There's really only one word to describe what we just witnessed… ZOMBIEPOCALYPSE!
Yes, there was a reasonably chilled half an hour of plotting and grovelling before all hell broke loose and things turned all Evil Dead/Walking Dead/World War Zed.
Did anybody else's throat start constricting when it appeared our hero, Lord Commander Jon "I Feel Pretty" Snow started looking a little worse for wear? Did anybody else cry out in pain when Awesome Chick got mangled by those zombrats? Does anybody else think that Stampy the Giant is now the best character of the series ever?
Seriously, whip me with bacon and cover me in maple syrup if that wasn't the most phenomenal episode so far this season.
But once again, beloved Throners, I'm getting ahead of myself. This little black recappesponduck best take us all back to the start.
As always, spoilers spoilers spoilers… you know the drill. We talk Game of Thrones here. We love Game of Thrones here. We get a little bit too sexual with Game of Thrones here.
This episode is one for the HR department because it was all about recruitment.
Take Tyrion Lannister. On the surface of it, if he doesn't convince Daenerys Targaryen to take him onboard as an advisor, his goose is not only cooked but torn apart by dragons.
But their long-awaited meeting this episode was as much about Tyrion recruiting Dany as the other way around. After all, our little Lion was quite resigned to death; why bother staying alive if he's just going to be pulling chump change for some ditzy blonde wannabe?
He wants to know if she's "the right kind of terrible", a ruler who will exercise power but only to stop those below abusing it. Varys told him she was worth believing it, but he needs to see it himself, otherwise give him the ol' Ned Stark and be done with it.
For her part, Dany is in desperate need of the information and experience Tyrion possesses. As he points out, "Politics and killing aren't always the same thing," meaning it requires more than an army of testicularly-challenged ex-slaves and randy sellswords to win Westeros.
Tyrion gives us a helpful recap of his own about where all the power lies in Westeros, to which Dany replies that she intends to break the wheel, not stop it. Tyrion is left in no doubt as to how he could be key to future success. Despite her early victories, Dany's frustrated at being stuck in Meereen about as likely to score the Iron Throne as Jorah Mormont is to score with her.
Poor Ser Jorah. His plan to impress Dany into taking him back really backfired in spectacular fashion. You'd think Tyrion would have been a bit more grateful for being abducted while urinating. But no, he cautioned Dany not to kill someone so devoted to her, but also not to keep him close by. He even outed Jorah as being totes in lurve with Dany, a fact that seemed to roll off her as easily as food crumbs roll off my face onto the keyboard when I'm recapping.
For Jorah, there was nothing left to do but to throw himself at the feet of his slave master once more, and beg to be recruited as number one on the card for the big fight.
There's an urgency to all this for Jorah too - that greyscale patch on his forearm is slowly getting bigger, and there's no sign of antiseptic salve or paw-paw ointment in his future. Knowing this show, he'll live just long enough to infect everyone before turning into a Stone Man in front of Dany's eyes and having to be forcibly sedated by a nude Maario.
Tyrion would be all a-chuckle if he knew what his hated sister was enduring while he relaxed with some wine in Meereen.
Cersei has never been so grubby - outwardly at least. Clad in only a simple robe with her golden mane matted with dirt, the Queen Mother languishes in a Black Cell refusing to confess to the crimes of fornication, treason and incest before her.
Last week I thought Cersei was being watched by Silent Sisters, but then her guard this week spoke to her, urging her to confess, so I guess those chicks are female Sparrows.
Cersei tries everything: begging, threatening, and of course bribery. "I can make you very rich, a lady of the court," she tells the uninterested nun, who leaves Cersei to lap up spilled water on the cold stone floor. It was all a little Vinegar Tits from Prisoner, but Cersei will not bow before her. Cersei created this mess, but whether pride or disbelief, she will not take an easy fix.
Even Qyburn, everybody's favourite mad scientist, urged Cersei to think about confessing to get out of the cells. He had tried to convince both her son Tommen and Kevan Lannister (the new Hand of the King!) to come and talk to Cersei, but no dice. They refuse to talk to her. She's all alone, facing a trial at the hand of the Sparrows, who as Qyburn points out, don't need a whole heap of "evidence" to find someone guilty: "Belief is so often the death of reason," he deadpans, becoming a poster boy for skeptics everywhere.
Sidenote: As Qyburn took leave of Cersei, he told her "The work continues". This work is presumably related to that heaving mound of slightly undead Mountain corpse he's got stashed in his office. He's probably propping him up, putting on a funny voice and getting into shenanigans with him, like Weekend at Gregor's.
Over in Braavos, Arya is discovering the House of Black and White is basically NIDA, and she the next Cate Blanchett in training.
Now it may come as a surprise to you, my beloved Throners, that I didn't get into acting school, due to some flagrant bias from the audition panel whom I told "I don't really care if I don't get in because I'm going to be a journalist anyway" in order to look cool and disaffected and like I didn't want it. Turns out they didn't want that attitude. Pfffft, actors.
Despite that setback, I know method when I see it, and Arya has to de Niro the hell out of that oyster-seller in order to prove to Jaqen H'ghar that she's worthy to be a Faceless Man. He sends her off to check out the harbour, without knowing what she might find. But when she comes back with the tale of a ship's captain being screwed over by an insurance scam, a game of revenge seems to get underway rather quickly.
Is that what the Faceless Men do, then? Hear the prayers of people complaining then go out and take revenge on their behalf? If that's true, I need to get worshipping within earshot of somebody who will take out chanteuse Kate Miller-Heidke for me. No one should be allowed to be that ridiculously talented and beautiful with a voice like an angel and a great sense of humour …it's just not fair sob.
Arya's new nemesis is called The Thin Man. We know he likes fresh oysters and diddling people out of money, but how will Arya go lacing his bi-valve molluscs with whatever it is Jaqen handed her in that suspicious bottle?
As many Throners pointed out last week, I completely misread the Sansa/Reek situation and failed to realise he totally dobbed her in to Ramsay Bolton (Boo! Hiss!). A crappy thing to do, but he has been tortured into virtual insensibility.
Naturally that doesn't fly with Sansa, who can't physically injure Reek like Ramsay does, but can dredge up bad memories like "You killed my brothers!" in order to cut deep. However that proved to be an unexpected light in the dark for Sansa, as Reek confessed to the farm boy switcheroo, letting her in on one of the biggest secrets in Westeros: There Are More Starks.
You can't help but feel a little sorry for Theon as he cops to his long list of crimes, saying he deserves everything he gets. Of course he does, he's been an egotistic, narcissistic and barbaric fool, but Ramsay Bolton (Boo! Hiss!) makes him look the love child of Buddha and Mother Teresa.
Ramsay himself is working on his Dad's plan to beat Stannis Baratheon by recruiting 20 good men for a secret sabotage mission. Roose confirmed that they were sitting pretty at Winterfell, with the castle defences repaired and enough food for six months, whereas Stannis would have to battle snow and mutiny and so on. We can only hope Ramsay gets bollocked by a horseshoe right in the trouser tumblers while on mission.
Finally up at Castle Black we encounter a freshly deflowered Sam Tarly being patched up by Gilly after his brutal bashing-cum-sexing. The pair's tentative small talk about where to from here is interrupted by young Ollie, Jon's steward, who is still angsty about Jon Snow doing deals with the people who killed his parents without any provocation.
For the Old Gods' sake, Ollie, have you not read any comics? You've got the perfect backstory to bugger off and become Batman so put down the bowls and pick up a Batarang already.
True to form, Sam kindly comforts the youngster, telling him he needs to have faith that Jon is acting in the best interests of everybody, and sometimes you have to befriend your enemy to defeat a greater foe - like in The Spy Who Loved Me when James Bond hooked up with Anya Amasova to sink Karl Stromberg's kooky plans to make everybody live under the sea (brilliant film).
Sam also shares his own experiences fretting about the Lord Commander.
"I've been worrying about Jon for years now," Sam reassures Ollie. "He always comes back."
Cut to Jon Snow, with windblown hair, standing at the prow of a boat approaching the dock at Hardhome, the wildling enclave on a peninsula to the north-east of Castle Black.
My heart hasn't swelled so much since Kevin Costner arrived at the cliffs of Dover in a similar fashion in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (super brilliant film). Men should stand in the prow of boats in big cloaks more often. It's dead sexy.
With Tormund in tow, Jon arrives to make peace with the Wildlings, a job that on the surface seems more impossible than me eating just a few bites of Cadbury Mint Bubbly rather than the whole block.
Now props here to Tormund for the most sensational ice-breaker in Game of Thrones history. When the Lord of Bones tells him Jon is such a pretty Crow and is he going to suck his… THWACK! Tormund grabs his spear and proceeds to grind those Bones until they're dead. "Gather the others, and let's talk about this," he says matter-of-factly. Fi-fi-fo-fum, Tormund, I'm so glad I named a foster kitten after you.
The head wildlings gather in a tent with Jon and Tormund, and the Lord Commander outlines his plan for survival - come south, live on land, give everyone just a bit more of a fighting chance at defeating the White Walkers. It's a tough ask to bring the hated enemies together, and Jon even gets a little choked up talking about their shared dead.
He's helped, however, by the presence of Awesome Chick, who I would name except I didn't hear it mentioned. Awesome Chick was the wildling leader who had enough sense to get over her pride and realise J-Snow was speaking the truth. When another said his ancestors would be offended if he broke bread with Crows, she replied "So would mine but f--- 'em, they're dead." I immediately loved her like a long-lost sister.
Eventually she was the one to say that if Tormund believed this to be the only way of surviving, then they would throw in their lot with the Night's Watch. Tormund says yes, and the only hold out is the Thenn leader. "I f---ing hate Thenns," Awesome Chick replied. I immediately wanted to be the new hero of the whole series.
Evacuations out to Stannis' ships begin, and it looks like finally Jon Snow has had a proper win.
But just as you remember, "Hang on, this is Game of Thrones", the dogs start barking, and a mist appears on the craggy cliff faces overhanging the enclave.
The far off rumbling grows closer, and all of a sudden the remaining wildlings begin screaming and running. The Thenn leader orders the gates of the main port closed, abandoning thousands to an awful fate.
After a few moments, it falls quiet, and the Thenn leader puts his eye to a hole in the gate to see what stalks them.
The epic set piece battle that concluded this week's episode was quite simply the best bit of this season so far, and rivalled the battle of Castle Black for inducing real panic and fear in your humble recappespondent.
We've all seen swarms of undead in our zombie-loving entertainment streams, but set against the white snows of winter and the isolation of Hardhome, these had a particularly skin-crawling effect. These were not just organic automatons driven by brains-lust, but a collective under control of the chief White Walkers. They were the spindly arms and gaping suckers of a much greater Leviathan.
Bravely, oh so bravely, oh let me touch your face, Jon Snow led his brothers unto the breach to imitate the action of a tiger, scratching and stabbing and ripping and tearing and doing anything to hold back the relentless tide of the undead, who were doing plenty of ripping of their own.
Tragically, we saw Awesome Chick taken down by baby zombies - curse maternal weakness! Awesome Chick agreed to work with the Night's Watch precisely because she wanted to save her children - the result was being taken out by a bunch of ratty ones. Kids, hey? Ungrateful brats.
On the upside, Stampy the Giant got involved in the battle. Bursting out of the leaders' tent, he swiped and smacked at the zombies with a flaming plank of wood. It was magnificent, and I would like to petition the creators to make Stampy a regular character.
Eventually Jon realised he needed to get the dragonglass Sam had given him if he was to have any chance of kicking a few skinny White Walker butts.
He and the Thenn leader enter the half-wrecked tent, only to be confronted by a White Walker general of sorts. The fact that these guys have some sort of hierarchal system is possibly the freakiest thing about them.
The Thenn leader takes one for the team, telling Jon to get the dragonglass before copping a sword to the belly.
The White Walker turns his attention to Jon, and the pair battle ferociously until Jon finds Longclaw and manages to block a blow from the White Walker's sword. Instantly, he realises the Valyrian steel of his sword can withstand the White Walker's onslaught and parries with a devastating coup de grace.
Boom. One dead White Walker. He may have lost the dragonglass, but he's gained valuable insight into the power of Longclaw. Also - I'm so relieved he's safe, my beautiful Jon Snow.
With the gates breached, more wildlings sent soaring like demented lemmings over the cliff and towards the camp, Jon and his group of Night's Watchmen hurry into the last remaining boat as wildlings flee into the water - along with Stampy the Giant, who seems happy enough to wade his way to safety.
The White Walkers and zombies seem stymied by water, and wind up crowded onto the dock, watching the wildlings and Night's Watchmen retreat into the bay.
Then, as Jon looks on, the King White Walker lifts his arms, click his fingers, and the piles of dead begin moving. Blue light shines from their eyes and they slowly get to their feet.
And so the episode ends, with the ultimate recruitment drive - thousands upon thousands of new soldiers for the White Walkers' army.
It's June 1, and winter just arrived.
Yay! Best Moments
I can't say enough how much I just lapped up the scenes with Dany and Tyrion. The pair of them fell into conversation so naturally, it seemed like they'd known each other for years - and yet this was the first time in five seasons we'd seen them together in the same frame. Two terrible children of two terrible fathers. Very aware of what they are and what they could have been and could be.
This may just be my most favourite twosome yet.
Zing! Best Lines
When Tollett stood checking out Stampy the Giant, and the big guy looked down at him and asked "What the f--- are you looking at?" Stampy for President.
Question though - how did Stampy actually get into the tent in the first place? I couldn't see an extra large door with MAX HEIGHT 4.5m on it.
The battle sequence was full of grossness and squishy horror. Take your pick.
Seriously, I have never bonded so hard and so fast to a character as I did with Awesome Chick. Of course, as soon as she bid a fond farewell to two daughters we all knew she wasn't going to make it. But that didn't make the end any easier. She was tough, smart, pragmatic, kind and gave Jon Snow the eye over more than once. The kinda gal I'd like to be, with more animal skin couture.