After that adroit display of verbal flattery, Tyrion goes further, pointing out his stunning resumé in that he is well-versed on Westerosi politics and inter-house maneuvering, how he successfully corralled a mad king of his own and that he could do a much better job advising a ruler worth the name. Dany cuts through his words and demands action; if he wants to advise her, what would he have her do with the traitor she promised to kill if he ever returned?
Tyrion tries to moderate Jorah's treasonous actions and asks Dany to see worth in his motivation and eternal love to her. Yet at the same time, he exposes Jorah's inability to confront his mistakes. He advises that the queen not take his life, as that would only sow dissent but neither can she accept him back to her side, as that would portray weakness. Daenerys can only opt to have him removed from the city once more, though the decision causes a crack in her queenly mask. A devastated Jorah is brought beyond the outer walls and, after checking his greyscale patch and seeing that it has definitely begun to spread, straightens his back and gets down to making his last days worth everything.
In King's Landing, Cersei languishes in the Great Sept's prison cells; stripped of her fine clothes, her dignity and her hair braids. When Septa Unella arrives, the frankly terrifying nun tosses her a small loaf of mouldy bread and allows her one ladle of water, but only on the condition that she confesses. Cersei first, uncharacteristically, pleads to speak with her son, to which Unella harshly splashes the meager serving away. Furious, Cersei redoubles her threats of execution but unlike the Queen Beyond the Narrow Sea, she doesn't have the power to back it up and Unella clonks her over the head with the big wooden spoon, then departs. Cersei half laughs half cries; evidently cracking from liquid and sleep deprivation before screaming futilely.
No-one has been drilling Arya on how to lie even better than ever but even she has minor slip-ups now and again. Still, her kindly mentor canes her less harshly every day and he orders the newest servant of the Many-Faced God to change up her routine. She will peddle her goods at the Ragman's Harbour and see her first objective for the guild without even being told who it is.
Her target, from what Arya can discern, and who she must for now scope-out is a crooked sailing insurance merchant, known as the thin man, who keeps claims for himself when a voyage does go awry, whether from squalls or ironborn pirates. Arya takes him as a regular client with the quality of the molluscs she has on offer and watches him cheat sailors of their dividends. It is revealed that her training focuses on improving spatial awareness and instincts as well as subsuming one's identity. No-one briefs her on her parameters and gives Arya a small bottle of what we must assume to be slow-acting poison. The Waif confronts Jaqen over Arya's readiness and he shrugs off her concerns. Succeed or fail, their god will have his due.
Back underneath The Great Sept of Baelor, Cersei has a visitor. Ever-faithful Qyburn. He relates that the High Sparrow has her up on quite substantial charges of fornication, treason, incest, and the murder of King Robert. "All lies." Cersei spits and asks after Jaime, to which there has been no word from Dorne. Qyburn then informs her that Grand Maester Pycelle has summoned Kevan Lannister back from Casterly Rock to serve as Hand of the King; the power pair have both effectively abandoned the dowager queen to her fate. Worse, Tommen is in self-enforced isolation, refusing meals in his depression over his wife and mother's arrests. Unhinged, Cersei begs for a way out of her squalid predicament and Qyburn obliquely suggests confessing but Cersei's pride rebels at the very thought. Septa Unella bursts in as Cersei insults the High Sparrow and she proceeds to cower and Qyburn to exit. But not before hyping up Cleganebowl with five syllables: "the work continues."
At Winterfell, Reek brings Sansa some hot broth but is instead harshly confronted for his betrayal. He begs of her that he was in fact helping her by telling his master of her escape plan. That his master is all-knowing and that escape will only lead to pain and mutilation and a disgrace that never ends. To which Sansa agrees with his punishment, wishing she could inflict on him what Ramsay did to Theon herself. Theon is too dulled to pain to care much about scornful words after tasting the flaying knife and agrees that his punishment was just considering his crimes: betraying Robb, his botched beheading of Ser Rodrick, his treatment of the castle's inhabitants when it was under his occupation. And of course, the murder of the those two boys. Sansa is rage incarnate.
The Lady of Winterfell obviously wants to know where her surviving kin is but Reek balks and rushes from her chambers, leaving Sansa with a new candle in a very dark night.
Downstairs, in the great hall. Roose and his captains discuss battle strategy. Stannis has six thousand men according to their scouts; over half of which are mounted. Lord Bolton sneers at such cavalry, they will be useless in a siege, and with the weather worsening, time is on their side. Stannis's army will freeze to death or mutiny long before that; while Winterfell has supplies to last half a year without a restock. Ramsay's disdain for a defensive hunkering-down is plain on his face. Roose asks him for his alternative and Ramsay encourages a pre-emptive strike on the enemy camp. Not with a sizable force, as they would be unable to get through the snows, but a small sabotage unit, one that knows the land and that will steal up after the sun goes down, behind enemy lines, and whether through assassination of key figures or firing the tents, leave "a feast for the crows."
We return to Meereen And Tyrion has of course cracked open the queen's modest wine supply; pouring her a goblet as they sit, drink and have an illuminating chat. Their ruthless sires are first to be discussed among the posturing, with Tyrion wondering how far the apple has fallen from the tree regarding Aerys's last surviving child. Dany may not be a master of the game but she's dealt with enough liars to counter with questions of her own, to which Tyrion is not willing to share answers just yet. Daenerys reveals that she is well aware of her father's infamous reputation and though Tyrion seems pleased at her open-mindedness he quickly deduces that she is still hopelessly unaware of the image she projects to the other Free Cities; which is one of a tyrant. Not helped in the slightest by a propaganda machine against her no doubt.
The Half-man is seemingly impressed with the steps Dany has taken to securing peace in Slaver's Bay, re-opening the fighting pits, her upcoming marriage to Hizdahr and her penchant for prosperity over war. Tyrion reveals that Varys is another servant to her cause and though he has played both sides, it was ultimately to keep her safe during her nomadic childhood. Do we really believe Viserys was the sole factor in keeping Dany from Robert's assassins? Probably not. Dany is inveigled of the matter when she notes that Tyrion trusts the spymaster beyond even his own self-destructive tendencies and Lannister confirms this glibly.
Daenerys has made her decision though; he will advise her on the goal her brother set her on from the very beginning. The Iron Throne. Tyrion, having just left the continent ravaged by war thinks she should go after a more worthy prize. After all, Westeros is only a small part of a greater world. He tests her commitment to such a goal and more importantly, her reasons for wanting it. Why? Philanthropy of course, whatever their myriad faults, both of these individuals are empathetic to the plight of common men and women. Tyrion is intrigued by Dany's idealism but once again reminds her that the small folk of Westeros are quite used to feudalistic serfdom and will not be quick to jump to her side as the slaves of the east are. Not to mention the fact that the Noble Houses will oppose her at every turn. Though he leaves out the Greyjoys and the Martells...
But politics did not win Aegon the Conqueror his legacy and with no known allies to the west, Daenerys assures Tyrion that the squabbling and in-fighting of the families must be halted once and for all. Tyrion is exasperated by what he sees as naivety and gives her an observant wink, how can one ever hope to stop the exploitation of the weak by the strong? That's how nature by its very chaotic definition works. Dany has an answer, or three, to give. Use superior force.
Outside the city, Jorah returns to Yezzan and voluntarily chooses to take part in the Great Pit's opening ceremony, as befitting his skills. The minor master is at first vengeful then dumbfounded at Jorah's willingness to risk at worse, death. At best, slavery.
One more check-in with Cersei at King's Landing, whose lips are now cracked and her throat parched. Unella offers her relief once more in the form of the water of life. Delirious, Cersei offers riches and prestige but the lady of the Most Devout is remorseless. "Confess." She states, over and over; withholding the ladle. Since almost her every want has been seen to without fail during her life of privilege, Cersei is quite ready to snap, whispering that all she imagines is the septa's horrific death and yet being unable to have it carried out is causing her to have a near psychotic break. Unella smugly proves the failing of Cersei's sadistic contradictions and the lack of validity in her "power is power" mantra; by slowly pouring away the liquid that can save her. Upon her tormentor leaving and locking Cersei's cell, the Lioness of Lannister, unseen by all, is reduced to slurping up what little water she can recover from the flagstone floor to stave off her thirst, sobbing pathetically as she does.
A country away, in Castle Black, a newly devirginised Sam's injuries are being tended to by Gilly, until Olly, hearing about the altercation, brings him a meal and asks for an ear to listen to his concerns. The boy is leery of their Lord Commander's actions in leading the rescue mission further north; from his point of view the wildlings are their foes, such long-standing enmity will never denote trust. Unfortunately, Samwell gives the lad pithy platitudes on I Did What I Had to Do, which clearly don't resonate with the youngster.
And so we come to the latter half of the episode, which takes place at the eponymous wildling settlement of Hardhome. Jon and Tormund are rowed to shore with a good portion of Stannis's fleet weighing anchor further out to the Shivering Sea, all for the express-purpose of evacuating what seems to be a good twenty thousand refugees; their camps well exceeding the boundaries of the ruined town and stretching out along the length and breadth of Storrold's Point.
Jon's party beaches and they are met with a decidedly chilly reception. But it quickly vaults into near open hostility when the ever-calming presence of the Lord of Bones and his delegation of warriors confront them. Accusations are hurled around despite Jon's attempts to mitigate and Tormund is mocked for his alliance with the crows. Rattleshirt takes things a step too far when he taunts Tormund for sucking Snow's co— Tormund seizes his bone staff and clobbers him to the ground and with nine titanic but crisp overhand blows, caves in the chieftain's giant-skull helmet and the head beneath. "Gather the elders and let's talk." Tormund rumbles and none of the free folk protest.
Within the main longhouse, the leaders of the clans meet with Jon and Tormund and the parley gets underway.
Jon offers the elders the cache of dragonglass knives as a gift in good faith, claiming that one of his brothers slew a White Walker with such weaponry and that he will share not only these with the free folk but the lands beyond the Wall for their agricultural use. As Mance wanted for them. The only condition he puts to them is that they stand with the Watch when the real war begins.
Our new Magnar is unswayed by all of Jon's appeals and quits the mead hall, dividing the free folk who are willing to follow "King Crow" but Karsi and the other elders are brought around and it seems even the resident giant, sitting at the back of the cabin is up for the exodus south.
At the docks, around five thousand wildlings are being ferried over to the ships and Jon worries that they are leaving too many behind; Tormund insists that they will come around, as food stores are running out and it seems the usually abundant game in both the forests and the bay have migrated to warmer pastures. Karsi puts her daughters on a rowboat and promises she will join them soon as she must help the old folk of her clan onto the kayaks and she kisses them goodbye, looking out after them as they recede to what should be a hopeful safe haven.
The solitary giant examines an obsidian spearhead and when Edd, who is gathering up the dragonglass, tries haltingly to ask for it back, he rebuffs him in the Old Tongue. Relieved at not having to interact with the behemoth, Edd turns to leave but hears the sound of barking. The hounds and domesticated wolves in the compound are being driven into a frenzy. Jon and Tormund feel a cold wind rising and they look to the great cliffs that enclose the gulf...
A set of snowstorm zephyrs hurtle over the landscape, joining and coalescing to form an icy blizzard propelled by some black sorcery. The clans far beyond the perimeter of the town are engulfed, the bitter cold stealing their strength in an instant. The masses rush for the safety of the inner palisade but Loboda orders the gates shut and barred before the white-out consumes them all. The doors are closed and a cross-beam put in place, trapping thousands outside to hammer on the wooden stakes, screaming to be let in. Then the mist is upon them — and their cries are utterly silenced.
Loboda stalks forward cautiously, until he can peek through a gap in the logs, he can just about hear the clash of arms within the two-foot vision hole but these quickly die away as well. The next, blue-eyed, shrieking fiends throw themselves against the barricade and nearly claw the Magnar's face off as he dives back. It's a horde of wights. Their crude but still functional weapons begin to crack apart the free folk's defenses and Loboda orders archers to repel the undead.
The refugees are thrown into a frenzy of hysteria, panicking and rioting as they attempt to reach the canoes through the water. Tormund, Jon and his black brothers try to restore some semblance of order, fearing that the boats will be overturned if the swarm of humanity rushes them all at once.
As the gates creak under the onslaught, other wights begin climbing over the stockade, head-shots merely slowing them. Within the mead hall, the giant, Edd and a group of wildlings are set upon by a war band of the lichs as they worm through the caves that dot the cuesta above and jump down through the smoke-light. More examples of relentlessness include the wights who physically tear holes through the stockade with their bare hands, stripping the black flesh from their finger bones as they do; while one determined bastard claws and digs under the main gate, to be met with Loboda's foot crushing its skull under his heel.
In the turmoil, Karsi is able to get the last of the seniors onto a dinghy while Jon orders one of his protesting rangers to take the rest of their boats to the galleys and come back for him and his men. Karsi insists he escape with the rest right now, as they will need the Lord Commander's personal authority to let the wildlings through the Wall. But Jon is needed here.
As one, Jon and Tormund draw their blades, one of Valyrian steel, the other of trusty old iron. "NIGHT'S WATCH! WITH ME! MOVE! MOVE!" And the dynamic duo lead a joint charge of crows and free folk in counter-attack against the invading army...
Who have started to fully breach the dike despite all efforts to stop them, for even one of these ravening wights can kill multiple tribesmen, unheeding of superficial wounds, or even of amputation and with all fuel having frozen over in the blizzard, the free folk cannot bring fires to bear. The wights lay into them, butchering both men and women without care as their fellows try to hack them to pieces, but human doggedness is nothing compared to such reckless hate. From over the barricade, it is revealed that tens of thousands of the undead are swarming across the ice plains like locusts.
Jon and Tormund rush into the melee and patch up a breach with a wight pinned by arrows and a heavy sleigh, while Loboda wields his battle-axe like a pro, cleaving wights apart left and right and even Karsi proves her mettle, dual wielding ice axes to incapacitate the necromantic puppets by leaving them with little above the neck. Jon and Tormund find a lull in the intense fighting to glance upwards, where they see atop the plateau overlooking the village are four figures astride decaying steeds, watching the battle below with a sinister intelligence not present in their thralls. Jon knows who they are, though he only glimpsed one of them almost three years ago in the Haunted Forest, taking Craster's son as an offering.
Knowing their immunity to mortal arms, Jon makes for the hall where the dragonglass is located, Loboda aiding him. The ever-sharp edge of Longclaw, wielded by a man of Stark, carving a swathe through the undead until the giant bursts from the timbered house, ripping apart, throwing and stomping on any wight stupid enough to challenge him.
They rush into the longhouse, where Edd seems to have set the interior afire to drive the wights away and escaped to another fracas. From within the conflagration, the oldest enemy of all living kind, the only enemy that matters, marches through the inferno, his hyperborean presence causing the flames to gutter out and die. Jon and Loboda are transfixed as the White Walker, clad in onyx armour denoting him as a high-ranking warrior, stands before them.
"Get the glass." Loboda tells Jon and strides forward to confront the humanoid abomination, Jon searches frantically through the wreckage for the bag of obsidian while Loboda swings his axe over head with both hands and brings it down. The Other leans casually aside and the blow embeds the axehead into the earth. The Magnar yanks it back and tries again with a cross-cut but his axe bites into a blazing charred wooden pillar instead; the monster is toying with him. Loboda frees his axe, and the Walker uses a partisan made of enchanted crystal to snap-freeze and shatter his weapon into so many useless pieces. Disarmed, the Thenn Chieftain is casually run-through, his blood probably solidifying in his veins from the piercing frore; as no crimson clings to his killer's quartz pole-arm when it's extracted. Jon finds an obsidian dagger among the debris, but before he can reach it he is grasped by an achromatic hand and easily cast along the dirt floor with ghastly strength, losing his sword through the hole in the cabin and into the arctic weather outside, such is the force of his rolling flight. The Walker advances ominously, but even one who is only half a wolf is never down long. Jon weaves under and around the sweeps of the mystic lancet and actually tries to box the White Walker in the face. Amused, the monster throws Jon aside, who scrambles into the rafters and manages to scavenge an anelace, the Walker leaps up onto the beams in a single bound, cherry taps Jon's hastily telegraphed attacks and allows Jon's weapon to splinter on the edge of its pole-arm. Numb from the reverberation, Jon is helpless as the Other brings the wrapped haft of its staff sword down onto his clavicle, smashing him off to fall hard on the mud-packed floor a good twelve foot below.
Winded, head-ringing and with probably a few broken ribs, Jon staggers to his feet and flees from the leisurely pursuing fey. The snow-fall has turned into a true graupel outside and though Jon snatches up Longclaw from among the shattered timbers, internal hemorrhaging brings him down in a heap, disarming him once more. The White Walker is not taking prisoners now, his mouth set in a teeth-clenched snarl as he bears down on the injured Lord Commander. Frantic, Jon just manages to grasp Longclaw as he crawls on his belly, rises to one knee, the Mormont ancestral sword in hand as he executes a last-ditch defiant, all-or-nothing block before he's decapitated. *Crack-clang-huuuuuum* Jon is astounded, as is his opponent, when the thousand-folded dragonfire-forged metal stands up to the magical halberd without a dent. Jon cries out as the vibrations shiver through his arms and needles pierce his eardrums and for a second both the Other and the man of the Night's Watch are utterly gobsmacked, they exchange looks; Jon looks amazed that Longclaw has withstood the Walker's blade, while the Walker looks unnerved that it's facing a foe armed with a weapon that can harm it.
The White Walker recovers first and goes on the attack, but in its furious surprise, the ice demon's attempt to take Jon's head over-shoots, while Jon pulls Longclaw back to his shoulder and whips it from right to left. The spell-imbued steel cuts through armour and hoarfrost flesh with a single stroke, eliciting a much faster and more powerful reaction than Sam's obsidian kill, and the individual belonging to the ancient race that nearly took the dawn explodes in a flurry of ice, with only its crystal halberd left to mark its grave.
As an exhausted Jon pukes blood, the mounted Night's King surveys the bastard boy from the cliff-top with detached interest. A diverting anomaly for one such as him no doubt. Bold. But futile. A minor victory, nothing more. Even as Tormund and Karsi chop down dozens of wights, the latter is overrun by a gang of resurrected children when she is unwilling to raise her picks against them.
Jon is found by Edd, who endorses a full retreat, "Fuck the glass! We're gonna die here!" Why does Dolorous always have to be right? With a screeching Skroth war-cry from one of his two surviving generals, a teeming mass of wights rush past the Night's King and dive off the cliff in greater numbers than the defenders can ever hope to match. Although they break upon the ground, they are not stopped. Neither can the palisade, which finally topples under the sheer weight of undead bodies clambering over it as the gate bursts asunder. Jon, Edd, Tormund and "Wun Wun" the giant are forced to run for their lives, even as the big fella covers their asses with an uprooted flaming log stake that he bats great swathes of the pursuing wights with.
They reach the docks and cast off with all haste, even as Wun Wun crushes fools like a boss, shrugs off the wights that clamber over him and in a refreshing subversion, walks through the breaker waves towards the fleet; keeping his head above water (he'll probably hold onto one of the galley's anchors and get pulled back to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.)
But no boats were reserved for any of the other surviving wildlings, who are all promptly overrun and massacred on the shore line, while all Jon can do is watch.
As the last human life gutters out, a pair of boots come into view on the quay. This stylish footwear belongs to the Night's King; who marches to the end of the pier and transfixes Jon with an unfathomable glare. He draws Jon's attention to the western landscape with a mere turn of his crowned head, where the free folk were camped, and where now remains nothing but blood-stained snow and lifeless corpses.
He looks at Jon anew and raises up his arms slowly, palms upturned, whereupon the corpses of all those who've been slaughtered begin to twitch and convulse. Then their eyes open, all of them as blue as star-light.
Jon's pretensions to actually survive, let alone win the coming war plummet, as the King's army swells their ranks from their now rising dead. He takes one last traumatized look at the ravaged coast once more and the army of the dead now stand shoulder to shoulder, drawn up behind the Night's King, with a solid mass of wights stretching along the harbor for miles. The episode ends in silence, with nothing but the howling wind....
Tropes in this episode:
- Adaptation Name Change: Arya's oyster-seller persona is named Lanna rather than Cat of the Canals.
- Adapted Out: In the books, Arya sells oysters for a man named Brusco, and lives with his family. On the show, they don't appear.
- All for Nothing: Jorah's plan to regain Dany's favor by handing over Tyrion was all for naught. Instead Tyrion gets on Daenerys's good side while he is banished again, and all he got out of it was a bad case of greyscale.
- And Then John Was a Zombie: Two of the wildling leaders, Karsi and Loboda, are reanimated and incorporated into the Wight army. The former Thenn is even made to switch sides before the battle is over and has time to kill some of his former allies.
- And Then What?: Tyrion again raises this question, to convince Queen Daenerys to take him on as an advisor. As he points out, conquering is not the same as ruling.
- Annoying Arrows: None of the wildling archers can slow down the wights for more than a few moments, even with head-shots, since Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain doesn't apply.
- Agent Scully: When Karsi recalls old stories about dragonglass, Loboda disdainfully replies there are old stories about ice spiders as big as hounds. Karsi then wonders how can he be that obtuse after all the things they have seen.
- Arrows on Fire: Averted despite this being one time where the trope would have made sense, given the wights vulnerability to fire. Admittedly, the raging blizzard would have made trying to set them ablaze impossible.
- Asskicking Leads to Leadership: When Tormund wipes the floor with the Lord of Bones, nobody in the chieftain's circle or elsewhere has any problem with it, but quite the opposite, because the Free Folk culture only bows down to strength.
- Back for the Dead: The Lord of Bones returns after two seasons of absence to get his head caved in two minutes later for pissing off Tormund.
- Badass Boast:
- Ramsay claims he can defeat Stannis' army of six thousand with only twenty men. That said, if he can destroy/poison their food, it is very likely he can.
- Daenerys proclaims that she will break the centuries-old social structure of Westeros. What makes it truly awesome, she's putting her own family name Targaryen with the others, decisively breaking away from her father:Daenerys: Lannister. Targaryen. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. Theyíre all just spokes on a wheel. This oneís on top, then that oneís on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground.
Tyrion: It's a beautiful dream, stopping the wheel. You're not the first person who's ever dreamt it.
Daenerys: Iím not going to stop the wheel. Iím going to break the wheel.
- It's done without a word, but the Night's King simple arm gesture summoning more dead into his army of White Walkers is the most terrifying boast of all. Look at this, he shows Jon, I can grow my army and there is nothing you can do to stop me.
- Big Badass Battle Sequence: Despite it being an evacuation, the massive onslaught on Hardhome is unique in that, unlike other battles of the story where the stakes are high, this one has almost no build-up or anticipation.
- Blood from the Mouth: Jon Snow after the White Walker hits him in the ribs.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: The Night's King makes no effort to stop Jon's boat, despite it being within spitting distance of the shore, and the wide shot revealing that the rower has not even been rowing.
- Book Ends: The first and last wide shots of Hardhome, the first showing the settlement with its population alive and well, and the last showing them reanimated and standing eerily at the shoreline.
- Boring, but Practical: Roose says Winterfell's wall and gates are repaired, they have stores for six months so all they have to do is let Stannis bring the fight to them through thick walls of snow and compete against starvation and weak morale. Ramsay wants to show the North that the Boltons can defend itself and proposes to charge at them with twenty men. From the books
- Break the Haughty: Prison has turned Cersei into an absolute mess. When Septa Unella pours her water on the floor, Cersei is desperate enough to lick it up. However, it hasn't broken her completely yet; she still refuses to confess (not even to escape her situation) and she still insists that everyone in the Faith will die for this.
- Brutal Honesty: Jon bluntly tells the wildlings at Hardhome that he shot Mance in the heart, which enrages them. Tormund has to calm them down by explaining the context of their former king's death and that it was more like a Mercy Kill.
- Bullying a Dragon: The Lord of Bones decides it's a good idea to taunt Tormund Giantsbane. Tormund beats him to death with his own club.
- After a massacre the White Walkers again let a member of the Nights Watch escape to tell the tale, though this time Jon Snow isn't a Sole Survivor.
- A subtler one. Earlier this season, Jon killed Janos Slynt with Longclaw, beheading him. He then turned and looked at Stannis, who was observing this entire event, who gave him a tiny nod of approval. This episode, Jon beheads a White Walker after a grueling fight. The storm clears just enough and the camera pans back to show that the Night King was watching, and he gives the tiniest nod, though Jon doesn't look in his direction.
- The Cameo: Mastodon play wildlings in the battle, all of whom are killed and made into wights.
- Canon Foreigner: Karsi and Loboda do not appear in the books. Loboda combines certain aspects of Sigorn, son of Styr and new Magnar of Thenn, and a nameless Thenn that leads his people into the Haunted Forest.
- Category Traitor: The Lord of Bones is on the verge of attacking Tormund for allying with the Night's Watch.
- Chunky Salsa Rule: Apparently fire isn't the only way to permanently destroy a Wight. Hacking them up sufficiently does the trick, more or less.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Liquid deprivation is a recognized torture method. One might wonder what the Seven would have to say about that...
- Cold Equation: The palisade gates are shut, trapping thousands of wildlings outside. None of them live very long.
- Continuity Nod:
- Karsi proves that Tormund isn't the only one who "fucking [hates] Thenns".
- Like Craster in Season 2, Tormund points out that Jon is prettier than his own daughters.
- Lhara is one of the prostitutes Salladhor was bathing with last season.
- Ramsay's plan to take on a numerically superior foe with 20 good men is a call back to Yara's similar attack on the Dreadfort, ironically versus Ramsay.
- The ice spiders as big as hounds that Loboda talks about are mentioned by Old Nan in her Season 1 tale of "The Long Night."
- Convenient Escape Boat: Despite mass panic with wildlings grabbing every boat that's available, there's still one boat left at the pier as Snow, Tormund and Edd flee the final wight attack. Presumably the sailors unloaded their passengers and then rowed back for more (Jon did order a Night's Watchman before entering the fray to do just that).
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Implied Trope. By the way Daenerys talks about how Jorah was not honest about his spying coupled with his facial expression as she speaks, it is clear that if he had been honest in the first place or at least come clean himself earlier, he likely would not have been banished. Especially tragic because of All for Nothing above.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The thin man is a medieval version of this. He works as a life-insurance agent but refused to pay a sailor's family when he perished in a shipwreck.
- Crowd Panic: The wildlings flee to the few boats ferrying people to the ships offshore, fighting each other for a place on board.
- Cruel Mercy: Tyrion notes that Daenerys should avoid executing Ser Jorah, since it's clear how devoted he is to her, and killing someone who followed her that obsessively would do little to inspire passion in her future followers. However, he also realizes that Jorah was dishonest with her, which does warrant punishment. So, Jorah is banished from Daenerys' side once more.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The Walkers win the battle by a landslide, as the remaining survivors are forced to retreat.
- Dark Reprise: When Cersei licks the water off the floor of her cell, we're treated to a slow and much more somber rendition of "Rains of Castamere," signifying just how far the mighty have fallen.
- Deadly Euphemism: Arya's assignment is to study her mark (the thin man) and plan out how she will give him his "gift", says a man as he hands her a vial of poison.
- Devoured by the Horde: During the attack at Hardhome, Karsi encounters child wights which horrifies her to the point that she's unable to lift her weapons at them as the children overwhelm and kill her.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Under pressure Reek tells Sansa the truth about him allegedly having killed her younger brothers. He hastily leaves the room afterwards, shocked at defying his master's implicit orders, but it seems like a little breakthrough.
- Didn't Think This Through: Cersei's play at dissolving the Small Council and trying to rule through Tommen means she's lacking any political allies to get her out of her current situation. With her imprisonment, Kevan has returned from Casterly Rock and has installed himself as the King's Hand...and, thanks to her insulting him earlier in the season, refuses to speak with her. Jaime is out of contact in Dorne while Tommen, having been undermined and left powerless to save both his wife and mother, has had a mental breakdown and taken to locking himself in his room. The realization of the results of her manipulations, and the mess they've gotten her into, hits Cersei like a brick.
- The Dog Bites Back: Pycelle of all people finally turns on Cersei, sending word to Casterly Rock to summon her uncle Kevan to rule as the new Hand of the King. He was loyal to the Lannisters but more specifically Tywin, and throughout the season he has been aghast at how horrifyingly unfit Cersei is at basic governance.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: After the Dragon Queen responds to his initial quip with an Implied Death Threat, Tyrion cranks down his Deadpan Snarker habit a notch.
- Downer Ending: While several wildlings and watchmen survive and they manage to rescue a lot of people who otherwise might have been slaughtered, a lot more of them are killed by the White Walkers. And are then revived as wights. While it is also discovered that Valyrian Steel can kill a Walker, the wildlings and Jon still get their asses handed to them as they realize just how royally screwed they are. Bonus points for them also losing the dragonglass daggers that they brought with them, although Wun Wun might still have the one he was examining before the attack.
- Do You Trust Me?Tormund: You trust me, Jon Snow?Jon: Does that make me a fool, then?Tormund: We're fools together now.
- Dual Wielding: Karsi kicks ass with a dagger and a climbing pick.
- Enemy Mine: The wildlings, including even the Thenns (sort of) join Jon on his way back to Castle Black. Not all of them make it, but Thenn leader Loboda even volunteers to protect Jon as he goes for dragonglass daggers, the very same artifacts that he expressed skepticism in earlier.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: The hounds are the first to anticipate the impending doom of Hardhome.
- Evil Is Petty: When Cersei refuses the water and issues more threats, the septa deliberately pours the water onto the cell floor.
- Exact Words: Arya brings up how Jaqen said he didn't know what she would see at the docks, when he'd sent her there to scope out a specific assignment the Faceless Men had just gotten. He replies that he indeed couldn't have any idea whether she'd actually be able to spot anything out of the hubbub.
- Feet-First Introduction: The Night King striding onto the pier, though the character had been shown earlier.
- Foe-Tossing Charge: More of a Foe-Tossing Lumber, really. While the wildlings are in the process of being slaughtered by the wight legions, Wun Wun is busy throwing them about as if they were fleas.
- Forgotten Phlebotinum: Nothing like the magical storm that kills most of the Wildlings appears in the series again, and none of the characters ever mention it as an ability they have.
- It wasn't the storm that killed the Wildlings, it was the massive army of Wights hidden in it that killed them.
- Friendship Moment: Regardless of whether it's wise to do so, Tyrion acknowledges his trust of both Jaime (the slayer of Daenerys' father) and Varys (who pursued Daenerys and her brother since she was born). Averted with Jorah — Tyrion talks Dany out of executing him, but also advises she must banish Jorah so she won't show weakness (and perhaps to ensure that he's the only Westerosi adviser she can rely on).
- Fun with Subtitles: Wun Wun sees Edd staring at him and asks what the fuck he's staring at. Even though Edd can't understand a word of the Old Tongue, he wisely beats feet.
- Giant Foot of Stomping: Wun Wun shows how it is done.
- I Did What I Had to Do:
- Tyrion defends Varys sending assassins after Daenerys, by saying Varys did it to survive, and also did a lot of things he didn't have to.
- Samwell Tarly defends Jon's actions in trying to save the wildlings, saying that you sometimes have to do things that others will see as despicable. A speculative look forms in Olly's eyes...
- Heel Realization:
- Jorah realizes that if he had been honest with Daenerys in the first place, she likely would not have banished him at all.
- Theon admits he deserves to be tortured by Ramsay for killing those miller's children.
- Held Gaze: Between the Night's King and Jon as the watchmen and wildlings flee Hardhome.
- Heroic BSoD:
- Qyburn informs Cersei that King Tommen has not taken well the arrests of his mother and his wife and keeps himself locked in his chamber, refusing to eat.
- Karsi when she sees the undead children.
- Jon has one that rapidly escalates throughout: first when he sees the wight army, and again when he sees the Night King and the other White Walkers. Once the wights slaughter the last people in Hardhome, Jon is visibly trembling; and by the time that the Night's King has raised all of the slain as wights, the Lord-Commander of the Night's Watch just turns and stares at the sea, speechless.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The Thenn leader Loboda redeems himself of his previous antagonism and confronts a White Walker so Jon can search for the dragonglass daggers. Doubles as Senseless Sacrifice in hindsight when the White Walker makes short work of him and Jon is unable to retrieve the weapons.
- Hold the Line: The battle of Hardhome is basically holding off the wight army for as long as possible while the wildlings evacuate. Things quickly turn into a chaotic rout for the wildlings, but Jon's group of Night's Watch and Tormund's loyal wildlings fight until just before they're overrun.
- Hollywood Tactics: Averted; though the wights can only do a Zerg Rush, the Night King sends in a force under cover of the blizzard to seize the gates in a coup de main. When that doesn't work, he waits till the defenders are tied up, then brings up the reserve for the hammer blow, exploiting their Nigh-Invulnerability by sending the wights diving over the cliff. His raising the dead scene in one dramatic moment after the fighting is over can also be justified under psychological warfare. Played straight by the defenders, who fight in a disorganized mob and apparently forget everything they've learned about fighting the Wights (though that could be put down to terror and the ensuing panic of having to fight a seemingly unstoppable enemy).
- Hope Crusher:
- Reek's reasoning for ratting Sansa out is to "protect" her, as he knows far better than anyone that Ramsay is good at making false hope for his playthings. It's implied things would have gone worse for Sansa if she'd been caught actually in the process of escaping. Sansa however mocks him for this and gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- This was also the intention of the Night's King when he ressurected everyone in front of Jon and the survivors. To crush their hope of ever defeating him.
- Hope Spot: After Jon successfully kills the White Walker Lieutenant with a sword made of Valyrian steel, it seemed like they may have turned the tide of the battle. They still lose and are forced to leave. And to twist the knife further, the White Walkers raise every wildling and black brother who fell in battle and add them to their army.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Tyrion snarks that if he ever gets around to telling Daenerys the story of his kin-slaying, he'll need a lot more wine than he has now.
- Internal Reveal:
- Theon confesses to Sansa that the boys he killed weren't actually Bran and Rickon and her little brothers might still be alive.
- Also, this is the first time that a major leader from Westeros, in this case Jon Snow, is introduced to the true King-Beyond-the-Wall: the Night King.
- It Amused Me:
- One can interpret why the Night King didn't send wights from atop the cliff, where he and his fellow White Walkers were observing the battle, to quickly overwhelm the defenders was because he saw their futile struggle to be entertaining, and likely wanted to see how long they could last against his army's overwhelming might.
- The Night's King also took the time to resurrect everyone Jon left behind in front of him and have them all stare at him in eerie silence, just to fuck with him.
- The Juggernaut: Not a lot manages to slow Wun Wun down.
- Kill It with Fire: Averted; the White Walker extinguishes most of the burning council hut with his mere presence, and Wun Wun is the only one who gets a chance to lay his hands on a burning brand. Any fires that could have been used against the wights are put out by the blizzard.
- Kryptonite Factor: The White Walker lieutenant discovers its people's second weakness at the same time Jon does: Valyrian steel.
- Large Ham: Arya/"Lanna" really gets into character when selling her shellfish.Arya: Oysters, clams and cockleeeeees!
- Laser-Guided Karma: Not only did Cersei set her own downfall in motion by enabling the Faith, her actions earlier in the season come back to bite her. Kevan Lannister, whom she belittled and insulted, now refuses to even see her; and Tommen, separated from any forms of support, is in no position to help her.
- Manly Tears: Jon, Edd, and Tormund as they helplessly watch the slaughter of the remaining wildlings and their subsequent reanimation.
- Marionette Master: The White Walkers impressively demonstrate this ability. At the peak of the battle, they send another large chunk of wight puppets down a cliff like lemmings. Afterwards, the Night King himself raises the fresh corpses with a momentous gesture.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": The wildlings and Jon's party all do this when they see the White Walkers are coming. This goes From Bad to Worse at the end of the episode. Once the survivors are on boats rowing away from the fallen Hardhome village, they have to watch the Night's King raise up all those who were killed to add to his army of undead.
- Mercy Kill: Discussed. The rest of the Wildling chiefs are pissed when Jon Snow admits to killing Mance. Tormund defends Jon by arguing that an arrow straight to the heart was better than being slowly burned alive.
- Might Makes Right: Subverted. When Daenerys states that all she needs are her army and dragons, Tyrion reminds her that killing and politics are not always the same thing.
- Mythology Gag:
- Tormund says that Jon is prettier than both of his daughters, who are nowhere to be seen on the show. (Though he does help a red-haired girl into one of the canoes...)
- Ramsay Title Drops the name of the book, suggesting they hit Stannis first and hard and leave "a feast for the crows."
- Combined with a Visual Pun, when Arya is explaining her daily routine as Lanna, during the part where she mentions the canals a cat crosses her path◊, alluding the alias Arya uses in the books "Cat of the Canals".
- Her "Lanna" alias is a minor one. There is a Braavosi teenage prostitute called Lanna, the daughter of the Sailor's Wife.
- Loboda's comment about sending the Lord Commander back minus his eyes references an incident in A Dance with Dragons where the Weeping Man, one of the remaining wildling chieftains hostile to the Watch after Mance's defeat, sends the severed heads of three rangers with their eyes gouged out back to Castle Black.
- No Name Given: The names Karsi and Loboda (the only female wildling leader and the Thenn, respectively) are not used in the episode. The characters are named by the script.
- "Not So Different" Remark: Tyrion sums up himself and Dany as, "Two terrible kids from two terrible fathers."
- Oh, Crap!:
Dolorous Edd: OH FUCK!
- From a White Walker of all people, when Jon is able to successfully parry his ice spear with a Valyrian steel sword without the blade itself shattering into ice.
- The arrival of the White Walkers causes all the wildlings to panic and desperately run for and even swim for the ships.
- Dolorous Edd and Jon's reaction to a swarm of wights flinging themselves from the cliff overlooking Hardhome...and once they hit the ground, promptly get back to their feet, snarling and shrieking for blood.
- Tormund's reaction as the palisade walls of Hardhome give way under the sheer weight of numbers of the undead trying to climb over them.
- Reek looks utterly shocked about his own control after he tells Sansa that her younger brothers might still be alive, thus giving away important information without his master's consent.
- Nothing Is Scarier: We don't get to see exactly what that supernatural mist does to the wildlings trapped behind the closed gate at the start of the battle. However, if one listens carefully, they can hear muffled screams coming from behind the gate, which gives a good indication that something very unpleasant is going on.
- One-Man Army: More like a Wun Wun Man Army. Wun Wun is pretty much unstoppable, and his sheer size and strength makes him particularly well-suited to fighting the wights, as crushing them completely is more effective than puny blades.
- Personal Horror: Jon Snow and the rest of the Night Watch and surviving Wildlings can only watch as the army of the dead grows by the almost 100,000 Wildlings they went to save.
- Precision F-Strike: Edd gets quite a one.Jon Snow: The dragonglass-Dolorous Edd: Fuck the glass! We're gonna die here!
- Rank Up: Qyburn relates that Ser Kevan Lannister has returned from Casterly Rock and now presides the small council as Hand of the King.
- Realpolitik: Tyrion demonstrates some of his father's mastery of politics by explaining how the Houses of Westeros are likely to react to Dany's claim: The Starks are gone, the Lannisters and the last Baratheon (Stannis) would never recognize her, and the Tyrells are most likely to support her but they alone won't be enough (and even that is optimistic). Though he doesn't mention any of the other possible allies, such as the Martells (who would probably have the most reason to support her), the Arryns and Vale Houses (who haven't entered the war yet so still have a lot of military force) or the lesser Northern and Riverlands Houses and supporters of House Tully (who he also doesn't mention) who would probably want revenge on the current regime. To be fair none of those groups would talk to a Lannister (Oberyn's death, Red Wedding, armed the mountain clans to sack the lord of the Vale) even if it's Tyrion so it's not like he'll consider them.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- Even with the bloody history between the Lannisters and Targaryens (the Lannister soldiers raped and killed Daenerys' family during the Sack of King's Landing), she ends up hiring Tyrion as her adviser once she sees how cunning and useful he is.
- Most of the wildling elders (minus Loboda the Thenn) decided to take Jon's offer to go south on his ships. Which saves at least some of them from the White Walkers' army.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Sansa gives a brutal one to Theon reminding him outright that he is almost as bad as Ramsay himself for betraying the Starks, sabotaging Robb's campaign and for killing children. This is effective enough that Theon snaps back and relapses to his former memories without Ramsay's conditioning working on him.
- Red Herring: Another set-up Chekhov's Gun is dismantled before it can be fired: the dragonglass daggers. Not only do they go unused during the wight onslaught, but they get left behind at Hardhome.
- Refuge in Audacity:
- After being brought before the last known member of a hated family who has every right to execute him, Tyrion does not ask if he would be worthy of Daenerys' service, but if she would be worthy of his service. The sheer guts to say that alone are likely what saved his life, at least in part. As he explains to her, he's only offering his services to her on the off chance he prefers it to suicide anyway, and so has nothing to lose.
- Jorah Mormont returns to the same slave master he elbowed in the face and sells himself back to him, pointing out that he's already proved himself his best fighter.
- Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: Averted; the wights are immune to arrows to the head. They have to be crushed, cut to pieces or burned to be taken down. For some reason no-one, not even Jon, bothers to use fire against them even though they had done that in Seasons 1 and 3 (although admittedly the chaos of battle and the raging blizzard would have made trying to start a fire near impossible and any fires already burning are subsequently blown out by the wind and snow when the White Walkers initiate their attack).
- Restricted Rescue Operation: The White Walkers attack just as the evacuation is getting started. It becomes necessary to close the gate the Free Folk are fleeing through, as they are getting killed and turned into wights.
- Riches to Rags: Another literal example in Cersei, stripped of her finery and kept in a dirty cell wearing only a thin, plain dress.
- Rule of Symbolism: Four White Walkers atop wight horses overlooking the massacre at Hardhome from the cliff: Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
- Run or Die: Once the weight of wights overturn the palisade, the defenders have no choice but to run for it.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The thin man is basically a corrupt life insurance agent that refuses to pay up when a ship's captain dies, because what can a widow and a child do to make him? Perhaps a servant of the Many-Faced God will settle the score...
- Shoot the Dog: Loboda the Thenn shutting the gates and denying refuge to a panicked mob looks like a callous move at first, but it's logistically sound, as the exposed multitude outside is killed by wights soon after when they are caught by the summoned blizzard. Most certainly, before people start crossing en masse is the last time the gates can possibly get closed.
- Jon Snow's arrival at Hardhome, standing upright in profile at the prow with his men rowing, refers to a rather famous painting.
- A snarling foe breaking through a barricaded door, with archers and axe-men waiting on the other side, resembles the mines of Moria scene in Fellowship of the Ring.
- The Siege: The White Walkers overrun Hardhome, forcing the wildlings to flee to The Wall.
- Silent Credits: Subverted. Once the credits start, we get several seconds of the ambient sounds of waves crashing on the shore of Hardhome, until the music starts.
- Sink or Swim Mentor: He has barely trained Arya or taught her in detail about his Mystery Cult, but Jaqen decides to give Arya her first mission anyway. The Waif feels she hasn't been trained yet but Jaqen reasons that either Arya will rise to the occasion or she won't, either way the Many-Faced God will get a supplicant.
- Skeletons in the Coat Closet: The Lord of Bones of course, but Wun Wun can be seen with mammoth bones shielding his back.
- Start My Own: Tyrion briefly asks Dany to consider this. Why chase the Iron Throne when she can have her own empire in Essos:Tyrion: There's more to the world than Westeros after all. How many hundreds of thousands of lives have you changed for the better here? Perhaps this is where you belong, where you can do the most good.
- Suicide Mission: Jaqen sends Arya on her first assassination mission knowing that it could end with her death. He does not care, as whether she succeeds or fails the Many Faced God doesn't actually care.
- Take a Third Option: Dany asks Tyrion if she should forgive Jorah or kill him, as she said she would if he returned to Meereen. Tyrion tells her to banish him once more, as killing such a devoted follower would do as much damage to her image as employing a traitor.
- Think of the Children!: Played seriously.Jon: I'm not asking you to forget your dead. I'll never forget mine! But I'm asking you, to think about your children now. They'll never have children of their own if we don't band together.
- This Cannot Be!: The White Walker fighting Jon definitely thinks this when Longclaw manages to parry its enchanted blade instead of shattering like all before it.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: Jon has one of these at the very end of the episode, after watching the Night's King raise all of the dead at Hardhome as wights.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Tormund nails a wight with this.
- Thrown from the Zeppelin: Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane try to convince the Wildling leaders to ally with the guardians of the Wall against the undead White Walkers. The Lord of Bones sneers at the idea of an alliance, accuses Tormund of being a traitor, and is promptly beaten to death. The Lord of Bones is actually killed before the meeting where Jon lays out his entire proposal, and the other chieftains contemplate it (with one who rejects it being allowed to leave peacefully). Still, his death is fairly similar to an ordinary use of the trope.
- Trailers Always Lie:
- Previews and behind-the-scenes material hinted that the fight at Hardhome would be between the Watch and Tormund's followers against hostile wildlings.
- Likewise, Daenerys' "Break the Wheel" speech featured in the trailers sounded like a declaration of revenge on all the houses who wronged House Targaryen. In the show, when she intones the names of the Great Houses but she lists Targaryen right after Lannister, changing the meaning completely. It's a Badass Boast to totally change and upend the entire feudal order and not a revenge scheme to restore her family's Glory Days.
- Trouble Entendre: Qyburn assuring Cersei that "The work continues", presumably in reference to his experiments on a Not Quite Dead Gregor Clegane.
- Undead Child: Karsi is fighting off wights when she notices a group of undead children, who quickly overwhelm her when she hesitates.
- Villain Ball: The White Walkers doesn't take the human resistance seriously.
- There is no other way to explain why the White Walker slays Loboda rapidly but when he fights Jon he first punches him around instead of going for the kill.
- This also applies to the Night King who probably could have killed a lot more wildlings if he wanted to. Such as raising the dead in the middle of the battle as opposed to the end. Even without that, he could have at least sent in the extra troops from the beginning instead of toying around.
- Villain Respect: The Night's King quietly watches as Jon slays a White Walker and his reaction carries more acknowledgment than surprise. He deems the human worthy enough to taunt him personally as Jon sails away.
- Weather of War: The blizzard sent ahead of the White Walker attack.
- We ARE Struggling Together: Jon gives the free folk the same speech he gave the watchmen two episodes prior. Regardless of the resentment between the two factions, the White Walkers will wipe them all out without prejudice unless they band together.
- We Hardly Knew Ye:
- The female wildling leader Karsi has all the makings of a prominent character, but alas, she is killed in the same episode she is introduced.
- Loboda the Thenn shares Karsi's fate, if not her charm.
- What You Are in the Dark: Tyrion and Dany discuss this vis-a-vis Jorah. He had ample opportunity for years to come clean to Daenerys about his service. Tyrion defends Jorah as best as he can but even he can't argue against Jorah hiding his past the way he did. The way Dany is sad when she says that he didn't say it, suggests that had Jorah been honest with her, Dany would have forgiven him. Jorah for his part reacts to this with an expression of Heel Realization.
- Wham Episode: The White Walkers lay siege to Hardhome and annihilate most of the Free Folk established there. We get a good clear look at the Night's King and the confirmation that Valyrian steel is lethal to the White Walkers.
- Would Hurt a Child: The wights make no exception for anyone living, regardless of age. Karsi runs into several children that have been turned into wights, much to her horror.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Being a mother herself, Karsi can't bring herself to attack the wight children. They overwhelm her en masse.
- Zerg Rush: Barring a flanking maneuver near the end when the Night King sends a horde of wildlings over a cliff and into Hardhome proper, the White Walkers' attack on Hardhome consists of sending a horde of wights to overwhelm the wildlings and Night's Watch through sheer numbers.
- Zombie Apocalypse: The Night's King, his White Walker lieutenants and a horde of wights finally begin their assault from the North, starting with the last main wildling settlement still standing and turning their dead to grow their army substantially.