TV Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Episode 6: ‘Beyond the Wall’
WARNING!!!! BELOW THERE BE:
Synopsis: Jon, Tormund, The Hound, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Gendry, and Jorah range beyond the Wall to capture a wight. At Winterfell Arya and Sansa clash over the past. On Dragonstone Tyrion advises Dany on Jon Snow and her possible successor. Sansa receives a summons from King’s Landing and sends Brienne in her stead. Dany makes a bold decision to fly North with her dragons to help Jon and suffers a terrible loss.
Review: “Beyond the Wall” is an episode that some might consider fan service but which I consider the culmination of events we’ve been building to since season one. While the action doesn’t kick in until about twenty-five minutes left to go in the episode, after that its balls-to-the-wall craziness until the final chilling shot. Beforehand we basically get a sequence of intense conversations and confrontations, none of which however seem superfluous or unimportant.
Maybe the most poignant moment came early on in the episode when Jon unexpectedly offers Jorah back his father’s sword Longclaw. In an even classier move Jorah refuses remarking how he brought disorder to House Mormont. “It’s yours,” he tells Jon. “May it serve you well, and your children after you.” You could see the look on Jon’s face. He truly has not even considered the possibility of life after the “wars to come.” Let alone a wife or children. It’s one of those moments where you really hope Jon survives to see that day. Next to Sansa I don’t know if anyone is more deserving of happiness at this point.
At Winterfell, Lord Baelish’s machinations are starting to bear fruit. After discovering the scroll in Littlefinger’s bedroom last week, Arya confronts Sansa. Turns out it was the letter she was forced to write Robb when Sansa was held hostage by Joffrey and Cersei. Arya blames Sansa for their father’s death. There’s clearly some enmity between the two sisters, something that Petyr Baelish probably planned all along.
In an age where too many shows revel in being grim, Game of Thrones at least has the decency to add moments of levity. Said levity this week came care of the banter between Tormund and The Hound. There’s a very juvenile but hilarious dick joke and Tormund’s admission of his love for Brienne to Sandor Clegane. “I want to make babies with her. Great big monsters. They’ll conquer the world.” The Hound of course thinks Tormund’s an idiot and calls him out on it, even though Tormund remains oblivious.
However, Beric and Jon have a much less light-hearted conversation, discussing their purpose in the current war. Both Jon and Beric share the distinction of being brought back to life by the Red God. And even though Beric insists there is a purpose behind it, he can’t explain to Jon what it is. Regardless their main goal is to fight death and to preserve life. As Beric says to Jon, “Death is the enemy. The first enemy. And the last. The enemy always wins. And we still need to fight him. That’s all I know.” Considering Jon saw nothing beyond this life (or at the very least remembers nothing) I think that’s an ideology he can get behind.
Daenerys’ attraction for Jon is becoming more and more obvious to all around her, including Tyrion. Although she states he is “too little for me.” Of more importance than the possibility of Jonerys (Jon + Daenerys, yeah I went there) is the elephant in the room that no one has wanted to address, namely who will succeed Dany after she dies. Because of Dany’s dabbling with blood magic to save Khal Drogo in season one, Dany has been cursed to never bear a living child again. Tyrion being the long term strategist he is, knows it is not enough just to win and “break the wheel,” Daenerys legacy must outlast her life. The Mother of Dragons however, deflects the topic stating that it is something to worry about after the crown has been won. I think Dany still doesn’t fully trust Tyrion and she’s clearly in denial about the succession. It reminds of her a difficult truth, that she can no longer bear children.
Speaking of bears, the A-Team beyond the wall runs into one, although this one just happens to be a wight-bear. (I’m sure there is a polar bear joke in there somewhere but I’m not going down that path). In a harrowing sequence, Frankenbear wastes several disposable Wildlings and takes a bite out of Thoros of Myr, before finally being cut down by Beric Dondarrion. I don’t know what’s more surprising, that Thoros survived or that the bear didn’t become instantly drunk by biting him.
In Winterfell, Sansa turns to Lord Baelish for advice on Arya’s scroll discovery. Adding a layer of intrigue, Littlefinger suggests that Lady Brienne would intercede if Arya ever threatened violence. Great, now he’s got Brienne in the fray. The end-game for Littlefinger is obviously to get Arya out-of-the-way so he can manipulate Sansa, however are the two sisters naive enough to fall for his crap? Arya has proven time and again how cunning she can be and Sansa certainly isn’t a babe in the woods anymore. I can’t help but feel they are playing their own game of intrigue here. Sansa additionally receives a summons from Queen Cersei to ride South and bend the knee. Since the Stark’s have a history of that not working out so well (see Ned Stark, his brother Rickon, and his father Rickard for examples) , Sansa smartly refuses instead sending Brienne. Brienne is concerned about leaving her side with Littlefinger waiting in the weeds, but reluctantly agrees. Her reunion with Ser Jamie should be interesting.
Beyond the Wall, the A-Team after walking almost as much as Frodo and his gang from The Fellowship of the Ring, finally have a run in with a White Walker and a small band of wights. They quickly make small work of them with Jon taking out the White Walker causing the wights the Walker turned to disintegrate. Only one wight remains, which the band quickly captures. Their victory is short-lived as the group suddenly finds themselves surrounded by thousands of wights. Gendry being the fastest of the group is sent back to Eastwatch to send a raven to Dragonstone and implore Dany for aid. Doing his best Barry Allen/Flash imitation, Gendry makes it back to Eastwatch in record time as Ser Davos sends the raven.
Jon and the rest of his band are forced to retreat onto an ice lake where they spend a long and cold night(s)? In the morning they find Thoros dead and burn his body. (Natch!) Although Jon seems to think that the only way to destroy this group is through Dany’s dragons, Beric rightly points out that if he kills the Night King, the original White Walker, all the wights will be destroyed. However, before anyone can make a move, The Hound decides to thrown a few stones at the wights. The wights however, notice that the ice is holding and begin to move in. Way to go dipshit.
Dany receives the raven from Eastwatch and doesn’t hesitate, taking not just one but all of her dragons North. Although Tyrion begs her not to go, Dany can not sit idly by and do nothing again. Whether her affection for Jon motivates her actions or a desire to test the power of her dragons is questionable. I’d like to point out that although Dany needs to trust Tyrion, that cuts both ways. If Dany is to be the leader he believes she can be, sometimes that means letting the dragon out of its cave.
In quite possibly one of the creepiest and most disturbing scenes of this season, Sansa makes the bold choice to search Arya’s room. There she finds the many “faces” that Arya has in her possession. Arya catches her at this and strongly implies that if Sansa doesn’t tread lightly, it could be her face she wears next. Yet in a moment of contradiction, Arya approaches Sansa with the Valyrian steel knife…and hands it over to her. What the Hell game is she playing?
The Breaker of Chains however isn’t playing any games. Just when it seems all is lost for Jon and crew, Dany swoops in with all three of her dragons who decimate the Army of the Dead. War unfortunately, is not without its losses and the Night King deals Dany a devastating blow. Doing his best Jan Zelezny impression, the Night King grabs a spear and throws it into the air striking down the dragon Viserion. Spouting a fountain of blood from his neck that would make Eli Roth cringe, Viserion soon perishes. It’s a somber moment and even though Viserion isn’t a major character like Robb or Margarey, the import of the loss is still palpable. Dany is clearly devastated but has the presence of mind to sweep up all of Jon’s companions onto the back of Drogon. Jon however stays behind to fend off other wights and plunges into the icy lake. For a moment I thought Rhaegal might fly back and pick him up but it wasn’t meant to be. Instead Jon’s Uncle Benjen charges in and takes out some wights with a fire mace while Jon escapes on Benjen’s horse.
Eventually Jon returns to Eastwatch near dead. Dany quickly whisks him to her boat as most of the A-Team heads south to deliver the wight. While unconscious, Dany sees Jon’s many scars, including the stab wound he sustained to the heart. It is at that moment she realizes that Ser Davos’ words were not a metaphor. I think this is where Dany begins to see Jon as an equal, a leader just as strong and determined as she is. It’s not a matter of if he should be by her side, she NEEDS him to be by her side. In a poignant moment after Jon wakes up, he sets aside his pride and names her his Queen. Furthermore, Jon says that in time the people will see her as he sees her. To which Dany hopes she deserves it when the time comes. These two have found equals and partners in each other. They balance each other out. They need each other not just on a professional level but a personal level as well.
“Beyond the Wall” could have left it right there and it would have been an appropriate ending to the episode. But this is Game of Thrones and they never miss an opportunity to twist the knife. In the final scene the Army of the Dead pulls the dead Viserion from the lake. The Night King approaches and lays his hand upon the dragon. In a harrowing final shot, Viserion’s eyelid opens to reveal a blue wight eye. Hello Ice Dragon! Shit just got real.
Man what an episode! Lots to chew on. Lots of intrigue. The Gods have sought to be cruel this season my friends and condemned us to a seven episode season. Sadly this means that next week is the season finale. The episode, “The Dragon and the Wolf” looks to be riveting. Let’s hope the show runners send us out on a high note!
Season 7 Episode 6 “Beyond the Wall” rates: 9/10 Severed Ned Heads
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