Game of Thrones Recap: “Beyond the Wall”

This is the longest episode of Game of Thrones ever, so there’s going to be a lot to discuss. Rather than racking my brain to find a synonym for death that also rhymes with “Thoros,” let’s just dive in. There are really only three locations this time around, but we still got more in any single episode than I can think of. Full Spoilers below as we begin with…

Winterfell

Arya is looking down on the same courtyard we first met her in, way back in the simpler time of season one. She tells Sansa a really heartwarming story of Ned (Lord, how I miss Ned) watching her practice archery, applauding her for breaking the rules to be her own woman. But of course, it can’t last, as Arya now blames Sansa for their fathers beheading. The two get into quite the argument over this, when Sansa lets slip that she doesn’t want anyone else to have seen the note. Arya quickly figures out that she doesn’t want the Northern Lords to see this, as it might compromise her legitimacy. This leads to the best moment of the series so far: Arya acknowledging that Lyanna Mormont is a badass.

Sansa doesn’t let this slide, she goes full Lady Stark and puts Arya in her place, recounting the horrors that she had to endure to get to where she is now. I talk a lot about how Sansa is one of the most unfortunate characters in television history, but Sophie Turner’s performance, that simple look on her face, made me remember every single hardship she’s gone through all at once. Arya is pissed, and the two are again left at the end of an altercation still at odds. We’ve all spent seasons begging for Stark reunions, and in classic George RR Martin fashion, we get them, but he’s still kind of a dick about it.

Sansa goes to Littlefinger, who she still trusts for absolutely no good reason. He claims to have no idea where the letter came from, and if there was any doubt about what his plan is, it’s gone now. Sansa is worried that the Northern Lords will turn on her, and this gives Littlefinger his moment to strike. He reminds her that Lady Brienne is sworn to protect both of them, even from each other. This does two things: it plants the idea in her mind that Arya might try to hurt her, and the other we’ll touch on shortly.

Later, Sansa receives a letter from Cercei, asking that she come to King’s Landing. The viewer assumes it’s to join the White Walker presentation, but Sansa has no way of knowing that. She (wisely) doesn’t want to go anywhere near King’s Landing or the Lannister’s, but she see’s the value of extending an olive branch. Enter Brienne of Tarth. Newly reminded that Brienne is honor-bound, Sansa asks Brienne to go in her place. They fight about it a bit, but ultimately, Sansa pulls rank and Brienne agree’s to go. There’s a tinfoil hat theory that I love, which is that Cercei didn’t summon Sansa, but rather Littlefinger fabricated the message to lure Brienne away, leaving no one to stop Sansa from taking out Arya.

And with that, Littlefinger’s plan takes a massive step forward. With Jon gone, Arya pissed, Brienne away on a diplomatic mission, and Bran being the Three-Emo’d-Raven, everyone that Sansa trusts is unable to help her, all except Petyr Baelish. The master manipulator now has unfiltered access to the Lady of Winterfell. He’s also creepily in love with her, and has his sights set on the Iron Throne, So I don’t expect this to go to well.

Finally, the tension boiling between the Stark sisters comes to a head. Sansa is rooting around in Arya’s room trying to find the raven scroll, and she finds a bag full of faces. As anyone would be, she’s hella confused. Just as she pulls out Walder Frey’s face, Arya comes in. Boy, is she menacing in this scene. The reference to the Faceless game they played was a nice touch, especially the callback to her killing The Waif. For a second, I really thought that she was going to kill Sansa and take her face, but thankfully she didn’t. I hope that they can come back together, all it would have take is for Arya to say she found the scroll in Littlefinger’s room, something I’m hoping will happen next week, so they can team up to take him down. Can you imagine, Arya running around Westeros with Littlefinger’s face? No one else even stands chance.

Beyond The Wall

We spend the most time this episode with Seal Team Snow north of The Wall. They shot this on a glacier field in Iceland, and my goodness is it gorgeous. They are trekking along, ever marching north to find a capturable wight. In these first few scenes, we get a series of conversations. Many of which are fun (Tormund wanting to make great, big, monster babies with Brienne), but the most interesting one is Tormund giving Jon some flack for not bending the knee to Dany. He reminds Jon that Mance Rayder wouldn’t bend the knee, and a lot of people died because of it. I thought this was really powerful, since one of the free folk is advocating he pledge loyalty. More on this later.

Next, Seal Team Snow stumbles upon a polar bear, and the Red Shirt scout up ahead starts making a B-line back to the group. He get mauled, and the team takes battle formation. The following attack of a zombie polar bear (God, this show is awesome) is brutal and genuinely scary. The bear attacks a few times and is eventually stabbed by Beric’s flaming sword, lighting it on fire. The flaming zombie polar bear (yeah, it just got even more awesome) starts attacking Thoros, and The Hound is paralyzed by his fear of fire, unable to help. The group eventually put the bear down, but not until Thoros is seriously wounded. He drinks, and Beric lights up his sword to cauterize the wound. I don’t fully know the magic/science behind how their swords ignite, but dammit if it doesn’t look cool.

Later, The Hound looks ahead and see’s the mountain he saw in his vision, and we know something is about to go down. Some eagle eyed viewers have noticed that this backdrop looks quite similar to the one when the Night King was created, with an extra serving of ice and snow. The group stumbles upon a small scouting group of wights lead by a White Walker. Jon kills the White Walker, and immediately all but one of the wights fall dead. This is going to be really important, as Tormund later points out that if they take out the Night King, all the other dominos fall with him.

The captured wight lets out a scream, and an avalanche of zombies starts approaching. The group turns to run, and Jon sends Gendry back to Eastwatch to get a raven to Dany. Jon and the rest of his squad run for a frozen lake, and the horde of wights has caught up to them. The weight of the horde causes the ice to break, and now out heroes are trapped on a rock in the middle of a lake, surrounded by an undead army. I don’t watch the trailers, so this was the first time I saw this shot, and my goodness, it was equal parts spectacular and horrifying.

They hunker down for the long night, and wake up to a dearly departed Thoros of Myr. They hunker down for another night, and wait for someone to save them. Meanwhile, Gendry gets to the wall, passes out, gets dragged in by Ser Davos, and a raven is sent. It’s now that I want to bring up the timeline of this episode. There’s been a lot of flak about how Genry was able to make it back and Dany was able to save them. Seal Team Snow left during the day, and we never saw the sun go down on them, meaning that they’ve been hiking slowly for only one day. So it’s logical that he would be able to get back in another day if he’s running. And they did a good job showing the passage of time up with the rest of the team. They cut to night and a day a few times to clearly establish that days are passing. If it bothers you, that’s fine, but it didn’t bother me. Now, back to that raven…

Dragonstone

Dany and Tyrion are sharing a glass of wine and discussing the merits of the utterly idiodic plan Jon and Co. have embarked on. She praises Tyrion on his lack of heroic tendancies, as heroes tend to do stupid things that get them killed (see: capturing a wight to bring to a queen who wants to murder everybody). She rattles of a list off a most heroic men she knows and Tyrion points out that each of those men also fell in love with her. He asks if she’s picking up what Jon’s putting down, and Dany says “He’s too little for me.” Way to know your audience, dick.

Personal Side Note: When I was in college, there was a girl I was interested in. I heard through a mutual friend of ours that she wasn’t interested in dating me because “sometime’s he can be really loud.” We were dating 3 days later. I bring this up because when someone states petty things like height or volume as reasons that they aren’t interested, you can bet they’re 300% interested. If my life is anything like Jon Snow’s, and it is, you can bet that he and Dany will be playing tonsil whatever-Westeros’-version-of-hockey-is sooner rather than later.

Things then shift to a more political discussion. After his conversation with Varys last week, Tyrion knows he can’t sit back and let Dany run things without guidance. They discuss the future meeting between the two queens, and Dany is clearly getting agitated. Tyrion then makes the brilliant move of asking what would happen if she dies. Dany doesn’t want to hear it, and says they’ll discuss the line of succession when she’s got something to succeed to an heir. She’s bull headed for sure, but it’s a dumb move on Tyrion’s part to bring up her potential death right after she risked her life to clean up a mess he made.

Later on, Dany receives Gendry’s raven and puts on her finest “Beyond the Wall Dress” (seriously, that thing is gorgeous AND functional). She heads out to her dragons with every intention of flying North to save the guy she’s totally definitely not in love with. Tyrion gives her some push back, saying they knew the risks and it’s too dangerous for Dany to charge into battle, again. Dany doesn’t listen, gets on Drogon, and sets out, this time with not just one, but three dragons in tow. Dany doesn’t listen to Tyrion because the last time she did, it put her on the losing side of the war, the shame here is that Tyrion is right. If she goes north of The Wall, the consequences will be severe.

Beyond the Wall

Seal Team Snow is trapped on the rock in the lake, and The Hound takes up the sport of rock throwing. This is a funny scene, but it leads to their worst nightmare. The lake has re-frozen, and the wights now have a clear path to our heroes. Wight after wight start marching towards them, but they are able to hold their own…for a while. A couple more Red Shirts get killed, and Jon shouts for everyone to retreat. They all do, except Tormund, who is nearly dragged into a hole in the ice before being saved by The Hound. This bugged me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tormund, and I want him to have big monster babies with Brienne, but in the universe where actions have consequences, Tormund should have died in that moment. The plot armor showed just a bit to clearly for my taste here…

The Dirty Half-Dozen is pushed back into close quarters, and Jon looks at the massive horde they will have to fight through. He and a few others share a look of acknowledgement: they aren’t going to make it out, but they’re going to die fighting, together. Just when it’s most grim, dragonfire reigns down from above, taking out a massive chunk of the undead army. Two weeks ago, we got to see the destruction one dragon could cause, seeing all three in action was a thing of beautiful mayhem. Dany lands and everyone climbs aboard, no doubt thinking to themselves “What in the actual hell is going on? I started today fighting a zombie polar bear, and now I’m riding a dragon.”

But we’re not out of the furnace quite yet, The Night King gets handed a massive icicle, takes aim at Viserion, and shows off his champion javelin skills. The scorpion may not have been able to fall a dragon, but a mystical ice spear? That’ll do the trick. And there we have it, in one glorious visual effects shot, a dragon has been killed. Fan’s have long expected that a dragon was going down this season, but this is still a huge moment. These are the only three two dragons in the world, and now we know they aren’t invincible. Dany’s ace in the hole is now looking less and less formidable.

The Night King readies another spear, and Jon tells the dragon riders to get the hell out of there. He starts fighting his way back to them, but is ultimately dragged down a hole in the ice and Benioff and Weiss apparently expect this is gonna work on me when they literally pulled this same trick with Jaime two episodes ago. Dany looks at the hole longingly, waiting for Jon to get out, but gets away just before the Night King can take out another one of her children.

Jon smashes out of the lake, pulling himself up with Longclaw, and almost falls asleep on the ice. I was expecting Rhaegal to come swoop him up, But it seems that we won’t get another Dragon Rider until next season. Jon starts walking, presumably towards the wall, and the wights spot him. Jon picks up the pace and the army— wait, what the shit is that Uncle Benjen? Benjen cuts through wights and loads Jon onto his horse. Jon takes off, and Benjen stays to buy him some time.

I have a few issues with this. First, where the hell did Benjen come from? I understand that getting saved at the last moment is important to dramatic storytelling device, but it happened twice this episode: Dany came in with dragons, and Benjen came in with a swingy lantern thing. But Dany’s was set up, they cut to three different scenes so that when she showed up, it would be dramatic and rational. Benjen wasn’t set up at all. Would it have killed them to add a quick shot earlier in the episode of Benjen seeing that army mobilize on Jon? Also, you know how long it takes to get on a horse? About as long as it takes to say “there’s not enough time.” This bugged me, but Benjen gets swamped, and Jon makes it back to the Wall.

The Sea

They throw Jon onto the bed and pry his frozen coat off him. In this moment, Dany can see the scars from that one time Jon died. Her reaction is great, as those suspicions she was having, those impossible suspicions, were confirmed. Later, Jon wakes up and see’s Dany sitting on the end of his bed, waiting, while also being gorgeous. Jon begins by saying how horrible he feels that his actions got one of her dragons killed, firmly cementing his as an all around awesome guy. Dany says she needed to see the army to really believe it, and that she will fight with everything she has to put an end to the Night King and his shenanigans. It’s got to feel nice, now that Jon has someone else who understands why he’s so obsessive of the threat they pose.

Theres a really flirty exchange where Jon calls Dany, “Dany” (an attempt at a pet name, probably), and she reminds him that the last person to call her that was her murdery, incesty, pedophiley brother. Jon agree’s its not the best name, so “Queen” will have to do for now. Clearly the advice Tormund gave him about Mance Rayder wore off. She is moved by this, and they hold hands. Whats amazing about this shot is that her hands are glowing yellow, and his have an icy blue tint to them, a Song of Ice and Fire indeed. They are so clearly about to get it on, when Dany suggests he get some rest. I was really hoping they would start ripping clothes off each other, but the creators decided to leave that for another episode. That’s how good this show is: It’s making me root for incest. I hate this damn show so much for even making me write that, but its the truth.

Beyond the Wall

Finally, back at the lake, the wights have some chains, and they’re pulling something out—oh hell, we all know it’s Viserion. They pull him out of the water, the Night King places a hand on him, and a slow pan reveals a large, ice-y blue eye. And with that, Westeros has it’s first Undead Ice Dragon. Yep, this show is awesome.

Conclusion

Wow. This episode was absolutely insane. It definitely felt more conventional than this show is known to be, but I loved it. I’m again reminded how far we’ve come. Season one was a political conspiracy show set in a slightly fantastical world. This episode would have felt insanely out of place in the early seasons, but the show has matured into an epic, sweeping fantasy, and it is wholly earned. There are a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up next week, but I’m confident D&D will deliver.

Quote of the Episode:

*The Hound throws rock*
*Rock shatters wights jaw*
*The Hound throws another rock*
*Rock slides right up to wight*
“Oh, F*ck”

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