Baby’s Got Blue Eyes: Recap “Beyond the Wall”

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Before tonight’s episode, journalists laid odds as to which member of Jon’s ranging party would die north of the Wall at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Tonight’s episode offered lots of thrills and was a game changer. There’s intrigue at Winterfell, but it’s far from clear (to me at least) who is playing whom.

Intrigue at Winterfell

The Stark sisters are not getting along – and, frankly, it reminds me of nothing so much as the Wars of the Roses. Littlefinger turned the already mistrustful sisters against each other without breaking a sweat.

Arya confronts Sansa with the letter she wrote, at Cersei’s behest, to Robb urging him to come to King’s Landing and bend the knee. Sansa defends her actions, stating she was just a child. Arya is having none of it. In her heart, she blames Sansa for her father’s death.

If Sansa hadn’t wanted to live out her princess fantasies so badly, maybe she wouldn’t have begged Catelyn to make Ned to go forward with the betrothal to Joffrey. Maybe Sansa wouldn’t have lied about Joffrey and the butcher’s boy.  Maybe the Stark daughters never would have gone to King’s Landing. Maybe Ned would still be alive.

Arya believes she would choose death over writing that letter to Robb.

Sansa fears Arya will show the Northern lords the letter and some of the 10,000 men from the Vale, who are already miserable in the Northern winter, will use the letter as an excuse to bolt.

Years of festering resentment over petty squabbles that meant the world to them as girls is behind their conflict, but so is Arya’s not completely unjustified fear that Sansa will usurp Jon.

Meanwhile Sansa sends Brienne to King’s Landing to represent her. This is a wise move given Jaime and Brienne’s affinity. Brienne doesn’t like this plan at all since Sansa will be left all along without any protection – and she might need it.

This is especially true after Arya’s bizarre behavior when Sansa finds the masks.

The sequence shows reminded me all too much of how Edward IV until condemned his own brother George, Duke of Clarence to die. The potential lethal and rapidly escalating conflict between the Stark girls show how easy it is for courtiers (Littlefinger) to turn a noble or ruler against his or her loved ones.  In Edward IV and Clarence’s case, their mutual mistrust grew and grew – and ultimately Edward could never forgive his younger brother for his betrayal when Clarence sided with Warwick and unseated the king.

Fighting at Dragonstone

Tyrion and Daenerys are not getting along – and frankly the Imp isn’t exactly giving the best advice these days. The duo can’t agree on how best to avoid Cersei’s traps if and when Daenerys goes to King’s Landing for a parley with the Lannister queen. Worse, when she gets news that Jon and his party are in a life of death situation, he doesn’t want her to go help him.

 

Ranging North of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea

Jon, Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarion, the Hound, Gendry, and Joras are ranging north to try to capture a wight. The idea is to bring Cersei a wight to convince her the Night King is real. As everyone in the party is aware, this is an incredibly stupid idea.

Everyone is bickering but there are some good near-bromance moments as the men march deeper into the north.

First, they encounter a polar bear wight, which Beric and Thoros fight off with blazing swords. (Love those flaming swords.) The Hound, however, freezes because its fire – and he hates fire — so Thoros saves him. But, Thoros is badly wounded in his chest.

Beric attempts to cauterize the wound with fire.

**

Later on, the party stumble across a White Walker and some wights. A skirmish ensues. When Jon kills the White Walker with Jon’s valyrian steel sword, all of the wights go poof – except for one. (Newsflash: Kill the master and its “babies” die too!)

Then the lads make a huge mistake. They try to lasso that one remaining wight to take back to Cersei. The wight screams like a banshee and it awakens the White Walkers to the men’s presence.

Quick thinking Jon hears the avalanche like sound of the Army of the Dead moving towards them. He orders Gendry to run as fast as he can for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and send a raven to Dany. Jon’s right: she’s the only one who can save them now.

Soon enough, the massive zombie army are closing in on Jon and party. The wights drive the men onto an island in the center of a frozen lake. The lads are safe for now – the army can’t cross its too heavy.

Gendry arrives half dead at the Eastwatch castle. Davos and company see him coming and rush down to catch him just as he collapses. Gendry chokes out “Raven!” and Davos shouts for a scribe. Now!

**

When Daenerys receives the raven, she resolves to go. Tyrion is having none of it. (After all, if she dies, what becomes of him?)  To her credit, Dany always fights for the ones she loves – and in her heart, she is a warrior. She immediately mounts Drogon and flies him north of Eastwatch – her other two dragons flying convoy.

When Daenerys arrives, her dragons incinerate row upon row of the Night King’s army.

Now this is magnificent and what we’ve been awaiting for SEVEN seasons. It feels great to see it finally – and it was even better than I imagined it.

Just as Dany is about to fly home with the men on Drogon’s back, the Night King hurls an ice spear through the air at one of Dany’s other dragons.

The spear strikes the dragon in the chest and it crashes into the frozen lake, clearly dying. It’s frankly shocking to see one of these near-extinct creatures killed.

Dany, of course, is devastated. The dragons are her children.

But, she nearly as devastated by what happens next.

Jon Snow sacrifices himself so Dany and party can get away before the Night King hurls another one of those deadly spears at Drogon.

The wights attack Jon and drag him onto a frozen lake, which somehow he manages to drag himself out of the water.

Given his sodden clothes, the icy water, and the distance he is from Eastwatch – not to mention all the wights that descend on him – Jon looks doomed.

His uncle Benjen – who is actually dead but stuck in limbo North of the Wall – comes to his rescue and gives him his horse. By doing so, Benjen appears to make the ultimate sacrifice: the wights descend on him and he appears to be killed. Again.

When Jon arrives half-dead at Eastwatch, Daenerys is standing watch for him. Later on in his chamber, it becomes clear how the aunt and uncle feel about each. What’s really strange is somehow this seems romantic and not grotty in this universe.

Perhaps GRRM really was okay with the idea of Richard III marrying Elizabeth of York. <shudder>

**

The big game changer at the end is not just that Dany is down a dragon, but also that the dragon will now be a blue-eyed zombie.

 

 

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

7 Comments

  • Reply August 21, 2017

    Argie

    Arya has just spent years amongst that world’s most skilled assasins. She has skills that are far beyond Littlefinger at this point. She would never pass up the font of informaiton that is Bran. Think about it, the first thing she asked Sansa was, “did you kill Joffrey?” She likely already knows about her father. Just because we have not seen Arya and Bran together, does not imply that they have not spoken. I believe that she and Sansa are devising an elaborate scheme to trap Littlefinger. Brienne was part of their show, as by sending her away, Sansa appears to be under Littlefinger’s influence. Arya can cleary protect Sansa if need be. Arya handing her the dagger implies, “Just give the order, and I will take him out.” They know he has eyes everywhere, so they are beating him at his very own long-term game. A fitting end to him. Then she will have an excellent face to work with in Kings Landing.

    • Reply August 22, 2017

      Jamie Adair

      I think you’re right about the scheme to trap Littlefinger. Otherwise, it makes no sense to me. Oh! I hadnt even thought aboit the face. That would be very clever.

  • Reply August 22, 2017

    WATCHER ON THE COUCH

    I guess Gendry’s adrenaline rush got him to Eastwatch double quick to send the raven. I’m fairly forgiving of the show but I think Messrs B&W could perhaps have allowed an extra episode or two to make the travelling a little more convincing…maybe they could delegate some of the writing to writers who have already proved themselves as script writers if they (B&W) are finding it very exhausting. I find it tiresome when folk call them Dumb and Dumber – it’s not even funny; I’m not saying that people have to like their adaptation/treatment of ASOIAF though but please think of something more original than Dumb and Dumber. It’s difficult to adapt book material that hasn’t even been written yet.

    It would have made sense for the hoods of the 7 intrepid warriors to be up. In the books didn’t

    BOOK SPOILER
    BOOK SPOILER
    BOOK SPOILER

    poor Jeyne Poole’s nose get frostbitten in the flight from Winterfell? It’s about 4 years since I read ADWD.

    I was saddened by the death of Viserion. I feel that those who say that later seasons of the show are just fan service are not correct because fan service would have been for the dragons all to get back to Dragonstone alive.

    Now as this site relates to the “history behind” GoT, the reference in the programme to the succession (if Dany wins the throne) made me think of the English succession after the death of Elizabeth I (Tudor) – it went to James the son of her cousin, Mary Stewart (Mary already having been executed some considerable time earlier), I appreciate that’s quite well-known history, but it’s just possible somebody might happen on this site who is not a British history buff.

    About Jon and Dany fancying each other, some people believe that when blood relatives who have not grown up together meet in adulthood there can be a sexual attraction. I don’t know whether it was ever proven. I’ve linked a Wikipedia article. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_sexual_attraction
    In the latter stages of my school education I had to suffer through the “romantic revival” and I remember reading something that there was talk (again I don’t know if it was ever proven) that Lord Byron was very close to a half-sister that he met as an adult (or maybe an adolescent) and some have suspected they were closer than custom thinks a brother and sister of the half blood should be. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusta_Leigh

    I’m still enjoying this (soon to be over) season while reiterating I would have like an extra episode or maybe two to expand upon plot points.

    • Reply August 22, 2017

      Jamie Adair

      Book adaptations are not easy. Everyone complains about the show, but regardless of how much better people think it could be, the showrunners have created the best show on earth. Possibly the best show that’s been created to date.

      There is a lot more to a TV show than just the story. There is also the acting (Emilia Clarke take note), the casting, the “production value,” (the costumes, sets, cinematography, special effects, stunts), directing, etc. Not to mention how the show brings a novel to life — what scenes to include, exclude, etc. I love watching some of these Shakespearean actors they hire. Wow.

      GRRM created an amazing work of art, but Bernard Cornwell’s books are pretty great and I just tried watching The Last Kingdom on Netflix for the second time. I’ve never met a medieval show that I didn’t like — until now. I can’t get into The Last Kingdom and I think it is because of the low production value. Everything is so grey and dark and the first episode is confusing. Maybe I need to google a synopsis on the web before I watch it? Regardless, Game of Thrones is the show that it is because of HBO and the showrunners.

      Sure, I wish they spent more time in Riverrun (and wish they had had a Genna Lannister — don’t ask me why, I just liked her). Sure, I liked Jon Snow in ADWD better than the show and found his chapters way more intriguing and thrilling than the show.

      But, the show actually makes the world visually richer than in my imagination. Regardless of how much an author describes a world, I never seem able to make that world as real in my mind — hold everything together at once — like a TV show. In fact, I even liked The White Queen show better than the books — even though they had set pieces from Ikea.

      There is a lot of artistry in the adaptation. Symbollic shots, foreshadowing with the editing. Not to mention I would seriously felt like I had died and gone to heaven if I got to spend a day with the artists, designers, and armorers who make the props. I am not joking. I am dazzled by their work. The embroidery is stunning. The ornate armor and crowns etc. Some of this stuff is a work of art unto itself.

      I took a course about film adaptations in university, so maybe it makes me more sympathetic. The genres are different. And you can’t make 1.7 million words into a TV show that easily — although, I wouldn’t be upset if the show lasted 20 years. 😉

      With that said, I didn’t love this episode and found the recap hard to write.

      (possible) SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

      I agree about Dany and Elizabeth I. I wrote a paper on her succession issues in university. I had thought about writing an article on the succession planning. I don’t know whether the show was just trying to reinforce the parallel or whether this is foreshadowing. I hope its the former.

      • Reply August 23, 2017

        Pat

        I enjoyed first season of The Last Kingdom quite a bit, although I have not gotten around to watching the second season, and neither have I read the books. I would say the show is confusing because real history is confusing, which I would think you would appreciate! The actual ebb and flow of allegiances can be difficult to unpack at such a large remove. For instance, on Game of Thrones we have seen how ruthless Cersei has been with families that went against her, but such complete purges were not the norm historically. You can see the same families popping up down through the centuries of English history, making trouble all the time, instead of being wiped out. The protagonist of The Last Kingdom was initially a victim of an internecine struggle, which led him to side with the Danes for a time, and then return to the Saxon side to fight against the Danes when he ran afoul of factionalism within the Danish side. I think people at the time were aware that factions always had a certain arbitrariness to them and it didn’t pay to go too far against the losing faction as that would set a precedent for how you would be treated when your faction ended up on the outs at a later time….

  • Reply August 23, 2017

    WATCHER ON THE COUCH

    Perhaps I’m in the minority but actually I liked the episode (not saying it was perfect) although I was very sad about Viserion. By the way, referring to my previous comment, I don’t consider myself a history buff but rather a layperson who has an interest in history.

    Regarding “The Last Kingdom”, I haven’t watched it yet though it’s on my list of my shows to watch. The BBC doesn’t have the budget that HBO has, of course. “Rome” the TV show was fairly lavish because it was a collaboration between HBO and BBC but even then it was criticised by some parties in the UK because of historical inaccuracies. In the UK people can be very critical in a negative way about the BBC if they think it is overspending (because it is funded with licence payers’ money – one has to have a licence to have a TV in the UK or even to watch TV on a computer). The BBC used to be pretty good with their costume dramas and going back to the BBC’s 1960s version of “The Forsyte Saga”, it garnered a very large audience (mind you there were only three channels in the UK at the time).

    I agree that something is always going to have to be left out in adaptation, especially with a series of novels as complex as ASOIAF. I’ve heard that there are plans afoot to dramatise Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” books which I understand to be more complex even than ASOIAF – I must admit I haven’t read them (WoT). I wonder if they will be even harder to translate from the page to the screen than ASOIAF. I saw the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and quite liked it – I’m scared to read the book though in case there were changes which might rankle in the dramatisation.

  • Reply August 23, 2017

    Shelagh

    I quite liked this episode too. I don’t know what input, if any, GRRM has at this point. This season feels a little out of kilter somehow. The characterisations feel a little off, and it all feels a little rushed, like they’re skimming.

    Regarding The Last Kingdom, I didn’t like the first season very much. I came to it off the back of Vikings, which I loved. I doubt that much of Vikings is historically very accurate, but it’s just good story-telling with vivid, engaging characters. In comparison TLK seemed drab and a bit two-dimensional. I finished the season on the premise, I’ve started so I’ll finish. I almost didn’t watch season 2, but I enjoyed it more that season 1. Then I decided to start reading the books and I was hooked! There are still aspects to the books I don’t like – I think the characterisations are weak, and are just a framework for the history, but the history is very, very interesting, which makes up for a lot.

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