‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7: How to Kill a Dragon and More Shocking Moments in Episode 6
In some ways, Game of Thrones has been setting up the ultimate showdown between the dead and the living since the very first scene of the series. And that’s exactly what fans expected to see in the sixth episode of Season 7, “Beyond the Wall.”
As a general rule, the penultimate episodes before each season finale are among Game of Thrones’ best. In terms of story and character development and sheer excitement alone, “Beyond the Wall” could easily join the ranks of its predecessors.
The episode drew firm lines between characters we’d long assumed would remain allies. It brought many other characters to the brink of destruction. And it introduced a shocking new enemy that Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen will have to defeat.
Here’s everything you missed in Episode 6 of Season 7 of Game of Thrones.
Hunting for the dead
On the long walk north, Jon Snow, Tormund, Gendry, and their newfound friends make small talk about the weather, women, and bending the knee. Tormund evokes Mance Rayder’s name when he offers Jon a surprising bit of advice. If he’s looking at a massive loss of life for his people, Tormund admits there may be worse things than pledging fealty for the sake of peace.
Jon gains even more wisdom from Beric Dondarrion, who’s died enough times — six, by his count — to have figured out what’s really worth living for. “Death is the enemy,” he tells Jon. “The first enemy and the last.”
So, by that measure, he, Jon, and everyone else are fighting for the living — not just themselves, but anyone they can protect. And that extra bit of motivation will serve them well when they find what they’re looking for.
A crumbling sisterhood
While reminiscing about how their father, Ned Stark, used to watch her practicing archery, Arya Stark reveals that she found a scroll Sansa wrote to their brother, Robb, right before their dad was beheaded by Joffrey Baratheon.
Sansa insists that she was forced to write it, but Arya is neither convinced nor impressed with her sister’s struggles during her time at King’s Landing. To Arya’s credit, the scroll, along with with the impression she had of her sister — who seemed more than happy to be by Joffrey’s side when she last saw her — does make Sansa look like she was Team Lannister.
The elder sister stands her ground and reminds Arya that she didn’t do much to save their father either. Sansa’s firm in her insistence that she didn’t betray her family, and that it was she, not Arya, that helped win Winterfell back for the Starks.
The two sisters end their conversation in a stalemate. Sansa is concerned about what Arya will do with the letter, because if their allies knew about it, they may turn their backs on her. Arya isn’t ready to let her anger at her sister go, despite her warning that sometimes such a powerful feeling can be destructive.
The Baelish effect
Sansa confides her concerns to Littlefinger, who tries to console her by insisting that Arya won’t betray her family. But Sansa doesn’t even know Arya anymore, so she can’t trust that. Littlefinger then insinuates that perhaps Lady Brienne could intervene if it looked like Arya was going to put Sansa at risk.
Sansa’s life gets even more complicated when she receives an invitation by raven to King’s Landing. She decides to send Brienne in her stead, who is reluctant to leave Sansa with Lord Baelish (thank goodness someone is). Sansa remains firm that she, and the men she’s entrusted to protect her, will be able to survive without Brienne standing guard, and the warrior leaves, albeit warily.
Heroes and their ‘stupid’ bravery
Back in Dragonstone, Tyrion finally says what everyone at home has been thinking for weeks — that Jon and Daenerys maybe might kind of have something going on. She tells her Hand that she likes him because he’s not a hero — because “heroes do stupid things and they die.” Then, she lists off a few prime examples — Drogo, Jorah, Daario, and, yes, Jon.
Tyrion mentions that the one thing all those men have in common is that they’ve all fallen in love with her. Dany initially dismisses his claim. But then he retorts, “I suppose he stares at you longingly because he’s hopeful for a successful military alliance.”
Daenerys is uncharacteristically reluctant to disagree with him, other than to say — perhaps a bit too hastily — that Jon is “too little” for her taste. But it’s pretty clear that Tyrion thinks that the queen doth protest just a bit too much.
A strong Hand
Daenerys switches gears to discuss their strategy for taking King’s Landing. Dany wants to take it by force as soon as possible, but Tyrion warns her against being too impulsive. He chides her for killing the Tarlys. When she accuses him of taking his family’s side, he doubles down.
“You need to take your enemy’s side if you’re going to see things the way they do,” he tells her. “And you need to see things the way they do if you’re going to anticipate their actions, respond effectively, and beat them.”
Tyrion makes it clear that he chose to ally with Daenerys because he believes in the future she imagines for the Seven Kingdoms. He wants to make sure Daenery’s vision for Westeros endures.
Tyrion reminds her that she needs to think about who will take the Iron Throne after she’s gone, especially since she can’t have children. It’s a conversation she’s not quite ready to have, and she tells him, “We will discuss the succession after I wear the crown.”
The shield that guards the realms of men
On their journey north, Jon and his comrades glean some disturbing new insights about their undead foes. First, they encounter a zombie bear, which severely injures Thoros before they manage to take it down. When they encounter a throng of undead marching, Jon slashes through a White Walker, only to find that most of the surrounding wights also disappear in a burst of snowy glass as well. They manage to capture one wight, and Jon orders Gendry to go back to Eastwatch and send a raven to Daenerys.
The rest of the dead are hot on their heels, and Jon and his men find themselves on literal thin ice as they run for their lives across a barely frozen body of water. They end up on a rocky island, surrounded by the dead who cannot cross to get them because the ice has given way.
They pass the night in an uneasy sleep, only to wake up and find out that Thoros has died from his wounds. Jon knows enough to advise that they burn his body before he, too, comes back to life. The King in the North thinks the only way they can survive is if Gendry gets the raven to Daenerys in time. But Jorah insists if Jon can kill the Night King, that they’ll survive.
And thus, an epic battle ensues. When the dead finally descend, en masse, it doesn’t look good for Jon and his friends at first. But they fight bravely, with swords on fire. They face a few pretty close calls (it really didn’t look good for Tormund) and one unfortunate loss (goodbye, unnamed Brotherhood guy). Just when the men seem to be completely surrounded and out of luck, the Calvary — Daenerys and her dragons — arrive in a literal blaze of glory.
Tragic casualties in the battle for the living
The Night King won’t go down without a fight. He chucks his ice spear at Daenery’s dragon, Viserion, killing him immediately. Jon stares down the undead foe he’s long known was his true enemy, but is tackled and pulled under the ice by several wights before he can take him on
Dany, clearly devastated by her loss, manages to get away with the rest of Jon’s allies. And the King in the North somehow survives his frozen underwater fight and emerges just long enough to see a new hoard approaching.
A second wave of unexpected support — this time from Uncle Benjen on horseback — arrives just in time, swinging a fiery weapon to keep the undead at bay. Ned’s brother tells Jon to ride on, sacrificing himself for the cause.
Setting the stage for an unforgettable finale
Jon makes it back to the wall, barely conscious, and awakens to find himself on Daenery’s boat. The Queen herself is watching over him. Daenerys tells him that her dragons are the only children she’ll ever have. Losing Viserion has made her fully committed to destroying the Night King and his army.
Jon takes her hand and calls her Dany, but she balks at the nickname. So instead, he calls her, “My queen,” further solidifying their alliance and their bond.
After agonizing over the fact that Arya has learned her deep, dark secret, Sansa discovers her sister is also hiding something, when she finds her masks under her bed. She confronts Arya, who calmly admits she’s capable of taking the identities of others.
“The world doesn’t just let girls decide what they’re going to be,” Arya says. “But I can now. With the faces, I can choose. I can become someone else. I could even become you.”
She tells Sansa all this while clutching a dagger. At the last second, Arya turns the weapon over to her sister with a cold smile. But the threat she was posing to her sister was clear.
And in the closing moments of “Beyond the Wall,” we see that the Night King is busy planning his next attack. His army drags Viserion’s body out of the water, and he lays his hand on the dragon’s snout. Within seconds, the dragon has opened his eyes — which are now an unmistakably undead bright blue.
An ice dragon may sound like an oxymoron. But in the hands of the Night King? It could be the most deadly weapon we’ve seen yet on Game of Thrones.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.
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