This episode was really frustrating to me for a lot of reasons. I’ve already written multiple times at this point about how rushed this season has felt, shown mainly in the way time is moving and the acceleration of relationships that haven’t felt earned. This problem was exacerbated in this episode with the continuation of the horrible plan Tyrion and Jon came up with in “Eastwatch.” This episode felt sloppy, riddled with plot holes, bad character development, and a complete disregard for the actual rules of the world. The only thing that made it better was the end, though at this point I’m not even sure if justifies the means when there are much better ways for us to have gotten to this point. While I understand that budget is an important factor and that some things have to be set aside for things like an army of whitewalkers and three full-grown dragons, I don’t think the story and the characters we’ve spent six seasons with should have to suffer for it.
Beyond the Wall
We start the episode Beyond the Wall where Jon and only EIGHT other people are off to capture a wight to bring back to King’s Landing. We spend way too much time here, subjected to bonding time with characters who have never interacted before or who haven’t seen each other in years. It felt like fan service, pairing up one dude with another, each of them having conversations that did nothing to further the plot. There’s Tormund telling the Hound of his crush on Brienne, Jon somehow thinking Jorah has earned Longclaw, Gendry marveling over snow, and Beric droning on about the Lord of Light again. All of this eats up time that could have been used to show Sam traveling north, Cersei and Jaime planning their trickery at the upcoming parlay, or whatever it is Euron is doing with Yara.
The first scene of real action we get is when a zombie bear turns up, kills one of the redshirt wildlings and mauls Thoros. We see the Hound’s fear of fire again, which he’s seriously going to have to get over when that’s one of the only things that can kill the wights. They continue on, ambushing a walker and a few wights like the rest aren’t close by. We see Jorah is as slow a fighter as ever, almost getting choked out until Jon kills the walker and the wights all collapse except for one - something that was strange in that it was never discussed or revealed any of the other times people have killed whitewalkers on this show.
They capture the conveniently remaining wight and then Jon senses something is wrong. Jon sends Gendry to Eastwatch to send a message to Daenerys -- who if she was his backup all along should’ve been at Eastwatch too. Somehow Gendry gets away despite only getting a five second head start (“because [he’s] the fastest”) and is able to make it to the Wall to tell Davos to send for Dany and the dragons. Jon and the others get surrounded by wights on a frozen lake, where then the wights decide to wait a day rather than just swarm them then and there. Thoros dies in his sleep and Jorah and Beric suggest they go after the walkers because it’s totally possible for them to get through the sea of wights to the Night King. Jon decides to wait on Daenerys to come because, again, the rules of the world are broken and these ravens are now teleporters. I’m not going to lie, even while I could recognize the sloppiness of the storyline, I was excited to see the dragons flame wight supremacy. It didn’t pull me all the way back in though, because it was clear that the writers were banking on that moment to keep us there and mask the plot holes in the rest of the episode.
Speaking of plot holes and things continuing to not make sense, it looks like Arya either wants to overthrow or kill Sansa now. The two of them spend the episode in tense conversations that later turn dangerous. It’s very frustrating to watch because while Sansa and Arya are very different and certainly wouldn’t agree on everything, Arya’s threatening her after everything they’ve been through feels wrong. Arya came to Sansa with some revisionist history of how she saw Sansa with the Lannisters when their father was killed, but she of all people should know how hostages work, as well as the fact that people protect themselves and resist in different ways. It’s not clear at all why Arya and Sansa haven’t yet discussed what happened to them while they were split up, other than to create unnecessary drama where Arya won’t even acknowledge that Sansa has been through things just as horrifying as she has. There’s this thing happening where Arya isn’t acknowledging strength that isn’t cutting people’s faces off and using them to kill other people, which is unfair and ridiculous and ruining a character I have loved since the beginning of the show.
Even worse is that this whole thing is being orchestrated by Littlefinger, who is completely pointless and is drumming up drama for literally no reason. And then of course, Sansa is keeping him around despite knowing not to trust him. None of it makes sense, especially since Sansa should have had Littlefinger killed back at the Wall and then just reached out to Robar Royce to help her out anyway - which he would have done because no one likes Littlefinger. Instead we get this super unclear plot on Littlefinger’s behalf to either get Sansa killed and then the Starks broken and maybe he gets Winterfell? Or he gets Arya killed and Sansa starts to trust him? Either way, he’s creating confusion and causing strife when - as Sansa tells him - they need a strong front against the walkers. This entire plot at Winterfell feels contrived and unnecessary - especially given that Bran is there and can see this all happening and doesn’t do a thing to stop it, tell anyone what Littlefinger is up to, or even tell them that Jon is going to need reinforcements beyond the Wall.
Sansa also gets an invitation to King’s Landing, but she does the semi-smart thing and sends Brienne instead. On the one hand, it makes sense that she wouldn’t go to King’s Landing with Cersei as the Queen, but on the other hand, having Brienne go leaves her vulnerable to Littlefinger. But OF COURSE Sansa doesn’t listen.
Later, Sansa goes to Arya’s room to find the letter she wrote years ago, but she finds the faces instead. Arya threatens her again because she suspects Sansa wants to be Queen in the North, which at this point it’s clear she doesn’t. Then Arya gives her Littlefinger’s knife and leaves, which is confusing and open-ended and I really don’t understand why this plot is the way it is. The whole point of wanting the Starks back to together is to see them work together against the enemies who have ruined their lives for years. Instead we get this ridiculous plot that makes no sense and pits two women who should at least have some understanding and love for each other against each other.
Down at Dragonstone, Daenerys and Tyrion have a conversation where she tells him that she likes him because he isn’t a Gryffindor like the men she’s loved. She includes Jon in this list and Tyrion notices, telling her that Jon loves her too. While it’s a nice sentiment and we knew it was going to happen, it doesn’t feel earned given that their main conversations have been about Jon bending the knee, the whitewalkers, and Dany being the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea etc. etc.
They then go on to talk about part three of their Terrible Plan: the parlay with Cersei. Tyrion explains that Cersei will undoubtedly lay traps and cautioning Dany to not rule with only fear as Cersei has. Dany counters with Aegon the Conqueror and Tyrion reminds her that Aegon built the wheel she says she’s trying to break (though I’m still not convinced that’s what she’s trying to do). Tyrion also tells her not to lose her temper with Cersei, and then brings up the question of legacy - how does Dany’s work continue once she’s died? Dany of course gets defensive and angry because the writers can’t decide if she’s a savior who wants to Break the Wheel or an angry Targaryen out for Fire and Blood. Dany tells Tyrion that they will discuss an heir once she’s made Queen, which, as Tyrion points out, is unrealistic.
The teleporting raven reaches Dragonstone in time and Dany decides to go off to save Jon and the others with ALL THREE OF HER DRAGONS. I was very excited at this point when watching, but I’m going to tone it down because it’s not as happy as I wanted it to be. Tyrion tells Dany not to go because she can’t win the Iron Throne if she’s dead but it makes little sense since she can’t win the Iron Throne if she’s an ice zombie either.
Back Beyond The Wall
Jon and the others are still surrounded and waiting for the wights to attack. Because the Hound is impatient and stupid, he provokes the wights by throwing rocks at them. When one falls short of hitting a wight, it shows them that the ice over the frozen lake is sturdier than they thought. Then all hell breaks loose. There are only six of them, until another redshirt dies and Tormund almost gets got. The Hound saves him, and while I love Tormund it felt like a cop out. This show is known for killing off beloved characters and when five of them are surrounded by an army of wights it would make sense that most if not all of them die at that point. But instead, they all survive because Daenerys shows up in the nick of time with her dragons ALL TREE A DEM. At this point in the episode - despite all of my frustrations - a pillow ended up on top of my head, I was squeezing it around my face, and screaming at the screen. I was excited and happy, and OH NO IS THAT AN ICE SPEAR WHAT ARE YOU DOING NIGHT KING.
Everyone starts climbing onto Drogon, the Hound with the captured wight in tow, but Jon decides to stay and fight when he had plenty of time to hop on so they could leave. Because he does this, Dany tries to stay and wait for him and then the NIGHT KING KILLS VISERION. This moment was the most emotional I’ve gotten since Jon died.
They all watch Viserion fall, Jon gets angry and looks like he’s going to go after the Night King as he yells for Dany to leave before Drogon and Rhaegal get it too. Dany hesitates but flies away as Jon gets taken down below the frozen pool. He gets out, and is surrounded by wights, but then Benjen turns up to save him because the writers wrote themselves into a hole and Benjen was their Get Out of Jail Free card. Benjen sends Jon off on his horse and faces the wights before dying.
The Wall/The Narrow Sea
So despite this plan being terrible and obviously not going to work, it works. They all got out alive except for Thoros and a couple of redshirts, they got the wight, and they’re going to take it south to King’s Landing. Dany waits for Jon at the Wall, and he somehow makes it before they leave because again time is no longer a thing in this show.
They get Jon on the boat and take off his shirt so that Dany can see all his scars and her crush for him can grow even more. Later, Jon wakes up and apologizes, regretting the decision to go north of the Wall when he should’ve known before what a horrible idea it was. The only plus is that Dany truly believes him now and vows to fight the whitewalkers, especially after what they did to Viserion. Jon holds her hand and calls her Dany, she tell him not to, and then Jon says he’ll bend the knee - which also feels too easy. I was looking forward to them getting married in order to solidify Dany’s rule over the Seven Kingdoms, and while I still think that’s going to happen, it seems like it will be without the political aspect of it. Dany also mentions to Jon that she can’t have children, which seems like a lot to tell someone you haven’t known for that long, but again the writers are committed to shoehorning the Dany/Jon relationship into the story when they could just let it happen naturally. I think we all agree that it was going to happen, it’s just that the way it’s happening is so sloppy that it’s annoying.
ANYWAY BACK BEYOND THE WALL THE NIGHT KING HAS SOMEHOW GOTTEN GIANT CHAINS AND PULLS THE DEAD VISERION OUT OF THE FROZEN LAKE AND TURNS HIM INTO A WIGHT OMG ICE ZOMBIE DRAGON DOES HE BREATHE ICE DOES HE BREATHE FIRE HOW WILL THE DRAGON HAVE THREE HEADS NOW WHAT WILL OUR HEROES DOOOOOOOOOOOO.