Monday, August 21, 2017

Game of Thrones 7x06 Recap: "Beyond the Wall" (Death is the Enemy) [Contributor: Melanie]

"Beyond the Wall"
Original Airdate: August 20, 2017

The worst thing that could ever have possibly happened on Game of Thrones happened this week — a dragon is dead and the White Walkers have taken control of it. The long held “Ice Dragon” theory (that I also outlined in a post last week) has come to fruition and no one is really happy about having to say "I told you so." As the witch once said to Dany in season one, only death pays for life. And this week she ended up trading Viserion for the safety of Jon and the rest of the company beyond the Wall.

This is an episode that so easily could have not worked. And many outlets criticized the pacing (what would have once taken several episodes to travel is traversed in a single episode to make up for shortened time this season). But somehow the spectacle of it all, finally seeing Dany’s book three dream about fighting White Walkers, and watching Team Dragon assemble Avengers-style to take on the Night King is fan service in the best possible way.


Dany and Tyrion discuss their situation and she notes that she seems to be surrounded by men wanting to be heroes and who often do stupid things to get there, naming Drogo, Daario, Jorah, and Jon. When Tyrion argues that all the men she listed have fallen in love her at some point in their lives, she denies Jon’s affection for her. Tyrion disagrees.

Tyrion presses the issue of succession, to ensure that Dany’s legacy and the world she creates remains after she dies. He notes that, while she cannot have children, she can choose her own successor to protect her kingdom after she’s gone. Her frustration with Tyrion from previous episodes continues and she tells him his attempts to think of the long game instead of looking at the immediate present got their armies and supplies destroyed.

Later, when the raven asking for help arrives at Dragonstone, Dany mounts her dragons, ready to save them. Tyrion argues against her risking herself for them, saying that “the most important person in the world” cannot risk her life every time someone asks for help, and warning that — if she died — the world would too. She ignores his advice and takes off anyway.


Sansa and Arya’s passive game of cat and mouse comes to a head when Arya confronts her about her letter to Robb, written years ago. Sansa says she wrote the letter under duress and was trying to stay alive. Arya argues that she would have died rather than write those things to Robb and questions Sansa’s loyalty to her family.

Later, Sansa goes searching in Arya’s room and finds her faces. Arya explains her abilities as a Faceless Man and hands Sansa Littlefinger’s Valyrian dagger.


Jon and company journey beyond the Wall. On the way, Jon attempts to give Jorah Longclaw, as it originally belonged to his father Jeor Mormont, who always hoped to give it to Jorah. But Jorah declines and instead tells Jon to give it to his own children one day. After a battle with an undead bear and finally stumbling on the Night King’s army, they capture a wight but find themselves surrounded by the army of the dead on all sides, content to let them freeze to death on their small island in the middle of an icy lake. Jon sends Gendry to get a raven to Daenerys asking for aid. They wait it for some time but the Hound, bored enough to toss rocks at the wights, accidentally reveals the lake has frozen over solid once more, allowing the army to advance.

As they are surrounded, Dany arrives with her three dragons and burns a significant portion of the army away. However, the Night King launches an icy spear at Viserion, sending him plummeting to the ground, killing him. Dany watches in horror and all but Jon manage to make it onto Drogon’s back. They’re forced to flee without him when the Night King prepares to launch another spear at Drogon. Jon is eventually rescued by Benjen Stark who gives him his horse and holds the army off long enough for Jon to make an escape.

At Eastwatch, Dany watches, in stoic silence, for any sign of Jon. He arrives back, exhausted and suffering the effects of hypothermia. He wakes, some days later, on a ship to find Dany waiting at his bedside. He apologizes to her for being the reason she lost her dragon. She tells him she needed to know the truth about the White Walkers, and now she does. She promises they will defeat the Night King, together. He takes her hand and, when she bristles at him calling her “Dany” because it’s what her brother used to call her, he offers instead “my queen” and swears fealty to her, telling her she is worthy of his loyalty and the rest of the world will one day follow. Dany then leaves the room, grateful — and flustered — telling him to rest.

Back at the site of the battle, the Night’s King places his hand on the fallen Viserion who opens his eyes once again — this time, bright blue.


It’s tough to put this into a context because it might be the biggest Game of Thrones game-changer since Ned Stark’s death in season one. A dragon is dead. The Night King now has that dragon in his army. Dany and Jon have formed an alliance. Alan Taylor, the director of this episode, said: “I remember when I was doing season one...George R.R. Martin came to visit. He did sort of say things that made it clear that the meeting and convergence of Jon and Dany was sort of the point of the series.” We’re moving into the endgame phase of our story, and the mysterious Song of Ice and Fire.

Up until now the season has had a bit of a back and forth trying to figure out where to settle Dany’s story: conqueror or egalitarian? Invader or prophesied hero? It’s caused some serious debate and some criticism for the lack of sureness in her story one way or another.This episode married both those narratives after several episodes of whiplash storytelling. Up until this point Dany has had an internal (and sometime external) battle over how to proceed, whether it was better to wipe Cersei off the map or delay her campaign for the kingdoms and join Jon.

The Night King decides for her.

When Jon calls for help, Dany responds. It’s a pivotal moment for her story. Up until this point she’s taken counsel, obeyed decisions, and silently watched her conquest and army crumble. But one can’t help but imagine the words of the late Lady Olenna ringing in her ears (“You’re a dragon. Be a dragon.”) when she makes the decision to save Jon. Tyrion tries to talk her out of it, says that that the important people of the world cannot risk her life for a few. Dany disagrees, echoing both her statement weeks ago (“What kind of queen am I if I’m not willing to risk my life fight them?”) and Jon’s challenge to Ramsay Bolton last season (“Will they want to fight for you when they hear you won’t fight for them?”) and goes charging into battle, at great personal cost, for the sake of a few men and the chance that they might get an upper hand in the war to come.

It’s a welcome relief to the red herring hints that she might find herself without allies or a throne after a few impulsive, violent stunts. But this episode hammered home the core of Dany’s decisions: helping other people. She grew up an orphan beggar, abused by her brother and chased by assassins but managed to never have the bitter and entitled streak that got her brother killed. And though she flirted with the possibility this season, she’s committed herself to protecting the realm before she takes a seat on the Iron Throne — if she ever does.

It’s probably the biggest moment for her since she came to Westeros, she has lost a child in a fight she didn’t believe was real, for the sake of a man who she still doesn’t know completely, and yet doesn't blame anyone or regret a thing. It was an incredibly moving scene that brought home the feeling of family between Dany and Jon (the “beggar queen” and the Bastard of Winterfell finally finding kinship in someone). As a personal aside, to see a man who served as the show’s archetypical fantasy hero not only get saved by a woman, but to unconditionally bow to her as his queen and ally. It’s a big step for someone who has spent years watching her favorite action heroes be men and forced to undergo the brunt of fanboy drivel against female characters in positions of leadership.

This episode was especially poignant for book readers who will recall in A Storm of Swords (book three) Dany dreamed she was fighting soldiers made of ice while on dragonback and that this (the battle in the dream) was the true war while the other (her conquest of Westeros) was the dream. It seems to have come to pass in this episode as she knowingly risks her chances at her crown to rescue a group of men from an army that may or may not exist. It’s another big moment, decades in the making, that is one of many reasons this has been the most satisfying season to date.

It seems almost pointless to discuss the other parts of this episode: the Stark drama. Playing Arya against Sansa is getting old fast and one can only hope it resolves quickly. However, many fans have noted that the cold war between the Stark sisters might actually be staged and the pair have been playing Littlefinger all along. After all, the game of faces involves making a lie sound like a truth, and Arya did offer up the dagger to Sansa, handle-first, like a call to action.

As for bigger theories, I’m going to leave that until after next week’s episode to fully flesh out. But the possibilities of this ice dragon breathing ice across the land to even more devastating effects than flames, the strange and repetitive hints in this episode about Dany’s ability to have children and mentions of Jon’s future children leading to many fan conclusions, and the true meaning behind the prophesied Song of Ice and Fire.

So what can we expect from the finale? Well we’ve got Cersei, Jaime, Bronn, Euron Jon, Dany, Tyrion, Viserys, Grey Worm, Missandei, Brienne, and Pod all in one scene. It sounds like fanfiction, but it’s real. Expect some massive shade throwing and absolutely NOTHING to get solved. I’m not saying a dragon died in vain, but I don’t see Cersei caring about anything at this point. Jon and Dany, I imagine, are on their own in this fight.


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