***Spoiler Warning – This recap article has spoilers from the episode.***
“Beyond the Wall” opens where last week’s “Eastwatch” left off: during Jon Snow and Co.’s trek North of the Wall. The episode begins with general banter among the group – i.e. Tormund having a bit of fun with Gendry, who has never been this far North before. He soon turns to Jon to inquire as to how his meeting with Daenerys went, and Jon voices his concern over her desire for him to bend the knee. Tormund advises that he comply; after all, Mance Rayder never bent the knee to anyone when he was the King Beyond the Wall. “How many people died for his pride?” Tormund says.
Behind them, there is tension between Gendry and Beric/Thoros, who sold him back to Melisandre back in season 3. Gendry tries to explain how she leeched him and almost killed him, but Sandor cuts in by telling him to quit bellyaching; after all, he’s still alive! He indicates Beric, saying, “This one’s been killed six times; you don’t hear him bitching about it!” Ha!
Later, Jon and Jorah bond over their respective relationships with Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (Jorah as his son, and Jon as his former steward). Jon attempts to give Jorah Longclaw, as it was traditionally the Mormont family sword; however, Jorah refuses to accept it, stating that he brought shame to his house and thus forfeited his claim to the sword.
At Winterfell, Sansa and Arya talk in the upper walkways of the courtyard. Arya tells Sansa of a time when Ned watched her train with a crossbow from that very spot. “Now he’s dead,” she says. “Killed by the Lannisters, with your help.”
Shocked, Sansa asks her what she means; Arya pulls out the letter she found in “Eastwatch” and reads from it. Sansa tries to explain how Cersei forced her hand and how she truly believed she was helping Ned (after all, Sansa was a pretty naïve child), but Arya is having none of it. Revealing that she was in the crowd when Ned was executed, she tells Sansa that she saw her standing up with Cersei and the rest, dressed nicely with her hair done (though she conveniently seems to forget about Sansa’s reaction after Joffrey asked for Ned’s head). Sansa notes that Arya didn’t do anything from the crowd either; neither of them could intervene because there was nothing they could do to stop it. Regardless, Arya accuses Sansa of betraying the Starks for Joffrey and the Lannisters.
This invokes Sansa’s anger; after all, she is the one who truly took Winterfell back by calling upon the men of the Vale for their assistance. She tells Arya that she suffered the unimaginable to get there, though Arya seems to believe that she hasn’t had it that rough.
“You never would have survived what I survived,” Sansa says (which I think is completely true; however, I think that statement also goes both ways, as Sansa wouldn’t have survived in Arya’s shoes either). Sansa then inquires as to what Arya will do with the letter. Noticing Sansa’s fear, Arya talks through her options…and she soon realizes that Sansa doesn’t want the Northern lords to see it out of the fear that they will abandon the Starks. Arya then leaves Sansa standing there alone, the threat of the letter looming over her.
Back on the trek North of the Wall, the banter continues – this time between Tormund and Sandor. Tormund talks of his love for Brienne and how he wants to have children with her, which is all the more hilarious because Brienne beat Sandor in single combat back in season 4 (which almost killed him, as the viewer will undoubtedly recall).
Behind them, Beric tells Jon that he doesn’t look much like his “father,” having met Ned Stark in King’s Landing back in season 1. They then discuss the Lord of Light, and Jon asks Beric why he follows a god that offers no understanding of what his purpose is (or why he has been continually brought back to life). Beric responds by suggesting that he follows the Lord of Light because he is fighting for life.
“Death is the enemy,” he says, telling Jon that perhaps they are helping to keep others alive by making this journey.
“I am the shield that guards the realms of men,” Jon says, quoting the Night’s Watch oath with a new understanding for Beric’s point of view.
The group soon comes to a clearing, where Sandor recognizes the mountain he saw in the flames back in the season premiere; they are getting closer to their destination.
At Dragonstone, Dany and Tyrion chat by the fire in the small council room. Dany tells Tyrion that she likes him because even though he is brave, he doesn’t behave like a hero; after all, heroes tend do stupid, dangerous things – i.e. Jorah, Daario, Jon, etc. Tyrion notes that all of the men she mentions have fallen in love with her – and though Dany denies that Jon is in love with her, Tyrion states that he has seen the way that Jon looks at her.
“He’s too little for me,” Dany responds (presumably because of his status as a bastard and not his stature!).
Their conversation then quickly changes to a discussion of their upcoming meeting with Cersei in King’s Landing. Tyrion says that they will need to bring their full forces to the capital, since Cersei may set a trap for them and Dany must be protected at all costs. Dany questions whether or not they will attempt to set a trap, but Tyrion states that he’d prefer not to; ruling through fear is what makes Cersei (and many of Westeros’ previous leaders) brittle, and Dany wants to break the wheel. Plus, Tyrion promised Jaime that he’d keep her from doing anything…impulsive. After all, Cersei may say something to anger Dany, and Tyrion has seen Dany lose her temper in the past.
This sparks Dany’s anger. She questions when exactly she has lost her temper, and Tyrion cites the burning of the Tarlys as an example. While Dany argues that the act was “necessary,” Tyrion disagrees; after all, they never had the chance to discuss the possibilities before she acted. Tyrion states that while he believes in her and in the world she wants to build, it can’t be done overnight. How can they ensure that the wheel is broken and remains as such?
Realizing that they are beginning to talk about a method of succession to the throne because she cannot have children, Dany is further angered by Tyrion’s words. Tyrion reinforces the fact that she will be heading into dangerous territory once again when she sets foot into King’s Landing – and after witnessing many arrows narrowly miss her at the loot train, he wants to prepare for the long term. However, Dany refuses to discuss the matter, stating that they will decide on a method of succession after she is crowned.
Back on the trek North of the Wall, the snows are becoming heavier – and it is getting darker. Seeing a bear in the distance, the group stops to observe…when Gendry notes its blue eyes. Suddenly, the bear charges forward, taking out a random member of the crew. Everyone else gets into formation and prepares for attack – and the undead bear is upon them!
As the group fights the bear, Thoros and Beric attack it with flaming swords and soon, Beric has set the bear aflame. Naturally, this causes Sandor to freeze, his fear of fire clearly at the forefront of his mind. The bear begins to come towards him, but Thoros steps in between the two and holds the bear off. Unfortunately, the bear gets the better of Thoros, mauling him until Jorah comes in from behind and kills it with a knife (which is kind of funny in retrospect, considering the fact that the Mormont house sigil is a bear).
Though Thoros is badly injured, he opts to have Beric cauterize his wounds with the flaming sword rather than to head back to Eastwatch. After Beric has completed the task, Jon and Tormund stare off into the direction that the paw prints came from.
At Winterfell, Sansa meets with Littlefinger to inquire as to how Arya obtained the letter. Littlefinger claims that he “doesn’t know” and that it’s probably because she’s “resourceful” (ugh, he’s such a creep). Sansa voices her concern that Arya will show the letter to the Northern lords, stating that their loyalty is to Jon…not to mention that they are heading into one of the worst winters in recent memory. She believes that the lords will take any excuse to leave, which would leave Jon without an army. Littlefinger notes that she has ruled well in Jon’s absence and that some of the lords prefer her as their leader – but rather than feed into this, Sansa says that his words prove her point exactly. After all, the Northern lords have turned their backs on the Starks in the past; who is to say they won’t do it again?
Littlefinger responds that he doubts Arya would do anything to hurt Sansa, but Sansa believes that Arya could betray her if she thought Sansa was going to do anything to harm Jon. To make matters worse, Sansa can’t tell what Arya is thinking or what she believes; she doesn’t really “know” her sister anymore. Littlefinger then reminds Sansa of Brienne, who is sworn to protect both of the Stark girls; wouldn’t she be honor-bound to intervene if one were planning to harm the other? Realizing that this is true, Sansa considers his words.
Back on the trek North of the Wall, the generic chat/banter continues as Thoros struggles a bit with his wounds (though he seems to be in okay spirits). Suddenly, Tormund stops them, listening. He and Jon inch forward and look over the edge of a nearby cliff, viewing the undead army marching below.
Soon, they set a trap for the dead by making a small fire to draw them in. The trap works, as a White Walker and a small group of dead men soon approach. Jon and Co. charge in, and the fighting ensues. One of the wights begins choking Jorah in the chaos – but Jorah is saved as Jon kills the White Walker with Longclaw, which somehow kills the surrounding wights as well. However, one wight in the group remains “living,” and the crew uses this as their opportunity to capture a dead man.
Quickly, Jon tells Gendry (the fastest among them) to run back to Eastwatch and get a raven to Dany to let her know what has transpired. As Gendry heads off, the rest of the crew begins to flee. As the dead swarm toward them, they reach an ice-covered lake and run across it. They are able to make it to an island in the center of the lake just in time; as the dead try to follow, the surrounding ice breaks. As some of the wights begins to fall into the water, the rest of the undead remain behind…but they have completely surrounded the lake on all sides.
By nightfall, Gendry runs to the Wall. He eventually makes it back to Eastwatch, falling down as he reaches the gate. Having been on watch, Davos and some of the men rush out to retrieve Gendry, who passes along the message that a raven must be sent to Dany at once.
By morning, the others remain huddled together on the island, still surrounded by the dead. Beric checks on Thoros who, unfortunately, appears to have frozen to death overnight. The group burns Thoros’ body using alcohol and Beric’s flaming sword as Beric prays to the Lord of Light.
Afterwards, Jorah pulls Jon aside, telling him that they will freeze to death soon; he can see that the lake is becoming solid ice once again. He then inquires as to why the wights all fell when Jon killed the White Walker the day before; Jon states that perhaps it is because the White Walker had turned those particular wights. Jorah states that if that is the case, it’s possible that they should attempt to attack the White Walkers to get out of this mess. However, Jon disagrees because they need to get the body back to King’s Landing. He says that Dany is their only hope now.
Beric approaches, indicating the Night King staring at them in the distance. He states that if they kill him, this will all be over; after all, the Lord of Light couldn’t have brought both Jon and Beric back from the dead so they could freeze to death. And even though Thoros is gone and can no longer resurrect him, Beric says that he’s ready for the end.
Meanwhile, at Winterfell, Sansa is handed a raven from Maester Wolkan; it is an invitation to King’s Landing. Later, she meets privately with Brienne, who she will be sending in her stead. Brienne protests, stating that Sansa is the one they want – and that Sansa isn’t safe in Winterfell with Littlefinger lurking about. However, Sansa refuses to become Cersei’s prisoner once again and feels that Winterfell is the safest place for her; she doesn’t think she needs to be protected in her own home. With the matter settled, Brienne heads out for her journey to King’s Landing as Sansa sits and ponders the decision, clearly not thrilled with the situation.
At Dragonstone, Dany (who has received the raven from Eastwatch) prepares to head North, despite Tyrion’s protests.
“If you die, we’re all lost,” Tyrion pleads.
“You told me to do nothing before, and I listened to you,” Dany responds, indicating Tyrion’s earlier advice from the season as to not attack King’s Landing immediately. “I’m not doing nothing again.” She heads off on Drogon’s back, Viserion and Rhaegal following close behind, as Tyrion looks out after them.
North of the Wall, the crew is still trapped on the island, surrounded by the dead. Sandor throws a rock, hitting a wight in the head. He throws a second, hitting the ice and…uh oh. Realizing that the water has frozen solid once again, the wights begin to move forward towards the island; Jon and Co. prepare for battle. As the first few wights close in on them, Sandor charges forward; the battle has begun.
As the crew holds their own against the undead and the remainder of the army continues to move in toward the island, Jon keeps the wights away from the captured body. However, the undead soon have them immensely outnumbered, and Jon calls on everyone to fall back…at which point the wights get the better of Tormund, who is completely swarmed. They try to pull him under the water through an opening in the ice that Sandor had cut during the fight…but Sandor is able to pull Tormund away and back to the group just in the nick of time. Still, things are beginning to look hopeless…until…
DRAGONFIRE! Dany and the dragons finally arrive on the scene, the dragons burning away the dead men immediately surrounding the crew on the ground below. Drogon and Dany land nearby them, with Drogon spitting fire at the oncoming wights.
As Dany begins to board everyone onto Drogon’s back, Jon continues to fight off any wights in the immediate area…but in the distance, a White Walker hands the Night King a spear made of ice. As Dany, Jon and the others are distracted by the fight, the Night King walks forward, aims at Viserion in the sky and throws the spear, hitting the massive dragon in the neck.
Viserion screams and falls from the sky, his blood pouring out from his wound; Drogon and Rhaegal screech as Dany and the others stare on in horror. Viserion then hits the ground below, breaking the ice and falling into the water as he dies (and you’ll have to excuse me for a minute, since I’ll be in a corner sobbing). Dany can do nothing but stare in shock as the others look on, stunned. In that same moment, Jon and the Night King stare one another down – and as they do, Jon sees a White Walker next to the Night King picking up another ice spear.
Realizing that Drogon and Rhaegal (and everyone else, to be honest) are in immediate danger, Jon yells at Dany and Co. to leave; he runs towards them to board Drogon, but he is brought under the water by surrounding wights. Seeing the Night King approaching with his spear, Dany realizes that there is no time wait for Jon; she has no choice but to leave now.
As Drogon takes flight with the crew (sans Jon) on his back, the Night King aims and throws his spear…but he misses, thanks to some quick swerving on the part of Dany and Drogon (though Jorah almost falls off the dragon’s back in the process). With the fight seemingly over, the Night King and White Walkers depart, and the wights follow after them.
Moments later, Jon emerges from the water below, pulling himself out. As he stumbles onto the ground, the lingering wights take notice and charge towards him…but as hope once again seems to be lost, Benjen comes to the rescue! Knocking the wights away, Benjen reveals his face to a stunned Jon (who hasn’t seen his uncle since he went missing back in season 1); he puts Jon on his horse, instructing him to ride for the Wall. However, Benjen does not join him for the journey back; as the horse gallops away, he continues to fight off the wights, who eventually bring him down.
Back at Eastwatch, Sandor loads their precious cargo (the captured wight) onto a rowboat. Meanwhile, Dany looks for Jon from the watchtower atop the Wall, but Jorah informs her that they must depart…and Jon is nowhere to be found. But as Dany turns to leave, the horn sounds to announce a rider approaching – it is Jon!
Soon after, they are aboard the Targaryen ship, where Davos and others help to get Jon out of his freezing clothing. Dany looks on from the side, seeing the scars on his chest as his shirt is taken off and realizing that he really was stabbed in the heart.
At Winterfell, Sansa searches Arya’s room, looking for the letter. Instead, she finds Arya’s faces under the bed. Arya enters the room silently, startling Sansa as she announces herself. Sansa demands to know what the faces are and where Arya obtained them (as any sister probably would, given the serious weirdness factor of it all). Arya states that she received them while training to be a Faceless Man (but wait, didn’t she tell Jaqen that she was “Arya Stark of Winterfell” before departing the House of Black and White last season? I’m confused!).
Arya goes on to says that while Sansa originally wanted to be a queen and she originally wanted to be a knight, neither of them grew up to see those childhood wishes fulfilled…but Arya can be whoever she wants to be by using the faces. She states that she could even become Sansa…all she would need is her face. As she says this, she grabs the Valryrian steel dagger from her table, coming at Sansa slowly – but she stops directly in front of Sana, handing over the dagger and departing from the room (as Sansa continues to stand there, seriously disturbed by the whole thing).
At sea on the Targaryen ship, Jon wakes up to find Dany seated by his bed. Taking her hand, he apologizes for what happened North of the Wall, but Dany tearfully says that she needed to see the undead army to truly understand the threat that they possess. Noting that the dragons are the only children she will ever have, Dany vows that they will destroy the Night King and his army together. Jon thanks her, calling her “Dany” – though Dany states that her brother (Viserys) was probably the last person to call her that out loud, which brings back unpleasant memories.
To Dany’s surprise, Jon calls her “my queen” instead; he says that despite their pride, he believes that the Northern lords will come to see her for the person she truly is.
“I hope I deserve it,” Dany says, holding Jon’s hand…but she departs to let him rest after a moment, with the romantic tension between the two clear.
North of the Wall, the wights pull giant chains forward under the supervision of the White Walkers; they are pulling Viserion’s body p from under the water. Once his body is fully on land, the Night King comes forward, putting a hand on Viserion’s lifeless form. After a moment, Viserion’s eyes open, now the same shade of blue as the eyes of the undead. Well…crap.
In my opinion, this episode was similar to “Eastwatch” in that I felt that it had its high points and its low points. For example, the fight between the dragons and the army of the undead was visually stunning, and the loss of Viserion was effectively tragic (when he was killed) and terrifying (when the Night King raised him from the dead) at the same time; it definitely brings new possibilities to light going forward that I hadn’t previously thought of. Moreover, the relationship between Dany and Jon is finally beginning to grow on me; though I was never a huge fan of the pairing in the past (mostly due to a combination of the while incest thing and the fact that I’ve previously found them to be more interesting characters when they have not been in romantic relationships), I can definitely see how it works for the story now that it is playing out on screen.
However, the major downside to the episode for me was Arya’s characterization within the Winterfell storyline. It made absolutely no sense to me why she would be judging Sansa based on actions that she made as a child, and it felt like her character completely flip-flopped from the girl who left the House of Black and White at the end of season 6, confident that she couldn’t truly be a Faceless Man because she was – and would always be – Arya Stark. If that is still true, why would she indicate to Sansa that she is a Faceless Man? My only thought on the matter is that perhaps she is playing a game of her own to get at Littlefinger – or, perhaps Bran told the sisters about Littlefinger’s misdeeds, and the two are in on it together (which is a stretch…but isn’t it more of a stretch for Bran to have the information about Littlefinger being a threat and not tell anyone?). If either or those is the case, the storyline will likely change from “confusing” to “awesome” for me – but I’ll have to wait until the upcoming finale to find out for sure.
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