8. Game of Thrones, Hardhome
I’m not entirely sure when it happened for me, but at some point I started holding TV shows in a higher regard than movies. Honestly it probably started happening during my viewing of LOST and was sealed with Breaking Bad. Stories and characters are what fuel me. I honestly can’t get enough of them so I search them out in every type of medium whether it be books, comics, movies, or in this case television. If the stories and the characters are good I want to immerse myself further into the world they live in, and television just has a larger platform for said immersion (that’s what she said). With movies we get a condensed window into the lives of these characters and their story, but when it comes to TV, good TV, we get hours of both. For someone who is as story and character hungry as I am it’s like a feast of awesome.
Making the best of 2015 list solely a list of the best in television would have been kind of easy, as 2015 was a great year for TV, but here at I Am Geek we try and promote variety. Yet as you continue reading this list you will see that a number of shows have worked their way here. I couldn’t omit them all. Yet only one actual episode is singled out. Although as I’m typing this it easily could have been two because Better Call Saul episode, Five-0, was one of the best hours of television I watched all year. Jonathan Banks absolutely kills it as we get the back story to Breaking Bad’s Mike that we didn’t know we were yearning for. Sadly, this list is only a top ten and Five-0 is on the outside looking in.
Before we go any further you should brace your eyeholes because there are spoilers ahead. So if you don’t want to know anything about the Game of Thrones show or books now would be a good place to stop…
Great! Let’s move on.
Before I get into how amazing of an episode Hardhome was I do want to preface this column by saying I didn’t necessarily see eye to eye with season 5 of Game of Thrones. I’m a sucker for staying loyal to the source material, and this year of Game of Thrones saw a lot of straying. Some of things worked (like this episode), and some of them pissed me off pretty good (looking at the fire death of Stannis’s daughter. What in the hell was that about?!). As the show rapidly caught up with the books I even started to debate if I would stop watching. Deep inside, in places I don’t like to talk about at parties, I knew that I wouldn’t. Game of Thrones has become such a watching event for me that there’s no possible way that I could just give it up cold turkey. Plus the internet is cold my friends and I would find myself being spoiled no matter what. Although honestly I would much rather experience the ending of this series through the books. I started with the books and it seems somewhat just to end with them as well. But that future is looking less and less likely as there is no date in sight for the release of Winds of Winter (please next spring, please next spring, please next year… just give me the freakin’ book already!!), and season six looms. I sigh.
So while my relationship with season 5 may have been elevator like (up and down, get it?!) there was nothing I didn’t love about Hardhome. Usually Game of Thrones saves it’s seasons most shocking episode for episode nine but this year the real shocker was that shit got real in episode eight. Allow me to break down the awesome.
Everything that concerned Tyrion and Dany was fan-tas-tic. There is a spoiled child that lives somewhere behind my rib cage that was furious to see this encounter before it happens in the books, but the more reasonable me was like “give me more”. The hype for this interaction was real, not Star Wars real, but real enough and the show knocked it out of the park. Someone should have called Harry Potter because as soon as the two of them stepped on screen together it was magic. Both Clarke and Dinklage had such excellent chemistry together, almost effortlessly playing off of each other, as these two iconic characters started setting the wheels in motion to bring khaleesi towards the Iron Throne. That’s if the mother of dragons doesn’t break said wheel first (see what I did there?). While the book is currently knocking on the door of this encounter one could safely assume that it was enviable, if there is such a thing as enviable in a George RR Martin universe. So while my heart breaks a little seeing it before reading it my mind wanted a cigarette once it was done.
Then we come to the last half hour. Hardhome itself. Again the show chooses to stray from the books, and again it irks me a smidge, but even I couldn’t stay angry for long. The events at Hardhome are mostly alluded to in the novels, we never get to see what actually happens, as no main character is present in the book. So the show runners decided to say “eff that noise” and put Jon Snow smack dab in the middle of it, and I couldn’t be happier they did.
Hardhome allows us for the first time to fully see the strength of the Others (not the Others from LOST but frozen dead Others. Way worse). Everything here was shot amazingly. From the shift in color, grays so cold you thought you’d need gloves, that saw Tormund’s red hair blaze like eye candy and helped set a tone for impending doom.
Kit Harrington has taken a lot of heat for his portrayal of Jon Snow but I thought season five saw him really become fully comfortable in the characters skin, and there is no more shining example then Hardhome. The speech he gives to try and persuade the wildlings to join the cause was impassioned and included an f-bomb dropped by a character who doesn’t swear often, if at all, to show just how desperate Snow was. The bit players played their parts perfectly and we even learned how to say eff off in Giant speak. The table was set for something big, and we were not disappointed.
I want you to picture this if you will. I’m home alone watching the episode with full knowledge of the fates of these characters, as I have read the books, but when the Others show up and start killing everything walking I seemed to have forgotten. 28 Days Later like zombies stormed the town biting and tearing at anything that moved. The music ticked like a doomsday clock, and I’d even go so far to say that this is some of Ramin Djawadi’s best score work. When it came to Snow battling a lead Other I literally found myself yelling at the TV as if I didn’t know what was going to happen. “Get up Jon! Jon get up!” were actual things I said while watching and feeling the judgment of Hudson the Cat.
Even through all the chaos that was this amazing battle the show gave us a hint of something that could be rather important to the future of the series. We learn that Valyrian steel, Jon’s sword, is a weapon that is able to kill the Others. Previously it was just dragon glass so this comes across as a bit of a game changer, and I’m curious if the books will follow this road.
By the time the episode ended, with King Other basically staring Jon down giving him the “come at me bro” sign, I couldn’t re-watch that last half hour fast enough. As a matter of fact I watched twice that night and more times then I can remember, or should honestly admit, during the week. Hardhome is everything I love about Game of Thrones and not only this seasons best episode but most likely the series best episode since the Red Wedding (it’s still way too soon for me to talk about that). While I debate with myself whether to keep watching or wait for the books, I think that debate will be short lived if more episodes are like Hardhome. Winter has arrived and it is ruthless, and I don’t think I can say no.