Winter is coming is coming with a vengeance as supernatural White Walkers and their zombie-like troops overrun a Free Folk fishing village in "Hardhome," Episode 48 of HBO's "Game of Thrones."
Night's Watch Lord Commander Jon Snow (Kit Harington) sails deep into enemy territory to form an alliance with the hated wildlings. Return with him to Castle Black, Jon offers, and start new lives south of The Wall as farmers.
In exchange, these Free Folk must take up arms when the White Walkers invade the Seven Kingdoms and "the real war begins."
"This isn't about friendship," Jon exclaims to the suspicious wildling elders. "This is about survival. This is about putting a 700-foot wall between you and what's out there!"
Jon faces a hard sell in Hardhome, however, especially after admitting he killed the Free Folk leader -- King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds).
Mance was chained to an execution pyre because he refused to join forces with wannabe king Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane). Jon ended the cruelty by firing an arrow into Mance's heart.
"His arrow was mercy," insists Jon's new ally, wildling Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju). "What he did took courage. And that's what we need today -- the courage to make peace with men we've been killing for generations!"
At Tormund's urging, some of the wildlings pack their belongings and head for the sailing ships. Tragically, this exodus turns into a panic when the White Walkers launch a surprise attack.
Actually, they mostly observe the carnage from a distance as their reanimated "wights" -- corpses raised from the dead -- do the dirty work.
Jon barely manages to flee after killing one of the White Walkers. Then Jon looks back in horror as another White Walker slowly raises his arms. Now the slaughtered wildlings come back to life, their eyes glowing with an eerie blue light.
In the city of Braavos, meanwhile, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) receives her first mission from the Faceless Men assassin's guild. She targets a wealthy businessman who sells life insurance to sea captains but often refuses to pay claims.
What happens if Arya isn't up to the job?" asks The Waif (Faye Marsay), an assistant to Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha).
"It's all the same to the Many-Faced God," replies Jaqen, Arya's stoic tutor.
As for Arya’s older sister Sansa (Sophie Turner), she’s still trapped at Winterfell after marrying sadistic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Sansa’s escape plans were foiled by Ramsay’s servant, Theon Greyjoy (
To Sansa's surprise, Theon confesses that he tried to slay Brandon (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) Stark but couldn't find them. Instead, he killed two farm boys and burned their bodies "so no one would know."
At King's Landing, Queen Mother Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) remains defiant after being imprisoned by the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and charged with "fornication, treason, incest" and other crimes. So will Cersei confess her sins to the High Sparrow?
"I rose him up from nothing," Cersei snarls. "I will not kneel before some barefooted commoner and beg his forgiveness!"
Finally, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) becomes an unlikely advisor to Queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). He suggests that the Iron Throne can only be won if she aligns with the powerful families of Westeros.
"They're all just spokes on a wheel," Dany counters. "This one's on top, then that one's on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground."
But stopping the wheel, Tyrion argues, is nothing but a "beautiful dream."