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Game Of Thrones Recap: Finally, The Episode We’ve Waited Five Seasons For

The distinctly lacklustre season picks up at last.

This is a recap of the most recent episode of Game Of Thrones. Spoiler alert.

Dissecting the machinations of elite Westerosi politics, it’s easy to forget what kicked off this show: ice zombies. After all, this is A Song of Ice and Fire, and everything we’ve seen so far has been building up to an atavistic clash between humankind and the White Walkers. This week, a distinctly lacklustre season picks up at last with a thrill-packed battle underscoring just what’s at stake.

How frustrating it must have been for Sam, trying to explain to poor, vengeful Olly that if the White Walkers ever got south of the Wall, it would be bad. Only Jon, Sam, Bran, and a handful of others have seen wights and Walkers in action. The wildling elders and skeptical black brothers alike believe they’re nothing but fairytales.

Not after this episode. But who’ll provide the fire to fight the ice? Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons? Stannis Baratheon and the Lord of Light? Or the Night’s Watch – the “the fire that burns against the cold”?

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Criminally under-used: the wildling Chieftainess was this episode’s MVP.

It was wonderful to see Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, who played the Teutonic aca-babe from Das Sound Machine in the woeful Pitch Perfect 2, as one of the wildling leaders. Tender, fierce; a total badass. And it’s very George RR Martin to kill her off almost straight away, gruesomely devoured by zombie kids she can’t bring herself to attack.

But more on the battle later. In King’s Landing, Cersei is still languishing in the dungeons beneath the Great Sept, tormented by a grim, ladle-wielding septa – Westeros’s answer to The Freak from Prisoner – who demands a full confession in exchange for water. Even if she has to lick the spilled water from the grotty cell floor, Cersei is still gamely insisting the charges against her – fornication, treason, incest – are “all lies”.

“Of course, your Grace,” oozes the ever-squicky Qyburn. It says a lot about Cersei’s predicament that he’s the only one who’ll visit her. Horrifyingly, Qyburn also informs his captive queen: “The work continues”. Seems the White Walkers don’t have a monopoly on zombies… More reassuringly – though not to Cersei – uncle Kevan is now Hand of the King. He’s automatically better than her.

At Winterfell, an increasingly belligerent Sansa tears strips off Reek – not as literally as her husband – for foiling her escape. But what if he only betrayed Sansa to save her from sharing his terrible punishment? I still see Theon Greyjoy as a tragic figure – someone caught between two families, who wanted to be respected, but bungled everything and paid dearly for it. I was glad he let slip that Bran and Rickon aren’t dead after all, because I wanted Sansa to see there is still good in him.

There is no good, however, in Ramsay. Lacking the patience of his siege-minded dad Roose, he volunteers to bring the fight to Stannis with 20 fellow evildoers. Is this an arrogant miscalculation, or a guerrilla attack that’ll devastate Stannis’s snow-weakened forces?

“Oysters, clams’n’cockles!” A girl is super pleased with her swishy skirt. [via Entertainment Weekly]

In Braavos, Arya’s training with the Faceless Men is coming along briskly as she coster-plays a costermonger, observing a dockside insurance shyster ripping off his sailor clients. Her big initiation will be to poison his oyster-vinegar, although that cuntish Faceless Girl can’t help throwing shade by asking Jaqen if Arya is “ready”. (I took his reply less as “no biggie if she dies” and more as, “Why do you even care?”.)

I’m still wondering where Arya’s story is leading, and also why Braavosi characters sound like Flea Bottom cockneys. Where’s the lilting accent? Aren’t they meant to be speaking Low Valyrian?

Daenerys tells Tyrion to quit the vino: “You’re going to advise me while you can still speak in complete sentences.”

In Meereen, Tyrion immediately proves his worth to Daenerys by throwing Ser Jorah under the bus. Buh-bye, Ser Friendzone! But it’s probably the kindest thing he could’ve done under the circumstances – this way Ser Jorah escapes unscathed, except for that incipient greyscale, and his wounded pride from having Tyrion point out his crush on Daenerys in front of everyone. Does he rejoin the gladiatorial troupe because the Great Pit is a way back into the city? Why does he want to be a slave? Whatever he has in mind, it’s probably a bad idea.

Tyrion and Daenerys are already a gratifying power duo. His advice is based on realpolitik, yet he lets Dany feel she’s acting on principle. I was a bit excited that she’s getting revolutionary, with her talk of the common people and “breaking the wheel” of aristocratic rule – the clockwork mechanism we see in the opening credits. (Of course, this makes me wonder whether the High Sparrow would consider her an ally or an enemy. Would he be the Rasputin to her Lenin? And does this make Tyrion Trotsky?)

“Not a single person who shares your blood is alive to support you,” Tyrion tells Dany. But is that right? Let’s talk about those fan theories. We’ve already had heavy hints that Jon Snow is really a Targaryen – the son of Lyanna Stark and Daenerys’s brother Prince Rhaegar. But have you heard the one about how Tyrion is also a Targaryen, because mad King Aerys raped his mum, Joanna? This theory provides another reason for Tywin Lannister’s lifelong loathing of Tyrion; in some versions, Tywin tries to have Tyrion aborted, which causes his dwarfism.

Only Targaryens can ride dragons. And Daenerys has three dragons. Just saying.

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Final boss in the game of thrones: the Night’s King (complete with icicle crown).

The extended Hardhome battle sequence built exhilaratingly from an ominous barking of dogs to the kind of frenzied undead swarms last seen in World War Z,  almost liquid in their ability to flow and press and squeeze through barriers.

But I think I preferred the White Walkers when the show took the Jaws approach of suggesting, not showing them. It made them more terrifying and inhuman. It was shit-scary to see them, as Jon and his companions did, astride their wight-horses in the distance on the hill. It was less scary when they were seen close up, basically being wrinkly, icy people.

The most thrilling moment, of course, was Jon’s realisation that dragonglass isn’t the only thing that can kill White Walkers – so can Valyrian steel.

Dragonsteel CAN melt ice beams!

Like dragonglass, blades forged in the dragonflames of Old Valyria seem to be the Walkers’ natural enemies. Would the Stone Men, who live in the ruins of Valyria, also be impervious to the Walkers? If so, would that mean that Ser Jorah could fight them?

That’s just me speculating. But the way the boss White Walker was studying Jon made me wonder whether he was noticing Jon’s sword Longclaw, or Jon himself. Does the Night’s King observe something about Jon that our favourite know-nothing doesn’t?

Leaving behind a resurrected wight army of terrifying size, Jon drifts back to sea. (Guess they’re not called White Swimmers.) But something tells me Jon and his wildling asylum-seeker flotilla will meet a pretty “nope nope nope” reception back at Castle Black…

Game of Thrones airs on Foxtel’s Showcase on Mondays at 11am, with an encore broadcast at 7.30pm on Monday evenings.

Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and cultural critic. She blogs on style, history and culture at Footpath Zeitgeist and tweets at @incrediblemelk

Read her recaps of Game of Thrones here