The general consensus on "Hardhome," the latest episode of HBO's Game of Thrones is that it was finally a step in the right direction for a show that has floundered on the edge of a shark jump since the beginning of the season.
Taking a hard turn away from the plot in the books, the showrunners finally managed to put together an episode that made narrative sense and actually moved characters forward towards their final destination.
First things first. At the Wall, things really heat up (ironic pun not entirely intentional) as the White Walkers (the Others to you book readers) show up. There is horror and carnage on a level that one cannot really fathom. Jon manages to hack through one of them:
It took a lot of "woe is me" depression and antics to get him there, but Tyrion Lannister finally seems to have recovered some of his natural charm and pragmatic good sense. Certainly, his attempt to champion Jorah Mormont's cause with Daenerys Targaryen was a good move for his character. What happens next is anyone's guess, especially as Gladiator!Jorah is probably not long for the world.
Arya seems to be getting the hang of life with the Faceless Men in Braavos, but nothing much has happened with her yet, and she's so far removed from the show's central action that it's hard to follow and be fully invested.
Cersei is guilty, stubborn, foolish and desperate. So basically just Tuesday in King's Landing, except that she's in prison.
Finally, we come to Sansa. She's still suffering but apparently not in silence, as she takes Reek to task for the death of Bran and Rickon. Theon promptly confesses that he killed a couple of farm boys instead. This gives Sansa hope and maybe will push her character into action. It's not clear what she can really do though, since she believes Littlefinger is her only champion and there's really no escape from her current situation.
(Disclaimer: the above comments are based on all the reviews and episode recaps I read yesterday. I'm still not watching the show, in a lame form of protest that has no impact on anyone but me. Yes, I just missed one of the best episodes of the season. You know what Emerson said about a foolish consistency, right? /sigh)
Here are a series of reviews of the latest episode of the show, in no particular order:
"Hardhome" (Erik Kain, Forbes)*
Where the Wildlings Are (Laura Hudson, Wired)
Episode 8 (Andy Greenwald, Grantland)
The Only War that Matters (Spencer Kornhaber, Christopher Orr, and Amy Sullivan, The Atlantic Monthly)
Book vs TV (Todd VanDerWerff, Vox Culture)**
*Kain speculates on the "dragon has three heads" issue from the book, by bringing up R+L=J and that Tyrion might be a secret Targaryen. I don't know if the show is interested in these particular themes, but do you think George RR Martin has (at least implicitly) named Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister the three heads of the dragon? I don't think so, but it's worth discussion.
**VanDerWerff suggests the show has surpassed the books as a story, and despite my misgivings, I'm inclined to agree. While the show and its characters lack the depth and emotional complexity of their book versions, the compact and largely linear format of the show makes for a better story.
What do you think? Best episode ever? What's going to happen in the always-thrilling-Episode-9 world of Game of Thrones? Why is Fandom Friday always on Monday? Your comments, you know where to put them.