Game of Thrones may have taken the viewers into uncharted waters this season but that hasn’t taken away from the enjoyment of the show. Hardhome continues a tradition that was started back in season one and that is having the eighth episode be the biggest episode in terms of story impact and just jaw dropping scenes.

The first half of this week’s episode had us jumping around quite a bit before we got to the epic closing half that took us north of the wall. This episode takes us back to Braavos where Arya is continuing her training with the Faceless men. Arya is tasked with taking on a new identity that sells oysters along the canals and report back to Jaqen what she has seen. As a test, she is required to study a certain swindler and then somehow assassinate him.

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Also taking place in Essos is the meeting of Daenerys and Tyrion. Jorah is once more brought before his queen and in thanks to Tyrion has his life spared and is banished again. Eventually we are taking a private meeting between the two as Daenerys probes Tyrion for his true motivations and what use he can be to her. Tyrion and his silver tongue manage to convince Danaerys to keeps him on as an advisor.

Shooting back over to Westeros, King’s Landing is in turmoil as the sparrows and Faith Militant still keep Margaery and Cersei detained. This week’s episode briefly focuses on Cersei’s plight and her interaction with the Septa that ask her daily to confess her sins. A visit from Qyburn shines some light on what is taking place in the capital but none of it is good news for Cersei.

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The North gets colder as Winterfell gets ready for the long winter. Sansa shares another conversation with Reek (the former Theon Greyjoy) that sheds a light on his cowardice last week and leads to Sansa learning that not all is lost with the news of her younger brothers’ survival. Roose and Ramsay prepare for the marching Stannis and his red lady. The warden of the north plans to last out the winter in Winterfell’s walls, but Ramsay convinces him to let him lead an attack on the approaching army.

A conversation at the wall with Sam leads you to wonder what Olly (the young steward) is really thinking about in regards to the wildlings and Jon Snow’s willingness to have them on their side. The talk there leads us to Hardhome, a wildling village where the remaining wildlings from the battle with Stannis escaped to. Despite high tensions, a large number of wildlings were convinced to come back to the wall to be let through if they helped to fight the white walkers when the time came. We got to meet a new giant and a few other new wildling leaders and while there was a disagreement with the Thenn’s and their refusal to come back, by the end of the episode none of that mattered. As Jon Snow and his men were loading up to head back things got a bit interesting. A massive cold front came in and what came in with that was the army of the dead. The last half of the show focused on the massacre at Hardhome and what a battle it was. With White walkers lurking overhead as their undead army just kept coming and the wildlings fleeing and fighting for their lives, this battle was filled with frantic action. The only bright side for the race of men was relearning that dragon glass isn’t the only thing that can kill a walker, so can Valaryian steel. Hardhome ends with the army of the white walkers taking it over and standing on the shore as the surviving wildlings and black brothers sail back.

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Episode 8 of season 5 sets us up for the home stretch. Except for a few certain narratives (mostly King’s Landing) everything that is about to happen is after book five in the series putting all the fans in the same boat. As a fan, Arya’s story arc is one that I am looking forward too the most. She’s lost everything (or so she believes) and all she has on her mind is vengeance. On top of that, she is learning how to blend into a crowd and be someone else as she trains to become an assassin, the possibilities are endless. Cersei’s downfall is one of the more enjoyable story lines to follow. A devoted mother she may be, but a good person is something she can never be called. Winterfell is about to become a lot more crowded as Stannis and his army are about to confront the Boltons. It will be intriguing to see what role Sansa, Theon and Brienne will have when that battle begins. Despite the Game of Thrones that is occurring elsewhere in the world, the real struggle and battle for the world began at Hardhome. The White Walkers overlooking their undead army was a site to see and eerie as all hell, especially the closing scene with Hardhome in their full control.

A fantastic episode that once again proves that Game of Thrones is one of the best shows on television. Many questions are still up in the air and one of the most prominent ones is: can the wildlings and the night’s watch co-exist with the threat of the Others?

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