At the time “Beyond the Wall” aired, it was the longest episode of Game of Thrones ever. The season finale now holds that record, but this episode definitely felt long when I was watching it. It was fast-paced, but there was a lot crammed in. I ended up watching a lot through my fingers. I’ve always found the wights to be incredibly visually terrifying. After episodes like “The Door” and “Hardhome”, I always have nightmares and trouble sleeping, so I came into this episode expecting to be scared out of my mind – I was right.
Most of the episode took place north of The Wall, but there were some important events at Winterfell between Sansa and Arya. This week, the two sisters are continuing their feud and refusing to actually talk or listen to each other, which is infuriating.
Their fight started off with Arya sharing a story as they stood gazing at the Winterfell courtyard. She said that one time she picked up a bow and a single arrow that had been left out, and shot the arrow over and over until she finally managed to hit the target. When she did, she heard applause. Their father was standing on the wall where they were standing now and clapping for her. From this she apparently learned that she wasn’t wrong for wanting to shoot the bow – the rules were wrong for not allowing her.
This was a nice moment, but it was quickly ruined by Arya declaring that she thinks Sansa helped the Lannisters kill their father. She then reveals Sansa’s letter that she swiped from Littlefinger‘s room. Later on, Sansa confides in Littlefinger, which seemed out of character to me. Surely after everything she’s been through, she doesn’t actually trust him anymore. Anyway, Sansa tells him that she’s concerned for her safety and he advises her to enlist Brienne‘s help. Instead, Sansa sends Brienne to Kings Landing after receiving a non-optional invitation from Cersei. Brienne’s departure was pretty heartbreaking. She didn’t want to go, and Sansa basically scolded her until she agreed to.
Later Sansa goes to Arya‘s room, I guess to find the letter, and instead and finds her bag of faces. Arya appears without a sound (which was quite creepy) and plays the Lying Game with her sister that she learned at the House of Black and White. She then announces that they both always wanted to be other people and that Arya could actually become her sister. All she’d need would be her face…
North of The Wall
Most of the episode was spent north of The Wall with the “Magnificent Seven” and several extra Wildlings who got the rough go of pulling the sleds. A lot of this time was spent on side conversations between the main characters. Some of my favorite moments from these conversations are:
- Gendry complaining and then being told off for it by The Hound who urges him to look at Berric who has “…been killed six times. You don’t hear him bitching.”
- Tormund and The Hound fighting because Tormund claims that they are both marked by fire and talking about Brienne.
Some conversations that were interesting to note:
- Tormund thinks Jon Snow should bend the knee to Dany. I think this is an interesting point of view for a Wildling, but then again Tormund has also seen what not bending the knee will do.
- John tried to give Jorah back Longclaw, but Jorah refuses to accept because he brought shame to his house. (The same house little Lorah Mormont now leads! )
- Berric mentions to Jon that they have both been brought back by Red Priests and reveals that he is fighting for life because he considers death to be the first and last enemy. They won’t find much joy in fighting this particular battle, but they can keep others alive. This leads Jon to mention “the shield that guards the realms of men”, which is taken from the Night’s Watch oath. I guess he never really gave up the black.
With the mountain The Hound saw in the fire in their sights, our troupe of heroes enters a windy storm, and are attacked by a ZOMBIE POLAR BEAR.
Oh my goodness guys, an undead freaking polar bear!
The bear takes out one of the poor extra Wildlings and the rest circle up. Berric and Thorros can now apparently light their swords on fire whenever they want to, and while this willy-nilly magic annoys me, I do have to admit it looked super cool. Because of their fire swords, one of the zombie bears catches on fire and runs around attacking Thorros. The Hound freezes, much like he did at Blackwater, and cannot attack the burning bear to save his friend. After the other members of the company manage to put the bear down, they cauterize poor Thorros’s wound and take care of the new potential wights. It’s a very bleak scene.
Shortly after, Tormund sports a White Walker with a gaggle of wights marching below them. The group lights a fire to lure the group in, and then jump up to attack them. To everyone’s surprise, once the White Walker is killed, all the wights save one collapse as well. As they struggle to bind and gag the remaining wight to take back to King’s Landing, it struggles and screams. Hearing answering screams in the distance, Jon sends Gendry to run all the way back to The Wall to get a raven to Dany. (Which begs the question of why they didn’t take a raven with them?) Gendry runs off and the rest of the group runs to a rock surrounded by a thin layer of ice followed by an army of wights. They manage to cross, but when the army following them steps on the ice it breaks completely, forming a natural barrier around our heroes. Apparently, wights cannot swim and become completely immobile underwater.
Gendry arrives at the Wall remarkably fast, and Davos pulls him to safety as our heroes on the rock stay awake under the watch of thousands of glowing blue eyes. (Which admittedly was a pretty spectacular visual.) In the middle of the night, they notice that poor Thorros has died from his wounds. Jon makes a bad moment worse by reminding the group they now have to burn his body, and Berric wordlessly lights his sword up. (Which I mean, really – are there rules for that? He’s not a red priest, so how can he just summon fire?)
Later, Jon and Berric stare at the White Walkers who are watching them from a nearby cliff. Berric suggests that they try to kill the Night King. It’s sound reasoning, the Night King created all the other White Walkers. Since killing the Walker before also destroyed the wights it had created, it would make sense to think that killing the Night King would cause the entire army to fall.
At Dragonstone, Dany talks with Tyrion. They’ve been at odds lately thanks to Tyrion’s terrible military planning and Dany’s tendency to burn people alive, but she says that she likes that Tyrion isn’t a hero because heroes do stupid brave things and die. She’s not wrong.
After discussing Jon’s affections towards her and refusing to discuss who is to be named her heir, Dany receives Gendry’s letter. She quickly changes into the coolest coat I’ve ever seen that is made out of tiger fur, and much to Tyrion’s dismay, flies off with her dragons.
Back On The Rock
Everyone is still on their little island surrounded by the army of the dead. Not a lot has changed, and The Hound is clearly bored. He starts throwing rocks at the wights. One of the rocks doesn’t quite make it to them, landing on the ice. It is at this moment that they all collectively discover the ice is now frozen solid again. I guess the wights would have waited around forever had this not happened? Anyway, the wights charge at the group and our heroes start hacking and slashing with dragonglass weapons that they’ve magically acquired at some point. There were some really amazing overhead shots in this, but it was really hard to keep track of how many random extras there were on the side of the good guys, and who was still alive.
Just as things were starting to look pretty damn bleak, Dany arrives with all three of her dragons and lights things up. Everything is awesome for a hot second, but as everyone is distracted while climbing onto Drogon, the Night King gets a javelin and kills Viseryes. Jon sacrifices himself fighting off approaching wights so that Dany and the rest of the team can get away.
As the army starts to retreat and Dany and her remaining dragons fly away, Jon climbs gasping and freezing out of the lake. The remaining wights start to move towards him, but Jon is saved by Benjen Stark who suddenly appeared, gives Jon his horse, and dies fighting off the wights. This was super sad because Jon had been waiting for his uncle to come back since season one, when Benjen first went beyond the Wall. This reunion had been 6 years in coming, and it’s sad to think that the two will never have the reunion they deserve.
Eastwatch By The Sea
Back at The Wall, the Hound seems to have become the captured wight’s official keeper and loads it onto the ship. The group is ready and should head south, but Dany is keeping a lookout at the top of the Wall and wants to wait just a little while longer for Jon’s return. Just as she’s about to give up home, Jon appears.
On the boat south, Dany sees Jon’s scars for the first time. I can’t wait for the eventual conversation where she makes Jon explain how he came back from the dead. As Jon wakes up, Dany is at his bedside crying. He apologizes, but Dany says she wouldn’t take her decision to rescue them back because now she truly knows what they’re up against. She now has a personal vendetta against the Night King. He killed one of her only children, and she is determined to destroy him and his army.
It seems like the two are getting along swimmingly, but Jon makes it super awkward when he calls her “Dany”. Dany gets uncomfortable because the last person to call her that was her brother. Jon instead suggests that he call her “my queen” and reveals that although he is bedridden, he is bending the knee figuratively. This is the point where Dany finally seems to realize that Jon has romantic feelings for her, and as she leaves Jon’s room, she seems very confused.
Side note: Jon’s stab wounds don’t seem like they’re healed yet, so does he have a pulse? I really wish the magic rules in this world were more established.
North of the Wall
We end the episode back at the frozen lake where, using chains they’ve acquired R’hllor knows where, the wights are pulling Viseryeon up from the bottom of the lake. The Night King then turns him into… a zombie dragon.
A zombie dragon!
I have a couple of complaints about this episode. I wish it had been better established how many “red shirts” the group had with them. Because people kept wearing their hoods, most times that a red shirt was killed, I thought it was one of the important characters. It would also have been great to have a “suiting up” sequence so that we could see everyone getting dragonglass weapons.
But, guys – there is a ZOMBIE DRAGON in play now. The battle between the living and the dead just got a lot more interesting.