Sorry about the delay, we ran into some technical difficulties that resulted in this piece being late.
Oh boy folks. Game of Thrones has a tradition of making the next to last episode of any given season it’s most insane, often using it to deliver either the highest budget episode of the season, or at the very least the one with the most dramatic twist. This week’s episode, “Beyond the Wall” was no exception, offering a fundamental shift of the status quo while also providing us with some of the most insane visuals the show has ever produced.
It starts off simple enough with us meeting back up with Jon Snow and his team as they journey beyond the wall. There’s plenty of great character beats to go around as Jon, Jorah, Tormund, Beric, The Hound, Gendry, and Thoros all bounce off of each other, many interacting for the first time. During this sequence we’re treated to one of those moments of equal parts endearing and idiotic behavior for which Jon Snow is known, as he tries to give his Valyrian steel sword Longclaw to Jorah, as the sword was originally a Mormont family relic. Jorah being equally honorable and idiotic, turns him down.
We then jump to Winterfell where Arya is proving to be less intelligent than one would hope, having clearly fallen for Littlefinger’s attempt to drive a wedge between her and Sansa. The letter that Arya found is in fact the one that Cersei forced Sansa to write near the end of season one, back when we actually thought Ned might make it out alive. Arya proving that she hasn’t really learned much beyond how to kill people and wear their faces as magic masks, sees this as a betrayal of the family by Sansa, creating a situation where both of the characters are accusing the other of not being able to even comprehend their suffering. It’s all a little much and I’m a bit concerned where this will lead long term, but we have to wait and see.
We cut back to our intrepid crew of adventurers as they continue to interact and bond beyond the Wall, where Jon and Beric have one of the most interesting and long awaited discussions on the show. Both men having seen the other side of death and returned to tell the tale, spend a moment pondering the meaning of it all, and why they were brought back. Beric settles on the quite simple idea that they were returned to serve as weapons and shields in the ongoing battle against death itself.
We cut to Dragonstone where Dany and Tyrion are having a nice fireside chat. Tyrion, ever the perceptive little rascal, calls Dany on her now painfully obvious crush on Jon. Dany responds with a quip about how she doesn’t date short dudes, which honestly seems somewhat tasteless considering who she was talking to when she said it. Either way, the lady doth protest to much. They then move on to Tyrion’s favorite hobby, long range planning. Tyrion is concerned that since Dany is apparently barren that they need to begin working on a method to choose her successor. Dany retorts with her usual reply that she’ll figure it out once she’s queen. With only seven episodes left it feels like this will need to be addressed sooner rather than later but anyways, we’re on to the exciting stuff.
We return to our heroes on the quest to capture an ice zombie, which has been particularly uneventful so far, when quite suddenly one of the random wildlings journeying with them is attacked by a zombie polar bear. And that’s a sentence I never thought I’d have to type. Well, as it turns out zombie polar bears are particularly hard to kill and the thing manages to rip a pretty nice chunk from Thoros’ torso before Jorah manages to kill the thing.
We’re treated to a short bit of Sansa and Littlefinger talking where not much happens and then it’s right back to the main storyline of the episode. Jon and crew finally manage to locate a White Walker and a handful of wights when a new discovery is made. In the battle that ensues, Jon kills the White Walker and it causes all but one of the wights to spontaneously crumble to the ground, revealing that these things are only kept alive by the magic from the White Walker that turned them. It is at this point that the gang makes the unfortunate and rather obvious discovery that when there is one of these things, there’s about a million of them. This prompts Jon to send Gendry running back to Eastwatch to send a raven requesting help while the rest run like the dickens into the middle of a frozen lake. Luckily for them there is a rock in the middle of this lake and the lake is not sufficiently frozen to support the weight of a thousand corpses. So they’re stranded on the lake surrounded by frozen zombies on all sides as the Night King looks on.
They group stays stranded for an undetermined period of time, with Thoros succumbing to his wounds during the first night, so Beric gets to be awesome and magically set his sword on fire for the purpose of burning Thoros so he doesn’t become yet another ice zombie. We then cut back to Winterfell where Sansa has received a summons to travel to King’s Landing. Being as she’s not an idiot, she sends Brienne in her stead. From there we jump to Dragonstone where Dany has received the raven from Gendry and is now marching out to her dragons like a woman on a mission. After a brief chat with Tyrion who desperately begs her just to let all of her friends beyond the wall go, she says no and flies away.
Back to the lake we go where The Hound, demonstrating that wonderful impulse control for which he is known, decides to throw rocks at the undead army. Unfortunately, one of these rocks doesn’t make it all the way and reveals to said undead army that the lake has frozen rock solid and is now passable. It is at this point that the giant zombie army charges our heroes and we are treated to one of the more insane action set pieces the show has ever produced as Jon and the survivors engage in an all out war with the army of the dead. Multiple times our heroes seem in danger of falling, and all of the remaining unnamed characters with them do just that. Just as all seems lost, Dany flies in on Drogon with Rhaegal and Viserion close behind. They proceed to burn the crap out of large junks of the undead army as our heroes rush to climb aboard Drogon and fly away. Then, in a moment that only this show could produce, the Night King finally steps into the fray.
As Jon buys time for everyone to climb aboard and Dany screams for Jon to join them, the Night King marches on to the lake with an ice spear in tow, and in a move that I can only assume is his audition for the next Olympics, aims and chucks the spear, which smashes into the neck of Viserion. Viserion proceeds to nearly explode in a gush of flame and blood, and goes hurtling onto and then beneath the ice. That’s right folks, the Night King just killed a freaking dragon. Furious at what he just witnessed and knowing there isn’t enough time for Dany to wait for him to get to Drogon, Jon orders them to fly away before the Night King can reload. As they start to take off Jon is drug beneath the ice, seemingly to his death.
After Dany and co have flown away, Jon erupts from the ice, only to almost get killed again because the army of the dead hasn’t actually moved that much since he went under. Luckily for Jon, his Undead Uncle Benjen comes out of nowhere to save the day and gives the near hypothermic Jon a horse to ride for the wall with.
We then jump back to Winterfell, where Sansa, while snooping in Arya’s room, discovers Arya’s bag of faces. Arya walks in moments later and apparently having decided to give Bran a run for his money in the creepy Olympics, proceeds to fill Sansa in on a bit more of her backstory as well as her newfound abilities. Arya then muses temporarily on what it would be like to wear Sansa’s face, before handing Sansa her dagger and walking away, signaling what I think is a detente but it’s honestly hard to tell.
We then cut back to the wall where Dany who totally isn’t into Jon Snow is just standing on the top of the wall staring longingly into the wild hoping for him to return, which he does. He’s obviously not in good shape so they rush him onto the boat and out of his freezing clothes and into a warm bed. During this process Dany realizes that the whole thing about Jon having been stabbed in the heart was actually true, and seems oddly into it for whatever reason. I mean, you do you I guess, but that’s a little weird Dany.
We then jump to a day or so later when Jon wakes up, to discover Dany has been just sitting there watching him the entire time, something that people who aren’t into someone do all the time. In the conversation that ensues, the characters finally stop dancing around all the stuff that’s going on and start giving each other some straight answers. Dany starts things off by kinda just blurting out that she can’t have children when talking about her dragons, of which she only has two now. This wouldn’t be a particularly noteworthy declaration if she hadn’t followed that with “do you understand?” which, I don’t know, seems kinda meaningful to me. She then proceeds to promise Jon everything he needs to fight the army of the dead, to which he responds by trying to be cute and calling her Dany. When informed that this is in fact not a smooth move, Jon just goes for broke and asks if “my queen” will work instead. So at this point both characters have promised each other everything they asked of each other, while also seeming to finally lock in the romance that has been building all season. Me thinks a marriage may be on the horizon to “solidify the alliance”.
We then cut back to our final scene of the night back on the lake, where we lay witness to the undead pulling Viserion’s corpse out of the water on giant chains. It is then that the Night King confirms everyone’s worst suspicions while simultaneously fulfilling our wildest dreams, and raises Viserion from the dead as the new secret weapon of his army.
So a whole lot happened in this episode and, true to form for the show, the game feels utterly changed again. Dany’s down to two dragons and the Night King now has one of his own. What’s more, Jon and Dany seem to have finally admitted to themselves and each other that they are in love. Now we turn to King’s Landing for the season finale where they will attempt to bring Cersei into an alliance of the living to save the world. Who knows if it will work, but the title of next week’s episode, “The Dragon and the Wolf” seems to promise that at least something of interest is going to happen next week.