Written by: Sana Khan | Image: winteriscoming.net
The following review is part six in the series of seven episode reviews from the Season 7 of popular TV series Game of Thrones. Each episode will be reviewed from a feminist lens by SMIW readers. Read the previous episode reviews before you begin. Or, if you already have, move right ahead to the latest edition.
GoT returns this week with one of the most unsettling episodes in the show’s entire seven year run.
I feel, we as viewers had been both dreading and waiting for this aptly titled episode all along. So let’s venture forth, like ravens (and dragons), out Beyond The Wall!
A band of a dozen or so is trudging through fierce snowstorm and ice. They are:
King in the North and know-er of nothing, Jon Snow; Greyscale beating sachcha aashiq #1, Jorah Mormont; Keeper of Thor’s Hammer and secret Baratheon, Gendry Waters; Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane; Berric ‘Two-lives-and-one-eye-fewer-than-a-cat’ Dondarrion; Thoros ‘Manbun’ of Myr and; Tormund ‘sachcha aashiq #2 with unconventional sex life’ Giantsbane.
The Westerosi Avengers.
And a few un-named, bag-carrying extras who’ll surely die before this expedition ends.
Like any good superhero film, we see the lead characters bonding over shared history, mutual respect, some good ol’ banter and some downright resentment. Now, while one of the show’s strengths has been the character interactions and the dialogue writing, the last two seasons have been really hit-and-miss in this department.
Tyrion’s never-ending spiels of boredom to Missandei and Grey Worm while he was stuck in Mereen and Jon and Ramsay’s embarrassing exchange before Battle of the Bastards come to mind immediately. Similarly, Bran’s whole staring-into-the-distance-and-saying-stuff-about-stuff has been weird AF. So, it was refreshing to get some actual plot-service through the interactions Beyond The Wall this time.
For example, Tormund poking Clegane Junior and discussing “making giant monster babies” with Brienne was downright hilarious, but also hinted that she and The Hound may cross paths again, soon (of course that was re-affirmed further later in the episode). It also got me fearing for Tormund’s life. Fan favourites not named Daenerys or Jon sadly have a short life in the universe of this show.
Similarly, Jon and Ser Jorah bonding over the tragic deaths of their fathers and playing pehle aap over Lord Commander Mormont’s sword was sappy but kinda sweet. Add Gendry channeling his millennial angst about bygones to the mix and you have a spinoff sitcom where all these characters would live in an apartment together.
OK so far so good, but this is after all the penultimate episode of the season, and they are supposed to be the really big ones, right? So, where is all the action?
And then, the action comes… And girl, does it get real absurd, real fast.
Almost like the climax of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a lot of things happen in quick succession, but with much inferior quality of writing. Here’s a quick recap:
A wight polar bear attacks the group, killing an un-named extra or two and hurting Thoros gravely, but wait, Berric fixes his wounds with a flaming sword? Wait, he has a flaming sword? Umm, OK. Then up they go again? Wow. Funny ol’ life!
Then, very conveniently, a bunch of wights led by a mid-management level White Walker just happen to be passing by, luckily enough for our boys to ambush them and kill the walker. Which of course destroys all BUT ONE of the wights. SO CO-INCIDENCE Yaaaa!
And then, a HILARIOUS sequence ensues where they capture the wight, paper bag over-the-head and all, but not before he gives out a chilling shriek to alert the rest of his gang. Oh the drama!
Even Jon can tell that sh** is about to go down and so, of course, he does the only logical thing he could have, telling Gendry to make like a tree and get back to Eastwatch to send a raven to Daenerys. I’m like, how in the seven hells?!! But my bad, obviously Gendry is the next Usain Bolt and ravens are the Westerosi cell phones. Seems totally plausible. *rolls eyes*
Meanwhile, in the regal confines of Dragonstone, Tyrion is drinking wine and discussing boys with Dany (can I call her that?) who is clearly falling for “this…Jon Snow” even though he might be too little for her (ha!).
Just as I was enjoying the conversation and for once, not hating on the ‘wise’ Hand, he brings up the topic of her impulsiveness and succession?! Hmmm… Tyrion has been harboring kingsly ambitions all this while?
But, “We will talk of my succession when I wear the crown”, Daenerys shuts him down. You show them girl!
By the way, not to say that beheading POWs is OK, but what is with the staple Dany and mad-king comparison / reference per episode? Even Eddard Stark, supposedly the most honourable man in the seven kingdoms, **cough** cheated to kill Arthur Dayne **cough** was prone to beheading people for petty crimes – that too during peace time.
But a woman does the same during war time and she either becomes a mad ruler or an impulsive girl. Double standards much, eh?
Also, I’m disappointed with how character development has been squashed just to steer the show in whichever direction D & D wish to. Devious, plotting characters like Tyrion, Varys are mere shadows of their former selves. Littlefinger too, has been subdued in his dastardly-ness, even though his antics continue to suggest that his heart is still well and truly rotten.
Speaking of Littlefinger, he finally awakens from his long Winterfell vacation to drive a wedge between the Stark sisters. Arya begins by reminiscing about her happy childhood about shooting arrows, noting,
“I knew it wasn’t wrong. The rules were wrong.” And indeed, they were.
This is one of the great things about GoT. Seeing the gender rules bent and broken by some of the most badass female characters on TV. I adore and look up to these awe-inspiring women. Cersei, Daenerys, Brienne, Olenna, Arya, Sansa, Lyanna, Margery, Ygritte, Yara and even the Sand Snakes.
Of course, one of the equally frustrating things about the show has been its tendency to fall into tropes after promising so much. So, just as I started to feel proud of Arya and how far she’s come, she drops a b-bomb on Sansa, threatening to sell her big sis out to the weather-vane bannermen.
Looks like the letter Petyr left for Arya last week may be taking its toll, but the sub plot has been underwhelming so far.
Still, I have high hopes for the Stark sisters, because in the fallout of the letter shenaniganry, Sansa sends Brienne away to Queen’s Landing (yay for Brienne + Jaime camp! ) even when Petyr suggested using her against Arya. Later, while explaining how the game of faces works in a menacing undertone to Sansa, Arya hands her the dagger Bran gave her.
I won’t be surprised if Lord Baelish becomes Deadfinger next episode!
Anyway, the name of the episode was Beyond The Wall, and that’s where we go back, only to find the Not-So-Magnificent Seven surrounded by the Army of the Dead in the centre of a frozen lake. We realise that Thoros went through all that fire-sword gimmickry only to succumb to his injuries at the lake. Jorah and Berric suggest to take down The Night King, hoping all wights will fall after him, but Jon denies. “You don’t understand”, he whispers.
Him and me both, dude. *face palm*
As we all know, one of the greatest qualities of White Walkers and wights is their love for pausing, staring, and waiting their opponents into making a mistake. So much so, that The Hound, apparently bored, starts throwing rocks at the zombies. Of course, what else would you do in such a situation? And then, all hell breaks loose. Wights advance like kids to an ice cream van and there’s your customary-penultimate-episode gory scene, full of snarls, growls and swordplay.
My heart almost skipped a beat and worst fears almost came true when Tormund was being taken down by the wights but his new best friend Sandor saves him, redeeming his own recent actions to an extent in the process.
Finally, as one begins to think, “Is this it?” Wham! Comes the answer. Of course not, you idiot!
Dracarys, mofos!! All bow down! Daenerys descends down like a queen in that moment and looks fierce AF while doing so. What follows is some of the most jaw dropping cinematography and CGI fueled action on the show ever!
Dragons swoop in like the beautiful majestic creatures they are, setting the dead ablaze and shattering the ice. A song of ice and fire indeed.
But wait! This is GoT-verse. Nothing ever is straightforward. So, just when the table seems to be turning, the Night King, an Olympic Javelin Gold medalist in his free time, throws an icy spear at Viserion the dragon – bringing him to his watery, icy grave.
Damn! I haven’t felt such emotion and fondness for a mystical creature… Since… I don’t know, How to Train Your Dragon 2
And then, for some reason, Jon, being the genius he is, continues to fight the AoTD? Hey! There’s a flying dragon right there! Your bros have even managed to stay latched on to the captured wight and drag him atop the dragon (btw, whichever actor played that role deserves a Razzie for most-ham-ever)! Why won’t you just up-and-run?
But he stays, even as the others have no choice but to leave, barely escaping another one of those ice-javelins.
We needn’t have worried though, because Jon Snow is an Olympian himself. A fine swimmer and joint world record holder (with Jaime and Bronn) in the holding-breath-under-water category. Might as well rename this The Game of Olympic Medals.
But of course, the AoTD are still gonna kill him. Nah! Kidding! He is Jon Snow. Someone’s always around to save his ass. This time, his dues ex machina arrived in form of the undead-good-zombie Uncle Benjen.
Let’s take this moment to take a look back at the number of times Jon’s know-nothing ass has been saved by others in the face of certain or near certain death, the last two seasons alone:
1. Brought back from the dead by Lady Melissandre, at start of Season 6.
2. Rescued from the brink of being beaten down and trampled alive by the Knights of Vale, in Battle of Bastards.
3. Saved from certain murder by Army of The Dead (original) in Beyond The Wall, by Daenerys Targaryen.
4. Saved from certain murder by Army of The Dead (sequel) in Beyond The Wall, by un-dead Benjen Stark.
Seriously dude, maybe consider that you’re not made for this, huh? Ser Davos has no shame in admitting it and he’s no less of hero than you. Perhaps get married to the Dragon Queen and be a stay-at-home-dad to Drogon and Rhaegal?
In fact, even the seeds of such an outcome were surely planted later, on a boat bound for Queen’s Landing. When Jon opened his eyes to see Daenerys by his bedside looking at him oh-so-mushily and I incest (pun absolutely intended) the sparks were flying everywhere. Jon (finally!) bent the knee and even called her ‘Dany’ – a move so cringe-worthy that even Khaleesi was a little shocked and told him to get some rest and play it cool.
Last and most importantly, even as the Justice League led by Wonder Woman headed southward, a group of wights pull Viserion’s lifeless body out of the frozen lake using giant metal chains, which surely were just lying around up-north, like all the other heavy industrial machinery equipment that a typical White Walker family keeps handy for their annual dragon killing vacations.
What happened next was something many had been speculating but very few could guess how it would happen…
Wow! So the Night King already had giant wights and an ever growing Army of the Dead and all he needed was a way to breach The Wall. Is the Ice Dragon how he does it?
A few other thoughts while we wait for the season finale:
1. The show has lately become more liberal in its use of the fast-forward button when it comes to travel. Given how much story had to be covered this season, it’s understandable to skip the travelling scenes, but an episode is taking place over several weeks, months even. So, to believe the Gendry-Raven-Dany timeline all happened within a day or so is a little much.
2. It quickly became apparent that creating this indelible image of a blue-eyed ice dragon was the sole motive of this episode and it didn’t care if the plot-line had to be dumbed down.
3. Tyrion’s suicide plan to capture a wight to convince Cersei of the White Walkers’ existence is his third strike this season. How much more will Dany take before he’s out?
4. No major character deaths (unless you consider Thoros) happened in the second-last episode of a season despite it having a bloody battle, which is shocking but also an ominous sign that some major heads might roll in the Season Finale, just like last Season!
5. The question even Buzzfeed is asking. Why didn’t the Night King aim his javelin at Jonny and team all the while they were just standing there? Or, why not go for Drogon first, who was in plain line of sight, stationary, a much bigger dragon and, carrying off all his foes. Instead, he went for Viserion, a flying target who would be much more difficult to shoot at? Another plot armour?
6. Viserion is resurrected as a lethal wight dragon to fight on the dark side, which is kind of a darkly poetic end for Dany’s child who was named after her evil brother Viserys.
7. And hey, what’s with all the sudden talk about children and successors?
OK, now, the most important question. Who’s leaking the Season Finale? Can’t wait for Monday! 😀
Episode Rating: Four Ice Dragons.
Episode Winners: The Night King, Littlefinger for successfully deepening the divide between Arya and Sansa, Dany for being badass as always.
Episode Losers: Viserion (sob!), Un-magnificent Seven, Dany for losing one of her children, Jon Snow for… being Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister for striking out, Show writers for not caring about logic.
Updated Season Leaderboard: Sansa Stark (1st), Euron Greyjon (2nd), Night King, Team Dany, Lyanna Mormont, Ser Bronn, Scorpion bow thingy, #Sheerya (joint 3rd).
Updated Season Loserboard: Littlefinger and Jaime Lannister (joint 1st), Jon Snow, Bran Stark and Samwell Tarly (joint 2nd), Tyrion Lannister (3rd).
About the Author:
Sana Khan is a software engineer and a feminist who loves food, books and dance, in that order.