Ever since the second season finale, we've vaguely been aware that the White Walkers are out there, in great numbers, sort of ambling toward the wall at a leisurely pace as winter makes it way across Westeros. But in the Game of Game of Thrones, you only get one point for attendance. And for the past few years, attendance has more or less been what the Walkers have been relegated to: showing up, reminding us they're still on their way, like a lost Uber driver who's been pinging your phone saying he's "now arriving" for the past half hour.
So I underestimated what a force the White Walkers would actually be this year. And I certainly didn't think that after a couple of rather dour weeks on the show, they would be the ones to get me fully locked back into this season again. "Hardhome" felt huge and mythic and significant, up there with Game of Thrones' G.O.A.T. penultimate episodes "Blackwater" and "The Rains of Castemere" — and we've still got two more hours left in the season! For that, plus the more quantifiable accomplishments of assimilating an entire Wildling fishing village and just being generally terrifying, they are the first player on the board to get a 100-point score in a single night.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, and the episode was filled with plenty of good action before that. We started off in Meereen with Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister, chatting it up in the same pyramid throne room. It's still weird, but also feels incredibly rewarding for all the years we've sunk into this show. Tyrion has to earn Dany's trust, which he does by pointing out that he's "the greatest Lannister killer of all time" (+5) and by advising her to re-banish the lovesick traitor Jorah Mormont. (-25 to Jorah, who also still has greyscale, and has also decided the best course of action is to return to the fighting pits. This guy!)
Pretty sick promotion, Tyrion
Tyrion eventually gets hired as Dany's advisor, a pretty sick promotion from the box he started this season in (+25). And hey, let's throw the Mother of Dragons +25 for acquiring such a priceless ally and for finally getting her dramatic moment from the season five trailer ("I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break it," +10). Tyrion was really the one owning the first half of this episode, though, giving voice to everything we've been shouting at Daenerys from our couches the past couple years. There's something fan-servicey about watching these two major characters, both so emblematic of the show itself, sip some of that vintage Myrish firewine (this is my favorite wiki page of the day) and recount their highlight reel of the last few seasons, but I'll take it after the considerably less encouraging adventures they've had this season.
Things have changed dramatically for Cersei Lannister as well, who, like Margaery before her, appears to have rapidly deteriorated in her red cell — possibly even faster, as I'm sure Margaery wasn't out there making death threats to the sisters and getting whacked on the head. She gets a visit from Qyburn and a few pieces of important news: she's been essentially kicked off the small council (-25) and is being replaced by beloved voice of reason Kevan Lannister, and her son is too spiritually shattered to visit his own mother in prison. She's also being tried for "fornication, treason, incest, and the murder of King Robert," which, should she need to start a job hunt, would all look great on her résumé under the Skills section. (Qyburn also says something about "the work continuing," which I can only assume means that his abominable FrankenMountain is about to come to life and break Cersei out of jail.) Then Cersei tries to drink water off the floor, which doesn't work very well! (-20)
There's been some internal debate at GOGOT HQ about whether Cersei and Margaery should be awarded points for "rocking a new look." It cannot be denied that they look different, and I think part of this falls on me for not adding "cool" as a qualifier in that score listing, but the score was originally envisioned as an aesthetic level-up of sorts. You could argue that the fact that a change in their physical appearance means that something interesting has happened to them, thus bringing them closer to "winning the season." But for now, the prison duds feel like more of a dead end for both characters than an intriguing new personal development. Also, the new look wasn't voluntary, which is perhaps a more important distinction. Sorry ladies, no points.
Arya sells shellfish by the seashore
One person who certainly gets a new look score (+10) as well as the incredible outfit score (+15) and hey, the newly established "acquire oyster cart" score (+5) is Arya Stark, who is now trying on her first new Face as Lana, a young Braavosi shellfish seller by the seashore. I've watched this bit back twice, and I'm still not entirely sure what the ship gambler, the cheated sailor, and the thin man have to do with the larger plot, if anything at all, but it was nice to see Arya get some fresh air and a temporary side quest that doesn't involve scrubbing down dead bodies. Also, possibly unrelated, this whole sequence just made me want an oyster.
Some other stuff happens up north — Samwell Tarly has a nice heart-to-heart with Olly (+5), Ramsay Bolton's plotting some horrible new way to fuck with Stannis, and Sansa Stark gets to work out her rage on Reek ("If I could do to you — right here, right now — what Ramsay did to you, I would." +10). Sansa also finally learns that she's not the only living Stark left in the world, which may be enough to keep her from sinking into a pit of hopeless depression, so that's nice. (+10)
But after Tyrion and Dany wrapped up their half of the game, the episode was then handed over to the Wildlings, who really took charge of the middle. Much of this could be chalked up to Tormund Giantsbane, tied with the White Walkers this week for a score of 101. This was a career-making week for Tormund, who landed at Hardhome and promptly crushed cosplaying bully The Lord of Bones (+20) and even punctuated it with a cool-guy one-liner ("Gather the elders, and lets talk." *shades on* +5). Then he and Jon Snow both manage to broker a treaty between the Night's Watch and the Free Folk (+25 each) — a huge power play, especially considering that it took the late Mance Rayder 20 years to unite all the various wildling tribes.
RIP to our new fierce lady wildling BFF
But the Wildlings were also more exciting because we had a fierce new lady wildling to root for, one that, for a second there, seemed like she could bring back some of the dirty-mouthed charm Ygritte took with her when she ascended to that big sex cave in the sky. (I kept trying to figure out where I knew the actress, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen from, and when I realized it was Pitch Perfect 2 and not the highly respected Danish political drama Borgen, I felt a little dumber.) And perhaps those individualized moments of humanization helped make the wight attack all the more devastating. In the course of a few minutes, Hardhome became more than another spot on the map populated by faceless men decked out in skulls; it was a functional little fishing village with a diverse society, most of the denizens of which really didn't want to get attacked by the armies of the undead. (Least of all our new BFF Karsi, who gets mauled by her own children. Eesh.)
But you guys, that's where you get all the points! All our key drafted players — the Wildlings, Tormund, and Jon Snow — picked up +50 in the battle of Hardhome for their contribution to mowing down the wights, however ultimately fruitless. My heart says Jon should get a bonus score just for not dying, because it seemed all but inevitable for a second there, but hopefully his +25 for killing a White Walker with Valyrian steel is reward enough. Also, nobody should get more points than the Walkers. The Walkers won that episode by a landslide, and if they get another week like this I'm willing to consider just giving them the whole season. Technically, all tonight's Wildling points should now be Walker points. Right?
Yeah, I dunno. This is a full-fledged zombie show now, and I'm shocked at how little I mind.
This week's top scoring characters, (calculated from this total b.s. points guide)
- White Walkers (101)
- Tormund Giantsbane (101)
- Jon Snow (76)
- Wildlings (51)
- Tyrion Lannister (36)
- Daenerys Targaryen (36)
- Arya Stark (31)
- Sansa Stark (21)
This week's league rankings
- Liz Lopatto: 57 points (384 total)
- Casey Newton: 129 points (317 total)
- Adi Robertson: 132 points (313 total)
- Kwame Opam: 7 points (263 total)
- Bryan Bishop: 36 points (261 total)
- Ross Miller: -23 points (213 total)
- Chris Plante: 37 points (203 total)
- Dieter Bohn: 0 points (193 total)
- Arielle Duhaime-Ross: 22 points (156 total)