It’s the second to last episode of the first half of season seven of Game of Thrones! I can’t believe it, time has flown past so quickly this season.
Spoiler warning: This entire post is filled with spoilers. Read at your own risk!
What did we learn this episode?
- We began with an interesting pan across the cool map table at Dragonstone, from the South to the North, indicating that we’re moving beyond the Wall this episode.
- Arya recalls a nice story about learning archery as a young girl who was expected to be sewing and knitting, and gaining the approval of her father who accepted her as different to her sister. At the same time, Arya manages to be completely critical of Sansa, who she now thinks helped the Lannisters kill their father, as per the letter she found last episode.
- Sansa rightfully says that if Arya was present at the execution where their father was killed, she didn’t exactly do anything to help him either. They have both suffered a lot across the seasons but, kind of like in the first season before they were split up, they fundamentally don’t understand each other.
- Anyway, these two seem to hate each other now. Which is exactly what the Lannisters (and Littlefinger) must want.
- Tyrion thinks Jon Snow is in love with Daenerys. Cute! She’s his aunt.
- Daenerys is starting to become a little bit suspicious that Tyrion is taking his family’s side in the debate about how she should rule Westeros, given that he is critical of her people-burning tendencies. He’s also concerned about who Daenerys will choose as a successor given that she can’t have children, which makes her super suspicious. Ultimately, this is a conversation she will choose to have when becoming the actual Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
- Littlefinger is up to his old tricks again. He’s trying to drive a wedge between Arya and Sansa, to isolate Sansa in order to control her and therefore control the North. Littlefinger persuades Sansa to use Brienne to protect her from Arya? I don’t understand this bit.
- Sansa receives an invitation to King’s Landing, presumably from Cersei Lannister, and suggests that Brienne attend this meeting in her place. Brienne doesn’t want to go but Sansa forces her hand.
- Sansa finds a cute satchel Arya has been carrying around, which contains the faces she uses to disguise herself as a ninja assassin. Who knew you could just carry those around? I assumed you would need to store them more hygienically. It’s like an episode of Mission: Impossible from the 60s/70s. Sansa is disturbed and Arya explains her training to become a Faceless Man in Braavos. Arya makes a vague threat to become Sansa, even.
- Arya gives Sansa the fancy Valyrian steel blade which was given to her by Bran (via Littlefinger) earlier this season. This has interesting implications for future episodes. Will Sansa be stabbing someone with the dagger, I wonder?
Like a previous episode we all know and love, the main action in this episode occurred in the final third, and had a lot to do with fighting and dragons. But this time, against an army of undead zombie warriors, as opposed to alive Lannister soldiers.
On the way North, beyond the Wall, Jon and friends march. It’s Jon, Gendry, Tormund, Jorah, the Hound, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr… and other nameless Northerners. I’m loving that Gendry is back. Jon explains to Tormund that Daenerys will only join their cause if Jon bends the knee, but Tormund remembers that his pal the king of the wildlings Mance Rayder never bent the knee, and how many died for his pride? It’s an interesting rumination on how best to rule a group of people and how to act in their best interests.
It’s also interesting that Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion are back. All of the different groups of people on this walk beyond the Wall have chats about life and how different things are now, compared to the past. There seems to be a lot of that kind of talk this season. It’s almost the writers forcing a bit of nostalgia. But at the same time, this is the last season after all, and it’s apparently important to reflect on character development.
Anyway, this ragtag gang of interesting people get caught in a bit of a bind in numerous ways. Firstly, an undead bear charges their group and attacks a number of people, including Thoros, whose chest gets eaten up real good. After the bear is defeated, Thoros chooses to march on with the group rather than succumbing to his injuries. This was a strange scene to include in the second to last episode. But I will say, however, that this fight scene illustrated the flaming swords of Beric and Thoros really well; they didn’t look cheesy or overdone, and there was a cool magic sound effect when the flames were activated and de-activated.
Secondly, the group gets in a fight with a smaller group of the Army of the Dead who have somehow split apart from the larger group (which is much, much larger). One of the White Walkers is there with his ice sword. After a quick but somewhat thrilling fight scene, Jon slices and destroys the White Walker with his Valyrian steel sword, and all the undead who were walking with him fall down, destroyed as well. We can then deduce that by killing a White Walker who has ‘created’ the undead, kills the undead as well. Awkward phrasing, but there you go. Jon and friends capture the only undead zombie man who is left, with the intent to take it to King’s Landing as proof that the Army of the Dead exists.
They send Gendry off running back to Eastwatch to send a raven to Daenerys to let her know what’s going on. Since apparently he is a fast runner. I don’t understand this. They seem to have been walking for ages. The timelines are all messed up this season.
Thirdly, and most significantly, Jon and friends run into a huge group of undead zombie lads and lasses, and unfortunately they are encircled by them, in the middle of a frozen lake. Also unfortunately, at this point in time, Thoros of Myr dies. The writers are pruning the branches of characters who they no longer wish to explain or are no longer important to the central story. This now means that Beric Dondarrion is doomed if he dies though, because Thoros isn’t around anymore to bring him back to life. Beric and Jorah mention killing the Night King who appears to be watching the group, suggesting that if they do so, all the Army of the Dead will be destroyed. That’s a big ask.
At Dragonstone, Daenerys receives the message from Gendry (and Davos!) at Eastwatch regarding the Army of the Dead, calling her and the dragons for help. Tyrion warns her against going, but she and her three dragons leave. Daenerys is wearing this beautiful white fur coat which is a vastly different costume choice to her usual garb, but she looks great.
Back up North, the Hound then does the dumbest thing ever and starts throwing rocks at the Army of the Dead who appear to not understand that they can run at Jon and friends at any time. As a result of the Hound throwing a rock, and thereby proving to the zombies that they can walk on the ice lake, they attack Jon and friends. This is seriously stupid writing. Anyway, a battle occurs. There is a seriously stressful moment where we think Tormund might die as he is overpowered, but thankfully he does not die.
The good news is, Daenerys and her three dragons (Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion) fly in just at the right time – the dragons blasting fire at the Army of the Dead and taking them out. Daenerys encourages Jon and friends to climb aboard Drogon, whom she is riding, to escape to safety. But Jon, stubborn as ever, continues attacking the undead for some reason. He is wasting time.
As Jon is being stubborn and ruining things, the Night King walks forward with his ice javelin. He takes aim at a dragon, Viserion. He throws his spear and it lands, hitting Viserion. Blood pours out as Viserion is mortally injured, and he falls from the sky, dead. He sinks into the frozen lake. I am more sad about this dead dragon than I should be. Daenerys’ face is a picture of grief, as her dragons also scream out for their brother.
Jon now realises that he’s in too deep and they have to leave. Should have done that earlier. Unfortunately, he is dragged underwater by the undead. Daenerys and everyone except Jon flees the scene, to fly back to Dragonstone. The Night King attempts to strike Drogon with his ice javelin, but he misses. Daenerys is leaving both Jon and her dead child, the dragon Viserion, behind.
It turns out Jon isn’t dead, as he emerges from the frozen lake, alive but definitely not doing so well. As he attempts to make it back to Eastwatch, he is saved from yet another certain death by who else but his half-undead Uncle Benjen Stark (aka, Coldhands, from the books), who puts him on his horse and sends him off to safety. In another act of pruning the branches of characters the show no longer wishes to explain, Benjen is then eaten by zombies. So much for Benjen telling Jon “I’ll tell you about your mother when I see you next” back in season one, that’s never going to happen.
At Eastwatch, the undead zombie man from earlier is being loaded on a boat, off to King’s Landing. Daenerys is waiting atop the Wall, to see if Jon will return from the North. Luckily, Jon returns just in time. He’s taken indoors and Daenerys gets a glimpse of all of his stab wounds from when he died and was brought back to life at the beginning of season six. Jon awakens later on a boat; they’re heading to King’s Landing to show Cersei the undead, to prove to her that the war against the Army of the Dead is way more important than any of their mortal squabbles.
Jon apologises for Daenerys’ loss. Good, because it is technically his fault. They hold hands. Daenerys acknowledges that she’s glad they went beyond the Wall, even if Viserion died, because she needed to see the Army of the Dead to understand what they are up against. Seeing this has invigorated her need to win this war. Jon refers to Daenerys as “my Queen”, and says that he wants to bend the knee to her, that his people will understand and see her for who and what she is. I’m sure everyone is ranting and raving about the unresolved sexual tension in this scene and I’m almost buying into it, but at the same time I keep thinking, “She’s your aunt!!!”.
Back beyond the Wall, the undead are using use some huge chains to drag the dead Viserion from the depths of the frozen lake. Everyone on the internet is worried about where they got the chains from. This scene is devastating because I’m already too sad that the dragon has died. The Night King approaches the dragon and touches him. Viserion’s eyes open – they are ice blue. The episode ends.
Holy shit! Undead ice dragon! This is really upsetting. Not only because one of the dragons died and is now at the behest of an undead enemy, but because ice dragons are a relative unknown in George R. R. Martin’s universe. I can only imagine how the undead Viserion will be used by the Night King in his nefarious plan to enforce an eternal Winter in Westeros. I suppose we’ll find out more about it in the next episode.
All in all, this wasn’t a bad episode, and the horror of the battle and final moments make it one of the more memorable ones of the season. Some of the writing continues to be wonky, though. According to the trailer for next episode (the last of this season!), which is entitled ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’, we’ll get to see the Unsullied and the Dothraki armies against a Lannister-held castle, the Targaryen fleet arriving at King’s Landing, Sansa pondering ominously atop the walls of Winterfell, and a scene interestingly set in a Colosseum-like structure at King’s Landing – Cersei, Jaime, Jon, and Tyrion appear to be present. I wonder what will happen! I suppose we don’t have long to wait to find out.