'Game of Thrones' Recap: 'Hardhome' Delivers Confessions and This Season's Big Battle

We're gearing into the "Game of Thrones" season five finale with high stakes and even higher death tolls. But before we dive into this week's shocking final sequence, let's revisit where we left off last week.

Cersei Lannister, Queen Mother/Mother of Madness/Twincest Aficionado, had been locked up by the High Sparrow for her many crimes (specifically fornication, incest, treason and regicide). This week, we see her reduced to rags, urged to confess or else risk death by dehydration. She's drinking whatever water she can from mud on the floor of her cell. She's horrified to learn her Uncle Kevan (I'm sorry, how is there a "Kevan" in this world?) refuses to help her, and young Tommen is too upset to even eat, much less rally his army to her rescue. But Cersei is nothing if not proud. "I will not kneel before that barefooted commoner and beg his forgiveness," she spits at her loyal Qyburn.

We'll see how long she holds out. But confession is the theme of "Hardhome," and by and large, it does seem to do a character good.

"You cannot build a better world on your own."

In Meereen, Tyrion Lannister confesses to the murders of his mother and father to earn the trust of an understandably leery Daenerys Targaryen. While this doesn't win her over completely, it doesn't exactly hurt. (She is after all complicit in the crowning death of her brother.) But what really warms her toward him is Tyrion's measured thoughts on what to do about Jorah. Next thing you know, they're drinking buddies and Dany's confessing that she knows her dad was not the best of kings. Plus she shares her plans to not align herself with the rich folk of Westeros, as much as crush them!

Jorah, afflicted by secret greyscale and banished once more, returns to his recent slave master for another shot at seeing Dany. This dude is just a glutton for punishment. I get that he loves her, that frankly he has dedicated the only part of himself he still respects to helping her. But she wants nothing to do with him. And I don't know that potentially infecting the fighters in the pits so he can force more face time on her is the way to win back her trust or respect. Jorah is going a bit creeper here, and I see no good coming of it.

"If I could do what Ramsay did to you, I would."

Far away at Winterfell, Sansa's confession is that she's glad for every bit of torture her new husband inflicted on Theon/Reek. (I would be too if the show hadn't spent so much torturous time on it in seasons past.) While I'm pissed about the recurring rape plot in Sansa's arc, I relish in her channeling her rage at Theon. This is a far more interesting brand of torment, and it actually leads somewhere! Her bullying pushes Theon to admit he didn't actually kill her little brothers. (Remember Bran? He's been MIA this season. Rickon? We haven't seen him since Season 3!) Bonus: For Theon, this is another in a long list of horrid moments, but it gives Sansa a little ray of hope. Her family is less dead than she knew!

Elsewhere in the castle, the Boltons debate Stannis-slaughtering strategies. And if you thought the showdown at Winterfell would be this season's massive action set piece, Ramsay slayed that hope with his assurance he can bring the Baratheon down with just "20 good men." This is an intriguing development. And I do wonder what Ramsay will make of Melisandre. Here's hoping he gets to her before she gets to Shireen.

"I put an arrow in his heart."

However, the biggest and riskiest confession of the night came from Jon Snow, who's North of the Wall in Hardhome, trying to convince the far-flung Free Folk to follow him south. Now, telling a room full of already-ornery warriors that you killed their leader is a pretty dumb move. Thankfully, Tormund and his big, beautiful beard helped Jon recover, paving the way for Snow's rousing Miracle speech. So, the lesson here may be: Honesty is the best policy ... as long as a tough ginger has got your back.

Of course, even with Jon's revolutionary bid for cooperation, we all realized things were going to go to hell quickly when that chieftain was kissing her daughters goodbye. "I'm right behind you, I promise" -- And cue the White Walkers!

Often on "Game of Thrones," you can spot where this massive production is aiming to cut some budgetary corners. Some are smooth; some are sloppy. (The Sand Snakes needed more rehearsal time for the fight scene. Seriously.) Shutting the gates on those poor Free Folk was a smart workaround. Sure, I'd have liked to see the initial onslaught. But director Miguel Sapochnik squeezed such luscious tension out of the Thenn peeking through the hole in the wall, that I got to say it was the right move for the budget and the episode.

There's a lot to process in that sequence. From the massive casualties that grew the White Walker army, to the suggestion the White Walkers are actually the bringers of the apocalypse (notice it was four horseman on that cliff?), to the fact that Valyrian steel works just as well as dragon glass! Man, was that a satisfying closer! I suspect this -- and not the promised Baratheon/Bolton showdown -- will be the season's climax.

But we have two episodes left to go. What will become of Cersei? What trouble will face Jon on his return to Castle Black? When will Sansa get her revenge on the Boltons? And where the hell is Varys?! Here's hoping next week's "Dance of Dragons" will give us some answers. We've had enough setup. Let's keep the action rolling!

Random Thoughts:

  • "What Do You Do With A Problem Like Jorah?" is a fan song I request someone make immediately. Bonus points if you can affect Peter Dinklage's unique "Westerosi" accent.
  • Tyrion needs to watch his step, sometimes literally. In Westeros, his family's name and money gave him a certain level of invincibility. But none of this helps him now in Meereen.
  • I genuinely wonder what -- if anything -- Tyrion would do if he heard about Cersei's situation. Maneuver a long-distance rescue? Or just raise a glass?
  • I know, I skipped over the Arya plot this week. I'll be honest, the show's trickling this out is getting on my nerves. But I appreciated her braids and was amazed at how good her shucking skills are for a girl who grew up nowhere near the ocean.
  • My only other Arya thought: I'm a bit disappointed her first hit as a Faceless Man will use poison. The Hound would be disappointed too.
  • Qyburn referenced "the work," reminding us that The Mountain is still Frankensteining it up in his weird laboratory.
  • If you're stressed out about the Sansa storyline, maybe look for Barely Lethal. It's in theaters and on VOD now and has Sophie Turner as a teen assassin/mean girl. I found it cathartic.
  • Cersei's tried threats and bribes and threats again to get out of that cell. Her family connections are failing her hard. Humility is her only recourse. But would even that save her from death?
  • I want a Funko POP! figure of that forbidding nun.
  • Dead parents, thirst for vengeance/justice and a preference for black clothing. In an alternate timeline, Olly becomes Batman.
  • Lord of Bones was beaten to death with his own staff. I'd need to consult my notes, but that is the most embarrassing death the series has seen, right?
  • "We're not friends." When Jon Snow inadvertently references a reality-competition touchstone, this reporter full-on guffawed.
  • "He's prettier than both of my daughters, but he knows how to fight." Tormund, please live to Season 6. Thanks.
  • Hooray! Another cool warrior woman to join the cast. Did anyone catch her name -- nope. Never mind. She's dead now. (Fun Fact: her name is Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, and she was recently the best part of Pitch Perfect 2 as a towering and intimidating German a cappella singer.)
  • George R. R. Martin? More like George R. R. Romero, amirite?
  • Was that an Ice King? Pretty sure that was an Ice King. Good news. This is not the first time someone has thought of a "Game of Thrones"/"Adventure Time" crossover.
  • The Ice King raises his arms, and with it his hordes of new minions. Damn. If Jon Snow dropped his sword and peaced out to a far off island where it's warm and no one calls him a bastard all the time, I wouldn't blame him one bit.
  • It's probably good I'm not a character on this show. ("Where did Kristy go?" "Oh, she ran away about 24 episodes ago. Then she died. Because of course she did. But at least she didn't get beat to death with her own staff, huh?!")
  • For funsies:

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