REVIEW: Game of Thrones, S7 Ep6 – Beyond the Wall

Game of Thrones, S7 Ep6 - Beyond the Wall

The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones delivers, according to the show’s tradition, an epic battle with a game-changing loss and revelation. Like all the episodes of this seventh season, enough plot and spectacle for a whole season was crammed into one episode as Jon and his allies went beyond the wall to bring back a wight sample for Cersei, Arya and Sansa butted heads in Winterfell, and Dany swooped in on her dragons to save the day, at a great cost.

All of this was breathtaking and exciting, with the Game of Thrones creators clearly sparing no expense when it came to sets and special effects. More than the dragons, the army of the dead, and some undead polar bears, there were massive fight scenes both with fire and ice.

Game of Thrones, S7 Ep6 - Beyond the WallLuckily, there was still time for some quiet character moments amidst the frenetic pacing. The conversations between Jon and his allies were sometimes moving (his talk with Jorah about the latter’s father and his trying to give Jorah Longclaw, Jon’s talk with Beric about death – how fitting a conversation between two resurrected warriors) or plot-necessary (Gendry confronting Beric and Thoros). Some were even fun and random (Tormund and Sandor) but becoming the foundation of quick camaraderie. The bond was important when it came to them fighting together against hordes of the undead. They also learned something useful along the way: killing a White Walker will automatically kill all the wights he has turned.

But even this did not seem enough. Many are commenting that the accelerated pacing of Game of Thrones in the past two seasons, while a refreshing change, may also diminish the quality of writing somewhat. The careful build-up of years of character development and long journeys is finally paying off but, with only one season left, it does sometimes feel like everything is being rushed to the finish line.

Game of Thrones, S7 Ep6 - Beyond the WallAs exciting as it was to see Dany and her dragons flying to the rescue, I can’t help but be amazed at how fast messages and people are able to travel around Westeros in these seasons. Again, it seems like a story that would have taken a whole season of Game of Thrones to tell transpired in a single episode. Gendry (thank goodness he survived!) was able to run back to the wall, a Raven was sent to Dragonstone, Dany flew with her dragons (against Tyrion’s advice), and arrived just in time to save Jon and his companions (RIP to Thoros of Myr, who fought the good fight till the end). And then, as Jon miraculously survives drowning and being massacred by the undead (was his resurrection enough to keep him immune from their attacks?), Coldhands a.k.a. Uncle Benjen swoops in, reveals himself to Jon, and then sends him on his way. So many revelations, so little time.

While a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is necessary – Game of Thrones is a fantasy show, after all – this much happening in such a short span of time seems more convenient than plausible. And even in fantasy, there has to be some level of internal logic.

Game of Thrones, S7 Ep6 - Beyond the WallOn the more political intrigue front, Arya and Sansa are clashing over the Raven scroll the former found in Littlefinger’s chamber last episode. Again, it’s frustrating to see the sisters at odds with one another at a time when they should be united. (And what is Bran doing anyway?). But Arya, despite her training, has never been very politically minded and pragmatic in the way Sansa has had to be, and Sansa has not seen the horrors and weirdness her sister has seen. So the older sister is right in that Arya, with all her brashness and tendency for violence, would not have survived what Sansa has.

And Sansa discovered Arya’s bag of faces and looks in horror at her sister. There’s a tense scene where I wondered if Arya would harm her sister but she mysteriously hands her the dagger. Was this merely a power play? Hopefully, we find out next week.

I’m hoping that with all her experience with Littlefinger Sansa knows better than to trust him, and I feel like she may just be putting up a front to deceive him and eventually bring him down. How involved Arya is in this plan is a good question but I hope she is involved. I’m not sure what Sansa plans by sending Brienne to King’s Landing to answer Cersei’s invitation (Brienne being in the same place as Jaime Lannister for any reason is good enough for me). Sansa is too smart for this and hopefully, she finally gets a victory before the season ends.

Game of Thrones, S7 Ep6 - Beyond the WallBack at the massive battle, Daenerys suffers one of her greatest losses yet as Viserion falls to the ice-spear of the Night’s King. In a moment, he proves himself the greatest adversary any of them will ever face, bringing down one of the last living dragons and breaking Dany’s heart in the process. Just wait till they find out that not only is Viserion dead, he has also been turned into a ice zombie dragon. Talk about raising the stakes.

This loss brings out Dany’s vulnerable side for the first time this season, as well as cements the budding relationship between her and Jon Snow. There have been hints of a deeper connection between them since they met this season but they have finally begun to acknowledge these strong feelings for each other. Dany (he called her “Dany”! Wow) saved his life and he finally decided to bend the knee.

I don’t really ship these two characters, but it cannot be denied that they are two of the most important players in the story, and their meeting has been heralded from the very beginning of the saga. They’ve reached a momentous understanding, but it remains to be seen how far they will take it from here. With Tyrion talking about succession earlier in the episode as well as teasing Dany about her affinity for heroic types, there’s not much to be guessed.

Now all that remains is for them to convince Cersei, always the most rational of the Lannister siblings, to join the fight against the undead and everything will be fine.