TL;DR – The Magnificent Seven venture beyond the wall to seek fame and fortune and a whole lot of dead people
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Ok so today’s episode Beyond the Wall is the penultimate episode of the season, and if you know anything about Game of Thrones, you know that this is the episode where usually we get those spectacular moments that people talk about for weeks on end. See, for example, Battle of the Bastards, The Watchers on the Wall, The Rains of Castamere, Blackwater, and indeed the moment that started for everyone in Baelor, where Ned lost his head. Well, tonight’s episode has a lot to live up too, and while it might not quite get there, it has moments that will leave you speechless.
So to catch us up at the end of last week’s Eastwatch (review) The Magnificent Seven of Jon (Kit Harington), Jorah (Iain Glen), Gendry (Joe Dempsie), Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), The Hound (Rory McCann), Lord Beric (Richard Dormer) and Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) slipped through the gates of the castle Eastwatch-by-the-Sea to range into the frozen wasteland of the north, all of this is to capture a wight to prove to the world that they exist. As well as this, Samwell (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) left Oldtown after Sam completely missed the biggest reveal in the show’s history. However, in King’s Landing Cersei (Lena Headey) has shown more and more that she is finally understanding tactics, and is willing to let all her enemies drain their resources elsewhere while she continues to build power, oh and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) started playing the Stark women off each other. So that is where we left last week, so let us jump into today’s episode, and a reminder that there will be [SPOILERS] incoming.
I think it is telling that in the longest episode of the season, both not a lot happens, but yet what does is truly profound and game shaking, it is an episode of two halves both just as interesting. So we are going to spend our time looking first at what happened beyond the wall, then what happened in Winterfell, and finally the aftermath of everything and that final reveal.
I think for me the highlight of this episode was not the action, or the dragons, or even fire and ice coming together, it was the banter at the start of the episode. As the Magnificent Seven wonder though the snow and ice of beyond The Wall we get to see everyone bonding, or at least taking about the past and what drives them. That moment when The Hound realises that Tormund was talking about Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) was truly a joy to watch. Also, it is just great to see Gendry back, even if he was being put in his place. Indeed out of everyone I had the biggest fear that they would kill him off, they have had a habit of bringing characters back from oblivion just to give them their deaths. However, for all the banter and Tormund’s surprisingly open view on sexuality, the thing that was really important was Jon learning that pride can get people killed, and if bending the knee is what keeps more people safe, well isn’t that worth losing some of his pride.
Now, of course, we have to take about the battles, because in Beyond the Wall we got quite a number, from small attacks all the way to big large scale brawls. Before we start, I do have to say it is good to be back filming in Iceland on the glaciers of Jökulsárlón and Svínafellsjökull, it just gives the landscape a texture and complexity that is difficult to recreate on a set. You knew this week was going to be intense when the first battle was with an undead polar bear, if that is what the first course is like, goodness what is coming next. Now, this is heightened by the fight being in a blizzard, which of course helps to hide that they are on a set but also helps to create a tense atmosphere, much like Silent Hill back on the PS2. But this is just the prelude, we first get the brawl to capture a wight which gave us one less White Walker to deal with, and also the tidbit that when a White Walker dies it destroys all the wights that they have converted, I’m sure that is going to be handy information for the future. However, like all things in Game of Thrones, nothing ever goes to plan, as the wight was able to call for reinforcements. So Gendry is sent to run back to Eastwatch without his Warhammer which created this tense, will they kill him off moment, while the rest of the gang and the few remaining randoms that will die at some point get stuck in the middle of an iced over lake.
It is here on the lake when things escalate because the one person who could bring people back to life quietly dies in his sleep from the wounds he got fighting the bear. So begins the waiting game, the White Walkers waiting for the ice to refreeze, and The Magnificent Five waiting for the hope of dragon fire, and it turns out we got both. One of the touches I like here is that it was The Hound’s own impatient nature that lets the wights know the ice was safe to walk on again when a rock he was throwing at them missed and landed on the ice. But after a protracted brawl that left our five warriors battling on the top of the hill as they are surrounded, we finally get the very literal fire and ice moment, and if the if the Loot Train battle in The Spoils of War (review) was great this was something else. This was also the point where after seven seasons we the unthinkable happened, we lost a dragon. For the last couple of episodes, I have been wondering if this was going to be a season where plot armour reigned supreme, alas we learned the hard way that it was not.
Of course, while all this is happening we have the drama continuing in Winterfell, with the seed of mistrust that Littlefinger planted in Arya’s (Maisie Williams) mind about her sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) and her loyalty starting to bear fruit. This was the most frustrating part of the episode to watch because it is clear that Littlefinger is manipulating them, and if they took a moment to actually talk with each other rather than at each other they would know. Now, of course, this is a very dangerous game that Littlefinger is playing because the likelihood of it blowing up in his face is high, but if anything Game of Thrones is a show that makes you constantly aware that people are not likely to get a happy ending. After watching them go through so much to finally be safe in their own home, I really hope we don’t have to watch them tear each other apart. Also as much as Sansa does not want to admit it, by sending Brienne away to Kings Landing, while it might have been the smart move strategically to deal with Cersei, all it has really done is reduce her own safety.
Now we have to talk about the aftermath of that battle, for years now people have been trying to work out who will be the three character that will end up riding on the three dragons by the end of the series, but at no point did we think that there would be only two dragons, or even worse that one of the riders was going to be the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) himself. I mean even when he killed the dragon I didn’t expect what happened next, indeed it was only when I saw the chains (side note where did he get those chains) that I realised what was going to happen. Indeed the show ends on what may have been the most important final frames since Baelor and that swinging sword going for Ned’s neck. That pain that Daenerys felt, I can only imagine what will happen when she sees her child being brought back to unlife and ridden by the enemy. I feel that I may have overused the notion that this will reverberate for this season and beyond too much this season, but I have to say that there is no way this will not have major repercussions going forward, indeed if The Wall falls, as many have predicted, I think we just found the reason. As well as this, we may be finally seeing the future for Daenerys and Jon, if they can both get over their past, and look to the future.
In the end, this was another strong episode from what has really been quite a strong season, and it is not over yet. As next week is the final episode in this Game of Thrones penultimate season, I have a feeling there will be a bang that will top last season’s Winds of Winter, and I have a feeling that given how sparingly named cast members have died this season, something big is about to change.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Game of Thrones
Directed by – Matt Shakman
Written by – Dave Hill
Based off – A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin
Created for TV by – David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Music by – Ramin Djawadi
Starring in Season 7 – Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Aidan Gillen, Liam Cunningham, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Gwendoline Christie, Iain Glen, Nathalie Emmanuel, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Conleth Hill, Jerome Flynn, Kristofer Hivju, Carice van Houten, Pilou Asbæk, Rory McCann, Diana Rigg, Hannah Murray, Indira Varma, Richard Dormer, Joe Dempsie, Gemma Whelan with Anton Lesser, Jacob Anderson, Tobias Menzies, Daniel Portman, Ben Crompton, Ellie Kendrick, Paul Kayne, David Bradley, James Faulkner, Rupert Vansittart, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, Jessica Henwick, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Joseph Mawle, Tim McInnerny, Bella Ramsey, Mark Gatiss, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Jim Broadbent, Ben Hawkey, Tom Hopper, and Vladimir Furdik