A thrilling battle sequence and careful character work distinguish “Hardhome,” the latest episode of “Game of Thrones.”

Episode MVPs

“Game of Thrones” has had mixed success with large-scale battles. The first time it tried one, in Season 2’s “Blackwater,” it succeeded by focusing more on the characters involved in the fighting than on the fighting itself. However, last year’s “Watchers on the Walls” featured too much fighting and not enough reasons to care about it. The battle in “Hardhome” splits the difference, delivering a concentrated dose of action and staging it very inventively. The White Walkers have been a vaguely menacing presence on the show for seasons, and seeing Jon Snow and company desperately defend against their onslaught paid off all the build-up with gusto.

Although the battle scene alone was worth the price of admission, “Hardhome” did a lot of other things well, too. This episode featured the first conversations between Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister, two major players who have been inching their way towards a meeting all year. Episode writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss treated these scenes with the subtlety and depth they deserved. The conversations honestly seemed to mark the beginning of a beautiful friendship, rather than just coming across as fan service.

Our watch for next week begins

While the final third of “Hardhome” was given over to the battle with the White Walkers, the rest caught us up with characters whose stories will come to a head in the next two weeks. Cersei Lannister remains in a dungeon after getting arrested in “The Gift,” and Lena Headey is doing a wonderful job of making us feel for this often loathsome character as she adjusts to her new surroundings. Meanwhile, Sansa Stark picked up some valuable information she could use as a bargaining chip. With only two episodes to go, “Game of Thrones” seems determined to end Season 5 on a high note.

Casting rumors for next year

Although its legitimacy remains unconfirmed, a casting call sheet for Season 6 of “Game of Thrones” recently surfaced online. Apparently, HBO is looking to cast a number of new roles, including that of “an infamous pirate…with a touch of madness.” This sounds like Euron Greyjoy, an important character from the books fans had assumed was cut. If the casting call can be believed, Euron and the storylines he brings with him will show up next year.

As the editor in chief for Winter Is Coming, Dan Selcke spends his time writing about the latest Game of Thrones news and preparing for the long night that will have no end. Read more of him at winteriscoming.net.​