We’re here already. The dreaded penultimate episode of Game of Thrones. The episode in which shit tends to go down and boy did it go down. It’s the longest episode the show has ever done and, while nuance may make way for spectacle, it was one hell of a ride.
Alan Taylor did a great job in making sense of a preposterous idea.
First of all, massive credit has to go to director Alan Taylor, who managed to take a ridiculous plot and not only make it plausible, but fun and suspenseful. This episode really could have gone to shit. It’s still mind bending in parts, but it definitely bent without breaking.
We begin beyond the wall, of course, with some beautiful shots of Iceland as our seven heroes and the fellas they have brought with them just to die are on their merry way. Probably should have brought horses, thinking about it. It’s not only about pretty landscapes though, as the start of the episode is full of satisfying conversations we’ve all waited years to hear.
Tormund, who jostles with The Hound as the donny of this episode, enjoys the Northern air and jokes with Gendry about shagging him. You do have to keep warm after all. Though I must say, they’re really beating us over the head with the “how many people died for his pride stuff”, since we’ve now heard three different characters essentially say the same thing. We get it!
Gendry is whining about being sold off though Sandor likes the sound of it. Then the big dog tells him to get on with it and stop bitching. I love how Thoros is still on the booze, with frost in his beard.
The next conversation we get is potentially the best, as both characters act exactly as we expect them to do. Jon tells Jorah that they avenged Jeor’s death, Jorah tells Jon about how Ned wanted to execute him and then Jon offers Jorah back his family sword – Longclaw. Jorah refuses, as we all expected, and it’s all just very heart warming. The idea that Jon may one day have children to pass it on to clearly rocks him a bit. I do secretly hope that after Jon offered the sword he was really hoping Jorah wouldn’t accept, because who wants to be giving away the only thing that can kill the scary ice people, eh?
Back in Winterfell Arya is being a bitch. My apologies, but she’s driving me absolutely mental. She tells a nice story about learning how to shoot arrows as her father watches on and then starts going in on Sansa once again, this time for sending the letter she found. She conveniently forgets that Sansa was crying, pleading and had to be held back when Joffrey ordered the execution and calls her for betraying her family. Arya does make a good argument when she compares Sansa to Lyanna Mormount, but I remain team Sansa. Everything she said in her defence was spot on and it’s killing me seeing what’s unfolding. Especially when it seems so unfathomable. Have they ruined Arya or was she destined to be this way?
My hope is fading but it flickers still, potentially a show for LF???
Tormund goes over to Sandor who immediately tells him to fuck off. “It’s gingers I hate” is the first of several hilarious lines from The Hound. Tormund learns new terms for dicks and then we get to see the heartwarming verbalisation of Tormund’s love for Brienne. He speaks of his desires to make monster babies and then clocks on that The Hound knows her. “How did a mad fucker like you survive this long?” “I’m good at killing people.” Need I say more?
Another great conversation comes between Jon and Beric, the resurrected renegades of the group. They try to get a grip of why they’ve been brought back and Beric has a really eloquent, poetic speech about death being the enemy, and we always have to fight it. Maybe it’s Richard Dormer’s captivating delivery, but I really enjoyed this philosophical chat and it was nice to see Jon come to terms at least with why he’s here.
On Dragonstone Tyrion and Dani chat. She says she likes Tyrion because he isn’t a hero – which is surprising considering her actions later. They discuss Cersei and her wicked intentions, which just continues to make their plan seem more stupid. We’re treated to yet more discussion on Dani breaking the wheel and being a different ruler, really hammering the point home. Tyrion says that Dani has been known to lose her temper… has she? Big talk from Ty about anticipating his enemy’s actions falls flat as he has done the exact opposite of late, but it all leads to an interesting discussion on who her heir will be. It’s interesting as Tyrion is trying to describe democracy when it’s a concept that doesn’t really exist, but I maintain that this will be how the story ends. On an aside though, Tyrion is a little boring these days, isn’t he? He just isn’t quite the same when he isn’t swimming in a pond of sharks trying to scheme his way out.
THERE’S AN UNDEAD BEAR IN A BLIZZARD.
The big fucker comes at them and munches on the nobodies. Thoros and Beric’s swords are quite literally lit. The action is a little hard to follow as it’s dark, snowy and shaky, but the brutality is still pretty obvious. The undead bear is SET ON FIRE but keeps going. This naturally scares Sandor as he watches Thoros getting eaten. Jorah finally manages to puts it down with his dragonglass daggers. With a swig of Rum and fire to the midriff Thoros lives on. It’s a funny old life for Thoros, but what was the point in keeping him alive here only to die later on? Also, it was nice of them to plant the seeds of any creature being able to be brought back here.
Sansa obviously didn’t catch Walken’s words about the copies of raven letters despite her being the one who instigated the line of thought. We saw Sansa say earlier in the season that she knows what Littlefinger wants, so surely she isn’t falling for his games? Sansa further shows she’s true blue as she only cares about keeping the army for Jon. Littlefinger insinuates that Sansa should get Brienne to kill Arya AND WHAT IS GOING ON?
Jorah and Thoros reminisce over the siege of Pyke and the drunk priest shows that you should never meet your heroes, kids. Jorah thought he was the bravest man he’d ever seen, when in fact he was just the drunkest. (I am glad Thoros lived just for this conversation if nothing else.)
They see a small squad of Whytes lead by a single Walker underneath them. Very convenient. They’re checking out a fire and I’m unsure if this was lit by Benjen, but why does he need to keep warm? Or if it was a trap laid by our heroes, but then that doesn’t really explain why the squad was on it’s own in the first place. Jon kills the Walker thanks to his sword that sounds like an aeroplane, which ends the warg spell on the Whytes. Simultaneously showing us how the battle will finally be won and perhaps hinting that Bran is the Night King, as it’s now clear the Whytes are controlled through warging. At least it is to me! Luckily for them lot one is left alive and that’s the one they take. Tormund decks it and as they capture the Whyte as it screams for help.
It’s somehow established that Gendry is the fastest and he is sent back to run to Eastwatch, without weapons, food, shelter, anything. Somehow the fella who has never seen snow before is going to remember the whole way back all on his own. The remaining lads run into the middle of a frozen lake, which is somehow not cold enough to be frozen solid, and are saved by a ring of water that stops the whites from advancing further. Which does lead to a very cool and striking set up.
Gendry gets back to the wall VERY quickly, it’s implied with in a night – despite them marching for at least a day and half. I can only assume all that rowing built up his cardio.
The Hound kicks the whyte in utter contempt, which I adored. Thoros died during the night – a sad end for a fun character. Tormund acts as though he hasn’t seen them wield fire swords twice already and is somehow surprised when Beric lights his sword. In fact, they should probably have used it to warm themselves with. Beric suggests killing the Night King, which can be so easily done, apparently – though I think Jon takes his words to heart, as we see later.
Sansa gets an invitation to King’s Landing and sends Brienne in her place and says she doesn’t need protecting. Is this to show Arya she isn’t afraid? To prevent Littlefinger from using Brienne to kill Arya? Who knows?
Dani is leaving for the North in a swag jacket. Tyrion protests in vain and Dani becomes the stupid hero, but this is the first time I’ve ever been proper on board with her. Seeing the dragons next to Tyrion was a mad shot.
In boredom or disdain Sandor throws a rock at a whyte and breaks its jaw, then calling it a “dumb cunt”. He throws another and as it slides to his feet on the freshly frozen ice, the dumb cunt clocks on and it begins.
They descend upon them. The Hound kicks things off and the violin music for this is brilliant. Something really unique fitting the harsh, sharp combat perfectly. The Whytes are trying to get the hostage, but our lads fight them off. In the action one of the nobodies is literally swinging his spear at nothing and it’s hilarious. Seek out the gif. Said nobody is punished for his foolery and is engulfed.
Peril sinks in as it appears that Tormund’s time is coming to an end. He’s swamped upon and dragged towards the freezing water. I’m sat at the end of my seat expecting for our ginger giant to die. Without ever making his monster babies. One of the biggest badasses Westeros has ever seen reduced to begging for help. His scream is haunting. He’s going to d… NO! Sandor saves him and I need a stiff drink. The last nobody falls off the ridge and is ripped apart very Walking Dead style
The sad music plays and it appears that our heroes have met their doom but then… MOTHERFUCKING DRAGONS. They appear in an extravaganza of flame and the three siblings reak burning havoc from above. The music is incredible. The emotion is tear worthy.
Jon fights off Whytes as everyone climbs aboard. Then the Night King is given a spear. Oh fuck. Inky dread runs along our spines. He takes aim, somehow ignores the prone and grounded Drogon who is carrying all our heroes, and shoots Viserion out of the sky. The blood explodes like lava from a volcano as the dragon smashes into the ice. Drogon screams for his brother, Rhaegal does a runner and everyone looks on in shock. Viserion, limp and lifeless, slips into the freezing, murky depths. It is heartbreaking. It has pissed Jon right off who stares down the Night King and seems like he’s gonna take him on there and then. The Squidward looking bastard picks up ANOTHER SPEAR GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO.
Whytes tackle Jon into the freezing waters and Dani takes off. Earlier The Hound threw away Gendry’s hammer and I think it’s lost! Drogon’s learned about flying projectiles and he swirls to avoid the deathly ice javelin. Nearly costing Jorah his life, which would have been ironic – dying while trying to ride a dragon.
Jon surfaces. Any normal man would have drowned, any normal man would have frozen to death. Can Jon no longer die? Is the Lord of Light propping him up until he is no longer needed? Shivering and trembling Jon struggles to hold up his sword as the Whytes come forth. They charge towards him but here comes BENJEN STARK. Benjen inexplicably doesn’t get on the horse with Jon, who has been saved by both his aunt and uncle in quick succession. He used himself, I guess, as distraction for the Whytes (but that doesn’t really make sense as they’re not brain eating zombies) and in swirling ball of fire he is ripped apart. And now his watch has ended. I thought for certain Rhaegal was going to be the one who saved Jon, but it was smart of him to get the hell out of dodge.
Back at Eastwatch The Hound is taking the whyte to a ship, he nods farewell to Tormund and tells Beric he hopes they never meet again. Little wonder why. It’s a shame we don’t get to see any talk with Davos, Gendry and the like when they arrive – like Davos reacting to Jon’s presumed demise, but what can we do? Dani says she wants to stay a bit longer and literally waits two seconds before starting to leave. But Jono returns.
He’s put into bed and Dani sees his scars – and now she knows.
Sansa sneaks into Arya’s room and finds her bag of poorly rendered faces. Arya plays the game of faces but Sansa is a spoil sport. Arya acts generally creepy and scary once again and seems as though she’s about to kill Sansa, but then gives her the dagger. So… are there either multiple layers, schemes and trickery at work here or should we take everything at face value. Are the girls actually working together knowing Littlefinger will hear what’s going on? Is Arya working on her own to expose Baelish? Is Bran helping? Who knows, but if this is just Arya being quite horrible and a little dumb then it is disappointing. It makes me wonder if they ruined Arya’s character or if she was always destined to turn out like this? We all cheered when the rugged, badass, little girl walked on her own path and began getting her revenge – but if this is the end result, a cold, paranoid, blood thirsty, creepy person, should we have been? Perhaps she should have followed Nymeria’s lead, she was too wild for civilisation and so is Arya.
Jon awakes with Dani sitting over him and thus begins the best scene of the episode. Full credit has to go to Emilia Clarke here. She’s been ropey in the past, but this year she’s been excellent, with this being some of her best work. She sells the complexities of a grieving mother, raging Targaryen and humbled ruler rather well, which helps charge the scene with emotion. Jon shows again how selfless he as the first thing he says when he awakes is that he is sorry. Dani says that she had to see it to know, and this is great because it works not only about the army of the dead but Jon himself. She’s heard how selfless Jon is, but now she’s seen it. Seen him make sure everyone else was safe before leaving himself, seen the knives he took to the heart. All series she’s been very “me me me” and now she’s been humbled by a man who puts everyone before himself. It’s telling that the moment she no longer asks for him to bend the knee Jon does so on his own accord. Pure Nanny McPhee. She says that she “hopes she deserves it” and, to be fair, she did not hesitate to do the heroic thing. I do wonder how the Northern lords are going to react, but if they moan about having secured an alliance with a dragon queen then they can get fucked. A sublime scene.
The breaker of chains’ child is in chains. Viserion is dragged out of the depths and the Night King brings him back. DUH DUH DUH. This brings up an interesting debate as to whether the Night King actually laid this as a trap. We know he’s a green sier, so he can see future events. Is the reason the army of the dead have been waiting so long because the Night King was waiting to add the final, ultimate weapon to his arsenal? Which also leads into an even more interesting debate: is Bran the Night King? They’ve purposely made the Night King’s nose bigger and aligned other facial features to look more like Bran. They’re both green siers, wargs and have an obvious connection. Either way, I’m 100% certain we’re going to see them wage war over Viserion and Bran will fly.
So yeah, a great episode with a lot of heart, emotion and significance. The path to these amazing moments may no longer be as delicately pruned like years gone by but, really, who gives a fuck?