Last week's episode, "Eastwatch," ended with Jon Snow embarking on the most whimsical and unlikely quest to venture beyond the wall to capture a wight, thus proving to Cersei that winter is indeed deadly. Putting aside the extreme absurdity of this plan, we left our merry band of travelers — composed of Tormund, the Hound, Beric Dondarrion, Gendry, and Thoros of Myr alongside the King in the North — right as they started out. So, it makes sense that this week's episode, called "Beyond the Wall," literally opens right there, past the great big block of ice.
The Wild White Yonder
Everyone looks cold as they march through the snow on their way to capturing a wight. Gendry marvels at the snow, which as a southern boy he's never seen, and Tormund is in heaven. Speaking of Tormund, he pretty much tells Jon to bend the knee to Daenerys, lest he repeat Mance Rayder's mistakes. "Mance Rayder was a proud man, a brave man," he says. "The King Beyond The Wall never bent the knee. How many of his people died for his pride?"
As Jorah and Jon bond over their respective noble fathers, the latter tries to return Longclaw, the Mormont family sword given to him by the former Lord Commander. Jorah refuses, as he must, because Jon needs a Valyrian steel sword to kill Whitewalkers.
Back in Winterfell, Arya tells Sansa a fun anecdote about the first time she hit a bullseye with an arrow when she was a young girl. Ned Stark caught her and instead of scolding her, he smiled in approval. "I knew what I was doing was against the rules, but he was smiling so I knew it wasn't wrong. The rules were wrong," she says. "Now he's dead, killed by the Lannisters, with your help."
She pulls out the note she found in Littlefinger's bedchamber, accusing Sansa of betraying the family. Sansa doesn't take this lying down, and points out that Arya isn't the one who took back Winterfell — and neither is Jon. Sansa gathered the lords of the Vale; without her, the Boltons would have won.
Arya pinpoints that her sister is more worried about the Northern lords reading that note than Jon. If she wants to rule Winterfell, she'll need them. The two part on frigid terms — the Stark sister reunion isn't nearly as warm and gushy as I had thought it would be.
Holding Out For A Hero
Interestingly enough, Tyrion brings up the succession, which is something almost everyone currently vying for the throne has been keen to ignore. Despite all the players crowding the board, it's unclear who would take over once they're dead. No one is fighting for a legacy, they're all fighting for themselves. (Except for Jaime and Cersei, assuming this pregnancy is legit.)
Dany shuts him down quickly, however, declaring that she won't even think of the succession until she wears the crown.
Jon Snow and friends are still trudging in the snow, when they see a bear, mid-blizzard. "Do bears have blue eyes?" No, Gendry, they do not.
Okay, babies, now let's get in formation: Thoros and Beric light their swords, which is fucking cool, and also scares the Hound senseless because the result is a flaming bear. Thoros tries to save his new friend, resulting in a personal struggle straight out of The Revenant.
Unlike Leo, though, Thoros needs saving, courtesy of Beric, who pulls him out and kills the bear. The red priest is pretty badly hurt, which is bad for Beric, who needs Thoros to keep reviving him. Beric cauterizes the wound with his sword, which ouch, and then puts it out in the snow. Looks like Thoros can stick around for now.
But there is no rest for the weary, and soon enough the group comes across a small gang of wights.
Can we address the insane time warp that this show has been operating on for the past couple of seasons? How long has Jon been walking at this point? Given the wonky timeline of the show, it's hard to gauge how far the Whitewalker army is from the Wall, but I would venture that they're not far off, especially if Gendry can theoretically run back to Eastwatch to send a raven.
Longclaw proves its worth by destroying a Whitewalker, decimating his wights, and conveniently only leaving one for them to capture. (It sounds just like a walker from The Walking Dead — do these shows all coordinate zombie sounds?)
Unfortunately for our friends, their escape route from a horde of wights includes a dubiously frozen lake. Someone's falling in, that's for sure. Auspiciously, it cracks in a circle all around the group, so they are isolated on an ice island, but safe from oncoming dead people. Win-win, right?
Near Eastwatch, a bone-tired Gendry passes out right at the edge of the gate, with only enough energy to tell Davos to send a raven. Bravo!
This conspicuously fortuitous series of events is tainted with the sad passing of Thoros of Myr, who freezes to death during the night. They burn his body with Beric's sword, dedicating it to the Lord of Light he served.
Sansa receives an invitation to King's Landing, presumably for the peace summit set up by Tyrion and Daenerys, and decides to send Brienne to represent her interests. The latter balks at the task, warning Sansa that she's not safe along with Littlefinger.
She might be more right than she knows. Earlier in the episode, we heard Littlefinger advise Sansa to seek Brienne as an ally against Arya. "If one of you were planning to harm the other in any way, wouldn't she be honor bound to intercede?" he said. But that works both ways. If Sansa was planning on claiming power for herself and betraying Arya in the process, she'd want Brienne safely out of the way.
(P.S. I would not trust Podrick to watch over me, no offense.)
Deus Ex Machina, Dragon-Style
Somehow, a raven traveling at ludicrous speed has reached Daenerys in time to warn her that Jon is in danger. If she shows up in the North with dragons, I am done.
Speaking of Jon, it seems the lake froze again overnight, which means no more island life for our friends. The wight army advances, and the heroes get ready to fight again.
I just need to say that Beric's sword is the most badass thing ever, and Luke Skywalker has nothing on this lightsaber. Things are not looking good for them. (Also, who are these disposable wildlings that keep dying?) Jon yells to fall back, and Tormund almost dies, which causes me intense emotional pain. Thank goodness for the Hound, who saves him at the very last second.
Looks like the situation is dire enough to warrant some dragon action. Come on, Dany, your boys are dying here! And of course, here she is! Drogon blasts the Whitewalkers into oblivion, proving that dragon fire can kill them and their wights as easily as blowing one's nose.
But then, the Night King fires some kind of magical dead person spear, KILLING VISERION, who falls to the ground and sinks into the frozen lake. This is the saddest death Game of Thrones has ever served, but also a surefire way to guarantee Daenerys will fight the Whitewalkers now. (For handy tips on how to tell the dragons apart, check out this guide.)
The Night King pulls out another spear, and Jon gets pushed into the water, leaving Dany with an impossible choice: save her potential love interest, or lose another dragon. She takes off, leaving Jon to his freezing fate.
But of course, Jon can't die again, so we see him clawing his way out of the water, grasping Longclaw. In a twist pulled straight out of a Greek tragedy, Uncle Benjen saves the day, striding in on a horse and sending Jon on his way as he faces down the army of the dead.
So, Daenerys has lost a dragon and gained... a very shaky plan involving a wight and Cersei? Not cool.
Later that same day (or is it? how can one tell with this show?) Dany grieves Viserion from the top of the wall, waiting for Jon. Just as she turns away, the horn blares. There he is! An incestual love affair may yet be in our future.
With Brienne gone, shady Sansa sneaks into Arya's chamber looking for some kind of proof of treachery, and instead finds all her faces. Arya catches her in the act, demanding they play a weird version of two truths and a lie. (I have been saying this for a while, but Arya is not okay.)
In the end, she lets Sansa be, but not before scaring her half to death with a knife and threatening to cut off her face in order to take over her body as Lady of Winterfell. Girl better watch her back.
In the end, Jon wakes up to a smiling Daenerys. He promptly apologizes for costing her a dragon, which seems meager compensation. "I wish we'd never gone," he sighs.
She shushes him, explaining that if she'd never gone, she would never have believed him. Now, she's ready to fight the Night King alongside him. (These two are having a major moment. With only one episode left, someone's got to make a move. I demand it.)
Jon thanks her, as his queen — yes, he decided to bend the knee, which earns him a hand squeeze.
Back beyond the Wall, the dead are dragging Viserion out of the water. A DEAD DRAGON?! Y'all are fucked.
1) I need a crossover season of The Bachelor starring Tormund and Brienne ASAP. Can you imagine their journey? ("I want to make babies with her. Think of them, great big monsters.")
2) Beric pointing out that Jon looks nothing like Ned. The clues keep piling up, Jonny boy.
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