hardhome takes hold is one of the quietest, most understated scenes in the entire installment: the parlay between Queen Daenerys Targaryen and the wayward Imp, Tyrion Lannister. When discussing the path forward that Dany has to Westeros – and, in fact, whether it’s a path that’s worth taking at all – Tyrion begins reciting the various houses that the last surviving Targaryen will need to court in order to secure enough support for a future possible rule. The talk elicits an uncharacteristically disdainful response from the queen:

“They’re all just spokes on a wheel – this one’s on top, then that one’s on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground.”

“It’s a beautiful dream, stopping the wheel. You’re not the first person who’s ever dreamt it.”

“I’m not going to stop the wheel – I’m going to break the wheel.”

Jon tried to do the same, both at Hardhome and back at Castle Black. Stannis Baratheon, another would-be monarch, made a similar attempt, in his own way. Ser Jaime Lannister may just be poised to break some wheels of his own.

We shall see where this gets any of them.



Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, one of the last remaining giants, gets his speculator first appearance here (two-and-a-half years after audiences – and Jon Snow, too – got their grand introduction to the giants). Though only popping back up one further time since “Hardhome,” he’s poised to return in season six – presumably to quite dramatic effect, if trailers and critical analysis are to be trusted.

An even more intriguing addition to the show’s roster, however, is Karsi, despite her rather short-lived tenure; fierce, protective, loving, antagonistic, and yet, ultimately, open to compromise (which, I suppose, means we need to add “intelligent” and “capable of abstract thought” to the litany), the wildling chieftain is a fiery character, and one that is ably performed by Birgitte Hjort Sorensen. She added a much-needed dash of color to an episode that was otherwise so dominated by bleakness.

Lord of Bones and Tormund "talk" in "Hardhome"


The Lord of Bones may barely register as a recurring character, even by Game of Thrones’s too-many-characters-to-keep-track-of standards, but he made a presence for himself, if only through his visual design – that giant’s skull as a helmet is just as bad-ass on screen as it was on the page – and not necessarily through the force of his personality or the magnitude of his actions (indeed, in his four appearances across the past three seasons, he barely manages to make an impression – until “Hardhome,” of course). But his death is still an effective illustration of the state of affairs between the crows and the Free Folk, and that, in turn, only underscores the greater potency of the White Walkers. Not every character is offered on the showrunners’ sacrificial altar for as much narrative heavy-hitting.

What made for an even more dramatic exit, however, was Karsi’s facing down a platoon of child wights – what was probably the only sight that could freeze the warrior-leader in her tracks. Her willingness to surrender her life rather than harm a child – even one that is already (un)dead – is a tender grace note, a moment of compassion that is so rarely witnessed on the series.

Of course, this being Game of Thrones, it was rewarded the only way it could be: with total and abiding cruelty.

“Hardhome,” Beautiful Death



  1. Incredible episode. I see Bryan Cogman voted it his favourite of all and it’s hard to argue (although he doesn’t have time to do his final three write-ups on Twitter sadly). And it’s not just the scenes in Hardhome – it is a high quality episode throughout.

  2. While I was watching this episode, I wanted the White Walkers to have a small scene, just to see them again because i think they’re very interesting and cool, and i was wondering if they were going to be in it this season.

    I wasn’t expecting this, i was freaking out once i saw the snow come off of the cliff and all the wights attacking and then seeing the 4 White Walkers on the cliff side gave me chills, it was amazing. This episode was by far my favourite of the entire series. Literally felt like a movie instead of a TV show, i wish i got the chance to see this in IMAX..

  3. I’m glad you saw Karsi’s reluctance to hurt a child, even a zombie child, as a moment of compassion. There was some pushback after that aired that it was a moment of weakness, which I didn’t necessarily agree with.

  4. I agree, this is hands down the best episode in the show and near perfection from start until finish. What made this so great was absolutely nobody really knew what was coming in the final thirty minutes and once it goes it just builds and builds into a brilliant face off right at the end that leaves you literally speechless.

  5. Best hour in television.

    Just pure perfection. I’m at work, but i’ll go in more detail later in the day after I get home.

  6. What. An. Episode. The first half is great, the second is phenomenal. It also proves that just because something isn’t (directly) from the books doesn’t mean that it can’t be better than them. The action grows steadily, with the tension slowly growing to an absolutely incredible crescendo. Karsi is great, Lobodo is great, Wun Wun is great, and all the other characters are great as well. It really is one of the best battles that has ever been produced for TV, and is up there with the best film has offered. If the battles in future seasons of GOT live up to Hardhome we are in for an absolute treat.

    The sheer excitement of not knowing what was going to happen is something I’m really looking forward to this season.

  7. Qyburn – work whose ultimate consequences remain unknown but certainly look to cause massive disruptions across Westerosi society (and, therefore, affect the coming war against the White Walkers’ “

    This is something that had not occurred to me. Hmmmm

  8. They did a tremendous job of showing the power of the WW and the army of the dead, while also letting us know full well this isn’t their entire force. We see 4 WW but know there are many more. A huge force of wights attacks the gates and we may think that’s all of them, but then another comes pouring over the cliffs. They increase their numbers with the free folk that are killed there but how much of their army was held back? That sense couldn’t be provided in just one episode, it’s a culmination of everything the show runners have shown over the previous seasons.

    Most importantly it gives me faith that they will handle the WW appropriately in Season 6 and beyond. I’m always a little afraid things will look like Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit orc army nonsense, but I think they’ll do it right.

  9. Best moments for me:

    “Shut the gate!” I knew what was coming. I’d read all the spoilers, but this was a million times better than anything I could’ve imagined. The music when the panic broke out accurately resembles the speed of my heart when I watched it the first time.

    When Longclaw doesn’t break: I saw this one coming, but damn, that sound sent chills down my spine. I almost wished that Jon hadn’t immediately killed the walker, so there could be much more tension between them now that they knew that they were evenly matched.

    The Final Staredown: When he raised his hands it was cool and all, but nothing beats that moment when he just stares at Jon, and then looks at his army. This is big. A White Walker is visibly communicating with a human; something we’ve NEVER seen before. The music was beyond perfect as well. Something tells me that the Night’s King will attempt something similar with Bran in Season 6.

  10. Well, also my favourite episode!

    I remember I had to watch the battle of Hardhome again. Then, I watched it again. And then I rewatched it again, for the 4th time… And the day after, I had to watch the battle one more time! 😀

  11. I wondering why Tyrion doesn’t mentioned the biggest supporters of the Targaryens in his ”wheel-speech”? The Martells! Maybe because the directors want this some surprise scene when

    Trystane appears at Meereen for Daenerys? Now because Myrcella is dead, he is free.

    So i hope that’s the case.

  12. My girlfriend recently watched all five seasons this year. She did well to avoid spoilers but she found out through social media that Jon Snow died in the fifth season. She was on pins and needles this episode because she assumed it had to happen during the battle. It made it even more intense for her.

  13. Dragonmcmx:

    When Longclaw doesn’t break: I saw this one coming, but damn, that sound sent chills down my spine.

    Yes! I screamed when Longclaw was featured in the “Previously On” because that made me almost certain we’d get a definitive answer about Valyrian steel.

  14. Thar battle has to be the best sequence I’ve seen on TV

    The director did excellent, it all flowed so naturally and seamlessly, and of course the tone was perfect

    Special mention has to also go to the Thenn “Shut the Gate” was quite epic. On the one hand he instantly trapped all those outside but he effectively saved the people who were able to get ou

    It’s easy to pin the role on an otherwise disliked character already, but would it have been so simple for say, Jon or Karsi in that position to do what needed to be done? Such ambiguity is why GoT is good, well ASOIF anyway, the showrunners have to simplify things

    I actually groaned at the Wheel speech though. Summed up the self-righteous ignorance of Dany. Of course that is perfect for a Targ in a sense, but that is what happens with rulers, they become simplistic. That sums up her entire arc in Slavers Bay though, in the books she simply sows societal collapse and the Slaves are no better than the Masters when they take power in Astapor. Of course it is quite fitting then that while everyone thinks it is the Masters behind the Sons of the Harpy in the show I actually think is is Ghiscari nationalists if you like and they are the mirror of the Sparrows in KL, rich and poor. In the Books it’s more murky

    As for Jon saving Wildlings, it will be interesting to see how this continues to play out in terms of Westerosi politics
    Looking forward to Fire + Blood Dany from here on in (books and show)

  15. H O D O R

    Nothing beats seeing this for the first time. Or second. Makes me kinda wish I were season 5 unsullied. Er, not when I think about Mother’s mercy though, nope wouldn’t want to go through that again.

  16. Thanks for the recap, Marc. Well done. I think one could wax poetic about this episode and never get it all in, it is a sensory overload by the end.

    Two best lines of Hardhome come from Karsi….

    “I fookin’ ‘ate Thenns”


    “Fook ’em, they’re dead”

    Altho Tormund beating the bones out of the Lord of Bones and then saying, “okay, gather the elders and let’s talk” ….is pretty damned funny too.

    Like many others have stated, this may be the best hour of GoT’s to date. Pretty well flawless and leaves one breathless.

  17. Hardhome is probably the best hour of television I’ve ever watched, and up to the present at least, the best episode of Game of Thrones. It is as close to perfection as I can imagine being possible, and immediately and forcibly changed the increasingly negative commentary surrounding the show after Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.

    The conversations between Tyrion and Daenerys are truly a marvel, a revelation for both characters, and promises to advance the storylines for both towards their climax. I can only imagine being a fan who has waited to see this interaction since the publication of AFFC. I read ADWD in 2013, and I was thrilled that there was no drawing out of the meeting between these two.

    Lena Headey continues her amazing turn in this season. Her resistance to Septa Unella, her meeting with Qyburn, and her humiliation at having to drink water off a filthy floor. My goodness, the feels! Qyburn’s line in his scene remains among my favorites in the series: “Belief is so often the death of reason.” Profound!

    Sam and Olly had a great little scene as well. The ambiguity of it is lovely, with Sam meaning something that Olly clearly takes in the opposite direction. The irony that it’s Sam’s comments here that convince Olly to partake in Jon’s assassination is hard to miss, and makes it hurt all the more.

    And finally, Hardhome. I had a feeling, going into this episode, that the White Walkers would play a part, but I had no idea they’re presence would be so overwhelming and game-changing. I firmly believe that when the series wraps, we’ll look back and see that Hardhome is the moment where the series leaves the struggle for the Iron Throne as its primary conflict, and shifts irrevocably north to the threat of the White Walkers. Let the War for the Dawn begin!

    And Birgitte Hjort Sorenson was a revelation as Karsi. It will be hard to top her performance as a single-episode character.

  18. I think at one point Jon tried to punch the WW lmao. What a trooper!

    “I’ve been worrying about Jon for years. He always comes back.”

    Translation: “I know you’ve been worried about Jon since ADWD came out, but it’s ok he’ll be back. Just let us drag this a bit. Love, HBO ;)”

  19. tkk,
    Almost every international trailer, or offical international video of anything has the video sped up and the audio pitched a bit. I don’t know why, but this is how it’s always been.

  20. I passionately disagree with most of the show’s divergences from the novels… Hardhome is an exception.

  21. I wasn’t aware of this site until after this episode, I’m glad I found this site, it’s amazing and i actually have people to talk to about this show. No one i know watches it but me.

    Also, I get chills at the end of this episode, when it cuts to the credits and you can still hear the water and then the White Walker theme comes up slowly….chills man, chills…

    I was in shock when Jon blocked the WW sword with Longclaw! The looks on their faces, especially the White Walkers, was priceless.

  22. White Walker and Jon’s reaction to Longclaw withstanding his ice sword was priceless. Like WTF bro. Night’s King had this look of concern that there are weapons to kill them with. Anyway great episode. I thought Tyrion and Daeny had good chemistry and played off their scenes brilliantly. We’ve been waiting for their meeting for 5 books and how many years. I mean George’s mistake. Cersei scene was awesome and the whole episode not just for Hardhome massacre was for me one of the best and if not the best one.

  23. “Hardhome” does a much better job of characterizing the Wildlings than Jon’s time amongst them in Season 3 did. The show, with its huge cast and serialized storytelling, rarely has truly notable one-off characters, but Karsi is highly memorable.

    The show makes an interesting choice with King’s Landing after Cersei’s arrest, namely, breaking with its established pattern of opening up stories and telling the whole thing exclusively from Cersei’s POV. This is something that I think works well, and could stand to have been done a bit more in the past (sometimes GRRM not showing us things is kind of important).

  24. Masterful. Incredible. Brilliant. Breathtaking. Thrilling. Game-changing. Series-defining.

    What adjectives can be showered on “Hardhome” that haven’t been bestowed on this remarkable hour already?

    Seeking the right adjective is a rich-man’s problem. No matter what word I might choose or what standard I might set, “Hardhome” is an unequivocal masterpiece. Everything about the hour – especially the Massacre – is such an amazing accomplishment. It’s the kind of indelible moment that will be celebrated and remembered long after Game of Thrones ends, and should be held up within the television industry as the gold standard for character-driven action and horror filmmaking for years to come.

    All I can do as a viewer is applaud, and extend my sincere thanks to everyone involved in the production who made it possible. The actors and the extras. The stuntmen and the safety teams. The production designers. The make-up artists. Yhe VFX artists. The producers. The director. The writers. Everyone else who contributed behind the scenes. They all did incredible work, and they should be very proud.

    Tyrion and Daenerys had their first real conversation, and it was fascinating – everything I hoped it would be. Arya wandered the streets and canals of Braavos, reveling in life even as she plans to give the Thin Man the gift of death. Cersei was magnificently defiant in captivity, even as the cracks in her furious façade started to show. Sansa got through to Theon, and he told her that Bran and Rickon are alive – the first time one Stark has received a ray of hope about their family in a long, long time. Birgitte Hjort Sørensen’s Karsi was a certified badass – she ranks as one of the best one-episode characters ever. There was a giant swinging flaming logs! And Jon Snow killed a white walker … with Valyrian Steel!

    That moment would have easily been the highlight of this transcendent hour, and yet it can’t be. For in this case, the hour of the wolf is not a prelude to the dawn, but to an even longer night. The hour belongs to the Night’s King, who announced his presence to the world – both his and ours – in a most definitive and terrifying fashion. “Come at me, crow” indeed.

    I’ll write more later, but for now, I’ll just say that this episode stands at the pinnacle this entire amazing series. I may have other episodes that can compete with it in terms of my own personal affection, but from the perspective of pure technical quality, “Hardhome” is probably the very best hour of the show so far. My expectations were high, but Game of Thrones eclipsed them. Every single scene delivered, above and beyond what I had dared to dream.

    “Hardhome” shattered the ceiling of what it was possible to accomplish on television. Even if that ceiling was made dragonglass, it no longer matters. Now that it’s gone, all we can see is the sky, pitch black but dotted with distant lights of endless possibility. They glitter like ice or frozen fire, brilliant in their radiance but ever-so-cold. They’re candles in the dark, blue eyes staring … not at nothing, but directly at us and all that we hold dear in this world. Like Jon, they see us. Like Jon, at long last, we have seen them.

    The Long Night has fallen, and its King has claimed his throne. He won’t give it up easily. Long may he reign.

  25. Connor:
    Same here, except for one guy at work where it’s hard to carry on any decent length conversation. Some of my family tried an episode or two and said it was too graphic and are very surprised I continue to watch. I loved the (what do you call cinematography when it’s not at the cinema lol?) I just thought it was very atmospheric. And I like when Loboda and Jon team up and the Thenn decides he will take on the WW while Jon gets the goodies. Got to respect that. Also when we see them look up at the four horsemen (I like small nods to religion in this kind of genre.) was pretty cool. I like the editing and maneuvers when Jon fights his way to the hut.

  26. I liked the scene between Sansa and Theon.

    “Tell me why Bran and Rickon should be gone, while you still breathe the air. Tell me to my face Theon. Tell me that they weren’t your brothers…”

    I always get a shiver down my spine during that moment.

  27. When I rewatched this after getting the blu-ray boxset I was surprised at how much more there was to it than just the battle. It made me revise my rating upwards as I don’t generally enjoy episodes that focus on battle so much, and also on a rewatch it was possible to take in what actually happened at the battle much more too – since it appeared such mayhem the first time.

    The documentary on the making of this long scene was also very good and cutting it into chunks made it easier to see just what an immense amount of work went into it too from behind the scene. By focusing the direction and viewer’s attention on it as a massacre rather than a battle really made a difference to the normal expectation of a glorious, heroic victory against all odds.

    I’d forgotten that Arya was in it at all, and much as I adore Maisie that “Oysters, clams & cockles!” mantra does grate a bit!


  28. What other one-off characters of note have we had? I can’t remember any others but they must exist. I think we expect motherfucking cocksucker to be one. Or is he to be in more than one episode?

  29. This is an unbelievable episode. The surprise I felt when the whole attack sequence folded has no equal. Even watching it three times, it’s still appealing. I very much appreciate the tense moments in the wildling tent prior to the massacre too.

  30. This is hands down the best episode of the series,but i’m confident that season 6 will surpass it.

  31. Mihnea,

    There’s a face in the lower left corner of the picture, and it doesn’t look like what you’re suggesting. Probably Myranda’s (please don’t have Ramsay rape her corpse D&D, we know he’s a shithead alright?)

    It also appears to be the same room and bed as in that shot in the second trailer of Ramsay cleaning/sharpening a knife. His outfit looks a bit different though.

  32. Mihnea:

    Is Ramsey standing over a dead body?

    Damn, my speculations may come true a lot earlier then I thought.

    What speculation? If it’s episode 1, then maybe he’s standing over Myranda.

  33. Please can we have no discussion of the trailers or new Season 6 images in this thread.

    I don’t want to hear anything more about Season 6 until I’m actually watching it.

    This is meant to be a discussion about Season 5. Any discussion of new Season 6 info can surely be had on one of the many other articles about the upcoming season.

  34. you know what gets me exicted about season 6.. knowing that THIS is what they can come up with without the books.
    dont get me wrong.. I love the books.. and love that they were as true to them as they were in the past.. but if Hardhome is any indication of what “off the book” is going to give us in Season 6 then bring it on!!

  35. Hey, everyone — we’re working on a season six images post as we speak. Until it goes up, if you could kindly refrain from discussing them in this thread (for those readers who don’t want to know anything at all about what’s coming up), we’d greatly appreciate it.



  36. I was exhausted after this episode ended when I first watched it.
    It was like watching Real Madrid in the champion’s league final 2014.

    I can watch hardhome 10000000000000000000 times and still enjoy it, cry, and get chills.
    And the crazy part is the scenes before Hardhome were amazing as well.

    I though Dany’s speech was sick! Don’t know why every one hates it?
    Sansa finding out about her brothers gives me chills to this day. The look on her face was actually heartbreaking because she could not even believe what she heard.

    Tyrion drinking wine in a nice pretty room, Cersei licking water off the floor.

    Another thing I liked was how that Thenn leader who was hating on Jon Snow and was threatening to kill him, ends up fighting along side Jon and gets killed trying to protect Jon while he collects dragonglass. I thought that was interesting, and I actually felt really bad for him.
    Karsi – loved her – and the connection they made with her children and then seeing children wights in which she just couldn’t savagely kill (as she was doing to all other wights) was so sad to see.

    Also, lets not forget the battle music.

    I could go on and on about this episode.

  37. The scene between Sansa and Theon is absolutely critical for both characters.

    For Sansa, this is where she really begins her resistance to all the horror she has experienced. Just look at her compared to the last episode: she is composed, well dressed, and ready to confront Theon. She rips into him as you would expect, demands to know why he betrayed her, and expresses satisfaction at what has befallen him. And, for her troubles, she finds out she still has two living brothers.

    And for Theon, this is where he irrevocably begins to shed his Reek persona. Telling Sansa that Bran and Rickon live represents a betrayal of Ramsay, something he likely thought himself incapable of until this moment. And indeed, for the rest of the season, he grows more and more bold in his rebelliousness.

    I am excited to see where both of these characters take this arc this season.

  38. This is definitely in my Top 5 episodes of GoT (Blackwater, And Now His Watch is Ended, The Rains of Castamere, Fire and Blood, and Hardhome). I think what puts it in my Top 5 is not just the battle scenes, but the entire first half of the episode as well. We finally saw Cersei get what she deserved, Reek finally told Sansa that Rickon and Bran are still alive, and we finally saw Tyrion and Daenerys together for an extended period.

    The battle scenes also revealed some things that fans have been wanting to know. Like whether Valyrian Steel can kill a White Walker, and who their leader is. After almost 5 whole seasons of teasing the White Walkers we finally saw what they can do and how big of a threat they are. Jon Snow also got his big moment at long last.

  39. Off-Topic Otto,

    Going to the Game of Thrones Wikipedia page (Standard Wikipedia, not the GoT Wiki), the list of one-episode characters with speaking roles who have appeared on the show include:

    Season 1: Waymar Royce, Will, Gared, Jon Arryn (his corpse, anyway)

    Season 2: Maester Cressen

    Season 3: Mero, Prendahl na Ghezn, Violet, Roslin Frey, Razdal mo Eraz, Steelshanks Walton

    Season 4: Anya Waynwood, Vance Corbray, Mag the Mighty, Leaf

    Season 5: Young Cersei Lannister (that one’s cheating a bit), Maggy the Frog, Melara Hetherspoon, White Rat, Lollys Stokeworth, Denys Mallister, the Red Priestess in Volantis, the announcer in Daznak’s Pit, Loboda, and Karsi.

    There may be others, but out of that group, Karsi is the best by a long stretch. She’s a great character by any measure. Mero might be equally memorable, but he’s repellent by nature.

    (Razdal mo Eraz is confirmed to be returning for Season 6, and Roslin and Leaf may as well)
  40. I actually preferred Sansa and Theon’s speech to Dany and Tyrion’s…
    Nothing to say about the battle that hasn’t already been said! One of the best scenes in the show, and that’s coming from a primary book reader. ?

  41. Karsi… I still feel sad about her. Damn that was a blow below the belt.
    I’ve only seen this episode twice. Can’t stand a rewatch. Too desperate.
    My question is, by normal standards the dead are invisible. How can there be hope? I don’t even think the dragons can do much to stop them.
    Anyone has an idea how many the WW are supposed to be? And if let’s say they’re gone, will that stop the dead of becoming wights.
    This is stressing me so much!

  42. HousePotterz,

    I agree with everything you said.

    Qyburn’s line in his scene remains among my favorites in the series: “Belief is so often the death of reason.” Profound!

    Yes, by far my favorite line of the episode and one of my favorites period. Especially as Anton Lesser also played Sir Thomas More in Wolf Hall, who is so associated with faith and reason:

    “What does it avail to know that there is a God, which you not only believe by Faith, but also know by reason….”

  43. Mihnea,

    Does she break the wheel or incinerate it? 🙂

    Will there be another Field of Fire?

    The great houses are doing their best to eliminate themselves before her arrival in Westeros. And what they do not accomplish, winter may. She may not have much breaking to do.

  44. Im not a huge battle fan, most of the time I fast forward them when I am watching movies. But not on GOT and not this episode. In fact I have watched this episode several times, just to see the dynamics. Didn’t know there was a ‘making of’ video, will have to find that

    Ser Not Appearing in this Series,

    he documentary on the making of this long scene was also very good and cutting it into chunks made it easier to see just what an immense amount of work went into it too from behind the scene. By focusing the direction and viewer’s attention on it as a massacre rather than a battle really made a difference to the normal expectation of a glorious, heroic victory against all odds.

    I think of this when I read people complaining about D&D wanting to shorten the next two seasons. I can’t imagine doing something like this once a season, but I suspect the battles coming up are going to be just as intense if not more so. Not sure its humanely possible to continue with this quality if they tried two more full seasons

    I loved Karsi and also thought her decision was based on compassion, not weakness. I decided to see what Birgitte Hjort Sorense was up to know; apparently she’s on Vinyl, a show I really didn’t have much interest in but may now have to watch. She’ s also in a new movie with NJW . Glad she is so busy; wish GOT could find another role for her!

    Ser Not Appearing in this Series

    This is meant to be a discussion about Season 5. Any discussion of new Season 6 info can surely be had on one of the many other articles about the upcoming season.

    edit:sorry, just saw Marcs post. Ok then

  45. I didn’t like dany’s speech one bit…I know I’m in minority but I don’t like dany ….I don’t hate her …but she always kinda frustrates me ….and I really don’t like Emilia Clark…

    but everything else was great …….

    best thing about that final scene is the kinda atmosphere they build ,,,,,you could almost sense something big is gonna happen….i got goosebumps, ,,.it was intense ,,.engaging. …….and seriously on the edge of your seat kinda stuff. ….and when the walkers finally attack you feel almost breathless. ……
    This whole sequence is one of the best I’ve ever seen….like in movies ….tv shows … was awesome. …

  46. I’m pretty certain that I didn’t take a breath the last twenty minutes of this episode. It must have been absolutely incredible to see it on an IMAX screen.

  47. r-hard,

    Maybe he doesn’t mention them because Myrcella was, at the point, alive and betrothed to Trystane which would definitely secure the Martell-Lannister alliance.

  48. The Hardhome-sequence does so much in just a single hour. It starts by broadening it’s scope, introducing us to the remaining wildling factions. That’s propably what I love most about this show, that it just keeps expanding with new house, new clans, new leaders all the fucking time. It stimulates my mind and I enjoy it so much. First, for continuety, The Lord of Bones pops up for a nice quick death. Inside the tent, there are different sorts of wildlings. There’s a new bald guy, WHO we know must be the new leader of the thenns. There’s an older redhaired guy with a gruff sounding voice who must also be a leader because everyone shuts up when he finally talks. There’s Karsi. We already know women can rise high among the Free Folk, but this one seems to speak for a Whole band of wildlings so she must be especially badass. There is also one last giant. All of these new characters are brought together with Jon, Tormund and Edd in a claustropic tent, just because an army of dead men dawn on them. I cannot even begin to explain how well structured that is. I sat on the edge of my seat, trying to keep track of the characters, ‘oh, that guys has paint in his face, what does that mean?’ ‘That one’s bald with skars, must be a thenn.’ ‘The Giant seems to like Tormund’ ‘Oh shit, can Jon unite all these guys?’ Then Bam! wights all over the place, massacre, massacre. Now you’re invested in the Thenn guys Loboda when he and Jon goes to get the dragon glass, you want karsi to get back to her daughters, you pump yout fists wildly in the air when Wun Wun is ripping skeletons apart and you really want him to reach the ships with the rest. All within what? 25 minutes? I’m not even gonna go into the pitch perfect ending, with the shows real villain finally reveals himself in a way that cold, epic, frigthening and absolutely awsome. To people who still give D&D endless shit, remember all of this episode is completely original and go back to!

  49. ash:
    where can I find the video of the making of Hardhome?

    I got it as an exclusive on a bonus disk with my pre-ordered blu-ray, I suppose someone may have made a youtube but the only ones I can see is a short one on the VFX. The exclusive one was about 20 mins +

  50. Why does a battle get SO much praise? Imo, the plotting and scheming is the best element of GoT. Sadly the schemes are decreasing in frequency and the action increases

  51. Hardhome is #2 for me in Season 5 (after episode 2) – it brought a season that I felt started great, than began to slip, back to its feet! What a climax! Many great scenes from across the world, and then – a mini-featurette. I prefer this format to the “battle” episodes from previous seasons.

    Epi 9 and 10 are also contain excellent moments but taken as a single episode, hardhome is far stronger.

  52. TFT,

    Because it’s not just a battle – it’s endgame material. The White Walkers have been the great looming threat of the series since the very first scene of the very first episode of the show. The Massacre at Hardhome finally gave us a firsthand look at just how strong their army is. That’s something that the show hadn’t given us previously (since the Walkers’ attack on the Fist of the First Men happened between seasons, likely for budgetary reasons). Furthermore, it’s something that GRRM has yet to provide us with in any of his books (where accounts of what happened at the Fist of the First Men are only given retroactively, and Hardhome happens completely ‘offscreen’).

    I love the politics as well, but this is what the series has been building to. We’re only going to see more of it as the show enters its final few seasons.

  53. TFT,

    Yes you are right – if this show was like LOTR, constant battle after battle I would have shut it off seasons ago. Its not. The battle was part of the episode, there was much much more to love (my gawd just having Tyrion and Dany conversing together was worth the hour by itself!) But given the scale and surprises here, you have to expect people talking about the battle so much

    Oh whoever commented on Tyrion having a nice drink of wine while Cersei was drinking water off the floor – brillian connection!

  54. r-hard,

    Oooh, good point! I hadn’t thought of them

    replacing Quentyn like that, but it would explain why they killed off Myrcella.
    I’ve been re-reading ADWD before the S6 start, and I read the bit where Qaithe tells Danaerys about the Kraken, the lion/griffin, the sun’s son, and the mummer’s dragon. However I completely forget if Qaithe ever gave that speech in the show. Do you know?
  55. This episode started with me sat on the sofa.

    It ended with me knelt on the floor, just inches from the 50″ TV screen. The whole thing dragged you in. The dogs barking, I sure remember that!

    Enough said.

    PS: That clanging ring of the clash of ice blade and “Longclaw” makes for a really poetic interpretation of *the* SOIAF. Maybe one of many songs.

  56. Ser Not Appearing in this Series and ash,

    Actually, the making-of Hardhome doc was available exclusively on the Target Blu-Ray. There may still be some available at Target, I don’t know.

  57. LatrineDiggerBrian,

    Wights are indeed able to go into the water. After the Night’s King raised the dead, we saw several of them crawling out of the water from where they had been killed. Water doesn’t hurt them at all. As for why they can’t just sail around the Wall to get to Westeros, I don’t know, but there’s probably some magic involved that extends the protections beyond the borders of the Wall itself.

    In fact, the only thing we get about Hardhome in the books is a letter from the man Jon sent there (Cotter Pyke, who has been mentioned in the show but not seen). The letter explicitly mentions that there are “dead things in the water.”

    If you’re wondering why the Night’s King didn’t send the wights after Jon & the others in the boat, I think it’s because he let them go. He was sending them a message. ‘I could kill you now, but I won’t. Go. Run back to the Wall. Tell everyone what you’ve seen. My army is coming, and you are powerless to stop me.’

  58. SansaStar,

    No, she did not … they left out most of her material and that specific warning came from a “dream”

    actually probably a communication via glass candles as she appeared as if in starlight

    She spoke with Jorah essentially warning him about traveling close to Valyria without protective tattoos

  59. Everything about the battle has been said above in what is just such a great, amazing episode of the show. I’d tended to rank it second of all time behind Blackwater, but I’m re-thinking that a bit, I’d say. It’s fantastic.

    I didn’t see Karsi’s moment as compassion. To me, she froze, in utter terror of what it was she was looking at. I don’t take this to suggest that she was in any way weak – but just that she was overcome by this moment of total and complete horror, and in some ways, it parallels the Hound’s response to seeing Blackwater Bay explode. You take one of the strongest characters (and she’s established as one of the baddest of badasses, surpassed probably only by Tormund), and this breaks her. And the look on her face is in part why I don’t see this as weakness, because I’m right there with her – if I’m in this battle, that would have frozen me utterly there too; I’d have been done, outright.

    Separate point: Anton Lesser is such a gem, and such a great bit of casting and gets better and better as Qyburn.

  60. HousePotterz:
    It is as close to perfection as I can imagine being possible, and immediately and forcibly changed the increasingly negative commentary surrounding the show after Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.

    Yes!! It was funny to experience the change of mood. I did not engage in the discussion of UUU, but I saw the flare from afar. Lots of people declaring they would never watch GoT again!!!!!!! And then Hardhome happen, and the reaction was so impressive… I read lots of people saying afterwards… “damn! I had to watch again”.

  61. Off-Topic Otto:
    What other one-off characters of note have we had? I can’t remember any others but they must exist. I think we expect motherfucking cocksucker to be one. Or is he to be in more than one episode?

    I don’t remember if it was just one episode, but Karl Tanner’s participation was also very good.

  62. TFT,

    Well, maybe because some of the scheamers are either dead or in no position to scheme so much at the moment (Tywin, Mance, Margaery, Cersei, Varys and Tyrion, for example); and there are many new actors conteding the traditional set up that allowed all the intrigue and political maneuvers (the Sparrow, the Faith millitants, the Sons of the Harpy, the White Walkers, the Wildlings). In times of such unrest and with the musical chairs of powers spinning out of control, who do you plot against or for? I mean, plotting in a room with a few people is possible, but plotting in a roller coaster with no safety measures is an entirely different thing!

  63. Twenty Good Chickens:
    This episode started with me sat on the sofa.

    It ended with me knelt on the floor, just inches from the 50″ TV screen. The whole thing dragged you in. The dogs barking, I sure remember that!

    Enough said.

    PS: That clanging ring of the clash of ice blade and “Longclaw” makes for a really poetic interpretation of *the* SOIAF. Maybe one of many songs.

    For me the chilling part was the silence.

    We had the tension building in a crescendo for a few minutes: Jon, Edd and Tormund arriving at Hardhome; Tormund Giantsbane killing the Lord of Bones; Jon saying he had put an arrow through Mance’s heart; him trying to convince the leaders to leave Hardhome and only being able to convice a few…

    Then, for a second, I remember saying to myself “why is everything so quiet?”… and then the dogs barked and my heart started racing like crazy because I had that sure feeling things had turned for the bad. It reminded me of the seconds before a major earthquake we had in Costa Rica a long time ago… I was sitting down looking to the horizon and had the same feeling… why is everything so still… and then it was not!

    At the beginning of the episode I started sitting down normally in the middle of my couch, my arms extended, and ended up embracing my knees, biting a small pillow and hyperventilating in a square inch at the corner of it. I’m sure my back must have looked like Quasimodo’s, because by the time I could move again my shoulders hurt like hell!

    Seriously I don’t remember any other time that I had been so involved with what was going on in a show or film. I guess that happened because Jon is my favorite character since I read the books, but also because many other characters I like from the books and the show were also there (Edd, Tormund and Wun Wun). And added to that, I started caring for Karsi the second she opened her mouth.

  64. I had no idea what was coming this episode, i didnt read spoilers at the time about what happens at Hardhome, im glad i was surprised with this scene. Made it all the better.

  65. Hardhome is not only the best episode, but the best beautiful death poster.

    Tomorrows from ep 5.09 is also in my top 3

  66. S5 has been dumped from my memory lane cos I really didn’t like it. But this episode nearly knocked me off the sofa, aghast. It’s the best hour of television ever!!! I fuckin loved it. The tension just builds so beautifully until BOOM!! And then the eeriest of silences, and chills. Brrr

    Whenever Hardhome is mentioned in Dance my mind now explodes with epic visuals and mmmm…. waiting for Season 6 is killing me lol

  67. Stunning episode. Really fantastic. I’m calling it now (as I missed the damn theory post due to the website technical issues): I reckon the WWs (Others) and Valyrians/Targs are contrasting offshoots of the same race.

  68. Jared,

    Jared has said it all in this post. I couldn’t have put it better. This episode was EPIC in all respects. The SFX of the WW Hardhome invasion was amazing. Jesus… How do they do it! The wights jumping over the cliff scene especially 😉

    The sound of Jon’s Valyrian steel sword against the WW spear gave me a visceral reaction. A second with the clash of steel still ringing and the look of surprise from the WW that Jon’s sword hadn’t shattered. Then Jon’s reaction to take a swing which killed the WW.

    A great moment which will be remembered long after GoT has finished. Roll on Season 6 🙂

  69. Everyone else has basically said everything I feel about this episode. All I can add is: BEST. EPISODE. EVER. When I’m feeling in the mood for a random GoT episode to rewatch, I have to stop myself from picking “Hardhome” because I’ve already seen it sooo many times.

    Flayed Potatoes:
    I think at one point Jon tried to punch the WW lmao. What a trooper!

    Seeing Jon try to punch that WW was the unintentional funniest moment of the entire Harhdome sequence. I loved him a little more for that.

  70. Ramsay’s 20th Good Man,

    Me too. I love Hardhome but for this scene most of all. I enjoyed the battle but fo rme it’s the angst and terror and non bloody scenes that make Game of Thrones spectacular and thoroughly watchable.

  71. Connor,

    What world do you live in where you are the only person who watches Game of Thrones that you know??? Who do you know??? Do you live in Amish country??? Are there TVs where you live??? Seriously, I’m perplexed where you could possibly live that no one watches Game of Thrones. Honestly, when I meet new people, it’s less of a ‘Do you watch Game of Thrones?’ and a ‘You know in Game of Thrones, when …?’ – I just assume everyone’s default is that they watch Game of Thrones and am surprised when they suggest anything to the contrary.

  72. It’s funny, I was nervous about Tyrion meeting Daenerys all season (as it would be ahead of the books, and somewhat changed from how the next novel may do it)….however, it actually turned out really well and I commend D&D on how well they condensed it together. I mean it wasn’t just “not problematic”, it was great; tying in to all the shared backstory about Tywin and the Mad King, etc.

    “Hardhome” does leave a sour taste in my mouth….in that I think the showrunners used it as a crutch for other problems in Season 5. I mean, rather than talk about “major structural issues in Season 5”, “dear god we condensed two books into one TV season”, “the Dorne subplot was hastily executed and is becoming a laughingstock”, etc. ….all of this would just be deflected by them focusing on, “but remember how great “Hardhome” was?”

    And if you think about it…..isn’t it ironic that Benioff and Weiss would point to the “best episode of the ” as “Hardhome”….which was *largely a giant action sequence* with relatively minimal dialogue?

    I mean don’t get me wrong I’ve seen behind the scenes stuff that they were involved in scripting out the action scen, *is* a major task, but still….

    I mean, MONTHS into the hiatus, all anyone could talk about was “Hardhome!” and were ignoring “Dorne had serious problems you need to fix”

    On the other hand, PRIOR to Hardhome airing, after the blowback from episode 6, I was worried the show might have serious survival problems. So maybe it needed a boost in the arm.

    But Benioff and Weiss rarely give interviews anymore; rather than giving a relatively in-depth explana of “okay this is why we genuinely feel merging Sansa with Jeyne Poole was a good idea”….it’s all deflected by “Hardhome was awesome”. Hardhome doesn’t undo what happened to the unrelated Sansa storyline in the same TV season. One way or another.

    Again: minimal dialogue. I saw news posts outright claiming, “the TV show handles the White Walkers better than the books”…..No? How would anyone know if they “Handle it better” or worse? The books simply haven’t gotten this far ahead yet – the TV show is skipping to the good parts. So how can we say “Benioff and Weiss handle the White Walkers better in their writing”…..when the White Walkers, even at Hardhome, had no speaking lines?

    ***OH DEAR GOD, and this episode was “OYSTERS, CLAMS, and COCKLES!” —ahh, good times. Good times indeed. Love the set dressing in the fully realized Braavos set.

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