(LOS ANGELES) — (SPOILERS AHEAD) Last we left Game of Thrones, Jon Snow, The Hound, Ser Jorah Mormont, the wildling leader Tormund, the Lord of Light-worshipping Beric and Robert Baratheon’s bastard, Gendry, launched an expedition beyond the Wall to capture a White Walker. In this week’s episode, fitfully titled “Beyond the Wall,” we find out how that terrifying mission turned out. But first, we have some business to take care of at Winterfell and Dragonstone.
Arya and Sansa reminisce about their childhood and their father, Ned Stark. However, the nice conversation between the two Stark sisters ends abruptly when Arya reveals she’s discovered the letter that Sansa wrote back in season one asking her family to pledge loyalty to King Joffrey. She accuses Sansa of helping the Lannisters kill their father. Sansa does not take kindly to Arya’s accusations, and tells her that she should be thanking her. After all, it was Sansa who recruited the Army of the Vale to help Jon defeat Ramsay Bolton in the Battle of the Bastards. Arya’s not one to stand down, and she further accuses Sansa of fearing that the Northern Lords might read the letter and abandon her.
Sansa is indeed worried about that, which she expresses to Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger. Petyr says that Arya would not betray Sansa, but she’s not so sure. Maybe Brienne could help, Littlefinger suggests, as she’s sworn to protect both Stark girls.
It turns out, Sansa has a different mission for Brienne. After receiving a raven inviting her to King’s Landing, Sansa tells Brienne that she will go in her stead. Brienne’s not thrilled with this idea, as she doesn’t think it’s safe to leave Sansa alone with the ever-conniving Littlefinger. Frustrated, Sansa says she does not need anyone to watch over her, and orders Brienne to begin her long journey to King’s Landing.
Later, Sansa sneaks into Arya’s room and finds her collection of faces just as her little sister arrives. “What are these?” a bewildered Sansa asks. “My faces,” Arya replies. Oh, OK. Arya reveals that she trained at the House of Black and White in Braavos to become a faceless assassin, and that she would have to play a game where she would have to disguise a lie as truth. “How do you feel about Jon being King?” Arya asks.
Sansa doesn’t answer the question, as she’s still, understandably, confused by the whole “my little sister has a literal bag of faces” thing. Arya then explains her abilities as a faceless assassin, and that she could even take Sansa’s face and become her. As she’s talking, Arya continually walks towards a completely confused and terrified Sansa while holding the Valyrian steel dagger Bran gave her. When she reaches her sister, Arya turns the knife around and gives it to Sansa, and then leaves the room.
As Jon leads his expedition north of the Wall, Daenerys and Tyrion talk in Dragonstone. She tells Tyrion that she likes him because he’s not heroic, which he doesn’t exactly take as a compliment. “Heroes do stupid things and they die,” Dany clarifies, listing off all the men in her life who’ve left to do “heroic” things.
Tyrion finds it interesting that the men she listed, including Jorah, Khal Drogo, and one Jon Snow, all fell in love with her. Dany doesn’t think the King in the North has any feelings for her and besides, she says, “He’s too little for me.” Ooh…dragon fire burn!
The two discuss their prospective meeting with Cersei. Tyrion warns Dany that Cersei almost certainly will say something provocative, and he doesn’t want the Mother of Dragons to lose her temper — like she did when she burned the Tarlys to death. Tyrion then moves onto an even more sensitive subject: Dany’s supposed infertility. He says he believes in Dany, but is worried about how her vision of “breaking the wheel” will continue once she’s dead. Dany, clearly upset, tells Tyrion that they will discuss succession after she’s taken the Iron Throne.
Beyond the Wall
The majority of the episode takes place beyond the Wall, where Jon and the rest of the Westerosi Avengers lead their White Walker-capturing expedition. The road is long, which gives our heroes some time to explore their shared histories. Gendry is still mad at the Brotherhood Without Banners for selling him to Melisandre, Tormund confesses to the Hound his love for Brienne, and Jon and Beric talk about their shared history of resurrection.
Jon and Jorah also talk about their fathers, and Jon reveals that Jorah’s dad, the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, gave him their family sword, Longclaw, which should have gone to Jorah. But Jorah tells Jon to keep it, because he brought shame to his family, and suggests Jon give it to his children.
As the expedition continues, the team is attacked by a bear — a blue-eyed zombie bear, to be specific. Beric and Thoros use the Lord of Light’s power to light their swords on fire. They take down the bear, no thanks to the Hound, who’s still afraid of fire due to his childhood incident. Thoros is badly injured, but Beric uses his flaming sword to cauterize his companion’s wounds.
After that ordeal, Jon and Tormund spot a contingent of White Walkers and attack. When they take down the lead Walker, most of the rest immediately disintegrate, but one remains. The team takes it captive, but their victory is short-lived.
An army of White Walkers start closing in, and Jon tells Gendry to run back to Eastwatch and send a raven to Dany telling him what they’re up against. As the Army of the Dead approaches, our heroes are literally on thin ice: they’re stranded on a big rock in the middle of a semi-frozen lake. As the White Walkers begin their attack, the first wave of zombies falls through the ice, putting a temporary stop to their advance.
Stranded on the rock, Jon and everyone mull their options. Thoros succumbs to the cold and his injuries, and they burn his body using Beric’s fire sword so he won’t be turned into a White Walker too.
Meanwhile, raven service is pretty speedy in Westeros: Dany has received the message and is about to embark on operation Dragon Rescue. Tyrion strongly opposes this idea, and says that sometimes the hardest thing to do is to do nothing, but Dany’s not having any of that. She and all three of her dragons fly north to save Jon and his team.
Back beyond the Wall, the White Walkers realize the ice has now frozen over again and they resume their attack. An intense battle rages; Tormund is almost taken down, but the Hound saves him. Still, they can’t fight off the onslaught of zombies. The situation looks hopeless but then we hear a mighty roar.
Dany and the dragons arrive and rain down fire upon the White Walkers, and the Night King is pretty upset. He throws a magical ice spear-javelin at Viserion, one of the smaller dragons. He falls to the ground gushing blood, and his mother looks on, stunned, as he falls through the ice and sinks into the water.
Dany doesn’t have much time to grieve for her son, though: the Night King readies another spear, and Jon yells at the rest of his companions to flee. Everyone but Jon piles onto Drogon with Dany and they fly away, as Jon continues fighting, and falls through the ice.
But as Jaime proved last episode, it’s hard to drown in Game of Thrones. Jon hauls himself out of the frigid water and tries to catch his breath, but the White Walkers attack again. But wouldn’t you know it — a mysterious figure riding a horse and swinging a fiery weapon saves Jon’s skin. It’s his uncle, Benjen Stark, who everyone thought had been lost beyond the wall. We saw him last season helping Bran and Meera, and explaining that he’s stuck in limbo between being human and being a White Walker.
Benjen puts Jon on his horse, sends him off to Eastwatch, and then succumbs to the swarming horde of White Walkers. Dany is thrilled to see Jon arrive at the gates, and everyone prepares to take the captured wight to King’s Landing to show Cersei that the threat is real.
On the boat headed south, Jon wakes up to find Dany watching over him. “I’m sorry,” is the first things he says. He takes her hand, and says he wishes he’d never gone beyond the Wall. “I don’t,” she replies. “Now I know.” She tearfully tells Jon that the dragons are her children — “The only children I’ll ever have” — and vows that she and Jon will destroy the Night King together.
“Thank you, Dany,” Jon says, using a nickname that nobody has called her in a long time. When she expresses surprise, he says, “All right. Not Dany. How about ‘My Queen?'” The King of the North then said he’d bend the knee right there, if he wasn’t bedridden with injuries. The two look deep into each others eyes, and then Dany leaves to let Jon to get some rest. Yes, we know you want to ship them, but remember: she’s his aunt.
While the rest of us are wiping icy and fiery tears from our cheeks, the Army of the Dead is not moved. They’re busy using massive chains to drag the dearly departed dragon Viserion’s corpse out of the water. The Night King touches its snout, and its eye opens. It’s blue. Uh oh.
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