‘Game of Thrones’ recap: The undead wage war

An epic battle between Jon Snow and the White Walkers stole the show tonight in an episode that saw fan favorites finally connecting and a long kept secret revealed, that’s really saying something.

Jon Snow spends the episode in Hardhome trying to convince the Wildlings to team up with the Night’s Watch to take on the increasing threat from the White Walkers but quickly learns it's going to take a lot more than just asking nicely. Even Tormund, who vouches for Jon, and a gift of dragon steel is only enough to earn him a small army of skeptical followers with the Thenns opting out entirely.

Just as a number of reluctant Wildlings are preparing to board to boats headed to the Wall, clouds of snow begin to rise from the mountains. They soon realize this is more than just an avalanche and the Wildlings close the gates before making a panicked run for the boats. Before they can break away an army of the undead, led by the White Walkers, attack as Jon Snow looks on in horror.

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The ensuing battle, reminiscent of season two’s Battle at Blackwater and season four’s battle at the Wall, is "Game of Thrones" at its best. Giants, Wildlings and members of the Night’s Watch face off against the White Walkers and the result is a bloody, violent mess. Outnumbered from the start, Jon and his crew fight bravely, but even the scrappy Wildlings are no match for the zombie-like creatures. Jon struggles to find the dragon glass as he faces off with a White Walker, who tosses him around like a rag doll. All around him men, women and children are being slaughtered as Jon struggles, bleeding and broken. Only when Jon is able to grasp his Valaryian steel sword is any weakness exposed. He manages to turn a White Walker into dust, before an army of wights descend from the mountain. Tormund and Jon make it safely to boat, but as Jon sails away, he stares into the eyes of the White Walker King. Just by raising his arms, the slaughtered Wildling’s begin to rise, their eyes turning bright blue as they are initiated into an undead army.

Over in Mereen, Daenerys and Tyrion finally have a long-awaited conversation. Dany is of course skeptical of both Tyrion’s identity as well as of his intentions. Unsurprisingly his confession that his birth led to the death of his mother and he recently murdered his father, does little to comfort her. Still, she seeks his counsel on Jorah, choosing to banish him once more and later the two drink wine and bond over their respective daddy issues. Its enough to lead Dany to ask Tyrion to advise her, knowing that his knowledge of Kings Landing and the families fighting for power will be necessary if she ever expects to rule.

Sansa is still locked away at Winterfell, but even after all of the torture and abuse, she hasn’t lost her fire. When Reek delivers her a meal she confronts him over his recent betrayal, as well as the wrong she has done to her family. He apologizes for turning on Robb and for killing “those boys” but Sansa isn’t having. “Those boys” are Bran and Rickon, boys who grew up thinking of Theon as brothers. This leads to a long awaited confession. Reek tells Sansa he didn’t kill her brothers, he killed two other boys in the village and burned their bodies beyond recognition to keep his secret. He leaves before she can question him further, but seeing how this is the first piece of good news Sansa has received since the first season, we can only hope its a sign of things to come.

Things are looking a lot less promising for the Lannister’s. Cersei is still locked away, covered in dirt and refusing to eat, charged with everything from incest to murder. King Tommen is despondent, refusing even to leave his room, Jaime still MIA. Even though it's clear that Cersei’s only hope is to confess her sins to High Sparrow, she refuses to back down.

The only storyline still lacking momentum is Arya, who is now operating under a new identity and selling oysters at the market as part of her service to the Many Faced God. Arya’s story has moved especially slow this year, with only two episodes left, is it possible for it to pay off before the finale?