Review: Game of Thrones (Season 5, Episode 8)

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Game of Thrones finally injects some much-needed action into its fifth series

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Series 5 of Game of Thrones has been slow, lethargic and has generally left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. In fact I’d been so disappointed with the previous 7 episodes, that I said to myself I’d stop watching Series 5 if this week wasn’t any good. Well, thank God I was proven wrong.

For starters, Tyrion is out of captivity and has a bit of leverage in his life again, which means he can return to being his sassy old self. This is good for a couple of reasons: a) because Sassy Tyrion is the best and I’ve missed him, and b)because Daenerys has hired him as an adviser and I can’t wait for them to conquer the world and create a Kingdom of Sass. And dragons.

Meanwhile, in her service to the Many-Faced God, Arya is becoming brilliant at lying. She spins a story of being an oyster-seller down by the docks, and finally gets a mission: to spy upon a shady character by the water, with an aim to, eventually, kill him. The scene focusing on her undercover mission is completely lush in its gorgeous attention to detail. The show never misses a beat in this respect, but I really felt swept up in the bustle of the fishy market town, from its beggars to its con-men, from the sigil on the coins, to the handwriting on sheafs of parchment. It was a great scene and it’s exciting to see Arya developing into a shrewder, less hot-headed version of herself.

In King’s Landing Cersei is dirty, ragged and hunched over her knees in a tiny prison cell. A woman of the faith towers over her and the viewer, holding a ladle of water an inch away from her lips. “Confess,” she says. Cersei mutters about dreaming up ugly deaths for the woman, who then tips the ladle out onto the floor. In a powerfully uncomfortable moment, we see Cersei fall to the floor and slurp what water she can from the flagstones. I’m not sure how to feel about this: Cersei is so horrible but at the same time, it’s really tough to see her suffer.

Elsewhere Sansa remains locked in her tower like a wintery Rapunzel, after Ramsay found out that she wanted to escape. However, Reek lets slip that Bran and Rickon are still alive. I’m intrigued to see what she does with this information – especially because Rickon’s been gone for so long that he’s probably old enough to be interesting by now. Meanwhile back in Meereen, Jorah’s desperate quest to get out of the friendzone continues. As does his Greyscale. He should probably get that looked at.

Then we head back up north to catch up with Jon, who has landed ashore at Hardhome, land of the Wildlings, to try and convince them to fight with him against the White Walkers. All of a sudden, mid-negotiations, the dogs start barking all at once: there is a rumbling, like thunder, and an ice cloud appears on the mountain in what looks like an avalanche. People start screaming in the distance, and those on the beach shut the gates of the settlement, locking a good thousand people in with whatever’s coming. There are screams of terror, and then: silence.

What follows is one of the most thrilling battle sequences I can remember seeing in this series. It wasn’t an avalanche: it was the White Walkers and their endless army of the dead. There is one heart-wrenching moment in which a Wildling ally falls to her knees in horror at the sight of four or five undead children and in her moment of weakness, they rush her and tear her to pieces. Also, Jon Snow realises that his sword can kill the Walkers as it’s Valyrian steel. He stabs one of them and it shatters like glass. It may have taken 5 series, but it looks like Jon Snow might know a few things after all.

Eventually he, Tormond and the other Crows retreat to a boat, realising they will die if they fight any longer. The White Walker King walks to the end of the pier, watching them as they go. As they float away he slowly raises his icy arms, and all of Snow’s comrades begin to jerkily stand up like marionettes. They open their dead blue eyes and then the credits roll in silence, leaving a chill to settle into your bones as the episode ends and you grasp that winter is finally here.

Game of Thrones is broadcast on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9pm.

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