'Game of Thrones' Ventures Beyond Books in a Big Way

Jon Snow faces a big challenge.
Helen Sloan/HBO

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones, "Hardhome."]

The Night’s King has returned.

Since his first appearance in last season’s episode, “Oathkeeper”, fans have been abuzz about the appearance of the Night’s King, the leader of the White Walkers and a character who has been heavily hinted at, but so far unseen, in George R.R. Martin’s novels. This Sunday, the White Walker-in-Chief returned, leading a host of undead wights and White Walkers upon the wildling holdfast of Hardhome.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), and Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton) battled against the Night King’s forces, along with a group of brothers of the Night’s Watch and wildlings, after an attempted recruitment of the harboring wildlings at Hardhome to return to Castle Black and renounce the ancient feuds between the Night’s Watch and their slightly more savage neighbors to the North.

In an epic, 20+ minute battle sequence, usually reserved for the penultimate episode of the season (like season 2’s “Blackwater, and last year’s “The Watchers on the Wall”), Jon Snow managed to slay a White Walker in single combat with the use of his Valyrian steel blade, Longclaw. Is this a hint at future tactics to defeat the White Walkers?

Also making his debut is the giant Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, who book readers will recognize from his appearance in A Dance With Dragons.

The battle at Hardhome was only one of the major events shaking things up in Westeros and across the Narrow Sea:

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Tyrion uses his wit to charm Daenerys. Following last week’s shocking meeting, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) manages to score himself a role as Dany’s (Emilia Clarke) advisor. “I thought you were worth meeting at the very least,” Tyrion explained to the queen when asked about his arrival in Mereen. Unfortunately for Jorah (Iain Glen), Dany was not in a forgiving mood and was forced to tearfully exile her once-most-trusted advisor yet again. But she wasn’t done showing off her tough resolve, as she told Tyrion of her plans to reclaim her birthright on the Iron Throne. “I am not going to fix the wheel,” she told a lecturing Tyrion. “I am going to break the wheel.”

Cersei is imprisoned. Cersei (Lena Headey) is still under the imprisonment of the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and his radically religious followers, the Faith Militant. Not easily broken, Cersei was defiant as ever in the face of her captors. “I will not kneel before some barefooted commoner and beg my forgiveness,” she told a visiting Qyburn (Anton Lesser) after he advised her to confess.

Kevan Lannister is the new Hand of the King. Last seen chastising Cersei before leaving for Casterly Rock, Ser Kevan Lannister (Ian Gelder), uncle to Cersei and brother to the deceased Lord Tywin (Charles Dance), has apparently returned to King’s Landing and taken up the role of Hand of the King, now that both queens are imprisoned. Qyburn relates the news to Cersei while she sits in her cell.

Arya gets a new name. Continuing her training to become a Faceless Man, Arya (Maisie Williams) has taken on a new identity, Lana the Oyster Girl. This is a slightly different version of Arya’s Cat of the Canals that book readers may have expected to see, but Lana is still pushing her oyster cart and stalking her prey under the instruction of the House of Black and White’s lead assassin, Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). Jaqen trusting Arya (or Lana, rather) with the assignment of poisoning the corrupt Thin Man is a big step in her journey to becoming a Faceless Man. 

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What did you think of the episode, and what do you think is coming next? Share your theories in the comments.  

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO. Stay tuned to The Live Feed for more from the series.