In the ‘Game of Thrones’ recap, Jon and his followers face death north of the Wall, Sansa finds out what Arya has been doing and Daenerys refuses to do nothing…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
It’s tough to remember at times amidst the constant battles between families and foes all clamoring for a seat on the Iron Throne that ‘Game of Thrones’ has long been a show heading towards one great war.
The living versus the dead.
Go back to the very first scene in the debut episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ when several members of the Night’s Watch were slaughtered by the White Walkers and one man got away only to resurface in the North before he was beheaded by Ned Stark for deserting his post.
From that moment going forward, ‘Game of Thrones’ has always been hurdling towards this end point but now the war is truly about to begin as more than just Jon Snow and a few of his followers know that the army of the dead is real and they won’t stop until all life has been snuffed out.
The Night King — a weapon created by the Children of the Forest in an effort to stop mankind from invading Westeros — has built his army for more than a thousand years in preparation for what we are witnessing right now. Ever since his defeat in the Long Night — the last time the White Walkers invaded — the Night King has been plotting for another run at conquering the world. He may not speak, but his actions are as loud as anything he could ever say.
The Night King was born to infect the living with death…and he won’t stop until that mission is accomplished.
Judging by the latest episode, the Night King will be riding into Westeros with a horde of undead soldiers, several zombie giants, a pack of White Walkers as his generals and one very powerful, fire breathing dragon that will follow his every command. The Night King killing Viserion this week not only gave him the most powerful weapon he’s ever possessed, but it also granted him the ability to bring down the one barrier that’s protected the realm of men ever since the Long Night ended.
With dragon fire at his back, the Night King could finally bring the Wall crumbling down.
With that said, let’s recap the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ titled ‘Beyond the Wall’…
The Hunt for the Dead
Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow leads his pack of followers to capture one member of the army of the dead to bring back with him to King’s Landing to convince all the warring factions that the greater threat lies to the north.
Admittedly, Jon’s plan — which was originally orchestrated by Tyrion Lannister — wasn’t the smartest idea in the world but seeing is believing and perhaps even Cersei Lannister would be hard pressed to ignore the problem if an zombie soldier was charging at her with death in its eyes.
On the long walk to find the army of the dead, several conversations take place between the people making up the hunting party.
Perhaps the best was Tormund Giantsbane professing his love for Brienne of Tarth and telling ‘The Hound’ how he intends to have babies with her one day…assuming he ever makes it back to Winterfell.
“I want to make babies with her. Think of them. Great big monsters. They’d conquer the world”
~ Tormund Giantsbane
Meanwhile, Gendry is still lamenting about the Brotherhood without Banners selling him off to Melisandre for a bag of gold when he wanted nothing more than to be one of them. ‘The Hound’ is quick to cut off his bitching after reminding him that he didn’t actually die while Beric Dondarrion has danced with the grim reaper on six occasions and he’s not whining at all.
At one point on the journey, Jon Snow stops to offer his sword Longclaw to Jorah Mormont, who would have been the rightful heir to receive the weapon if he wasn’t disowned by his family after being caught selling slaves. Jorah tells Jon as much as he wishes he could have made things right with his father before he was cut down, Jeor Mormont was a good man and he chose the person he wanted to have the sword.
Beric also happens to mention how Jon doesn’t really look like his father Ned — for obvious reasons — and then reminds us that he once served Lord Stark in King’s Landing. Going all the way back to season one, Beric was sent on a mission to capture ‘The Mountain’ Gregor Clegane after Ned Stark, acting as Hand of the King, stripped him of all his lands and titles and ordered him to return to King’s Landing to stand trial for murder. Obviously, Beric didn’t get the job done and he’s died several times since then as well.
Beric also explains to Jon why this mission is so important even though technically it’s a losing battle.
“Death is the enemy. The first enemy and the last. The enemy always wins and we still need to fight him.”
~ Beric Dondarrion
And finally, Jon converses with his old friend Tormund about the weight of the world currently laying upon his shoulders. Not only does Jon have to capture a wight and bring it back with him to the King’s Landing, but he still needs to find a way to convince Daenerys Targaryen to join the battle without bending the knee.
That’s when Tormund reminds Jon of a speech he once gave Mance Rayder when he had the chance to bend the knee to save his people but refused and now the majority of them occupy spots amongst the army of the dead.
“Mance Rayder was a great man, a proud man, the King-Beyond-the-Wall who never bent the knee. How many of his people died for his pride?”
~ Tormund Giantsbane
By the end of the episode, Jon’s decision on whether or not to bend the knee will be made, but it’s unclear what kind of a kingdom he’ll come home to when returning to the North.
Scared Little Girls
Back at Winterfell, Arya is looking out into the courtyard while remembering one of her favorite stories about her father, Ned. Arya was never meant to be a proper lady and despite all conventions saying that she was high born child that would one day be married off to a lord from another castle, even Ned knew his daughter was walking a different path.
That’s why he stood and watched her with a smile on his face as Arya shot a bow and arrow late one night with no one around and kept at it until she finally hit the bullseye. Ned’s applause let Arya know that her father believed in her to be whatever she wanted to be. Arya always had a special relationship with her father but he’s gone and never coming back thanks to the Lannister’s beheading him in King’s Landing all those years ago.
Arya’s memory leads to confrontation with Sansa over the letter she found last week tucked deep inside Littlefinger’s bed. Of course, Littlefinger meant for her to find it because he wants to cause a rift between the Stark sisters as it’s the only way he’ll weasel his way back into Sansa’s inner circle.
But this is no laughing matter as Arya is clearly angry that her sister would write such a letter asking her brother Robb to bend the knee after claiming Ned was a traitor for trying to steal her beloved Joffrey’s throne. Sansa claims that she was just a child at the time, but Arya promises in the same situation she would have more or less spit in Cersei’s face rather than write that letter.
The argument aside, Sansa is now more concerned about what Arya might do with that letter considering the damning evidence that it contains. Coerced or not, Sansa wrote a letter declaring that her father was a traitor and her brother should bend the knee to the man who killed him.
That wouldn’t sit well with the Lord of the North who have put their faith and trust in the new Lady Stark.
“You’re scared aren’t you? What are you scared of? You didn’t commit any crimes. No one’s going to hang you. You scared I’ll show it to Jon and he’ll be angry? No. That’s not Jon. He’ll understand. You were just a scared little girl all alone with the wicked Lannisters. You’re scared the Northern Lords will read it. They wouldn’t think much of Lady Sansa if they knew how she did Cersei’s bidding. What would little Lyanna Mormont say? She’s younger than you were when you wrote this. Are you going to say but I was just a child?”
~ Arya Stark
Arya’s anger with Sansa forces the elder Stark sibling to then reach out to Littlefinger — just like what he wanted — to express her concerns over what her sister might do with this information. Don’t forget Baelish’s words to Sansa at the end of last season that his only dream was to sit on the Iron Throne with her beside him. That dream can still become a reality if Sansa becomes Queen in the North and he becomes her third husband.
Littlefinger then reminds Sansa that Brienne of Tarth has sworn to protect both of the Stark girls, which means she could potentially stop the two of them from fighting it out over this letter. Of course there’s also the alternative — sending Brienne away so she can’t stop Sansa from dealing with her treacherous sister.
And that’s exactly what she does.
When a letter arrives to invite the Lady of Winterfell to King’s Landing for a meeting with Cersei and Daenerys, Sansa declines but decides to send Brienne in her place. Sansa says she’ll never set foot in King’s Landing again so long as Cersei is queen, but Brienne will be safe considering her relationship with Jamie Lannister.
Perhaps more importantly with Brienne out of the way, Littlefinger might be able to help Sansa deal with her sister on a more permanent level.
The Line of Succession
A big part of the discussion on ‘Game of Thrones’ over the past seven seasons has been the line of succession when it comes to crowning a new king or queen.
Typically in Westeros history after Aegon I Targaryen conquered the Seven Kingdoms, the throne is passed from king to eldest son and that sounds simple enough. Of course not all kings end up with sons and some end up with more than a few bastards, which has resulted in wars and uprisings to try and take the Iron Throne from the natural born successor.
When Tommen Baratheon took his own life last season, there were dozens of articles online about who was actually the next in line to sit on the Iron Throne because by right it certainly wasn’t Cersei Lannister.
In Dragonstone this week, Daenerys sits down for a rather candid conversation with her Hand of the Queen Tyrion Lannister that evolves into a discussion about her successor.
The talk starts by Daenerys admitting frustration over Jon Snow running off to do heroic things just like all of the important men in her life had done before. Tyrion mentions how every man that has turned into a hero after meeting her also fell in love, but she plays it off by saying that Jon is far too short to serve as her lover.
The discussion then turns to the upcoming meeting between Daenerys and Cersei and how the current Queen of Westeros will probably do anything in her power to taunt her biggest rival into lashing out so the people will see her as a monster. Add to that, Cersei is capable of all sorts of treachery so there’s no telling what she’ll have up her sleeve when Daenerys finally steps foot in King’s Landing.
Of course at any moment during the meeting, Daenerys could unleash her armies and dragons to lay waste to King’s Landing, but ruling by fear is not the best way to rule at all. Daenerys then reminds Tyrion that her ancestor Aegon Targaryen conquered and ruled the Seven Kingdoms thanks to a healthy amount of fear from his enemies. Tyrion counters by pointing out that it was Aegon who built the wheel that eventually rolled over all of the common people that eventually led the world to where it’s at now. It was Daenerys who promised to break that wheel when she finally became queen.
And at the end, Tyrion then wonders if Daenerys does meet her demise, who would be the next in line to take her place. Daenerys claims she can no longer have children after her son with Khal Drogo died so that he could live (ever so briefly). Daenerys doesn’t seem to like the topic of conversation with Tyrion plotting for a future where she’s no longer around.
“We will discuss the succession after I wear the crown”
~ Daenerys Targaryen
It was a rather revealing conversation considering Daenerys and Tyrion have been at odds for much of this season with her plan to conquer the Iron Throne and his plans falling awry while losing Dorne and Highgarden to his family. Tyrion has made more than his fair share of misinformed decisions while being in charge under Daenerys’ rule — is it possible she’s already contemplating a new Hand of the Queen when she finally sits on the Iron Throne?
The Wights of Winter
As the trek beyond the Wall continues, the snow turns blinding and Jon’s party struggles to see what’s in front of them. At one point they spot a polar bear off in the distances, but it’s not until the great beast is upon them that they realize this isn’t just any animal hunting for food.
No, this is a polar bear who has been turned into a watchdog for the army of the dead.
The bear tears through several random men in the party before Beric Dondarrion lights his sword on fire and then sets the zombie beast ablaze. The sight of a giant deadly bear still roaring into the winter cold while on fire is enough to freeze ‘The Hound’ in his tracks. ‘The Hound’ doesn’t play well with fire and this is like a nightmare come true for him.
Thankfully, Thoros of Myr sacrifices himself to save Clegane as the bear mauls him nearly to death before someone remembers to stab the beast with a piece of dragonglass to finally stop it.
Beric uses his flaming sword to cauterize the wounds on Thoros and the group is back on the move, knowing that the army of the dead must be near.
Finally they happen upon a small band of wights being led by a White Walker and Tormund tells Jon that this is there best chance to capture one before an entire horde descends upon them. The group ambushes the White Walker and the wights — Jon slices through the White Walker with his Valyrian steel sword, which cause all of his dead men to turn back into a pile of bones except for one that is still moving.
The group captures the last remaining wight but not before it lets out a ghastly scream.
A moment later, tens of thousands of wights appear as they begin surrounding Jon and the others. With time running out to escape, Jon sends Gendry back to Eastwatch with a message to send to Daenerys asking for her help in rescuing them from certain death. Gendry gets away but he’s the last one to escape as Jon and the others are soon surrounded on all sides by the army of the dead.
Face to Face
Rather than allowing Arya to show her letter to the Northern Lords, she decides to do some snooping to retrieve the evidence before it can do her any harm. But instead of finding the letter, Sansa finds something else instead — a bag filled with blank faces.
A second later Arya appears from out of nowhere and proceeds to creep her sister out even more while explaining how she learned to take those faces as part of her training. Arya spent quite a lot of time learning how to be the perfect killer from the Faceless Men and now she’s ready to put those skills to use.
Throughout the conversation, Arya mentions without very much subtlety how she can assume anyone’s identity after taking their face — even her sister Sansa.
“With the faces I can choose. I can become someone else. Speak in their voice. Live in their skin. I could even become you.”
~ Arya to Sansa
Sansa is thoroughly frightened by this point as Arya comes closer while holding her Valyrian steel dagger in hand. But rather than claiming another life for the Many Faced God, Arya hands over the weapon to her sister and exits the room.
Arya has done a very good job of convincing Sansa that she’s a threat, but will that serve her purpose to keep her sister from taking the throne from Jon or will it push her elder sibling right into Littlefinger’s arms for protection. Judging by the way things unfolded this week, Sansa will be looking to Littlefinger to help take care of this Arya problem.
Thankfully, Arya can more than handle herself.
Death is Only the Beginning
Following a long run through the ice and cold, Gendry stumbles back to Eastwatch where he tells Davos to send a raven to Daenerys with a message of help from Jon Snow.
“There’s a raven flying for Dragonstone now. Daenerys is our only chance.”
~ Jon Snow
Back out in the wilderness, Jon and his comrades have attempted a few winks of sleep in between nightmares while the army of the dead just surrounds them without ever attacking. Jorah mentions how one key to ending this war could be targeting the White Walkers because when they killed the one with the small garrison the day before, almost all of the wights in his command just fell into bone and dust.
Jorah wonders if killing the Night King could be the easiest way to stop the dead considering he created all of them. Of course, getting to the Night King could be much easier said than done.
The morning also reveals that Thoros of Myr has expired — his wounds to deep to heal and the cold finally got to him overnight. It’s a sad moment for everybody, especially Beric, who was brought back to life six times by his friend and also for ‘The Hound’ because he knows he’d probably be dead right now if not for Thoros sacrificing himself.
Amidst the boredom of just standing and waiting for something to happen, ‘The Hound’ decides to throw a couple of rocks at the dead men standing at the edge of the circle surrounding them. The first knocks off a wight’s jaw and the second lands just at its feet.
At that moment, ‘The Hound’ realizes he’s made a grave error as his taunting has now unleashed the army to go after their prey.
At Dragonstone, Daenerys mounts Drogon as she prepares to leave for beyond the Wall to rescue Jon Snow and his hunting party despite a rather strenuous objection from Tyrion.
Tyrion: “If you die, we’re all lost. Everyone. Everything.”
Daenerys: “You told me to nothing before and I listened to you. I’m not doing nothing again.”
Back to the north, Jon and the others are battling the army of the dead while just trying to survive long enough in hopes that Daenerys is on her way to safe them. In the midst of the battle, Tormund is nearly dragged down by the wights but ‘The Hound’ repays the favor Thoros did for him and he saves his life.
With each swing of the sword, Jon or someone else cuts down a wight but then there are 10 more behind them. Just when it looks like they are going to be overwhelmed, Daenerys arrives on the back of Drogon along with reinforcements from her other dragons, Viserion and Rhaegal.
The dragons burn through the army of the dead in huge swaths as they are incinerated from the fire. Finally, Drogon lands to allow Jorah, Beric, ‘The Hound’ and Tormund to climb on his back along with the wight they captured so they can all fly back safely together. Unfortunately, Jon stays on the ground to fight off a few more dead men, but the most perilous attack is what happens next.
The Night King is handed a spear by one of his ‘generals’ and he aims in the air before unleashing the weapon into the sky. The spear cuts down Viserion directly through his neck as fire and blood spew out from the dragon as he crashes into the ice before falling into the lake below.
Daenerys is horrified to see one of her beloved children perish but the Night King’s weapon has Jon even more concerned when he sees another spear emerge from the White Walkers. He tells Daenerys to fly away to save herself just as the Night King’s spear misses the target. She looks down below as Jon fights for his life, perhaps looking upon him for the last time.
Just when it seems all is lost and Jon is about to be enveloped by the army of the dead, a flaming mace comes tearing through the wights. A hooded rider on horseback tears through the dead before uniting with Jon.
When the savior removes his hood, Benjen Stark aka Cold Hands is revealed.
It’s the first time Jon has laid eyes on his uncle since he went north of the Wall as a Ranger of the Night’s Watch but never returned again. The reunion is short lived, however, as Benjen puts Jon on the horse and sends him running off into the night while he stays behind to fight a few more dead men before he’s suffocated and torn apart by them. Benjen Stark swore to guard the realms of men and that’s exactly what he did until the moment he died.
Back at Eastwatch, Daenerys stands atop the Wall looking out into the cold, grey distance just waiting to see if Jon Snow somehow survived. There’s no timeline given but it would certainly seem like hours or even a day may have passed and Jorah has to tell her that it’s time to go.
A moment later a horn rings out as a horse approaches the gate — with Jon Snow on its back. Daenerys is relieved as the person she set out to save has finally returned to her.
On a ship bound for Dragonstone, Jon wakes up to find Daenerys by his bedside.
Jon passes along his deepest sympathies after watching Daenerys’ dragon Viserion cut down by the Night King. Daenerys says again that she’ll never have children — which only leads me to believe she will get pregnant before this series is over — and that her dragons are the kids she’ll never have. Still, Daenerys knows she had to save Jon and the others as well as see the army of the dead for herself.
Witnessing that horde of dead men all tearing through the living was enough to convince Daenerys that she needs to lend her support.
“We are going to destroy the Night King and his army and we will do it together. You have my word”
In response, Jon calls her ‘Dany’ for the first time, which she responds by remembering the last time she ever heard someone refer to her by that name. As best she can recollect, it was her brother Viserys — the namesake for her dragon Viserion — who called her Dany before selling her off to the Dothraki when he was attempting to take the Iron Throne for himself.
Of course, Jon doesn’t want to be associated with a sibling that Daenerys despised so he has another name in mind to call her instead.
Jon: “How about my Queen? I’d bend the knee but…
Daenerys: “What about those who swore allegiance to you?”
Jon: “They’ll come to see you for what you are.
Daenerys: “I hope I deserve it”
Jon: “You do”
Jon finally realized that Daenerys isn’t the queen because she has the name Targaryen and not because she has the army and dragons to win a war. Jon wants Daenerys to be his queen because he chose her much like Missandei explained a week ago when telling the King in the North why she follows her as well.
Jon finally found a ruler he can believe in and her name is Daenerys Targaryen.
And back beyond the Wall, the army of the dead have found giant chains — from where I don’t know — and they have attached it to the dragon that sank to the bottom of the lake after being killed by the Night King. They pull and drag the great beast out of its watery grave before laying it on the ice.
The Night King approaches, kneels down and puts his hand on Viserion’s head.
A moment later, Viserion’s eye opens up and it’s as blue as the ocean.
The Night King already had an army at his back that may have been unstoppable but now he has a weapon of mass destruction at his command. A dead dragon led by the Night King could not only burn his enemies, but there’s a good chance Viserion might be directing his (blue) flames at the Wall.
There may not be a more ominous sight in this world than the Night King riding on the back of a dead dragon spewing fire at all of his enemies….and that means anything and everything with a pulse.
The season finale of ‘Game of Thrones’ airs next Sunday night at 9pm ET on HBO.