Hi everyone and welcome to the sixth of the weekly episode recaps I’m doing for the new season of my favourite television series, „Game of Thrones“. These recaps contain MASSIVE SPOILERS, so please proceed with caution: DO NOT READ if you haven’t seen the episode yet and intend to do so later.
Eastwatch and beyond
Jon and Company are on their expedition beyond the Wall. The blizzard we saw at the end of the previous episode is gone for the moment and they make good progress while talking about this and that. Gendry who has never been to the North before is freezing while Tormund likes the fact that you can breathe there, as opposed to “down South” (Winterfell, from his point of view) where it stinks like pig shit, or so he claims. He also says that the only way to stay alive in the cold is to keep moving: “Walking’s good, fighting’s better, fucking’s best”. When Jon points out that there are no women anywhere near them, Tormund suggests that “we have to make do with what we’ve got”, getting just what he wants: a somewhat uncomfortable look on Gendry’s face.
Changing the subject, Tormund asks Jon about Daenerys. When the King in the North answers that she wants him to bend the knee before she fights with him, Tormund indirectly advises him to do so, remembering Mance Rayder: “The King-beyond-the-Wall never bent the knee. How many of his people died for his pride?”
Next, Gendry confronts the remainder of the Brotherhood without Banners because they “sold him to a witch” years ago. “A priestess”, Thoros of Myr corrects, and Beric Dondarrion adds that wars cost money. The Hound points at Beric and says that he has been killed six times, but “you don’t hear him bitching about it”.
Jorah agrees with Jon that his dead father Jeor was a good man, but he says that “he deserved a better son”. Both their fathers were honourable men who died in horrible ways, Jon says. Jorah also remembers that Ned wanted to execute him many years ago, and rightfully so, but in retrospect they’re both happy that Jorah escaped. Jon wants to give Longclaw back to Jorah, but Jeor’s son won’t accept it because he brought shame onto his house and his father was right to give it to Jon.
Later, there’s a nice little encounter between Tormund and the Hound who are both “kissed by fire” (Tormund as a redhead and Sandor in the literal sense). Tormund tells the Hound about the woman he’s in love with and is surprised that the latter knows her (and was nearly killed by her, which remains unsaid). Tormund dreams of one day having babies with Brienne: “Great big monsters — they’ll conquer the world”.
Beric remarks to Jon that they have both been brought back from the dead by the Lord of Light, and that they’re soldiers in a (supernatural) war. “What are you fighting for?” Jon asks. “Life”, the six-times-resurrected answers. “Death is the enemy, the first enemy and the last.”
During the long march, weather conditions worsen again; the blizzard is back when they see an undead polar bear. Soon enough, it charges, immediately killing one of the few additional Nights Watch men who accompanied them. It even continues to fight after Beric and Thoros set it ablaze with their flaming swords. It takes the whole group to finally defeat it, but Thoros is badly injured.
Jorah later remembers how Thoros charged through the breach on Pyke during Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion against the Starks, swinging his flaming sword and scaring the somewhat superstitious Ironborn. Thoros doesn’t remember it, or so he claims, because he was too drunk as usual.
From some height, the group sees a few of the walking dead march by, and they ask themselves where the rest of their army is. After walking down the slope, they see that it’s a small patrol, led by a single White Walker, and they attack them immediately. It’s easy enough to defeat the patrol, but it proves quite hard to capture one of them — well, alive is the wrong term, so let’s say — moving. Among other inconveniences, the thing screams very loudly, alerting the whole army of the dead. They finally manage to put a sack over its head and to bind it with rope. It’s the “gift” they plan to bring to Cersei, should they make it out of the frozen wilderness alive.
Jon tells Gendry to run back to Eastwatch as fast as he can and to send a raven to Daenerys. Tormund convinces him to give him the war hammer because he’ll be even faster without it (the fact that the Hound was seen swinging the hammer in the episode’s trailer brought some people to the conclusion that something might have happened to Gendry).
All the others start to run away as well, but they soon reach a frozen lake. The ice is too thin and cracks under their steps, but when the Night King’s army arrives behind them, they go on anyway, reaching a tiny island in the middle of the lake. When the zombie army charges, the ice breaks, and some of them fall into the frozen water. So they gather around the lake, outnumbering Jon’s men several hundred to one, but they don’t attack yet. They probably know from experience that humans cannot stay alive for long in the freezing cold, and so they can simply wait until their enemies stop breathing and join their ranks.
After a long and tiresome run, Gendry reaches Eastwatch and tells Davos that they need to send that raven.
Many hours later, the half-frozen, half-unconscious party is still sitting on the island. During the night, Thoros of Myr has succumbed to his injuries. The Hound remarks that “it” (freezing to death) is “one of the better ways to go”, unceremoniously inherits the dead alcoholic’s bag of booze and takes quite a few slugs while Beric says a prayer to the Lord of Light. “We have to burn his body”, Jon says, taking the rest of the booze from Sandor and pouring it over Thoros’s body as fuel. With his flaming sword, Beric sets the corpse ablaze.
Jorah has noticed that nearly all of the patrol fell when Jon killed the White Walker. Jon thinks that he might have been the one who turned them. Jorah suggests going after the Walkers to defeat the whole zombie army, but Jon thinks that they need to take “that thing” (the captured wight) back with them and that Daenerys is their only chance. Beric suggests that there is another, pointing at the Night King who is on horseback on the other shore: “Kill him. He turned them all.” After all, the Lord of Light must have brought Jon and himself back from the dead for another reason than to freeze to death. “Careful, Beric”, the Hound warns. “You lost your priest. This is your last life.” A Video Game of Thrones.
Again, lots of hours must have passed, probably a day or more. The Hound throws a rock at the dead men’s army in frustration, hitting a particularly rotted skeleton in the jaw. He hurls another rock that doesn’t reach the opposite shore but hits the ice instead. Now the White Walkers know that the lake has frozen enough to be crossed again. The skeleton wastes no time and walks over the ice toward the island. “Oh, fuck”, the Hound regrets his mistake while more wights follow. They start fighting the approaching corpses, and they fight bravely and relentlessly, but more and more enemies come closing in, attacking everyone. Especially Tormund is in serious trouble some time later, being pushed and pulled toward a hole in the ice and into freezing cold water by several zombies. With the help of both Jorah and Sandor, he manages to barely avoid his demise. But they will never be able to make it alive out of the endless onslaught; their cause looks truly lost.
Then, when it looks like it’s time to abandon all hope, a great beast’s war cry and an immense firestorm come to their rescue: Daenerys and her dragons have arrived. Everything looks good for the moment: the dragons set the army of the dead ablaze and instantly unfreeze the lake once more; zombies sink underwater by the thousands (but we must of course remember that they’re already dead and will always be able to come out again as soon as there is no ice).
Daenerys lands on the island with Drogon, and everyone is getting ready to climb on his back as well. While Jon fights on to allow his friends to do so, one of the White Walkers hands a very long ice spear to the Night King. The leader of the dead takes aim and thrusts the spear with all his force and, to Daenerys’s great demise, hits Viserion right below his wing. The dragon crashes down, lands on the ice and closes his eyes, dying while he slowly sinks into the lake. Jon’s men and Dany all look absolutely shocked. When Jon sees that the Night King is getting another spear ready, he shouts at the others to leave while he holds off the rest of the dead men’s army. Some wights push him into the lake, while the others fly off on Drogon’s back. Thankfully, the Night King misses with the second spear.
While the White Walkers and their army seem to leave, Jon climbs out of the water again and tries to march off even though he must be half frozen. Someone arrives on horseback, swinging a fiery mace to charge through the retreating army of the dead. Once again, Uncle Benjen (or his mortal coil, animated by the Three-Eyed Raven, in this case Bran) has come to the rescue. He puts Jon on his horse and makes them ride off, staying behind and dying for good this time, taking a few final wights with him.
At Eastwatch, Tormund and the Hound load the captured zombie into a boat and say goodbye to Beric who will stay at the Wall. Daenerys and Jorah are standing on its top while she has her dragons search for Jon. “It’s time to go, Your Grace”, Jorah says, convinced that the King in the North is dead. Suddenly, a horn is sounded. Just once, which traditionally means that rangers are returning. It’s Jon on horseback.
Everyone embarks on a ship with Targaryen sails where an unconscious Jon is put to bed and peeled out of his frozen clothes. Daenerys watches and sees his various injuries, but she looks very relieved that he has come back alive.
Jon regains consciousness, and Daenerys is sitting by his bedside. He profoundly apologises because he feels guilty of Viserion’s death. The Queen takes his hand though and still thinks that it was important for her to see the army of the dead for herself to really believe in it. “We’re going to destroy the Night King and his army”, she decides, “and we’ll do it together”. “Thank you, Dany”, Jon replies, but she never liked that nickname since her brother Viserys used to call her that. So Jon calls her “my Queen” instead and feels ready to bend the knee. As for the Northern Lords, “they’ll come to see you for what you are”. They continue to hold hands, and we cannot be sure whether the (for now metaphorical) bending of knees is meant as an oath of fealty or as a marriage proposal.
Beyond the Wall, the Night King’s army pulls the dead Viserion out of the ice with heavy chains. Upon the Night King’s touch, the dragon opens his eyes that have turned deep blue like a White Walker’s before the end credits roll.
Arya and Sansa are on the balcony from which Ned used to watch them when they were children. Arya remembers how the boys trained to shoot arrows, and then Bran left his bow lying there, and a single arrow in the target. So Arya started to train on her own, and when the arrow finally hit the bull’s eye, she heard clapping and saw her father standing up there, smiling. “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 blames Sansa for helping the Lannisters kill Ned and shows her the letter she found in Littlefinger’s room. Sansa argues that they forced her to do it, but Arya replies that she would never have agreed to something like that, but rather be killed than betray her family. Her sister says that they told her it was the only way to save her father – “and you were stupid enough to believe it”, Arya concludes.
She remembers the day of Ned’s execution (of course Sansa had no idea that she was there), and they somewhat unfairly blame each other for not having done anything to stop the actual execution (which would not have worked with Sansa being surrounded by Lannister soldiers and Arya standing at the other end of the crowded square).
Sansa then says that Arya should actually be grateful to her because it was the Knights of the Vale who made the difference in the Battle of the Bastards, and those had come because of her. Their argument goes on, changing the subject with every sentence. Sansa, for instance, thinks that Arya would never have survived what she had to suffer, while Arya suggests to her sister that she’s probably scared the Northern Lords could read the letter and not think too much of her: “What would little Lyanna Mormont say? She’s younger than you were when you wrote this. Are you going to say: ‘But I was just a child’?”
Sansa speaks to Petyr Baelish about the letter. She’s worried that the Northern and Vale Lords and their armies are just looking for an excuse to go home, which Arya could give them if she chose to show them the message. When Baelish points out that Jon chose her to rule in his absence and that she has indeed ruled wisely and ably, which many of the Lords appreciate, she finds the fact that they might even consider betraying Jon for her even more disturbing. Littlefinger advises her to talk to Brienne concerning her suspicions about Arya. (Please note that I’m simply reporting what is said; an attempt at interpretation will follow below in the “Takeaways” section.)
The next day, Sansa receives a raven scroll, inviting her to Kings Landing. Apparently, Cersei or someone else from her inner circle wants all of the remaining Houses of the Seven Kingdoms to be present at the big meeting. Sansa decides not to go, she will not set foot in Kings Landing while Cersei Lannister is Queen. “If they want another Stark prisoner, they can come and take me.” Instead, she decides to send Brienne to the capital to represent her interests. Brienne, of course, thinks it’s not safe to leave Sansa alone with Littlefinger. Sansa says that many of her guards would just love to imprison or to behead him if he should misbehave, and she commands Brienne to be on her way immediately in order to try and arrive in time: “You won’t be travelling on summer roads.”
An undisclosed time later, Sansa sneaks into Arya’s room and starts to search through her sister’s stuff, finding a bag with faces, for example Walder Frey’s. Arya comes in, too, and they start a conversation about who the Faceless Men are and what they do, and how both of them wanted to be other people when they were younger: “You wanted to be a Queen”, Arya says, “… I wanted to be a knight”. With the faces, she explains, she can become someone else, speak with their voice and live in their skin. “I could even become you”, she says to Sansa, which sound somewhat threatening as she picks up the famous dagger while saying it. Then, however, she turns the dagger, hands it over to Sansa, hilt first, and leaves without another word.
Daenerys has a talk with her Hand. She says what she likes about him is that he isn’t a hero because heroes do stupid things and get killed for them. Tyrion remarks that all the heroes she names (“Drogo, Jorah, Daario, even this — Jon Snow”) fell in love with her. Dany says that Jon isn’t in love with her, but Tyrion jokes “I suppose he stares at you longingly because he hopes for a successful military alliance”. The Queen smiles mildly, then says “he’s too little for me”, which she instantly regrets when she realises to whom she just made that careless remark.
Tyrion wants her to be a good Queen who isn’t just respected out of fear, like all the rulers before her, starting with her ancestor Aegon the Conqueror. After all, he reminds her, she promised to break the wheel, the very wheel Aegon once built.
They’re also talking about how they’re going to meet Cersei soon, in the meeting Tyrion agreed upon with Jaime who promised to hold back the Lannister army, while his brother vowed to do the same with Daenerys’s various forces. Tyrion warns her that Cersei will likely say something provocative, to which Dany must not lose her temper as she has done before — for instance recently when she executed the Tarlys instead of allowing them to “contemplate their mistakes in the solitude of a cold cell”. And Tyrion does agree that he does indeed take his family’s side: “You need to take your enemies’ side if you want to see things the way they do.”
Tyrion is curious about succession once Daenerys takes the Iron Throne: “You say you can’t have children.” He suggests other ways of choosing a successor, naming the Nights Watch and the Ironborn as examples who have an open election or a Kingsmoot, respectively. But Dany decides that they will discuss succession after she wears the crown.
When Gendry’s message arrives, Daenerys wastes no time at all — she walks straight to her dragons to fly off with them and to rescue Jon and company. Tyrion tries to convince her otherwise: “The most important person in the world can’t fly off to the most dangerous place in the world.” The Queen asks who else can, and what she should do. “Nothing”, her Hand suggests. “Sometimes nothing is the hardest thing to do.” She mounts Drogo and says: “You told me to do nothing before and I listened to you. I’m not doing nothing again.” And off she flies with her complete dragon force.
- The fact that Benjen shows up in the last minute to save Jon proves that Bran is really watching over his family and stepping in when necessary. But that might also be the reason why the Night King knew that Jon and his friends, and later Daenerys and her dragons, were coming. The link to Bran that the Night King created when touching him during his vision seems to work much like the mutual telepathic connection between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort.
- What’s up with the whole Arya/Sansa/Littlefinger/Brienne dynamics? Superficially, it looks like Arya deeply mistrusts Sansa and might even be plotting to kill her sister. But as some people have rightfully pointed out, she has not only studied to be an assassin at the House of Black and White, but also to be a great actress with Lady Crane. For me, all of this looks more like a trap the sisters are setting up for Littlefinger, and the fact that Arya hands Sansa the dagger makes it clear to me that she does in fact trust her, but it also looks like she has been testing her loyalty before. I predict that this very dagger will kill Littlefinger in the season finale — you can’t pass around something that screams “I’m Chekhov’s gun, ahem, dagger” for a whole season and then not use it.
- How will the first face-to-face meeting of the two Queens go? According to the episode 7 trailer, it will take place in the Dragon Pit of Kings Landing where Daenerys’s ancestors used to keep their dragons. A truly symbolic and historical place.
- Jaime and Brienne are going to meet again, too.
- The last episode of the season will be called “The Dragon and the Wolf”. Do I hear wedding bells ringing? Oh, bummer, the bells of Kings Landing were last seen crushing people when Cersei blew up the Sept.
- Speaking of which: is there more wildfire? Will Cersei try to use it to kill all her enemies at once? And will Jaime repeat his heroic deed to step in and once again kill a Mad Ruler, even if she’s his own twin sister and lover? It would at least confirm the version of the valonqar prophecy I’ve been believing in for years. On the other hand, they never had that part of the prophecy on the show, so they can take certain liberties.
- My prediction for the last shot of season 7 is that either the Wall will come down or that the Night King will fly over it on his new Ice Dragon’s back.
- Maybe the Night King and Bran will struggle for control over the dragon next season. But I don’t really believe the “Bran is the Night King” rumours.
Many people have complained about technicalities and logistics concerning the timing of the events in this episode, claiming that running bastards, ravens and even full-grown dragons are too slow to make it to the rescue of Jon’s party in time. But this episode is so incredibly epic that suspension of disbelief will not really suffer for such petty reasons. After all, we cannot know how many days Jon’s group stayed on the island. At least long enough for Thoros to freeze to death, probably because of a major blood loss. And the rest of the patrol looks half frozen, too, when Daenerys finally arrives.
With everyone except for the Stark sisters heading to Kings Landing, we also have a great setup for the upcoming season finale.
This episode deserves another five out of five Gold Dragons, or shall we say Ice Dragons? I think the real reason people were disappointed is because they’ve come to expect more from a season’s penultimate episode — we’ve had stuff like the Red Wedding or Blackwater in previous seasons. But what’s not to like about a major battle of Ice and Fire?