Last week left us with the promise of a Squad of Ultimate Badasses adventuring within the zombie-infested lands north of The Wall. Our squad quickly ran into trouble in “Beyond the Wall,” prompting one of the most exciting yet weirdest, plot-hole-ridden episodes this season.
We had only three POV’s this week, with much of the focus on Snow’s Seven (plus redshirts). Wide, zoomed-out shots of men marching in the mountains evoked some fond memories of Lord of the Rings.
We were treated to more fun dialogue between these fun combinations of characters, such as Jon and Jorah discussing Jon’s sword Longclaw, which was given to him by Jorah’s father.
Tormund was this week’s Davos – the jolly, witty character that made every scene he was in a delight. I was seriously worried Tormund would bite the big one given how many great lines he delivered (his unfamiliarity with the word ‘dick,’ his adorable infatuation with Brienne, etc).
The episode toyed with us further by later putting Tormund in mortal danger. NOT MY BIG BEAUTIFUL MAN HE WAS KISSED BY FIRE AND HE IS DESTINED TO MAKE GIANT BABIES WITH BRIENNE!
But first our heroes had a mission: secure an undead soldier to bring back to the meeting with Cersei.
Things quickly go South when the DM rolls for a random encounter with a damn zombie bear in a snowstorm. Roll for initiative!
We’ve seen skeletal horses before but this thing was vicious, killing several redshirts and mortally wounding Thoros – though he’d survive for another day presumably due to his high alcohol content.
The bear was a reminder and a warning that it’s not just humans who can become zombies.
Our group launches a successful ambush on a small party of undead lead by a solitary White Walker. Everyone jumps into battle with Jon taking on the Walker. When he slays it with Longclaw all the other zombies disintegrate save one (how convenient!).
We learned an important piece of information here, which our characters actually take time to discuss and point out: if you slay a White Walker, it destroys all the undead they’ve created. That’s a huge tactical advantage to defeating the Night King and his armies, provided you can reach them.
Unfortunately that last one lets out a scream before they can muffle it, summoning every zombie in the tri-state area. Our team hauls ass back to The Wall, sending Gendry on ahead to get word to Daenerys – who is currently half a continent away.
Our group is surrounded almost instantly on a patch of ice. The zombie army stops approaching given their icy plunge when too many of them stand on the ice. They just kind of wait it out. With no food, water, or fire time is on the side of the dead.
Gendry does make it back to the wall and becomes the unsung hero of this episode. He warns the Night’s Watch and they send out a raven.
Now Season 7 has played extremely loose with time distortion and distance and “Beyond the Wall” continues that ridiculousness. The raven instantly makes it to Daenerys, who’s been having a pointed, tense conversation with Tyrion.
Tyrion’s trying to give her advice but Daenerys is frustrated. She has the most technologically advanced army but doesn’t want to just conquer Westeros with fire and fury – she wants to win the hearts and minds of the people. She wants to be the good guy, the Breaker of Chains, as she was in Essos. But that’s complicated when you’re the foreign invader and have no problem burning lords alive right in front of their army.
Tyrion’s concerns are entirely justified, particularly Daenery’s somewhat reckless attitude for putting herself in the front of danger despite being an important leader – a trait she shares with Jon. When the raven arrives that Jon’s in trouble she doesn’t hesitate at all, despite Tyrion’s worry.
This time she takes all three dragons and flies straight north, knowing exactly where to go despite never having gone beyond the central region of Westeros.
In Winterfell the drama between Arya and Sansa continues to be god-awful. The show is making me dislike both of these characters. I actively groaned every time we returned to Winterfell. Turns out Arya returning home was the worst possible choice she could have made.
I hope that one or both of them figures out that Baelish is playing them against each other. Sansa at the very least should now how to read Baelish and play the game a bit better than Arya, and I would hope Arya wouldn’t be so immediately antagonistic toward her sister. There’s not liking someone and then there’s threatening them with a dagger in your hand. Step off, girl.
And Sansa sending Brienne away? Argh! Playing right into Baelish’s hands. I suppose this means Brienne will be there at the big meeting between Cersei and Dany next week.
Daenerys arrives just as the dead figure out they can cross the ice after all in a stupid scene involving The Hound tossing rocks at them. It’s still thrilling and awesome to see the undead horde in action. Flaming swords, giant hammers, overwhelming odds – and then in the nick of time a trio of dragons appears!
Game of Thrones is dangerously teetering toward an action movie fan-service caricature of itself. We’ve watched a carefully crafted story built over many years. Now the showrunners are attempting to give us climax after climax with multiple payoffs and crazy-cool action sequences.
But it comes at the cost of having to hand-wave away little details like time, distance, plot armor, and the apparently Olympian javelin-throwing skills of the Night King.
And is it just me or do some of the White Walkers look like lame Star Trek villains?
Drogon lands and our squad climbs aboard as the dead rage around them and more redshirts die. I really thought we’d lose another of our party members at this point – maybe Jorah would sacrifice himself to save Daenerys. The closest we got was Tormund getting overwhelmed and nearly dragged into the icy waters below.
The Night King barely batted an ice-crusted eyebrow at the dragons’ approach. He sauntered over to his collection of dragon-slaying ice spears, took aim, and hurled one at a flying dragon. Was that Rhaegal or Viserion? Either way it wasn’t Drogon, who was standing perfectly still and full of fleeing still-alive humans.
Losing a dragon is crushing, particularity after the tease we had just two episodes ago. If Dany didn’t grasp the severity of the Night King’s army before, she sure as hell does now.
I’m not sure if Emilia Clarke’s acting has gone super wonky this season as she tries to act the presentable Queen but I was super disappointed in her attitude after losing a dragon. They are her children, as she later tells Jon, yet she just looks mildly disappointed the entire time.
I had a strong feeling we’d be losing a dragon at some point this season. I had no idea it’d be at the hands of the Night King. But with two dragons left there’s no question that Jon will be riding the other one soon enough (I’m guessing Rhaegal, named after his true father, is the surviving dragon).
Everyone makes it out except Jon, who has to attempt to heroically sacrifice himself during every combat encounter. The Night King readies another ice spear and Daenerys takes off, leaving Jon as he falls into the freezing waters.
Of course Jon can’t die. Again, anyway. He claws his way back and the undead army prepares to charge him. Cue our second deus ex machina arrival of the evening: Benjen Stark!
We previously saw Ned’s brother helping out Bran and Meera last season. He’s in a weird half-zombie state and basically acting like the Blade (Marvel’s half-vampire) of the North by fighting the Night King’s armies.
His arrival, rescue, and subsequent death are another example of the weird fast-paced fan service that we’re rapidly burning through. To be fair there’s a lot of characters and stories we’re going to need closure on and not a lot of time to do it. So yeah, Benjen. Sure.
Jon makes it back to the Wall and onto a boat. I love that the first words out of Jon’s mouth are “I’m sorry,” noting how much the dragon’s death must have meant to her.
It was this event that finally unites them: Jon agrees to bend the knee and call her Queen, and Dany pledges to help him defeat the Night King.
But first they have to meet with Cersei, show her their captive undead soldier, and hope that she suddenly has a complete character reversal and decides to agree to a truce. It’s not going to happen guys. I expect some real shit to go down in our big finale next week, in which Cersei and Daenerys meet each other for the first time.
The Night King – Losing soldiers doesn’t amount to much when you command the dead. But gaining an undead dragon, oh boy! With the Night King’s throwing skills, approaching him with a dragon is no longer a feasible option, either. Also he has his own damn dracolich now. Will he ride it into battle a la the Witch King?
Gendry – Poor Gendry suffered FNG (Fuckin’ New Guy) syndrome on the journey only to be told to haul ass when shit got real. However, Gendry absolutely came through when he needed to, saving everyone with his message to Daenerys.
The Alliance of Ice and Fire – We were wondering how Jon and Daenerys would come together this season. Like all lasting, healthy relationship it’s forged through the death of a dragon and the onslaught of unstoppable undead armies.
Winterfell Drama – Can we stop with this already? Watching two good characters descend into petty squabbling is awful. Both Sansa and Arya are acting irrational. Sure they have reason to dislike each other but letting Baelish manipulate them is extremely frustrating.
The Hound – I love ya Sandor but you fucked up twice this episode. You freaked out when the undead bear caught fire and couldn’t help Thoros while he was being mauled. Then you threw a rock onto the ice, causing the undead to realize it was stable enough to cross. No wonder you’re angry all the time.