BEYOND THE WALL (GoT RECAP)
How much did all y’all scream at your television during Episode 6? I was shrieking like I just found a bag of face skins beneath my sister’s bed. “Beyond the Wall” was kind of a mess, kind of awesome, and kind of heartbreaking all at once.
Let’s get the worst out of the way first. In Winterfell, the tension between Arya and Sansa grows worse by the minute. Arya holds evidence that can threaten Sansa’s image in the eye of the northern lords. Sansa vents to Littlefinger, who reminds her that Brienne is sworn to protect both sisters. Remembering the looks of admiration that Brienne and Arya shared over each other’s fighting skills, Sansa assumes that Brienne would be more likely to take Arya’s side. Almost immediately after, Sansa receives a request for her presence in Kings Landing, and she sends Brienne in her place. By all appearances, Sansa is falling right into Littlefinger’s trap to turn the sisters against each other and leave them without the protection of their loyal bodyguard. After Brienne departs, Sansa sneaks into Arya’s room in search of the incriminating scroll. When she peeks into Arya’s bag, she finds her sister’s stash of stolen faces. Arya catches her and further intimidates her by wondering aloud what it would be like to steal Sansa’s face. OK show writers, WTF??? Arya and Sansa are both smarter than this. Not to mention, they have an all-seeing brother who could easily cut through all of the miscommunication and remind themselves that they’re on the same side. My hope is that we’ll soon find out that the Stark sisters are actually playing Littlefinger, and in order to be convincing about it, are falling for every trap he lays and having fights even when he’s not present (because you never know when his spies are listening). After all, Sansa has repeatedly said that Littlefinger cannot be trusted. And as my younger sister once yelled at me over the phone when she was drunk and wanted me to leave a party so I could give her a ride to Wendy’s, “Blood is thicker than water, motherfucker!”
We also get a quick check-in with Daenerys and Tyrion, who are sitting in Dragonstone waiting for word from Jon Snow. Daenerys says to Tyrion that she likes him because he’s “not a hero”; he’s smarter than the other men she’s known in her life who willingly run straight into danger for the chance of glory. Tyrion points out that she’s a hero magnet: Khal Drogo, Jorah, Daario, and now Jon Snow. So far, the chemistry between Daenerys and Jon feels a bit forced to me. I love these two characters, but they both suffer from Buffy Syndrome; they’re so brave and honorable that they can be a little stiff and boring, while the characters that surround them get to be more colorful and complex. Though, one thing that makes Daenerys more intriguing is the undercurrent of fear that she may take after her father the Mad King. Tyrion’s concern grew after he saw her flambé the Tarlys, and when he brings up the question of her line of succession, she gets pretty pissed off. Hey, as a childless 38-year-old woman I totally get her; I’d probably be equally annoyed if my personal assistant started bugging me about who gets my Subaru when I die.
Finally, we’re getting to the real meat of this episode. We pick back up with Jon Snow, his wight extraction team, and a handful of nameless extras from the free folk community who joined up just in time to conveniently create a higher body count. The threat of of danger comes in the form of a wight polar bear who’s also on fire for extra funsies; it charges, immediately kills a Redshirt, and goes all The Revenant on Thoros of Myr. The Hound freezes at the sight of fire, but the rest of the men are able to kill the bear before Thoros gets finished off.
Jon and Jorah spot a White Walker leading a handful of wights down a valley, and they see this as their best opportunity to capture one away from the rest of their army. A scuffle ensues, and when Jon kills the White Walker with his Valyrian steel sword, all of the other wights collapse, except for one. This is a key piece of information: wight will also die when their maker is killed. Jon bags up their captive, but before they can hightail it out of there, a noise rumbles from deep in the valley; the entire Night King’s army is coming for them. Jon instructs Gendry to run back to Eastwatch and send a raven to Daenerys, and the rest of the group tries to escape. They find themselves on the thin ice of a frozen lake, with the dead coming for them. Jon and his men are able to scramble to safety atop a large rock, and the weight of the wights causes the ice to break, plummeting the dead into the freezing cold water. Jon and his men hunker down and wait for help as they are surrounded on all sides by thousands of wights. Thoros passes away from his wounds, so there goes the chances of anyone getting resurrected out of this mess.
Luckily, both Gendry and the messenger raven can move super fast, like unrealistically crazy fast, and Jon and his men barely spend more than a day in the freezing cold, exposed to the elements with no food, fire, or winter hats before Daenerys shows up with all three dragons to save the day. At this point, even the director of the show admits that they’re playing crazy fast and loose with time and just don’t worry about, sit back and enjoy--OMG LOOK A DRAGON! [ducks and hides]. OK, so I’m all for these giant battle sequences, and I’m just as excited as the next nerd to get so much dragon action this season, but I can’t help but notice that yet again, the show writers are getting our heroes out of a jam by having someone swoop in at the last minute to save the day. We saw this when Stannis’s army swarmed into Mance Rayder’s camp right before the King Beyond the Wall could slit Jon’s throat, again when the Knights of the Vale showed up in the nick of time to change the tide of events in the Battle of the Bastards, and now we have Daenerys and her dragons showing up to help Jon survive his stupidest of missions. However, it’s not exactly a happy ending. Before Daenerys and Drogon can finish their rescue, the Night King takes an icy spear and launches it into the air, and NOOOOOO!!!!
One of the dragons is hit, then plummets to the lake in an icy death. I thought the horse deaths in “Spoils of War” were bad; hearing a dragon cry made me hug my dog SO HARD. Daenerys is devastated at the loss, but of course still has to get herself and the other two dragons out of there, so she must leave without Jon, who’s been dragged into the icy lake by a mob of wights.
But the Lord of Light (and HBO and everyone who want to sell a lot of Esquire magazines) isn’t done with Jon yet. He manages to climb out of the frozen lake and is saved one more time when Benjen “Coldhands” Stark arrives, gives him his horse, and sacrifices himself in an unwinnable fight against the wight horde to give Jon enough time to ride away. Seriously, why is anyone friends with Jon at this point? He’s like your friend that always needs help moving a couch up three flights of stairs or getting a ride to the airport on a Friday night, but this is much worse because when you say yes, you end up dying.
Daenerys is relieved to see Jon arrive at the Eastwatch gate, and visits him as he’s lying in bed aboard a ship, recuperating. His stab wounds are visible; she’s crying over her lost dragon. They are both totally vulnerable. Daenerys says that despite her loss, she’s glad she came and saw the Night King and his army with her own eyes, making her realize how big the threat really is, and that she will join him in the fight. Jon also tells her that he’s bending the knee because he’s also seen firsthand that she’s a queen worthy of the throne. They smile and hold hands. OK, so they still don’t necessarily have white-hot chemistry together, but I’m into this pairing purely as an evil-fighting bad-ass duo. And they’re going to need each other, because north of the wall, the Night King has resurrected Viserion into an ice dragon. OMFG!!!!!
This is a game-changer. One issue that’s always lingered is that a war where one side has 3 fire-breathing dragons and the other side has none isn’t much of a contest. But now, Dany’s down one child and the Night King has its own zombie dragon, shifting the scales into a much more precarious position.
What do y’all think about this penultimate episode? Game of Thrones is no stranger to fudging timelines to get their story beats to work out, and while I’m usually one to go easy on them because I love this show so damn much and it’s usually worth it in the end, this particular episode pushed it a bit to the point of ridiculousness for me. But I also can’t get over that final scene of Viserion’s icy blue eye blinking open, and wondering what in the seven hells Jon and Dany are going to do now. Hopefully, most of the rushing through plot at breakneck speed was done this week to get the pieces lined up for a mind-blowing season finale on par with last year’s “The Winds of Winter.” I’ll make sure my dog is sitting nearby while I watch, just in case I need to hug an animal really hard.