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Winter is coming”. “The night is dark and full of terrors but the fire will burn them all away”. These are sayings, house motto’s, religious mantra’s that have permeated our lives ever since GAME OF THRONES began nearly five seasons ago. We have heard these phrases, these warnings again and again, telling us to beware, that there is something coming, something beyond the conventional radars of noble houses, but did any of us really listen? Did anyone on the show really take heed or notice of these ominous words? Were any of us ready for what happened this week on GAME OF THRONES’ sixth episode of season five?

Many interesting and wonderful things occurred on the episode ‘Hardhome’. The first seventy percent of the show was filled with delights such as Arya taking her new knowledge into a practical realm, Sansa finally finding out her brothers are alive (or at least not killed at the hands of Theon) and a handful of truly impeccable scenes between Dany and Tyrion. But it was the last twenty minutes or so that took a typically great episode of GAME OF THRONES and turned it into something more, something un-expectant and something straight up game changing.

Around the forty minute mark a certain Jon Snow reared his dishevelled head, sailing to icy shores with Tormund and co, right towards the heart of the Wildling’s base, with thousands of bitter free folk ready to greet them with sharp sticks and pointy steel. After a welcome return and quick departure of the Lord of Bones, we were soon treated to one of the greatest moments/scenes in the shows history. Once roughly half of the Wildling’s were convinced to come with Jon back to the relatively safe lands south of The Wall, an eerie mist started to descend, the mountains began to rumble, snow began to fall, dogs began to bark and howl at the icy wind. Something very strange was happening. What followed was probably the most terrifying series of events on the show so far. The mist/snow/wind, whatever, started to turn free folk after free folk into the frosty undead who soon began to turn on those that remained true to themselves. Teaming up with the awesome skeleton army — apparently they are pals — a brutal battle, coming out of absolutely nowhere, completely un-telegraphed, began to unfold in the snow. Jon, rallying what brothers were left and fighting side by side with the Wildling’s that hadn’t fled to Stannis’ nearby ships or hadn’t been cut apart by zombies, took the fight to the enemy and it was spectacular.

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This was only the beginning however. In the midst of grisly war, a White Walker appeared, looming large out of fire and chaos. Jon was now face to face with the real threat. After one of the Wildling’s was quickly dismantled by the beast with the creepy blues, and after Jon was unable to find the lost dragon glass — the only weapon capable of taking down the foe — it began to look like Jon’s time on the show was up. He was beaten, battered, thrown to the floor, left scrambling without a weapon in the snow, the music and diegetic sounds of the show fell away (genius move). He was done. This was surely game over. However, with one last desperate and seemingly futile attempt to stave off the disciples of The Great Other, Jon picked up his trusty sword, the one given to him by good old daddy Mormont, and tried to block a hefty swing by the great brute and somehow, someway, his sword held true, it remained un-shattered. What was happening? How was this possible? We had no idea and neither did Jon but that didn’t matter. Without so much as a second thought, Jon seized the momentum and cut down his shocked enemy, shattering him into a thousand icy pieces.

We needed to pause, we needed time to analyse what in the blue blazes had just unfolded. We need a moments respite to remember that Jon’s sword was made from Valyrian steel, a weapon forged from dragons fire… We were left begging for a moment to cheer that our heroes might have found a new weapon in the fight against evil but no, sorry, things were only just getting started.

Between watching a giant swatting away skeletons and a new character — a lovely young warrior mother — getting ripped apart by zombie children, the real evil revealed itself. Jon and friends found themselves looking up to the cliffs above, up at the shadowy, looming figures perched on horseback high above the battle ground, surveying all that was. At the centre of these onlookers was a familiar face, the spiky horned figure of The Night’s King, the devil that turned that poor baby into a slave of darkness all those episodes ago. He was back, and he was looking right at us, right at Jon. In a wonderful sequence that saw hundreds, if not more, of wights, flooding over the cliffs, seemingly killing themselves, only to resurrect once again to chase Jon and the remaining survivors to the shore was a true highlight. They were fighting for their lives, the giant too; even he had his hands full. It truly was dire straits.

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Clambering onto the last rowing boat, desperately pushing themselves out to sea, arguably the most sinister and insidious moment of the series so far began, showing Jon staring horrified back at shore, locked in a staring contest with The Night’s King himself. This was creepy. Super creepy. The look on Jon’s face as the enemy raised his hands high above his head, in turn bringing back to life every fallen Wildling, the untold thousands that were slain, was priceless. It was a look we all shared. Shit had just got real. This was the truth. This was what we had been told to fear. “Come at me, Snow” was the message that was sent, the message that was so powerfully delivered. And oh my god was it terrifying.

As the mist got thicker and the episode faded to black, we were left reeling following what had very quickly become one of the iconic episodes in the series and instantaneously, the stories most important moment so far. Goodness gracious were we treated. This could have been the typical big episode nine moment, or even the season finale. No one would have complained if this was the case. The events on that icy shore where the word ‘dread’ took on a whole new meaning made all the events down south seem pathetic. All these family disputes, these domestic squabbles and political schemes became meaningless, petty and naive. The world below really has no idea what is coming for them. Jon does, the few survivors of that awful night do, but as far as the southern kings and noble families? S**t… they wouldn’t believe it in a million years. They better get believing though, because the floor has well and truly fallen through. We are on the other side now, everything that comes next will forever be tainted by what we saw this week. Winter is finally here everybody. Someone hold my hand.

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Film and TV Journalist

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