Warning: This recap for the “Beyond the Wall” episode of Game of Thrones contains spoilers.
Back in the more innocent, undeniably better year of 2011, Game of Thrones premiered and found itself immediately embraced as a sort of thinking man’s fantasy show. By that I mean it mostly concerned itself with historical allusions, political machinations, and, uh, brothel scenes. Dragons were mere legend, magic barely acknowledged, and there were next to no child goblins throwing light grenades at glowing-eyed skeletons. The show was slow and borderline tasteful, and if we were hungering for the more stereotypical fantasy elements, we were just going to have to wait. (At least until that shadowbaby incident in Season 2.)
Now, in whatever godforsaken year this is — I cannot and will not look at a calendar — Game of Thrones has fully become the show it initially promised not to be. We’re talking routine dragon attacks, zombie hordes, straight-up wizardry, all of it. “Beyond the Wall” was at times one of the most exciting and insane episodes of this show in its history. Unfortunately it was also one of the dumbest. Hear me out. Like, are 100 percent of all Starks brain damaged now? Are they all the worst and have they always been? Anyway, a dragon died. Let’s talk about this episode!
We began with a band of long-time favorite characters and their anonymous, easily killable best friends wandering around in the tundra for no good reason.
Yes, yes, we knew Jon Snow had the brilliant idea to capture an ice zombie so that a notoriously treacherous and uncaring villain would, like, become his bestie or whatever. But everything he knew about these creatures suggested they travel in giant hordes, so it wasn’t clear just how he’d hoped to separate one out. Or how to transport it. And why didn’t they bring horses? And why didn’t Jon Snow enlist his all-seeing brother to, like, do some recon? You know what, it doesn’t matter. It just felt like this was a very boneheaded plan from the get-go and I will be honest with you, it did not go great but you’ll just have to trust me on that.
On the bright side, we did get one thousand cute conversations between the fellas. Again, because some of these characters haven’t seen each other in many seasons, they basically all paired off and got caught up on their various beefs with each other. Gendry pouted to Beric for selling him to a witch that one time; Ser Jorah expressed dismay that Jon Snow’s buddies had murdered his father; Tormund expressed sexual interest in both Gendry and the woman who’d almost murdered The Hound a few years back. Obviously nobody would fault Tormund for considering Gendry a good option for a snuggle, but did anybody else feel super uncomfortable by the idea that “d**k” and “p***y” are words that are used in this fantasy realm? It just felt strange to me, and I will be discussing it with my youth pastor next weekend.
At one point Jon Snow attempted to give his PRICELESS VALYRIAN STEEL sword to Ser Jorah because it was a Mormont family heirloom at one point. Ser Jorah was like “you keep it” and we were supposed to think it was because he respected Jon Snow a lot, but in my opinion his hands were probably frozen and he was covered in scabs and the last thing he needed was a another 20-pound weapon to carry. No thanks, Jon Snow!
If you think I am being harsh about Jon Snow’s brain in this episode, buckle up, because Arya is the absolute worst now and Sansa is not much better. Question: Do all the Starks suck? Is that the surprise twist of this season? Because they certainly sucked REAL BAD in this episode. For almost no reason whatsoever, Arya has decided that she hates Sansa and believes Sansa to be a weak-ass traitor to their family. Meanwhile Sansa barely did anything to defend herself but sputter in frustration and pull rank on her sister. You know, this family’s been through a lot, but at this point somebody should just burn Winterfell to the ground because I’m tired all of them.
Up in Dragonstone, Daenerys took a break from staring into the fire to get into some boy talk! Almost out of nowhere Tyrion sprung upon her the knowledge that Jon Snow had been suuuuuper into her, and she was borderline shocked to hear this! The two of them had previously demonstrated about as much chemistry as broken beaker so this was news to her. But it wasn’t news she hated. She nearly fell off her chair when she started doing the mental math on how fun dating him could be. (Dear reader, please don’t bring up that she is his aunt, let’s just enjoy the crush phase for a little longer.) Anyway, then Tyrion killed the mood by pointing out that she is self-admittedly barren AF and so who will run her wonderful, glorious, slave-free utopia when she’s in the catacombs? Daenerys did not enjoy thinking about this.
ANYWAY, that was weird. And Tyrion’s combativeness in this scene seemed to build off of that scene last week where Tyrion and Varys expressed concern about the content of Daenerys’ character and had begun openly questioning whether she’ll become a tyrant? Yet another plotline where characters arbitrarily cease to trust each other. What is happening on this show?
Then a zombie polar bear attacked Jon Snow’s gang and bit up Top Knot like crazy! Luckily Ser Jorah ran over and stabbed it with a special dagger and it died, but man, everyone was spooked. Also mental note: animals can be wights. That might be a tidbit to keep in mind for later. But also, if the White Walkers can turn dangerous animals into wights, then why allow them to stray from the larger zombie horde? How does that help the White Walkers’ military strategies? Didn’t matter, because at least the zombie polar bear left tracks in the snow that the gang could now follow back to the White Walkers. (I think?) And before we knew it, they’d found a small pod of wights (again, why separate?) and managed to subdue one and exactly one!
Unfortunately, before The Hound could slip a burlap sack over its head, this wight opened its mouth and stunned everyone with a Susan Boyle-esque operatic tone, thereby summoning one hundred million zombies to its defense!
At this point, the most shocking turn of events was that our heroes didn’t EXPECT this to happen? Wasn’t this the only way this would ever turn out?
Just surrounded on all sides by White Walkers and their blue-eyed soldiers?
So yeah, congratulations to all-time brilliant military strategist Jon Snow, who had an awful plan and saw it executed perfectly! Fortunately, right before the zombie horde could surround them on a frozen lake, our gang had the wherewithal to strip Gendry of his warhammer and force him to sprint back to Eastwatch in order to send a raven out to Daenerys asking for help. Great backup plan? Sometimes Plan B should’ve been Plan A, in my opinion. It was going to be a long night.
Back in Winterhell I mean Winterfell, Sansa was confiding in Littlefinger that Arya had turned into a world class hater, and he was like, ‘HOW WEIRD. THAT’S SO WEIRD. NO SERIOUSLY THAT’S WEIRD.’ And then he, almost at random, reminded her that she’s safe from Arya so long as Brienne was there to keep the peace. Then within minutes, Sansa was sending Brienne away on an errand to King’s Landing?
Brienne was like, “M’lady, WTF?” And Sansa didn’t have a good answer. What on earth was going on around here? And did ANYBODY think to consult the all-knowing oracle currently pouting in a wheelchair in the yard? And did Bran somehow not detect that his own sisters were gearing up for some kind of throw-down right there in the family home? Ugh, I hate the Starks now.
So yeah, Gendry’s raven reached Dragonstone in time for Daenerys to put on her best flying outfit, and hop on a damn dragon! Tyrion begged her not to go, reasoning that if she died then “all is lost.” But, uh, listen guy. Who do you think will be flying these dragons in battle? Maybe Daenerys should get some practice under her belt? Relax a lil. Plus, did Tyrion have any idea how hard it was to find a decent boyfriend in Westeros? Jon Snow was a good guy AND probably didn’t smell terrible, so you better believe she was gonna go rescue him from certain death.
And certain death was just about to pounce, especially after the Hound threw a rock at this bony guy and all the zombies realized they could now walk on the frozen lake without it breaking again. So yeah, a lot of sword fights ensued!
It did not go great for the humans, and several no-name characters were killed right away. Also, here’s another thing about how terrible Jon Snow is at being a military leader… At one point he shouted at everybody to “fall back!!!” But, uh, when you are in a circle surrounded by enemies, to where did he expect everybody to fall back? Fall back into icy water? Because that was certainly on HIS list of things to do. But wait, first a dragon came!
And just like when Drogon incinerated the Lannister army, this moment provided immediate thrills and chills. Also, just FYI this was TWO dragons in action at the same time! Well, at first.
See, the Night King had figured out a very good method of murdering dragons: throwing magical ice javelins at them! (Take that, Qyburn you creepy old dummy.)
All jokes aside, and as far as CGI creatures go, it was so horrible to watch this poor guy get shot right out of the sky! I wanted to scream and cry with my roommates at the adult daycare center where I live. Not only did this poor dragon burst into flames, he turned into a giant fountain of blood that soaked the entire arctic tundra in red goo before it finally collapsed into icy waters. Usually that’s the kind of death I would only wish upon an orca, so you better believe that Daenerys was immediately devastated by the loss of what she considered her CHILD.
Aw, man. She was probably already regretting having chained up her now-deceased child in that one dungeon for a year. You know, parenting is HARD. It’s not like there’s an instruction manual, you know? Anyway, Daenerys had all the humans climb aboard her dragon, yet Jon Snow ran off to do, uh, who even knows. And because the Night King had picked up ice javelin No. 2, it was time for this dragon to BOUNCE. So Daenerys flew away from the battleground, mourning one child and realizing her No. 1 crush was not going to work out. Mostly because he’d disappeared under the ice with a swarm of zombies.
But Jon Snow being Jon Snow, he suddenly popped up out of the water and dragged himself to the safety of… A circle of ice zombies. But then another deus ex machina arrived in the form of Uncle Benjen aka Coldhands!
He rode in there and swung his lantern around at everybody and then placed Jon Snow on his horse and slapped that horse’s fanny to take him back to Eastwatch. Except, uh, hey Benjen? A horse can handle two riders. You didn’t have to die. Well, whatever, that was his choice. His work here (on this show) was done. Thanks, Benjen!
More Winterfell shit. Sansa found a bag full of faces in Arya’s room and confronted her about it, and Arya picked up a knife and kinda-sorta threatened to murder Sansa and steal her face or something.
For real, f**k this plotline. We’ve followed both of these characters and rooted for them for waaaay too long to see them crumble under one of Littlefinger’s lamest schemes to date. I truly hope this show is setting up a double-double cross, and Arya is only pretending to undermine Sansa in order to test Littlefinger. Or something? Because otherwise this is just really bad and unsupported character writing and it bums me out. Sorry, guys.
In brighter news, and even though Jon Snow admitted that his plan was the absolute worst and resulted in a huge, HUGE loss for Daenerys and her chances of ruling Westeros, at least she got to see his naked body and they held hands for a second.
I mean, yeah. For at least a couple of seconds, these two were FIRE.
Also, Jon Snow officially “bent the knee” to his new queen, which she found immediately arousing in my opinion. Bend the knee and then bend the D, has anybody made this joke yet? Anyway, Daenerys officially promised to help Jon Snow defeat the White Walkers together, which is cute and romantic. Also I guess they DID successfully capture a wight, so I can’t wait to see how that plays out in King’s Landing. We already know Cersei is kinda-sorta aware of the threat and intends to bend it to her advantage. So let’s see just how useful Jon Snow’s expedition ended up being. My prediction is it wasn’t very useful!
And then in the shocking twist, which I honestly did not see coming BUT I SHOULD HAVE… The White Walkers dredged that poor dragon out of the frozen lake.
And guess who now has a new lease on life?
THIS HERE ICE DRAGON!
Now look, I am not a zoologist, so please don’t ask me if this dragon is going to breathe frost or blue fire, or what. I do not know the answer to that question. But I do know that the Night King is killing it lately. Kind of the main theme of Season 7 has been that Daenerys stands a good chance of losing her battles, and that is a stressful concept that I suppose is necessary to make her eventual victory that much sweeter. But until then, man. The enemy has a damn dragon now!
“Beyond the Wall” was a sometimes great, sometimes frustrating episode, but its strengths were SO strong. It’s truly hard to be mad at an episode as bananas as this one. Sure, the internal logic of the show has never been shakier, and I suddenly hate characters I used to be obsessed with. But Game of Thrones remains a singular pleasure and continues to have so much more power over me than almost any other modern entertainment. I feel like our heroes will face even bigger bumps in the road next week and beyond, but we should comfort ourselves with one fact: It’s not over yet. We have seven more episodes of this madness! Probably best that it be as unexpected (and heart-wrenching) as possible. Because whew.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.
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