The time between ‘Eastwatch’ and ‘Beyond the Wall’, the latest episode in Season 7 of Game of Thrones, felt like an age. I was coming up with crazy theories about what would happen, incessantly worrying about the fate of characters and expecting a tense episode. While every season of Game of Thrones has always had me at the edge of my seat, Season 7 has taken that to another level. Seeing as we are nearing the end of this show, I have no idea where the story will go which is such a relief after years of fearing book readers. Indeed, I do not have to deal with book readers who could threaten to spoil major events because we are all on the same page now.
Yet, the fact that this episode was leaked throws up other ways to get spoiled, only this time it was the fault of HBO. I miraculously managed to not know anything about what happened in the penultimate episode of what has been so far, for me, a near-flawless season of Game of Thrones. In my opinion, there has been a perfect blend of spectacle, character moments/development and pacing which previous seasons, while all brilliant seasons of television, have not achieved to the degree that Season 7 has. Obviously, this meant that I had very high hopes for ‘Beyond the Wall’.
My Thoughts on Season 7 Episode 6 of Game of Thrones
‘Beyond the Wall’ really impressed me. Again, we got great character interactions, tense action and outcomes which have set up the final episode of Season 7 of Game of Thrones very well. The primary focus of this episode was on Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his squad of legends that embarked on a seemingly impossible mission to capture a White Walker. I loved how a big part of this story-line was establishing relationships between the characters who went on this expedition.
In this aspect, the highlights for me were the interactions between Jon and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and between Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and The Hound (Rory McCann). The conversations between Jon and Jorah had a lot of depth considering the connection they share with Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo). Jon was the steward of Jeor while Jorah was Jeor’s son. Seeing Jon and Jorah share their experiences and have Longclaw, Jon’s sword that belonged to Jeor, play a key role in one of their conversations was very poignant.
Tormund and The Hound
While the moments between Jon and Jorah had depth, the scene between Tormund and The Hound was just pure comedy. The dialogue in this scene was awesome. I have been dying to see these two together since this season of Game of Thrones began and I was not disappointed. The way they “bonded” over Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) was brilliant to watch and I am certain that we will see this blossoming relationship continue seeing as both characters survived this episode.
In fact, Thoros (Paul Kaye) was the only notable human casualty of ‘Beyond the Wall’ and he was always the most likely to die. Moreover, his death made the most sense. In the back of my mind, I always feel that anyone can die at any time but, unlike some other Game of Thrones fans, I am extremely pleased that most of the squad survived. Honestly, I do not understand why people are upset that the brilliant characters in this squad survived. People argue that there was no cost to pay for this mission but that is not true. While there was a lack of human death, one death had much more of a impact to the story going forward than any human death could (more on that later).
Obviously, we knew Jon would survive because his story is not over. I feared for Jorah, Tormund and The Hound but I should admit that I would have been very disappointed if they died. Indeed, I would have considered this to be my first negative experience with this season of Game of Thrones. The reason this would have been the case is because they would have exited the show with unresolved story-lines. Jorah, Tormund and The Hound still have a part to play. You cannot just kill characters for the sake of it. If they died, then I feel this would have been done just for shock value and not for the purpose of moving the story forward. In reality, this would have been detrimental to the story. This is especially true if Jorah died because his relationship with Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), for me, does not have enough closure for Jorah’s death to feel earned.
While I feel Jorah will eventually die, dying in ‘Beyond the Wall’ would have been too soon as he just reunited with Daenerys in ‘Eastwatch’. In terms of The Hound and Tormund, both characters still need to reunite with Brienne for completely different but meaningful reasons. Tormund was very close to a horrible fate but The Hound saved him which further solidified their relationship. This itself needs to be developed if for nothing else than comedic purposes because their chemistry in ‘Beyond the Wall’ was electric. More importantly, The Hound, from a dramatic standpoint, has unfinished business with his brother The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams).
Arya and Sansa
Despite more important events happening elsewhere, Arya and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) also had some scenes together in ‘Beyond the Wall’. It appears the scheming done by Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) is working and it shows how, when he is seemingly backed into a corner, he still manages to play everyone for fools. Now, without a doubt, this aspect of the episode has been the most criticised. This triggered me to an extent which I did not think was possible. I have seen the writers of Game of Thrones take a lot of heat from fans who believe this part of the episode was forced, poorly executed, a betrayal of the characters etc. I could not disagree more. Bear with me because this next part will seem like a rant but I must get this off my chest.
I mentioned in my review of ‘The Spoils of War’ how their reunion seemingly signalled their ability to move away from their past animosity. However, this is not the case. While this is extremely frustrating to watch, it does make sense. Yes, they should not be acting with each other in the way they are. Indeed, I was screaming “YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS” at the TV but this was not down to poor writing/storytelling. Instead, what is happening between Arya and Sansa is a brilliant way to reinforce how deeply flawed, prideful and immature these two characters still are despite the traumatic experiences and character development they have individually gone through.
Yes, their individual experiences have meant that they have gone through individual growth but their relationship has not. Arya and Sansa have not seen each other for years. The last time they were together, there was a lot of animosity present and there was a clash of personalities between the two. Additionally, their relationship was not built on good communication. Because each believes that their own experience is worse than anything anyone else has gone through, they will obviously not be open-minded enough to consider the other’s experiences, let alone share it with each other in a safe, loving environment which clearly is not there.
Undoubtedly, it is frustrating to watch but it is easy to say this as the viewer and label it as bad storytelling. We know that if they were just honest with each other then a lot of the tension and animosity that is present would begin to slip away. However, we have to remember that, despite the individual growth that Arya and Sansa have gone through, they are still young, flawed people who have outdated views on each other which are hard to change when you have not communicated in years. It makes sense that they revert to type when it comes to their past relationship because, essentially, they are picking up where they left off. When you think about it, they are effectively still teenagers and, as we know, teenagers are never the best communicators.
Additionally, Arya is bending the truth to fit her own agenda and outdated views. She saw Sansa’s heart-breaking reaction to her father’s death which completely rebukes Arya’s theory that Sansa had any part in it. Furthermore, Arya’s claim that she would rather die than serve the Lannister’s is a bit hypocritical when she did exactly this to survive by serving Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) in Season 2 of Game of Thrones. But again, I do not think this is poor writing/storytelling. While frustrating to watch, it is just emphasising the flaws in these characters who we hold in such high regard. I have faith in the writers to bring satisfying closure to this story-line whether it is in the final episode of this season or in Season 8.
If this does happen in the next episode, I feel as though Bran Stark (Issac Hempstead Wright) will be the key to calling out their petty squabbling and bring an end to Littlefinger’s successful exploitation of the natural tension that is and always has been present between Arya and Sansa. So that is my defence of the scenes involving Arya and Sansa which I thought were very compelling and tense. The story Arya told Sansa about her father, Ned Stark (Sean Bean), was fascinating and touching. It showed the amount of love Arya had for her father and further strengthened the argument that she would be easily influenced if she believed Sansa had a role in his death. This itself was the central point to their clash in this episode of Game of Thrones.
A Clash Between Daenerys and Tyrion
Daenerys and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) also clashed in ‘Beyond the Wall’. In my opinion, Tyrion rightly confronted Daenerys over her recent actions and this was such a compelling scene. Daenerys was acting in a very paranoid way, accusing Tyrion of conspiring against her. While she has her reasons to feel this way due to Tyrion’s strong connections to Westeros and his brother, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), it is insufferable. We know that Tyrion is not a snake and he is not at a stage where he feels Daenerys needs to be stopped. Hopefully, now that she has seen The Night King, she has more perspective and will learn from her experience of losing a dragon.
Yes, her dragon Viserion was killed by The Night King. Daenerys took her three dragons to save Jon Snow and his squad who were trapped by the White Walkers. I have to say, prior to Daenerys’ epic rescue, the last stand that was made by the squad was brilliant. Seeing wave after wave of White Walkers come at our heroes was so nerve-wracking because the situation seemed so hopeless. I knew Daenerys would arrive to come to their rescue but I did not know if everyone would survive by the time she arrived. As I previously said, I am thankful that they all did and seeing the dragons save the day was awesome. The visual spectacle mixed with the incredible music composed by Ramin Djawadi left me punching the air with joy.
An Undead Dragon
Still, the death of Viserion was more impactful than any human death that could have occurred in this episode of Game of Thrones. This is because he now serves The Night King. We have a White Walker Dragon!!! This changes everything and heightens the threat of the White Walkers to a much larger degree than before. I feel that this is all going to come to a head in the finale of Season 7. We also saw Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle) sacrifice his life to save Jon Snow at the end of ‘Beyond the Wall’. While I would have loved to see their long-awaited reunion be a bit longer, it was still emotionally satisfying enough for me.
Another aspect of ‘Beyond the Wall’ that has been criticised is the time jumps. As I have mentioned in my previous reviews of Season 7 of Game of Thrones, the time jumps do not bother me. What is minutes for us could be days or even weeks in Westeros and I do not understand some fans’ problems with this. I mean, do they really want episodes that just show marching or Daenerys flying her dragons over Westeros. We are reaching the end of this television series. We do not have the time for that sort of fluff.
It would not give the momentum we need to push the story forward. Plus, we have no problem that the Lord of the Rings Trilogy tells a story spanning thirteen months in nine hours. Nor do we have a problem that the Original Star Wars Trilogy tells a story spanning four years in six hours! All I am asking is that people be consistent in their arguments. We have had six seasons of Game of Thrones to get us to a stage where momentum and pacing are key and I am so pleased that Season 7 is getting us where we need to be in a concise, fast-paced manner.
Stubborn Expectations Are The Problem
In the end, I feel as though the problems that some fans of Game of Thrones have had with elements of Season 7, and ‘Beyond the Wall’ in particular, are down to expectations. We build up our expectations and what we feel should happen in an episode or season of Game of Thrones so high that when our predictions/wishes do not come true, we get too disappointed. This is regardless of how great the events that actually transpired were. Over time, I feel as though ‘Beyond the Wall’, which I already love, will be much more appreciated by the fans. For me, it continued the great blend of character moments, spectacle and pacing we have seen so far in Season 7. Moreover, it has led to us to the final episode of this season of Game of Thrones which I am dying to see.