Game of Thrones Recap, Season 7 Episode 6: Beyond the Wall
Fretting about their allies north of the Wall, Tyrion suggests that Dany’s concerns might not be strictly strategic, particularly in Jon Snow’s case. Dany doesn’t fully deny the suggestion, but turns the conversation towards their upcoming meeting with Cersei. Tyrion, despite his beliefs that Cersei will try to turn the situation to her advantage given an opening, advises against setting any traps of their own in order to set a precedent for a new type of ruler.
Tyrion obliquely approaches the subject of Dany’s impulsive behavior. She defends her actions in the aftermath of the battle on the Goldroad, explaining that she gave both Randyll and Dickon Tarly multiple chances to bend the knee. Tyrion suggests killing only Randyll may have been a better move, and uses the example of the now-heirless House Tarly to inquire about Dany’s own succession planning. Dany has no desire to discuss such matters and ends the conversation abruptly.
My Take: Tyrion is on a long streak of bad advice (including the plan for the mission Jon is currently on), but Dany doesn’t seem to resent him for it…yet. I’m hopeful he’s planning endless countermeasures for potential traps set by Cersei, but his idealistic approach to the encounter is worrisome. Team Targaryen might have agreed that an armistice is in their best interest, but not preparing an offensive capable of wiping out the Lannisters should this meeting go south is foolhardy. They’ve already acknowledged that Cersei is desperate at this point, making her more predictable than ever.
I’m also not sure where he was going with his succession plan talk. Part of his job description as the Hand is having difficult conversations with his Queen, but he should probably prepare a suggestion if he’s going to touch on such a sensitive subject. I (and probably Dany) expect more out of someone who has proven himself one of the best schemers in the story.
Arya confronts Sansa with the letter she took from Littlefinger’s room. Sansa explains that she was forced to write it as a Lannister hostage, but Arya has no sympathy for her, and reveals she was present for Ned’s execution. Sansa rightly points out that neither of them did anything to save him in that moment, and goes on to take credit for their being safe in Winterfell now. Unswayed, Arya threatens to give her letter to the Northern lords despite Sansa’s point that internal strife is exactly what their enemies want.
Sansa explains her troubles to Littlefinger, who of course is happy to help. With no word from Jon, Littlefinger advocates for Sansa to seize more power. Turning back to Arya, Littlefinger suggests enlisting Brienne to prevent further damage. Winterfell’s Maester interrupts Sansa’s response to deliver a scroll from Cersei, summoning her to King’s Landing. Sansa summons Brienne, who doesn’t want to leave Sansa alone with Littlefinger. Sansa sends Brienne to King’s Landing in her place, and burns the scroll.
Sansa inspects Arya’s room and finds a satchel filled with faces. Arya interrupts her and suggests they play the Game of Faces. Sansa refuses and asks about the faces; Arya explains the full power of the Faceless Men:
After this ominous line, Arya approaches with the catspaw blade before turning it around and giving it to Sansa.
My take: I found the action in Winterfell exceedingly tiresome and nonsensical. Sansa’s counter to Arya’s confrontation is perfect: she was a captive of the Lannisters when she was asked to write the letter and she was barely a teenager at the time. Robb and Maester Luwin recognized this immediately upon receiving her letter, saying “it is your sister's hand, but the Queen's words.” Some of the Northern lords she’s working with are likely already aware of the letter, as it spurred Robb to declare war. Despite all this, Sansa seems petrified at Arya’s suggestion of giving the letter to the Northern lords, which leads to the rest of the action we see between the sisters this episode. Based on what we’ve seen, Sansa should have let Arya do whatever she’d like and explain the letter to her lords the same way she did to Arya. They’d collectively shrug and wonder why Arya was wasting their time.
Similarly, I found Arya’s bizarre intimidation tactics at the end of the episode superfluous. Arya seems to oscillate between wary but socially competent (interactions with the actress in Braavos, sitting with Lannister soldiers) and utterly psychopathic (refusing to meet Hot Pie’s eyes, telling Sansa she could take her face). I don’t think she has any real desire to murder Sansa, so why bother slow-walking at her with dagger in hand before handing it over? The only thing happening in Winterfell at the moment is the collection of food for winter; there’s plenty of time for Arya and Sansa to sit down and hash out their issues.
I was a little concerned when Sansa broke her streak of humiliating Littlefinger at every opportunity, but her decision to send Brienne away immediately after he recommended using her was a comforting return to form. Now that she has the catspaw blade, it should only take a small nudge or a kernel of information for her to consider using it on Littlefinger.
Beyond the Wall
Making their way slowly north, Jon and his allies pass the time in conversation. Jon explains the difficulty of kneeling to Dany to Tormund, who cites Mance Rayder as an example of the cost of pride. Gendry has an opportunity to air his complaints to Thoros and Beric, but the Hound quickly shames him into accepting the new arrangement.
Later, Jon and Jorah have a chance to discuss Jorah’s father and his demise at the hands of mutineers. Jon offers Longclaw to Jorah. Visibly tempted, Jorah acknowledges his past sins and insists that Jon keep the sword and make it his own, to pass down to his children.
Tormund, expounding on the unrequited love waiting for him on the other side of the Wall, is surprised to learn the Hound has encountered Brienne himself. and the Hound land on the subject of Brienne, who the Hound remembers well:
Tormund: "I’ve seen the way she looks at me."
The Hound: "The way she looks at you? Like she wants to carve you up and eat your liver?"
Tormund: "You do know her."
Beric helps Jon understand the nature of their fight. Jon has no interest in fighting for the Lord of Light, and doesn’t understand why he’d be chosen to be brought back. Beric suggests that understanding isn’t particularly important; they’re soldiers, and they’re here to fight against death. Jon is reminded of his Night’s Watch vows, saying “I am the shield that guards the realms of men.”
The Hound sees the mountain he saw in his vision. The march continues into worsening weather until an indistinct shape is seen in the distance. It turns and begins to charge, picking off a member of the party and resolving into a massive wight-bear. The battle intensifies, and Thoros is pinned by the bear’s jaws. Beric manages to set what remains of the bear’s hide ablaze with his flaming sword, but the flames prevent the Hound from entering the fray. The bear takes a couple chunks out of Thoros’s chest before Jorah drives an obsidian dagger through its eye, killing it. Beric cauterizes Thoros’s wound with his sword, and the group marches on.
Thoros and Jorah recall the Siege of Pyke, where Jorah thought Thoros must be the bravest man alive. Thoros admits to being thoroughly intoxicated at the time, crediting his inebriation for his courage.
Soon after, Tormund calls a halt and climbs to the top of a ridge. Looking down, he sees what appears to be a scouting party of wights led by a lone White Walker. They ambush the scouting party, with Jon heading directly for the White Walker. After a brief exchange, Jon shatters him with Longclaw and all but one of the wights immediately crumbles into heaps.
As the party attempts to bind the one remaining wight, it lets out of shrill scream, drawing the attention of the larger undead army. They secure their captive, and Jon sends Gendry back to Eastwatch with instructions to send a raven to Dany. The rest of the party flees across a frozen lake, and are surrounded before the ice begins to break in patches, isolating them in the center of a horde of wights.
Gendry, running through the night, collapses in front of the gate at Eastwatch, where he’s hauled inside and a raven is sent to Dragonstone.
Back on Dragonstone
Despite Tyrion’s protestations and concerns for what will happen if Dany should die, she immediately mounts Drogon and flies north with Rhaegal and Viserion following.
Beyond the Wall
Jon and his group awaken, still surrounded, and discover Thoros died during the night. As Beric says the Lord of Light’s prayer, Jon empties the contents of Thoros’s flask onto his body, which Beric sets on fire with his sword. Jon believes their only chance is to hope for Dany to arrive, but Jorah asks about the relationship between White Walkers and wights, which prompts Beric to focus on the Night King; if he turned them all, they may only need to kill him.
Not yet desperate enough to attempt to carve a path to the Night King, the standoff continues. The Hound throws rocks at the motionless army of wights, accidentally revealing newly-frozen ice where it had previously given way. The wights begin to advance, slowly at first, to attack the humans. Tormund is nearly dragged into the water, but the Hound intervenes and pulls him back to safety. Another nameless member of the party falls, and the situation seems hopeless until Dany arrives, her dragons cutting out swaths of the undead army and melting more holes into the lake’s frozen surface. She lands Drogon on the small rock where the party had huddled for safety, and they begin climbing aboard, well-covered by the dragons. As the party clambers onto Drogon’s back, the Night King draws a frozen spear and throws it at Viserion; it easily pierces the dragon’s chest, and Viserion tumbles, bleeding, to the ground, where the ice cracks and he sinks into the lake’s depths.
Jon turns and advances on the Night King, cutting down wights on his way. He changes course when the Night King draws another frozen spear, but before he can reach Dany, Drogon, and the rest of his party, he’s tackled through the ice by a trio of wights. Unable to risk losing one of her two remaining dragons, Dany and her group take flight, leaving Jon on his own.
The White Walkers and their army immediately begin to march on, and Jon climbs out of the frozen water, staggering to more solid ground. He’s noticed by the tail end of the army, but Benjen Stark rides through their ranks with his flaming flail to Jon’s rescue. He puts Jon on his horse, and remains behind to buy him extra time. Jon looks back to see him overtaken as he rides on for Eastwatch.
Back at the lake, the wights use heavy chains to drag Viserion’s body from the depths. The Night King approaches, and with a touch, the dragon’s eye opens bright blue.
LORE: ICE DRAGONS OR WIGHT DRAGONS?
My take: In the series’ longest episode to date, there was a lot of action beyond the Wall. The conversations on the march were an enjoyable return to the dialogue that makes Game of Thrones great, and there were some real moments of character development. Jorah owns his mistakes in declining Jon’s offer of Longclaw, Jon accepts some of Beric’s opinion that the what is more important than the why, Tormund is still in adorable puppy love with Brienne, and Gendry learns that friends and enemies are fluid in a world so rife with threats.
It was perfectly in character for Jon to offer Longclaw to Jorah, but I don’t want to underestimate the significance of the gesture. Longclaw is one of the few weapons in existence effective against both the dead and the living, and Jon has been training with it for years at this point.
The fight against the wight-bear was awesome, but I’m hoping they all had a conversation afterward about using the dragonglass weapons Jon risked everything to obtain. Poor Thoros had to hold an undead bear away from his face for far too long before Jorah finally used a weapon capable of killing the thing. We haven’t seen exactly how much they were able to extract and fashion into weapons, but I hope they’ll use them more readily in the next encounter.
Perhaps the greatest revelation of this episode was the connection between a White Walker and his wights. We didn’t see an impact when Sam killed one in Season 3 because there weren’t any wights around, and if a chunk of the army dropped dead(er?) at Hardhome when Jon killed another, we didn’t see it. If it’s as simple as it seems, Beric could be correct: killing the Night King could end the war immediately.
Kat and I (and everyone else in the room) went silent seeing Viserion die, but Maddock and I predicted something like this would have to happen to even the playing field on our podcast. The main question I have now is what the wight-dragon will allow the Night King to do. Will he be able to fly over the Wall, bypassing any anti-White Walker magic? If so, will that undo the effects for the rest of his army? Sansa and her army in Winterfell may have a much bigger problem than food and Littlefinger soon. For anyone curious, it does make sense from a lore perspective that the Night King’s spear so easily pierced Viserion’s scales and killed him.
LORE: WHITE WALKER WEAPONS
My final note on the dragons could have some serious implications. The Night King and his army seemed content to wait until Jon and his party died on their rock, strange given the remarkable efficacy of their ranged weapons. I suspect the Night King knew he’d need a dragon in the fight to come, and to some degree set up this situation accordingly. The question then is how much the Night King was able to anticipate. It seems reasonable to assume he has some power similar to Bran’s; we saw him interact with Bran mid-vision before he stormed the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave, and he scattered the ravens Bran sent not long ago. Was he able to see a future in which dragons would arrive to rescue Jon if he waited long enough? Depending on the extent of his abilities, the living will need Bran to step up his game to battle the Night King on that higher level while Dany, Jon, and company deal with the undead army on foot.
Jon managed the second-most impressive aquatic feat of the season in pulling himself from the icy waters after fending off the wights who fell in with him, but I’m a little disappointed in Benjen’s death. It reminded me a lot of the Blackfish, who opted against an easy escape to instead go out fighting. He probably bought Jon a few extra seconds, but Jon is on a horse with a head start. We know the Wall is close enough for Gendry to run there, so I doubt the horse would get too tired with both riders. So long, Coldhands, and thanks for the timely rescues!
Also very important: Dany looks like an absolute boss in her winter battle garb (above).
The Hound, Beric, and Tormund carry the wight to a boat headed for King’s Landing. Dany and Jorah watch Drogon and Rhaegal fly above the Wall. Nearly ready to give up and set sail for Dragonstone, Jon emerges from the forest on Benjen’s horse. He’s tended to immediately, and awakens at sea with Dany watching over him. He immediately apologizes for his part in the loss of one her dragons, but Dany tells him its unnecessary. She’s committed to his cause now, and pledges to help him destroy the Night King and his army. Jon calls her “Dany”, then promises to call her his Queen and bend the knee when he’s able, confident the North will follow his lead. After an emotionally charged exchange, Dany excuses herself and leaves Jon to recover.
My take: Jon and Dany are truly allies now, and I imagine Dany will have some follow-up questions about the “dagger to the heart” line in Davos’s introduction now that she’s seen his scars. I’m excited to see their partnership in action, uniting the Targaryens and the North, but I’m going to reiterate my sole, desperate request to HBO: please, please, please don’t have Jon and his Aunt Dany hook up. They don’t know they’re related at the moment, but there’s someone in the world who does, and he has access to ravens he can control with his mind. If you end this story with an incestuous Targaryen monarchy, I’m going to throw this book farther than I did after the Red Wedding.
Dragonflame Burn of the Week
Thanks for checking out our recap! If you need some more historical context for what you're seeing, you can check out our Game of Thrones Lore series, which details the history of Westeros and some of what we know of Essos. Check back for another recap next week, and until then, remember: "Everything before the word 'but' is horseshit."