Game of Thrones, season 5, episode 8, Hardhome, TV review: Winter has finally arrived and drama doesn't get better than this

*Warning! Contains spoilers* This was like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings

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The Independent Culture

Winter. Has. Come. And it’s every bit as nippy as old Ned Stark said it would be. The iciest of ages was ushered in with a sleeves rolled up, old-fashioned belter of an episode that culminated in a 20 minute Wilding vs White Walker/Zombie Hoard royal rumble which was even more spectacular than series four’s Battle of Castle Black. Daenerys, mate, we’re going to need those dragons.

Hilariously, over in sunny Essos, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was sipping wine and telling Queen D (Emilia Clarke) that ‘killing and politics aren’t always the same thing’. Ah, politics. How silly all that’s going to look soon. Deckchairs and the Titanic spring to mind. Tyrion and Daenerys indulged in a bit of light ‘hey, didn’t your great-granddad kill my great-granddad?’ chat that only those really old, posh families can but the only subject matter on their lips should be how quickly the Khaleesi can galvanise her troops for a ski-trip in Westeros.

If the answer isn’t ‘soon’ then we’ve had a serious taste of what the rest of the Seven Kingdoms can expect before Christmas - in a nutshell, a rampaging, exponential army of undead warriors intent on slaughtering all life before them. The Battle of Hardhome was essentially a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, and it was every bit as brilliant as that sounds.

This was some 20 minutes. Crammed with genuinely haunting moments (watching Borgen’s Birgitte Hjort Sørensen’s all too brief appearance ended by a rabble of undead children will take some shifting from the mind’s eye) the action was so intense that you had no idea how that massive, bleedin’ ogre was going to get out of the place alive, let alone little Edd (Ben Crompton).

Having come face to face with the White Walker’s head honcho (complete with natty icy crown), and having seen the slaughtered Wildlings rise to join the ranks of the undead army, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is going to have to come up with a better plan than ‘maybe we could prod them with those bits of Dragon Glass’.

Meanwhile in King’s Landing, a really mean nun kept thwacking Cersei (Lena Headey) with a wooden spoon. (Cersei’s dungeon-based gloating over daughter-in-law Margaery’s imprisonment now seems a bit silly, eh?) In Winterfell Sansa (Sophie Turner) learned that brothers Brann and Rickon aren’t dead (though who knows what they’re up to, the scamps) and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) had an ‘I’ll take ‘em all on’ moment when he suggested he’d like a crack at Stannis’ army with only 20 men. Like all of us, Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) wants to see this play out so he’ll definitely give him permission. Best dad ever.

Finally, I still don’t care what Arya (Maisie Williams) is doing, though I did like the bit where she went to the East End and sold some cockles to a Pearly King.

But that is all thin gruel compared to what’s coming from the north. Winter, is what. And how.

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Game of Thrones season 5 is coming to iTunes in June

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