[This article will contain SPOILERS for Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 8.]
It's easy to say at this point that HBO's Game of Thrones is one of the most successful television shows of all time. It's received consistent critical acclaim for four years - but, this year's fifth season has seemed to be hit or miss for a lot of fans. With the show diverting even farther from its source material (the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin) than ever before, and taking on an even slower burn than its previous four runs - many fans have wondered if the series would be able to maintain the same kind of quality without the books as reference.
That was, until this season's most recent episode, "Hardhome". While some of the previous installments have shown the downsides of changing the story from the books - the most recent episode delivered in big ways for both book readers and non-book readers alike as the last 20 minutes featured one of the most shocking and intense sequences ever seen on the series - wholly created by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
A new featurette (see above) goes in-depth into the making of the epic sequence that concluded the episode, which featured the Army of the Undead (led by the White Walkers and the Night's King) leading a surprise ambush on those living at Hardhome. The sequence followed the destruction and chaos that ensued, as Jon Snow and his cohorts struggled to save as many lives as possible, while trying to keep themselves intact as well - only managing to save a small number from the massacre.
The video goes in-depth into how the scene was written, how the script was changed, the production design involved in building Hardhome - all the way to choreographing the stunts and fight sequences. It's refreshing to see the kind of effort and detail put into the makeup of the undead too, as the video breaks down the various stages and levels of the undead - from the White Walkers themselves, to the Wights that have been six months and those that have been completely decomposed. Overall, it's hard not to watch this featurette and be reminded why Game of Thrones is arguably the most cinematic show ever put to screen.
With next week's episode titled "The Dance of Dragons" (a callback to the fifth novel in the series as well) and supposedly focusing heavily on Daenerys' story and the fallout from the events at Hardhome, it looks like episode 9 might end up being a slower, quieter episode than it usually is. Especially after both The Red Wedding and the Battle on the Wall took place in each of their respective seasons' penultimate episodes. Nothing is for sure though, and if this last episode proved anything - it's that Game of Thrones can go from o-to-100 in the blink of an eye.
These final two installments will certainly have a lot to live up to, but as of right now - it looks like Game of Thrones' slowest season might just end up having the series' biggest pay off up to date too. Considering how much has been set up throughout the past eight episodes too - there's no doubt it has the potential to be - and it'll be interesting to see if "Hardhome" ends up being the peak of the season, or just the first of three masterful final episodes.
Game of Thrones season five continues next Sunday with "The Dance of Dragons" on HBO.