GAME OF THRONES Review: “Beyond the Wall”

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Season 7 of just keeps bringing the epic-ness. In the series’ longest episode to date (clocking in at around 71 minutes) we got some of the best action of the season as well as some heartbreaking developments. Brace yourself, there are major spoilers below.

As I said in last week’s review, this episode had one of the best set-ups ever. Jon Snow, Jorah Mormont, Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarrion, Gendry Baratheon, Tormund Giantsbane, and The Hound (along with a handful of red shirts) had just set out to head north of The Wall in order to capture one of the undead and bring it back south with them. The plan is to use this evil undead creature as a way to prove to Cersei Lannister in King’s Landing once and for all that they all need to set aside their differences and fight the one war that really matters: the war against the White Walkers that is coming whether they like it or not.

On top of this, things were not sitting well in Winterfell with Arya who discovered a letter (which Littlefinger purposefully lead her to) from Sansa to her dead brother Robb describing their father as a traitor and telling him to come bend the knee to Joffrey. This was of course written way back in Season 1 when Sansa was coerced (see: forced) to write it. But Arya doesn’t seem to realize that, or if she does she doesn’t seem to care.

The episode begins with our heroes trudging through the barren tundry that is north of the Wall. We get some really great exchanges between characters who either have never met or haven’t seen one another in seasons. For one thing, Gendry has a bone to pick with Beric and Thoros who sold him to Melisandre the Red Witch who ultimately tried to kill him. The Hound overhears this and tells him Beric has died six times and you don’t hear him bitching about it. Jon and Jorah get to talking about Jorah’s father, Commander Mormont who Jon served under in the Night’s Watch. Jon tries to give Jorah the sword his father gave to him, but Jorah says he gave up that privilege when disgraced his family, and insists Jon keep it himself.

Jon and Beric have a conversation as they have something in common: they’ve both been brought back from the dead by the Lord of the Light. They talk about what the reason for that may be, and the best either of them can come up with is “I don’t know.” But they settle on that being okay, as long as they are there to make a difference in defending those who can not defend themselves against the dead. Tormund and The Hound even share a moment when Tormund describes the woman of his dreams and The Hound realizes it is Brienne of Tarth, the woman who beat him in battle. I am so rooting for Tormund and Brienne to have little (aka huge) babies together.

In Winterfell, Arya confronts Sansa about the letter she found in Littlefinger’s room. Probably playing right into what Littlefinger wants, Arya is unhappy with Sansa and her lack of resolve and what she sees as a betrayal of their family. Arya also points out that the Lords of Winterfell who are currently supporting Sansa and Jon may have second thoughts if they learn about this. Try as she might to defend herself, Sansa can’t land on stable ground with her younger sister. Arya is acting a little unreasonably but I have my suspicions that this is because she is on to Littlefinger’s game and WANTS him to think things are going according to his plan.

At Dragonstone, Tyrion and Daenerys discuss the plans to get Dany safely into King’s Landing without Cersei getting the best of her. Tyrion stresses that if Dany wants to “break the wheel” as she once claimed, she can not use fear to control the people. They end up getting into an argument about her being impulsive and Tyrion explains to her that he needs to make sure her vision of what the world can be remains intact if she ever gets killed. Dany takes offense to this, thinking he may be gunning for the big seat himself, perhaps even still working with his family the Lannisters.

Finally, north of the wall, we get to see some action, first in the form of a flaming undead polar bear who takes out a bunch of red shirts, but also gets the best of Thoros (Beric cauterizes the wound with his flaming sword but he is still badly hurt). They then happen upon a small (relatively) group of undead that they feel they can get the best on and capture one. They do, and also notice that when Jon takes out the White Walker helming their small band, all the other undead immediately die. This is an important lesson as it could be huge in the eventual defeat of the White Walkers. Our heroes capture an undead and should be on their merry way, right?

Wrong. Thousands of undead decend upon them, and fast. They send Gendry to run back to Eastwatch to send a raven to Danaerys about what has happened. The remaining men are surrounded and run out onto a huge rock sticking out of the center of a frozen lake. When the thousands of undead try to walk across it, the weight is too much and they collapse into the lake, keeping our guys momentarily safe. However, they are stranded there for quite some time. In this time, poor Thoros passes away from his wounds (and probably due to the cold). When The Hound throws a rock across the lake and hits a skeleton undead in the jaw (knocking it off) the thing takes bold steps onto the lake, realizing it’s not collapsing. More and more run out onto the ice and surround our guys.

And of course just at the last minute, Danaerys swoops in on her dragon to seriously burn some zombies! It. Is. Awesome. This is a sight we’ve been waiting to see for years now and it does not disappoint. However, it isn’t a clean victory for the good guys. One of the White Walkers takes a crazy looking spear and launches it at one of Dany’s dragons, hitting him in the neck and instantly killing him. The dragon topples into the lake, sinking, dead. And there is more where that came from. When Jon realizes the White Walker is gearing up for round two with the spears, he tells Dany to fly quickly away. She gets the remaining team on Drogon, but Jon is tackled below the ice of the lake. She flies away to safety.

And Jon returns to the surface, okay. He heads back towards the Wall with White Walkers on his tail. At one point they catch up to him and he’s done fore, but then a familiar face finally returns: Uncle Benjin Stark, or Cold Hands. He saved Brandon and his friends last season and now he is back to save his nephew Jon. Living half-dead and half-alive, he finally seems to have served his purpose and dies fighting off the undead so that Jon can escape. When he returns to the Wall, Danaerys is waiting for him. When Jon awakes, he swears allegiance to her as she’d been wanting. He says he will worry about the other men from the North later but he thinks they will see what he sees: a great benevolent leader. There is also quite a bit of hinting at some romance brewing between the two which makes me extremely happy (Jon even calls her “Dany”).

In Winterfell, Sansa sneaks into Arya’s room to try and steal back the letter she has only to find a bag full of men’s faces. Arya appears and finally explains to her that she trained in Bravos to be one of the Faceless Men, and what she can do. Arya is very physically threatening to Sansa in this scene, but ultimately hands her the knife that was used to try and kill Brandon in Season One. The two sisters seem at stronger odds than ever before, and Sansa just sent Brienne away to meet with Cersei Lannister in her place. I am still holding out hope that the two sisters are secretly working together to get the best of Littlefinger, but we shall see.

And in the final scene, the undead use heavy chains to pull up Danaerys’ dead dragon from deep in the lake. A White Walker touches its snout and… Its eyes open up an icy blue. Faaaaantastic, and undead dragon. Not good.

Very pumped for the extra long season finale next week!

Season 7, Episode 6 (S07E06)TB-TV-Grade-A
Game of Thrones airs Sunday at 9PM on HBO

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Paul hopes you don’t get too attached to his reviews, or George R. R. Martin will surely kill him.
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