– by Seth McDonald


This current season of Game of Thrones is truly one for the record books, not only for the show itself, but for television and storytelling in general. Benioff and Weiss have really constructed something beautifully brutal over the last several years. What I plan to do is cover the events beyond the wall first and see if I can get to some of the smaller, but not necessarily less important parts of the episode. Just like last week’s review, feel free to bring up anything you enjoyed about the episode in the comments.

The Season 7 episodes continue to get better and better with “Beyond the Wall.” As you might have guessed the episode begins and spends most of its time, beyond the wall with Jon an his crew of Westerosi Expendables. The group continues on their quest to capture a wight alive and bring it back to King’s Landing in hopes of convincing Cersei to join them in the fight against the White Walkers and the army of the dead. During this opening part of the episode we have some really great interactions between several people, and while the others were humorous and fun to see, the conversation between Jon Snow and Jorah stood out most to me. The feelings of mutual respect between the two was nice to see, but I am glad Jon ended up keeping Longclaw. This episode had well written exchanges between several pairs of characters, even back on the otherside of the wall, but the moment shared by Jon and Jorah seemed the most special.

After the group is attacked by a giant wight polar bear, during which Thoros of Myr is severely injured, Jon and the crew attack a small group of wights that are accompanied by a single White Walker. Their goal was accomplished relatively easy, as they claim their prize without much fuss. Is it just me, or did the wights in this episode show a bit more cognitive function than we are used to seeing from them? The wight they captured appeared to be thinking of a way out when he was surrounded. I don’t remember the wights being capable of this level of thinking before, only having a mindless instinct to kill, but I could have just simply never noticed. Not long after this is when the real trouble begins, as Jon can hear the army of the dead approaching. He immediately sends Gendry back to get a raven to Daenerys.

After fleeing from the White Walkers army of dead men, the group is saved by a large break in the ice that prevents the army of the dead from getting to them. They spend the night on this icy island, waiting for Daenerys, who at this point is really their only hope of survival. When Morning comes, Beric Dondarrion discovers his longtime friend, Thoros of Myr, has succumbed to his injuries. I think we all knew that we would lose at least one of the known characters during this mission, and we should feel lucky that it was only one. The water freezes back over and once the dead notice, they rush in. The group fights them off as best the can. It isn’t long before the group begins to be overtaken by the dead, when Daenerys flies in to provide some much needed backup. The dragons soar and we get a brilliant display of ice versus fire. Even through far outnumbered the tide begins to turn in the favor of Jon, Daenerys, and the rest of the group, at least to the point that they can escape. That is, until “the incident” happens. You all know the incident to which I am referring.

Alright, so let’s talk about the most shocking part of the episode and perhaps of the season. The Night King kills Viserion. This was unexpected to say the least, another wonderfully shocking moment delivered by the show. I think we all have come to accept that Daenerys wouldn’t make it through the show with all three dragons, we just weren’t expecting it to happen so soon, at least I wasn’t (though our own Cam Clark called this last week in his potentially SPOILER-HEAVY piece). With a single throw The Night King took down one of the three biggest reasons Daenerys is feared throughout Westeros. This was a major game changer to the show’s layout as we know it. And you have to give credit where it is due, that was an amazing throw by the Night King. I think he wanted to show Daenerys that he could take the dragon down even when it was in flight, as it looked like Drogon was a much easier target. The Night King proved to Daenerys that he is not scared or her dragons. It is an awful feeling knowing that one of Daenerys’ beloved will now fight against her, but I think was a brilliant way to finally make Daenerys realize what her, Jon, and really all of Westeros is up against.

Sure, just seeing the army of the dead would be enough to get Daenerys on board to fight, but now defeating the Night King is also a matter of avenging the deaths of one of her children, it has become personal. In the aftermath of Viserion going down, Daenerys is forced to leave Jon behind. We see him sinking into the icy water along with several wights. Jon eventually makes it out of the water, but he alerts the army of the dead to his whereabouts, but is saved out of nowhere by his Uncle Benjen, who we assume sacrificed himself in the process.  Once Jon returns and everyone is on the boat, we get another awesome back and forth, this time between Jon and Dany, i believe this is where their bond is truly formed, now that Daenerys has seen Jon in battle, and how he will let himself die before others, she knows what she has to do.

On the other side of the wall, the scenes at Winterfell between Arya and Sansa were difficult to watch. I feel like Arya, knowing how Cersei is, should have given Sansa the benefit of the doubt. She should at the very least have approached the subject in a different manner. With all Arya has been through she should be open to listening to Sansa, and realize she may not have been the only one that has suffered on the journey back to Wiinterfell. I liked how Sansa didn’t back down, and did a pretty good job of humbling Arya. Sansa let Arya know that she stands in Winterfell, not because of Jon, but because an army (The Knights of the Vale) loyal to her actually won The Battle of the Bastards. After hearing this, the smugness seemed to leave Arya’s face. Sansa has really toughened up over the years, and it was nice to see her stand up for herself. The sisters last scene in the episode was very intense, though I never for a second thought Arya was going to kill Sansa. They are at odds, and their relationship has definitely changed just as Littlefinger wants, though I don’t know the extent of his current scheme.

Tyrion and Dany continue to have their somewhat tense conversations during this episode. Tyrion is trying to guide her the best he can, though she is not making it easy for him. I think it was necessary for Tyrion to confront Daenerys on the Tarleys as it was more an act of cruelty than justice. Daenerys seems to have a trust issue with the person she is suppose to trust most, her hand. This was another part of the episode where there was great dialogue between two people.

So there it is,  as we have seen often times, the penultimate episode of the season provides the most shocks and thrills, it is something fans have become accustomed to and many actually worry over.

Will the Night King be the third dragon rider? What of the Ice Dragon? Will it still breathe fire? All things considered this was another fantastic episode, the season continues to improve with each one, and the finale should blow our minds.

Grade: A+