Here is a link to an article I contributed to Winteriscoming.net. I have identified a theme throughout literature that I call the “Absent Mother.” I am particularly sensitive to it because my mother died when I was eight and her absence shaped my life. The Brienne post is the first in a series, and I’d love to hear what people think and if an absent mother has affected other people’s lives as it has mine.
I can’t believe the season finale is already upon us! In some ways it seems like not a lot happened, but maybe that’s just because everything happened so fast. And because Season 7 was setting the stage for the Great War in Season 8.
Grey Worm and the Unsullied are gathered outside the walls of King’s Landing. I guess they marched there since Euron destroyed their fleet. Bronn and Jaime are on top of the city’s walls preparing for a siege by directing the Lannister footsoldiers to gather boiling oil. What is Bronn still doing in King’s Landing? Jaime must not have told him that Cersei wanted him punished for setting up the secret meeting with Tyrion, so Bronn still thinks he’ll get his castle and his gold from the King’s Landing Lannisters.
The Dothraki come thundering over a ridge to join the Unsullied, and Bronn thinks Dany’s combined forces are a sign of imminent defeat for the Lannisters. While Bronn and Jaime contemplate their chances, the Dany contingent (minus Dany) sail toward King’s Landing. The Hound goes into the ship’s hold to make sure the captured wight has survived the journey. He kicks the crate holding the wight and the wight’s unearthly screeching confirms that it’s still “alive.” Imagine if they went through all that just to have the wight die in captivity.
Cersei wonders why Dany didn’t travel to King’s Landing with her other advisors. Because she’ll ride in on Drogon to show Cersei what’s up, that’s why. As she leaves for the summit in the dragon pit, Cersei tells the Mountain that if anything goes wrong, kill “the silver-haired bitch” first, then Tyrion, then Jon Snow. The rest he can kill at his discretion. I hope Drogon incinerates Cersei’s Frankenstein before he can carry out his orders. Jaime is uneasy as he listens to this exchange. Jaime has been uneasy all season long–in fact, he’s been uneasy since he saw Cersei crowned at the end of Season 6–what has to happen before he finally admits what she is and leaves her?
Everyone is trekking to the dragon pit. The two envoys meet at a crossing, Bronn leading Cersei’s people and Tyrion leading Dany’s. The Hound and Brienne are shocked to spot one another. At first I was shocked to see Brienne among Cersei’s contingent, but I guess that’s because she’s there in Sansa’s stead as Cersei’s invited “guest.”
Tyrion and Podrick greet each other (aww!), and Brienne approaches the Hound to say she was just trying to protect Arya (when she fought him and left him for dead). He tells her he was trying to do the same, and they tacitly bond over their mutual sense of responsibility for the younger Stark sister.
Tyrion reminds Bronn of his offer to pay him more than whoever is paying him now. Bronn declines, saying he’s doing just fine for himself. He explains that Cersei has promised a bag of gold to the person who brings her Tyrion’s head, and thanks to Bronn, that head just walked through the gates of King’s Landing. Of course Bronn won’t be the one to kill Tyrion–but Bronn-like, he’s just being a dick. Tyrion understands and appreciates Bronn’s Bronn-ness. He tells him it’s good to see him again, and Bronn says likewise. These two have always been an entertaining pair, so it’s good to see them together again, however briefly.
After escorting everyone into the dragon pit, Bronn calls Podrick aside and invites him to get a drink while the “fancy folk” talk. Oh, for the days of Tyrion, Bronn and Podrick lounging around the Master of Coin’s chambers in the Red Keep, swilling wine and bedding whores! Good times.
As Cersei’s inner circle enters the dragon pit, the Hound confronts the Mountain. He warns the Mountain that “he knows who’s coming for him” and Cleganebowl appears on the horizon. Cersei is annoyed that Dany is not there. Cue Drogon and another of Dany’s grand entrances. No matter how many times they’ve done this, it still hasn’t lost its impact. But seeing only two dragons is heartbreaking.
Cersei says through gritted teeth, “We’ve been here for some time.” Dany offers a perfunctory apology, and the summit commences. Tyrion begins to explain the purpose of the meeting but Euron interrupts him almost immediately to taunt Theon. Tyrion says they should concentrate on larger concerns; Euron retorts that Tyrion is “the smallest concern here.” Tyrion makes a comment about the predictability of dwarf jokes, and Theon sulks, “his wasn’t even good.” Ha!
Jaime tells Euron to sit down and surprisingly, Cersei backs him up. Tyrion returns to the matter at hand, setting up Jon Snow, who takes over to explain the threat posed by the Night King. Cersei has only contempt for Jon Snow and his tales of an Army of the Dead–she thinks it’s all just a ruse to convince her to stand down while Dany amasses a larger army in preparation of marching on King’s Landing. Her reaction is not a surprise to anyone, which is why Tyrion has something to show her.
The Hound brings out the crate carrying the wight and opens it. At first–nothing. Did the wight somehow survive the journey from Beyond the Wall to just outside King’s Landing, only to “die” in transport between the ship and the dragon pit? I wouldn’t put it past Game of Thrones. But this is Season 7, so after a tense moment the wight bursts from his crate and, shrieking, lunges toward Cersei. The Hound cuts him in half but his torso still crawls along the floor of the dragon pit. Qyburn is fascinated of course. Jon demonstrates the two ways wights can be destroyed: he sets fire to the wight’s severed hand, and stabs its torso with dragonglass.
Euron asks Jon if wights can swim. Upon hearing that they can’t, he decides to take the Iron Fleet back to the Iron Islands and hole up there until the Night King is defeated. In all his travels, this is first thing he’s seen that has terrified him. He advises Dany to follow his lead and go back to her island to wait out the winter, then walks away. Cowardice apparently runs in the Greyjoy family (except for Yara).
Cersei has been converted. She accepts the truce on the condition that after the Night King is defeated, Jon Snow will retreat to Winterfell and remain neutral in the fight between Dany and Cersei. She asks this of the King in the North because she knows Ned Stark’s son will be true to his word. She’s right–Jon Snow cannot serve two queens, and he has already pledged himself to Queen Daenerys of House Targaryen. This is news to Davos and Tyrion. Cersei, displeased at Jon’s refusal to play ball, tells him good luck in fighting the Night King without the Lannisters’ help, and stalks away.
Brienne catches up to Jaime, who tells her it’s good to see her but the next time they meet will probably be across a battlefield, since he is loyal to Cersei and she is loyal to Sansa. Brienne tells him to f**k loyalty–there are bigger things at stake here. Jaime is shocked to hear her say this, because to Jaime, Brienne is the embodiment of loyalty and honor. She urges him to talk to Cersei, but he brushes her off and follows his sister out of the dragon pit.
Everyone is now dealing with the fallout from Jon Snow’s inability to lie. Dany thinks Jon’s alienation of Cersei means Viserion died for nothing. Tyrion, although he’s pleased that Jon bent the knee to Dany, observes that they are f**ked. Davos asks if there might be a way to remedy this, and Tyrion responds that their only chance is for him to meet with Cersei. Dany thinks she’ll kill him, and Jon offers to go instead, since it was his diplomatic blunder that put them in this position. Tyrion says she’ll definitely kill Jon, so the only way is for Tyrion to negotiate with her, face to face.
Tyrion nervously walks through the Red Keep, shadowed by the Mountain. He runs into Jaime, who tells Tyrion that his own attempt at reasoning with Cersei has failed. Tyrion and Jaime both know what it means for Tyrion to enter the lair of “the most murderous woman in the world,” and Jaime supposes they should say goodbye since the odds that Tyrion will successfully reason with Cersei are not good. Jaime tells Tyrion he’s an idiot to go into Cersei’s chamber, then stands aside to let him pass.
Not surprisingly, Cersei and Tyrion’s meeting is not going well. Cersei is convinced that Tyrion has destroyed their family, but when he urges her to say the word and have the Mountain kill him, she doesn’t do it. Why? Tyrion heads to the sideboard and pours himself a steadying glass of wine, then pours one for Cersei. She tells him that he’s destroyed their family’s future–why did she agree to meet with him then? Why didn’t she say the word and have the Mountain kill him? She tells Tyrion, while caressing her belly, that the only thing she was thinking about as the wight charged her was keeping her family safe. He realizes she’s pregnant, and I guess she must be, since her children have always been the only things that tether her to the human race.
Back in the dragon pit, Dany tells Jon that even though she wishes he hadn’t been honest with Cersei, she respects him for it. Dany looks down at the tiny dragon fossil she is holding and laments that her family killed off their dragons by imprisoning them in the dragon pit. “A dragon is not a slave,” she says in High Valyrian. She thinks that without the dragons, the Targaryens became nothing special. Jon disagrees–she is something special, and her family’s story is not over. But, Dany says, she can’t have children. FORESHADOWING. Jon wonders why she thinks that and she tells him about Mirri Maz Duur. He suggests that maybe the witch who murdered Khal Drogo was not the most reliable source. Again, FORESHADOWING.
To everyone’s surprise, Tyrion returns to the dragon pit, followed by Cersei. She offers her full support for the coming Great War and asks for nothing in return. She has to be up to something.
At Winterfell, Sansa receives a message from Jon and discusses its contents with Littlefinger. What does it mean for the North now that Jon has pledged his loyalty to Dany? Littlefinger thinks since they are both young and unmarried it would be natural for them to get together and plants the seed that Jon can’t be unnamed King in the North. Sansa protests that she can’t betray Jon because Arya won’t have it, and Arya is a killer. Littlefinger engages Sansa in a little game he likes to play–what is worst reason Arya could have for saying what she says and doing what she does? To kill Sansa. Why did Arya procure the scroll Sansa sent to Robb? To have proof of Sansa’s betrayal of the Starks to show the Northern Lords after Arya has killed her. And what would Arya gain by doing all that? She would become the Lady of Winterfell.
Except Arya does not now and has never had the desire to be the Lady of Winterfell, so I’m thinking (hoping!) that Sansa is laying a trap for Littlefinger.
Back at Dragonstone, Dany’s war council is discussing how to get to Winterfell. Jon proposes that the Dothraki will take the King’s Road from King’s Landing, and the rest of them will sail with the Unsullied to White Harbor and join the Dothraki on the King’s Road. Jorah suggest that Dany should fly to Winterfell, since, as the daughter of the Mad King, she has many enemies in the North. Jon thinks it’s important for the Northerners to see Dany with him so they will understand that Jon and Dany are allies. Dany agrees to Jon’s plan–she is not coming to conquer the North; she is coming to save it.
Theon asks to speak with Jon in the throne room at Dragonstone. He admires Jon for being truthful with Cersei, and for always knowing the right thing to do, even when they were children. Jon says he’s done plenty of things he regrets, but agrees with Theon when he says, “not compared to me.” Theon has always felt torn between being a Greyjoy and a Stark, but admits that Jon is right–Ned Stark was more of a father to him than his own father ever was, and Theon betrayed his memory. Disarmed by Theon’s candor, Jon tells him that Ned is a part of him, just like he’s a part of Jon. Jon tells Theon he doesn’t need to choose–he is a Stark, and a Greyjoy. Hopefully Jon will take his own advice when he learns he is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Theon wants leave to rescue Yara instead of going to Winterfell, and Jon grants it.
Theon meets resistance when he tells the other Ironborn of his intent. They are going to sail to some island, kill all the men and take the women as their wives. Theon reminds them that Yara pledged to no longer live that way. A particularly mutinous Ironborn attacks Theon and appears to be getting the better of him when, in an attempt to finish Theon off, the Ironborn repeatedly knees him in the groin. But of course it has no effect since Ramsay castrated him, so Theon prevails, and he and the other Ironborn set sail on a mission to save Yara. Hopefully Reek has been exorcised, once and for all.
At Winterfell, Sansa tells her guard to bring Arya to the great hall. Sansa must defend her family from those who would betray them and protect the North from those who would harm it. Arya looks around at the guards and Northern Lords surrounding her and tells Sansa to get on with it. Sansa looks at Arya and says, “You stand accused of murder. You stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges…” And then she turns her head and says, “Lord Baelish?” YES!!!!!!
Littlefinger is stunned and pretends to be confused by the accusations. Sansa clarifies them for him. He murdered their aunt, Lysa Arryn, so he could take control of the Vale. He conspired to murder Jon Arryn by giving Lysa Tears of Lys to poison him with. He started the conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters by convincing Lysa to tell Catelyn that the Lannisters murdered Jon Arryn. He conspired with Cersei and Joffrey to betray Ned Stark, causing him to be imprisoned and executed on false charges of treason. Rather than try to justify his actions like he did with the other charges, Littlefinger flat out denies betraying Ned Stark, claiming, “None of you were there to see what happened! None of you knows the truth!” None of them except the Three-Eyed Raven, who recounts, “You held a knife to his throat. You said, ‘I did warn you not to trust me.'” Littlefinger stares at Bran, shocked into speechlessness.
Now it’s Arya’s turn. “You told our mother this knife belonged to Tyrion Lannister,” as she pulls Littlefinger’s dagger from her belt, “that was another one of your lies.” Littlefinger knows he is in a dire situation and has the nerve to appeal to Sansa, telling her that he protected her. Protected her, she asks, by selling her to the Boltons? He is still arrogant enough to think he can manipulate Sansa if he can just speak with her alone, but Sansa pulls out her trump card. Sometimes, she tells him, she likes to play a little game. What is the worst reason Littlefinger could have for saying the things he says and doing the things he does? To turn her against her sister, because that’s what he does–turns family against family, sister against sister. Realizing that Sansa is not going to give him a chance to defend himself (because he doesn’t deserve it), Littlefinger weasels over to Yohn Royce and demands to be escorted back to the Vale. Royce refuses, causing Littlefinger fall to his knees and throw himself on Sansa’s mercy, abandoning all dignity in a last ditch attempt to save himself.
“I loved your mother,” he pleads, but Sansa is implacable. “And yet you betrayed her.”
“I loved you,” he cries, “more than anyone.”
“And yet you betrayed me.”
Sansa thanks Littlefinger for his many lessons and tells him she will never forget them, then Arya strides over to him and slits his throat with his own dagger. And that’s the end of Littlefinger. YES!!!! Do not mess with the Starks. What an awesome, gratifying scene!
Cersei interrupts Jaime as he’s planning the Lannister troops’ mobilization to Winterfell, and disabuses him of the notion that she has any intention of joining the fight against the common enemy. She plans to let the Starks and Targaryens fight them in the North while she takes back the southern lands. Jaime is incredulous. He explains that if the dead win the battle, they will come South and kill them all; if Jon and Dany win the battle and Cersei has betrayed them, they will come South and kill them all. The Lannisters cannot beat the Dothraki, the Unsullied and the dragons.
Cersei hits on this and wonders where the third dragon is. Jaime tells her it could be anywhere, but Cersei is sure that Dany brought everything she had to King’s Landing in order to intimidate Cersei. If she still had the third dragon, it would have been there. I absolutely hate it that Cersei is right. She deduces that the dragons are vulnerable, but Jaime insists they still can’t beat Jon and Dany without the support of the other Westerosi houses. Cersei is contemptuous of Jaime’s protestations–they don’t need the other houses because they have the Iron Bank. Unlike Jaime, she listened when their father said that gold, not men, wins wars. She has engaged the services of the Golden Company, who will sail from Essos to fight with her.
When Jaime points out there is no way for them to get across the Narrow Sea, Cersei reveals that Euron’s retreat to the Iron Islands was a ploy–he is actually sailing to Essos to ferry the Golden Company to Westeros. Jaime can’t believe Cersei conspired with Euron behind his back. She shoots back that she can’t believe Jaime conspired with Tyrion behind her back. Cersei just can’t let anything go, can she?
Cersei may renege on her oath to fight the Army of the Dead, but Jaime is not going to renege on his. Oathbreaker no more! Cersei warns him that she considers his decision to be an act of treason. He asks her if she’s going to order the Mountain to kill him, and at her barely perceptible nod, the Mountain unsheathes his sword. Jaime looks at her, fully realizing how little he means to her, and challenges her one last time by saying, “I don’t believe you.” And then he turns his back on her and FINALLY! AT LAST! walks out on her.
Cut to Jaime riding away from King’s Landing! He’s traded his elaborate Lannister armor for simple clothing and covered his golden hand with a glove so he can travel incognito–presumably because Cersei, treacherous bitch that she is, has put a price on his head. He takes a last glance back toward King’s Landing, where the snow has begun to fall, before he begins riding north. Brienne will be so proud of him when he arrives at Winterfell–the noble man she knew was in him has triumphed at last!
A horse and wagon enter the courtyard at Winterfell. It’s Sam! He finds Bran and asks what happened to him Beyond the Wall. Bran cryptically replies that he became the Three-Eyed Raven, but Sam doesn’t know what that means. Bran explains that he sees things that happened in the past and things that are happening now, all over the world. He asks Sam why he came to Winterfell, and Sam says he came to help Jon defeat the White Walkers. When Bran informs Sam that Jon is on his way back to Winterfell with Daenerys, Sam asks if he saw it in a vision. No–Jon sent a raven. Ha.
Bran says Jon needs to know the truth about who he is, and tells Sam about Jon’s true parents and that he was born in a tower in Dorne, thus making him a Sand instead of a Snow. It turns out that Sam was listening to Gilly prattle on about the Septon’s diary, because he tells Bran about Rhaegar’s annulment and secret marriage to Lyanna. He asks Bran if that is something he can see. It is. As Bran watches Rhaegar and Lyanna exchanges vows before the Seven, he realizes that Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie.
Bran’s narration is interspersed with scenes of Jon and Dany on the ship headed to White Harbor. “Rhaegar didn’t kill my aunt,” says Bran as Jon approaches Dany’s chamber. “He loved her,” as Jon knocks on the door. And, as Dany opens it, “And she loved him.” Dany steps aside to let Jon enter, and closes the door behind him as Tyrion watches with trepidation from the shadows.
“And Jon,” continues Bran, “Jon’s real name is…” And we’re back in the Tower of Joy to hear Lyanna whisper, “…Aegon Targaryen.”
Bran intones, “He’s never been a bastard,” as Jon and Dany are having hot, HOT sex, and, as they stare into each other’s eyes, “he’s the heir to the Iron Throne.”
Well done, show runners, well done!!
Sansa and Arya look upon the North from the ramparts of Winterfell. Arya assures Sansa she did the right thing, but Sansa gives Arya all the credit. Arya denies this, saying she was just the executioner; Sansa was the one who passed the sentence. What a great throwback to “Winter is Coming,” where we first learned of Ned Stark’s code–the one who passes the sentence should be the one to swing the sword. He instilled that in his sons, but probably not his daughters. The Stark girls’ unification in this moment has brought Ned Stark, his code, and his honor back to life.
Sansa and Arya are solid, but they can still engage in a little sisterly banter. Sansa thinks Arya is the strongest person she knows, even though she still finds her strange and annoying. Arya laughs at this, but reminds Sansa that they must protect each other now that winter is here. They remember what their father said: when the snow falls and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. They miss him.
Bran has warged into a raven. Tormund and Beric Dondarrion are surveying the territory Beyond the Wall from the lookout at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea when a White Walker emerges from the trees far below, followed by the Army of the Dead. They sound the horns, but can’t stave off what happens next. Devastation, destruction and chaos of nightmare proportions. The Night King rides in on Viserion who, shooting streams of blue fire, utterly annihilates the Wall. I can’t even watch. Tormund and Beric are trapped on top of the Wall as it crashes to the ground. Not Tormund!
And that’s the end. The Wall is no more, the White Walkers are marching south, and everyone appears to be doomed. The good news is we have at least a year to hope for the best before the final season premieres and shatters our illusions.
I will always be a die hard Game of Thrones fan, but even the elastic bounds of my belief are being strained by the repeated arrivals of fortuitous saviors just in the nick of time. “Beyond the Wall” employed the deus ex machina device a little too liberally to be credible, even within the rubric of fantasy. That said, this traumatizing episode was still epic.
We begin with a shot of the war room at Dragonstone, the camera panning north along the stone map. From there we immediately go Beyond the Wall, where Jon Snow’s ragtag band of Wight hunters are trudging through the snow. I’m not really sure what the initial shot is supposed to accomplish–is it establishing that the next scene takes place Beyond the Wall? Is it juxtaposing the roaring fire in the fireplace against the icy bleakness of the Far North? Viewers don’t need any help ascertaining that Jon Snow & Co. are Beyond the Wall; nor do we need Gendry’s hammer to clobber us on the head with the ice and fire theme. So that first shot is pointless, and maybe even a little insulting.
As Jon & Co.’s journey takes them deeper into the North, they engage in the type of casual conversations that have been missing in Season 7–sacrificed, surely, for the accelerated pace necessitated by the truncated season. When I say casual, I don’t mean mundane cocktail party chitchat–although Jon, Tormund and Gendry do talk about the weather. I mean the opening up that occurs among characters to fill the time on their many journeys and elucidates their motivations and points of view. Welcome back, exposition!
Tormund asks Jon about the Dragon Queen and Jon grumbles that she wants him to bend the knee. Tormund recalls Mance Rayder’s refusal to bend the knee, and the dire consequences that decision had for his people. Has Tormund Giantsbane become the moral arbiter of Westeros?
Gendry dresses down Beric and Thoros for selling him to the Red Woman until The Hound tells him to stop winjing (sp?). According to The Hound, winjing occurs when someone’s lips are moving and they are complaining. Faced with The Hound’s succinct expression of contempt, Gendry stops his winjing and takes a swig from Thoros’ proffered flask, and the Gendry/Brotherhood conflict appears to be resolved. The Hound should be a diplomat.
Jon tells Jorah that the first time he went Beyond the Wall he was with Jorah’s father. Jorah asks if Jon was with his father at the end, and Jon explains that he was a captive of the Wildlings at the time, but the Watch eventually avenged Jeor’s murder. Jon offers Longclaw to Jorah, saying that it belongs in the Mormont family, but Jorah declines to take it since he brought shame on his House and broke his father’s heart. Jeor gave Longclaw to Jon, and it should stay with him. Now that Jorah has seen Jon Snow’s earnest and noble character, will he cease to consider him a rival for Dany’s affection and get on the shipping train? Another potential conflict avoided.
Sansa listens as Arya recounts a story about their father. Arya tells of the time when Ned applauded her for hitting a bull’s eye with one of her brother’s bows and arrows. She knew it was against the rules for girls to shoot arrows, but because Ned was smiling at her in that moment, she realized that she wasn’t wrong–the rules were. And then she goes off the rails, noting that now Ned is dead, killed by the Lannisters with Sansa’s help. This is where Season 7’s pacing makes the show suffer. What exactly has happened at Winterfell to make Arya so thoroughly convinced that Sansa cannot be trusted? It can’t just be the scene where the Northern Lords were questioning their selection of Jon as King in the North and Sansa failed to make a definitive stand for Jon. If that alone made Arya go from embracing her sister in the crypts to viewing her as a venal opportunist, then Arya has somehow become unhinged. But how? Are all her experiences finally catching up with her and manifesting themselves in this aggression towards Sansa? Did her discovery of the scroll confirm her darkest suspicions of Sansa’s motives?
Arya reads the scroll to Sansa and Sansa tries to explain the position she was in at the time. Arya refuses to give her sister one iota of the benefit of the doubt, and when Sansa asks to whom she’s shown the scroll, Arya accuses her of being scared of losing favor with the Northern Lords. She probably has a point, but why is Arya so completely antagonistic towards and distrustful of Sansa? Something is missing here. There is a legitimate basis for conflict between Arya and Sansa, but that conflict is more subtle than it is being portrayed. Arya’s behavior is making me more sympathetic to Sansa, and since Sansa’s motives are murky, it is an uncomfortable place to be.
Sansa correctly points out that nothing would make Cersei happier than to know that Arya and Sansa are at each other’s throats, but Arya will not give her sister a break. She accuses Sansa of doing Cersei’s bidding and walks away, causing Sansa to turn to–who else?–Littlefinger. It just keeps getting worse.
Thank God for a little comic relief courtesy of Tormund and The Hound, two of the most delightful characters in the Thrones-verse. When The Hound snarls that he hates gingers, Tormund retorts that gingers are beautiful–they’ve been kissed by fire, just like The Hound, and points to his scar. Tormund asks The Hound if he fell into a fire as a child and The Hound tells him he was pushed. Tormund deduces that is the root of The Hound’s choleric personality, and further analyzes that he’s not really mean because he has sad eyes. When did Tormund become so sage and sensitive? Do they have art therapy classes at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea?
Tormund describes the beauty he has waiting for him at Winterfell and The Hound recognizes he is referring to Brienne. He growls, “You’re with Brienne of fucking Tarth?” Tormund lights up and asks The Hound if he knows her. Tormund clarifies that they’re not together yet, but he sees the way she looks at him. The Hounds responds that she probably looks at him like she wants to carve him up and eat his liver. Tormund is excited. “You do know her!” He wants to procreate with Brienne–he is convinced their children will be “great big monsters” that will take over the world. The Hound asks him how a man like him has survived this long. Tormund assumes it’s because he’s good at killing.
Beric observes that Jon does not resemble Ned Stark and assumes that he favors his mother. Foreshadowing, people. They speculate about the Lord of Light’s purpose in bringing them back from the dead, but come to no conclusions. They settle on the notion that perhaps it’s because they are soldiers and able to defend people who cannot defend themselves. Death is the enemy, and they must fight for life even though the enemy always wins in the end. Valar Morghulis, after all.
The Hound recognizes the arrowhead-shaped mountain he saw in the fire and they realize they are getting close to encountering the Army of the Dead.
At Dragonstone, Dany tells Tyrion she’s glad he isn’t a hero. Heroes do stupid things and they die. Drogo, Jorah, Daario…and Jon Snow. All heroes, all either dead or in perpetual danger. Dany LOVES Jon Snow. Her need to manufacture a way to bring him up in conversation is a dead giveaway. She and Missandei need to sit down with a bottle of wine so they can gush unabashedly about Jon Snow and Grey Worm to each other.
Tyrion points out that all four of the heroes Dany mentioned fell in love with her, and Dany scoffs that isn’t the case with Jon Snow. Please, girl, you brought him up in hopes of hearing that very thing. The talk turns to Cersei. Dany is concerned that while Cersei is probably laying a trap for them, they have not discussed any reciprocal plans. Jaime has assured Tyrion that he will keep the Lannister forces in check when the Dany contingent comes to King’s Landing, and Tryion has promised Jaime that he’ll dissuade Dany from doing anything impulsive. Uh oh. Dany demands to know when she’s been impulsive and Tyrion refers to the Tarly barbecue. That wasn’t impulsive, she says, it was necessary. Dany accuses Tyrion of arguing on behalf of his family and he admits it–she needs to understand things from their perspective so she can anticipate their moves and defeat them. He believes she can break the wheel, but what then? Her vision for a different kind of world can’t be achieved in one lifetime, so who will be her successor? Tyrion needs to recalibrate his sense of timing. Of course Dany takes offense, proving Tyrion’s point that she loses her temper when she’s provoked. She will not discuss succession until she sits on the Iron Throne.
Jon & Co. press forward through a snow storm. A giant bear appears through the gloom–a bear with icy blue eyes. It attacks the group and they fight it off, but not before it mauls Thoros. The Hound is incapable of rescuing Thoros from the burning bear, and it does some damage before succumbing to the flames. Will there ever be a situation in which The Hound is forced to overcome his fear of fire?
Sansa is consulting with Littlefinger, which is never a good thing. She is worried about the Northern Lords’ reaction should Arya show them the scroll, given their ever-shifting loyalties. Littlefinger suggests Brienne might be of some help. She is sworn to protect both Stark girls, and if one of them was in danger–even from the other–she would be forced to intervene. Sansa agrees. What is Littlefinger’s game here? Brienne knows a creeper when she sees one and doesn’t trust Littlefinger. He benefits from the rift between Sansa and Arya so cannot be advocating for Brienne to step in and mediate between the sisters. WHY does Sansa confide in him? Is she trying to out-Littlefinger Littlefinger? What is she up to? Scenes like this make Arya’s antipathy towards Sansa more understandable, but as far as we know, she isn’t privy to them, so…?
Jon Snow and Tormund spy a small group of Wights plodding through a valley with a White Walker in the lead. Jon & Co. ambush them and when Jon kills the Walker, the Wights crumble to the ground. So now we know that when a Walker is killed, the Wights he created are destroyed. Except one of the Wights survives and is captured. Weak. Why would this Wight survive when all the other Wights collapsed after their Walker was killed? Because they need one to bring to King’s Landing. Again, weak.
Jon hears a rumbling in the distance and realizes shit is about to go south. He tells Gendry to run back to Eastwatch and send a raven to Daenerys. He leads his party onto a frozen lake. The ice cracks under their feet but they cannot retreat to shore–thousands of Wights are streaming towards them and they run for the temporary safety offered by a rock island. They all brandish their weapons in preparation for a futile attempt at fighting off the scores of Wights bearing down on them, when–deus ex machina number one–the ice gives way and Wights begin mindlessly plunging into the lake. Eventually they realize what’s happening and stop advancing. Jon & Co. are stranded on the rock while the Wights are kept at bay by the open water. And now we know that Wights can’t swim. It’s a standoff for now.
Gendry collapses from exhaustion just outside the gates of Eastwatch, but–deus ex machina number two–somehow he has been spotted approaching the castle in the dark, and he manages to tell Davos to send a raven.
Jon & Co. have survived the bitter cold night, except for Thoros. He survived the ice bear attack only to succumb to the elements. It’s not a surprise. His strength was too compromised from the years of drink to withstand this grueling mission. RIP, Thoros.
Sansa receives a raven carrying an invitation to King’s Landing. She refuses to go, but sends Brienne in her stead. I understand why Littlefinger wants to get rid of Brienne, but what does Sansa have to gain by sending her away? This does not bode well for the Stark sisters. Brienne is concerned that Sansa and Arya won’t be adequately protected in her absence, but Sansa haughtily cuts her off. It’s a long journey to King’s Landing–even longer now that #winter is here–and Brienne had better get started. Ever the faithful servant, Brienne complies.
Daenerys, sporting a very becoming and appropriate winter white ensemble, mounts Drogon. She and all three dragons set off to rescue Jon Snow over Tyrion’s objections.
The Hound is bored. He starts throwing rocks at the Wights, and when one of them lands on the ice right in front of them, the Wights realize the lake is frozen again. Standoff over. They resume their advance on Jon & Co., singly at first, then in a massive rush. There is no way Jon & Co. can fend them off. They’re doomed. Except they’re not, because–deus ex machina number three–Daenerys and the dragons arrive to incinerate the Wights.
Drogon lands on the rock to allow Jon & Co. to climb onto his back and fly away. Everyone scrambles aboard, managing to wrestle the captured Wight along with them. Everyone, that is, except for Jon Snow, who inexplicably lingers to kill a few more Wights. Big mistake, because this gives the Night King–who has been watching from a cliff–the opportunity to launch his ice spear at Viserion. It lands, and Viserion, in the most horrific scene since the Red Wedding, plummets to his death as a stunned Dany watches him sink into the icy waters. It’s awful. I hate this show.
After witnessing this sickening spectacle, Jon runs toward Drogon but is knocked into the lake by some Wights. Dany, heartsick at the loss of Viserion and now Jon Snow, cannot wait any longer and takes off. The Night King takes aim at Drogon and misses, thank God. This might even be worse than the Red Wedding. People are expendable, dragons are not.
With a signature gulp of air, Jon Snow emerges from the lake and struggles to the shore. He is injured and very weak, but girds for battle as a horde of Wights descends upon him. There is no way Jon Snow can get out of this one, except–deus ex machina number four–Uncle Benjen comes charging in, spinning his fiery mace and destroying all the Wights in his path. He pushes Jon Snow onto his horse. Jon begs Benjen to come with him but there is no time. Benjen swats the horse and it takes off for Eastwatch, while Benjen faces the dead. He is quickly surrounded, and it looks like Uncle Benjen is a goner.
The Hound loads the captured Wight into a boat headed for King’s Landing as Drogon and Rhaegal screech mournfully overhead. Dany is at the top of The Wall, searching for a sign of Jon Snow. Jorah gently tells her they need to go, but she doesn’t want to give up her vigil just yet. After another moment of staring at the barren expanse beneath her, she turns, resigned–but wait! A horn sounds and she looks back to see a lone figure on a horse approaching the gates. A barely conscious Jon Snow is taken to Dany’s ship and tucked into bed.
Sansa is snooping through Arya’s chambers looking for the scroll. Instead she finds Arya’s faces. Of course Arya catches her, and creepily taunts Sansa about her game of faces. When Sansa refuses to play, Arya describes the power the faces give her. She can live inside another person’s skin, feel what it’s like to be someone else. She grabs her dagger and approaches Sansa, wondering aloud what it would be like to be the Lady of Winterfell. All she needs to find out is Sansa’s face. Sansa is terrified but stands her ground. Instead of carving up Sansa’s face, however, Arya flips the dagger around so the blade is no longer pointing at Sansa, and hands Sansa the dagger. What was the point of that scene? To crush any hope of peace among the Starks? It worked.
Jon awakens to see Dany sitting by his side. “I’m sorry,” he breathes, “I’m so sorry.” You should be, Jon Snow. Dumbest. mission. ever. He takes her hand and tells her he wishes they’d never gone, but she shakes her head. She’s glad they went because now she’s seen what he’s seen. She tells him the dragons are the only children she’ll ever have and asks him if he understands. Is she asking him if he understands how profound the loss of Viserion is to her? Or is she asking him if understands that she will be unable to give him children?
Dany vows that she and Jon will destroy the Night King together. “Thank you, Dany,” says Jon. She is taken aback by the nickname–no one since her brother Viserys has called her that, so it doesn’t have a good connotation for her. Jon suggests “my queen,” and for a moment Daenerys looks as if she thinks he is pledging his love to her. Then he says he can’t bend the knee in his current condition and she is even more moved. What about the men who have pledged their allegiance to Jon Snow? He assures her they’ll come to see her for what she is, as he has. She tears up and takes his hand, wondering if she deserves it. He tells her she does as he earnestly gazes into her eyes. Dany looks down at their entwined hands and gathers herself, telling him to get some rest as she pulls away. The Targaryencest is going to be HOT! Bring it on!
The Wights are using massive chains to drag Viserion out of the water. The Night King lays a hand on him and his eyes open–then turn blue. And there it is. Even though we all knew it was coming, it doesn’t make it any less horrible.
This was a tough one. Hopefully there will be a juicy Jaime/Brienne scene in Episode 7 to soothe the despair of Viserion’s death and conversion. I wish you could RIP, Viserion. *sniff*