(Sorry this is so late: I’m at a cottage with no internet.)
So here’s the action extravaganza I was expecting last episode. The bulk of this one is the Strike Team on its mission to range “North of the Wall” and kidnap a wight, with a few flicks back to goings on south of the wall, at Winterfell and Dragonstone. If you can stop worrying about travel times and distances and such (how far are they from the wall? How long would it take a raven to get to Dragonstone? Etc.), and I think you should, you’ll find this to be among the top action episodes of the show. A lot of shit happens, that’s for sure.
Early on we get a few scenes of dialogue between different members of the Strike Team: Tormund and The Hound, Jon and Jorah, etc. Certainly the Hound and Tormund were on fire. Jon offers Longclaw to Jorah (it was originally the Mormont ancestral sword), but Jorah says it belongs with Jon.
In Winterfell, Arya tells her sister she has the scroll Sansa sent to Robb (that could potentially be interpreted as evidence of her collaborating with the Lannisters). Sansa is concerned and turns to Littlefinger for advice; he suggests getting Brienne involved, as she is sworn to protect both Arya and Sansa. Rather than use Brienne to protect herself from her sister, when Sansa gets a summons to King’s Landing to meet with Cersei, she sends Brienne. Confident! Slightly menacing!
There’s a curious scene with Dany and Tyrion where they also mention the meeting with Cersei. Dany notes that Cersei will be setting a trap for them, and asks what trap they are setting for her. Tyrion doesn’t go as far as to deny they have a trap lined up, but he does urge Dany to rule via other means than deceit and war. Open to suggestions here, buddy! He brings up the problem of succession. Dany is (believed to be) infertile, but Tyrion mentions the Night’s Watch and the Ironborn, groups that select leaders via democratic systems.
Back to the main plot. After an undead bear mauls Thoros, the group finds a scouting party of a dozen wights led by a White Walker, and attack them. When Jon shatters the Walker, all of the wights drop except one, and they succeed in bagging it – but its heavily sound designed cries alert the main Army of the Dead, which comes knockin’. Jon sends Gendry running back to Eastwatch to send a raven to Dany for help, triggering a last-minute-rescue storyline, but before you know it, Jon and the gang are stuck on a minuscule island, completely surrounded by thousands of wights, with only a rapidly freezing-over lake to keep them from danger.
Time passes. Dany gets the message and leaves. Thoros dies in the night. Finally the lake freezes over, the wights charge, and things look bad for Strike Team Wight until – you guessed it – Dany and her dragons come to the rescue. But the White Walkers are ready for them: the Night King lets a huge ice lance fly and downs Viserion, while all except Jon escape on Drogon. Jon falls through the ice fighting off wights, but manages to get out and escapes with the help of Benjen “Coldhands” Stark.
In the aftermath, Jon and Dany don’t quite french, but they do hold hands(!). Dany swears to help with the fight against the Night King, and Jon bends the knee (figuratively). The coda shows wights hauling Viserion out of the water – and the Night King walker-ifies him.
Heroes last-standing it against an army of zombies, last-minute rescues, dragons torching shit: yeah, this season is in full action movie mode. As I mentioned last week, these episodes are packed so densely that clearly Dan & Dan are choosing to drop some of the more prosaic scenes – with the downside that certain barely-set-up plot events can strain credulity just a touch. In this ep, one can’t help try to make sense of the geography involved. How long would it take for Gendry to run back to the wall, for a raven to fly to Dragonstone, and for dragons to fly back? It’s a moot point; we don’t know how long our heroes were out on that rock, any more than we know how fast dragons can fly. Also, it’s more fun enjoying the ride than it is playing amateur fantasy geographer. This show is like nothing else on TV right now, or ever, in terms of scale, spectacle and budget, and if it seems different from previous seasons, remember we’re at hour 66: certainly we are in the climax of the 73-hour story, so a faster pace is warranted. But I suppose it feels a bit weird nonetheless, as if the final season of I Claudius turned into Hard Target.
First world problems.
- I have this funny feeling that the battle of the ice lake is taken from the books. Or rather, from Martin’s notes.
- So now we know how the Army of the Dead is getting over/through the wall, yeah? If that thing breathes fire, it can blow a hole in the wall. Or, the Night King could fly over it, and start a new army on the other side.
- If Tyrion does have a plan other than “trust the sister he knows not to trust”, and I would hope he does: what is it? Did his conversation with Jaime have an off-screen component we have not yet been privy to?
- That Winterfell storyline though. I think we all wanted Arya to be more hero and less anti-. Same goes for Sansa. My hunch is it doesn’t come to blows and this whole storyline has been a fake out, a way to keep a number of characters busy while more important plots were playing out, but I‘ve given up trying to guess how it gets to its end.
- Dany & Jon are obvs gonna hook up… next ep perhaps? And she is so totally getting knocked up.