It became one of the most talked-about shows in the world during its 8 years on air making superstars out of its cast. The HBO series Game of Thrones became a cultural phenomenon. Set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, Game of Thrones has a large ensemble cast and follows several story arcs.
One of the major arcs is about the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and follows a web of alliances and conflicts among the noble dynasties, either vying to claim the throne or fighting for independence from it.
Another arc focuses on the last descendant of the realm’s deposed ruling dynasty, who has been exiled to Essos and is plotting a return to the throne. A third story arc follows the Night’s Watch, a brotherhood defending the realm against the fierce peoples and legendary creatures of the North. These mysterious White Walkers were an ancient race of formerly-human ice creatures who came from the Far North of Westeros – they and their return were the major threat to all mankind that slowly but surely became the one and only remaining arc in the series.
For readers of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga, HBO’s Game of Thrones has held few true surprises over the last four seasons. Ned Stark’s execution, the Red Wedding, Joffrey’s death, and every major battle have followed the example of the book closely, though not always to the letter. That’s was not the case with the show’s fifth season. As we saw “Hardhome,” Game of Thrones and Martin’s books are two increasingly different works.
There is an argument to be made that the Battle of Hardhome (aka. the Massacre at Hardhome) is the best battle sequence in all eight seasons of Game of Thrones in close competition with the Battle of the Bastards in season six.
Hardhome also came during what some fans considered was a slow-moving season that focused on the struggle between Cersei (Lena Headey) and The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) more than anything else.
The battle is the first time fans were shown the full strength of the White Walkers and their army of the undead. The episode also set up the next three seasons and made it clear that the Night King was a force to be reckoned with.
In the books, the wildling settlement known as Hardhome is mentioned several times. Many wildlings fled to the “town” after Stannis Baratheon broke the wildling ranks as they marched on the Wall. As Jon is looking to bring the wildlings into the fold against the Others and their undead hordes, he sends a fleet of Night’s Watch ships, commanded by Cotter Pyke, down the coast to Hardhome in order to recruit any wildlings willing to join the Brothers in Black.
Then we see the mist coming off the mountains. The episode is a visual spectacle on par with any big Hollywood blockbuster. The epic battle reminds us why Jon Snow is the best, and the chilling, chilling image of the Night’s King bringing all those slaughtered in the brief battle back to life as Jon and what wildlings remain to escape to the south.
The battle of Hardhome was more of a route and the losers barely managed to beat a retreat. We the audience were left with a jarring impression that the army of undead is an unstoppable force.