“Beyond the Wall” sees many of our protagonists (depending on how you feel about some of these guys) teaming up to go beyond the wall, into the wintery north lands in order to find a Wight. It also deals with fractured relationships between the Stark siblings, political discussions between a Queen and her Hand and an invitation from an old foe and how to best deal with it. Sweeping views of Iceland, the immense mountains, steep valleys and tiny streams that dot the landscape give you an ominous feel. You have the best fighters headed north of the Wall. Now, before we get stoked: a lot of these guys can’t stand each other. Past grievances, petty arguments and defensive personalities all clash. Jon is the only guy in the crew who appears to be neutral and has to keep them in check. As per Sandor’s vision in the flames, they head very far north to a mountain shaped like an arrowhead. Jon makes an attempt to return Longclaw back to Jorah. Surprisingly enough, Jorah declines and goes so far as to say that Jon will need it, and may pass it on to his future children. Jon, who has had a very challenging road, is stunned at the prospect of having a family of his own.
Back at Winterfell, tensions continue to build between Arya and Sansa. Their different perspectives on growing up at Winterfell couldn’t be more glaring. Arya is angry; Sansa is scared. Arya continues to draw blood, bringing up the scroll that Sansa wrote many years ago (she was forced and under duress, as Sansa was young, naïve and very scared at the time) – and the chasm between the two sisters continues to widen. Sansa is bewildered. Where did Arya get that missive? Why is she so hostile? What will Arya do with this information? Does Sansa feel her position as Lady of Winterfell is secure? And what is with Sansa’s condescending attitude towards her sister (“You should be thanking me,” – “You never would have survived what I survived”). Both girls went through harsh times. A good point is brought up by Sansa – infighting is exactly what Cersei would love to see. If you don’t have a strong family bond, it’s easy to drop seeds of discontent, so that they may fester (think of Littlefinger).
Tyrion and Dany share some thoughts. Tyrion has sensed the growing attraction between the two young, charismatic monarchs. He’s also quick to point out that Dany needs to consider the long run – preserving the succession and maintaining her idea of a fair and just world. Dany has been known to lose her temper – and Tyrion is only trying to consider her rule and the means to keep it secure. Unfortunately, that means discussion the succession. Dany doesn’t want to hear about the long run, she’s only interested in the here and now. That right there is not a good way to think, especially when planning to rule and keeping that rule successful.
So, did I mention that when you travel far north, that you may see things that are big and scary? Oh you know, like a zombie bear?! Gendry asks if bears have blue eyes and suddenly, the men see the bear charging in the distance. Survival skills, axes, hammers and flaming swords are no match for this creature. Thoros suffers a severe chest wound while the crew dispatches the bear.
Sansa continues to worry. Sansa claims to not know her sister anymore to which Littlefinger sees an opportunity to drive another wedge between the Stark siblings. Brienne of Tarth is sworn to protect both of the girls but what if one of those girls was planning something really awful towards the other? And you have to wonder about Sansa and Arya’s interactions at Winterfell. Is this feeling of animosity genuine or are they putting on an act, to make it really convincing, in case Littlefinger or one of his spies is watching? Has Sansa learned to play an excellent poker face, especially when dealing with Baelish? Kind of hope those Stark sisters are trying to do the long con on Baelish. That would be pretty satisfying.
As Thoros’ pallor continues to worsen, the men come across a small band of Wights, led by one of the Night King’s Lieutenants. It’s a dicey situation: where there’s a small band of the undead, the larger groups are never far behind. The plan to capture one Wight goes awry: the team manages to subdue the band, Jon kills the Lieutenant and to everyone’s surprise, the rest of the Wights disintegrate. All but one. Sandor and Tormund are desperate to hogtie him down. The Wight wails and then a low rumble is heard in the distance. We heard that rumble before: Hardhome. The men flee, running straight out onto a frozen lake. Gendry is sent back to Eastwatch to dispatch a raven to get word to Dany. Trapped on the frozen lake, the men make it to a small island in the middle of it. They are surrounded by Wights, thousands of them. The ice cracks and many of them stumble through. The crew is outnumbered, the temperature is dropping, their weapons or skills aren’t enough in handling such terrible odds. Night falls, Gendry makes it back and is exhausted. Davos commands the other Night’s Watch comrades to get ravens to Dragonstone ASAP.
Turns out that Cersei has sent an invite to Winterfell. She invites Sansa to come to King’s Landing. Sansa, sensing a trap, sends Brienne to represent her interests. What I find disconcerting is how curt Sansa was towards Brienne. Is sending Brienne away part of a plot? Does Sansa have something under her sleeve? Maybe the novice is becoming the master?
Guess where Daenerys and her dragons are going, much to the chagrin of Tyrion? Flying to the North on a rescue mission. Thoros has succumbed to his wounds and they burn the body. What do you do when you’re surrounded by a vast army? And worse, the Night’s King is there with his Lieutenants, high up on a mountainside, just watching. Sandor decides to toss a few rocks but when one slides on the surface of the lake indicating the ice has now thickened. War hammers, flaming swords, Valyrian daggers and teamwork is almost no match for the army of the dead. Just as things look grim, a huge flame shoots out and we see Daenerys flying in, roasting all those undead things. The Night King decides to take some action and hurls a long, icy spear and it pierces the scales of Viserion. The poor beast, impaled and blood spurting through the air, crashes onto the frozen lake. His eyes slowly close as his body crushes the ice beneath him. The men all climb on Drogon and stare in disbelief as Viserion sinks into the frozen water. Jon continues to fight. He either has balls bigger than Valyrian steel or he has a death wish but he sinks through the ice, tackled by Wights.
The sense of urgency, death all around and the Night King still hurling spears sends Drogon into the sky. Dany’s face as she watched one of her children die, well, if she didn’t want to fight with Jon before, guess what? She’s going to team up with the North. Jon surfaces from the icy water, hypothermia setting in and the odds not in his favor. Uncle Benjen comes in and literally saves the day, sends Jon packing and sacrifices himself. I was a slobbering mess at this point. Jon makes it back to Eastwatch, sick with hypothermia and fatigue. There are no easy choices in war and once on the boat, when he comes to, he apologizes to Dany. As Daenerys recounts to Jon, she’s now seen the Army of the Dead and now understands the huge threat they pose. They all sail back to Dragonstone. Daenerys and Jon have some long, lingering glances between them. We all know what that means down the road.
Back in the North, we see the Wights pulling poor Viserion from his icy grave. The huge beast looks so peaceful and free of pain. The Night King walks over to him and gently places his hand on the dragon’s head. Seconds pass and an icy blue eye opens. An ice dragon is now amongst the Night’s King and his army of the dead. First, a massive army of the dead; then, at least three giants were seen walking with that army. Now, they have a weapon of mass destruction to add to the ranks. To paraphrase Davos –“ If they don’t learn to put their enmities aside, then it won’t matter whose skeleton sits on the throne.”