-SPOILERS! Discussion of Season 7, Episode 6.
The show churned out one of its worst episodes ever on Sunday, and I’m here to complain about it.
Let’s get to the other stuff before talking about the ranging North of the Wall.
Jon and his party have left to go North on their “Wight Hunt” in order to grab a zombie to lay at Cersei’s feet in an attempt to hold off their political war until they deal with the threat North of the Wall. While I don’t really care for this plot the more I think about it, mainly because Tyrion should be smarter than thinking that any kind of arrangement can be made with Cersei, I am willing to accept this as a possible outcome for how Season 8 will go down. My real issue is just that Cersei and the Lannister threat should’ve been defeated already, and all of this timidness and poor battle strategy has wasted so much of our time so far in Season 7. I could continue to rant about how ineffective splitting the army was, as Grey Worm and the Unsullied are still stuck at Casterly Rock on the other side of Westeros, being starved out by Euron Greyjoy and Cersei’s fleet (although now they could just march back East because the Lannister land army took a huge hit when Daenerys burned them a few episodes ago). It just seems like using your army of greater numbers to lay siege to King’s Landing and basically crippling Cersei from the inside was the best plan, and she could’ve done it while retaining the Dornish forces and the Reach forces before the deaths of Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell. Instead, the Dornish army is just still sitting there with no one to lead it back into the frey, the Lannisters took over the Reach because of the influence they had over the Tarlys, and the Lannisters also retained control over the Westerlands, Stormlands, and Riverlands just based on prior alliances with their bannerman in the West, the Baratheons in the South, and the Freys in the central part of the continent. Splitting Dany’s forces up has only allowed Cersei to climb back into the fold, and the show only did this and had her suffer some defeats in an attempt to make the Cersei/Dany conflict more interesting. It also has forced me to lose almost all respect for Tyrion and Varys, because they haven’t been advising her well.
So, in addition to undermining my love for central characters because of poor writing, the show is now attempting to make me believe that Tyrion, as a brother to Cersei who has first-hand witnessed her cruelty and also had to flee the country because she wanted him executed, is willing to forge an alliance with her based on hope that his dim-witted brother Jaime will keep her in line when she’s carrying Jaime’s baby and has complete control over his heart. Then, when Dany is like “she’s going to set traps, are you sure this is a good idea?,” Tyrion counters by saying that setting traps is unbecoming of a good leader, again leading her to an almost certain defeat. She says that she likes that he isn’t a hero, but for me, at least heroes are brave. Tyrion is stupid and not particularly brave.
The conversation ends with them talking about a way of picking Dany’s successor. This is either a prelude to a possible institution of a democratic system, or foreshadowing that she is going to bite the dust and they need someone (ahem, Jon) to take up her mantle and ideology of “breaking the wheel.” What Tyrion doesn’t understand is that Dany’s idea of “breaking the wheel” and overthrowing the entire Westerosi political system is going to involve at least some violence. There’s no way to remove the old power and institute new without some semblance of conflict, just the adage of “breaking” something implies some violence. He also makes a comment about how all the heroes in her life fall in love with her: Drogo, Daario, Jorah, and now Jon. More on the love later.
Last episode gave us a trail to follow that involved Littlefinger working behind the scenes to find a scroll for Arya to find that clearly would get her fired up enough to wedge a further divide between her and her sister, Sansa.
Arya does finally confront Sansa about the scroll, which was something she wrote naively, and under duress, which begged Robb Stark to bend the knee to King Joffrey back in Season One. Arya’s character arc, in that she went to train with the Faceless Men but couldn’t become a Faceless Man because of too much pride in her family, has revolved very much around her continued identity as a Stark. She murdered Walder Frey as a revenge for the events of the Red Wedding, and has now really begun to question Sansa’s loyalty to her family. I’ve said for awhile that this makes sense, and I don’t entirely trust Sansa. Not only does she not have Jon’s back, but she also was the first to lose her direwolf, has shown a propensity for political betrayal, like with the Arryns, and has also always shown more interest in personal gain than anything else. So, Arya sees this letter as a slight to the family, but also to her father; the only person who ever let Arya be herself rather than force her into the traditional female role. Arya is obviously being short-sighted in that she doesn’t really understand how important house alliances are, or how important controlling information is, but her point to Sansa rings pretty true. I don’t trust Sansa, and I don’t particularly like homicidal Arya, either.
Sansa speaks with Littlefinger later about how she’s afraid that the other Northern lords will see that letter and begin questioning her allegiance as well. Littlefinger says that outside of Brienne’s oath to protect both of the Stark girls, no one left really knows Arya that well. When Sansa sends Brienne away to King’s Landing on some kind of mission, we are to assume that it’s pretty much a made-up assignment and that Sansa wants Brienne gone before she does something drastic with Arya, like take her prisoner to try to control her. Both sisters are making power plays against each other.
Later, Sansa goes into Arya’s room and discovers her faces, and Arya threatens to use Sansa’s, brandishing the Catspaw dagger. She leaves it with Sansa, but I only assume that things are about to get disastrous in Winterfell. While some of the writing could be slightly better here, I do like this storyline, and am interested to see where this ends up.
Beyond the Wall:
The ranging expedition featuring Westeros’s own Magnificent Seven: Jon, Jorah, Tormund, Gendry, The Hound, Beric, and Thoros, all trudge North and talk about their relationships with other people that they all know. Jon talks to Jorah about his time with Jorah’s father Jeor Mormont at Castle Black, Gendry complains about Beric and Thoros selling him off to Melisandre to perform blood magic with, Tormund jokes with The Hound about how he wants to sleep with Brienne of Tarth, and so on. These scenes have some good lines, even if they are a bit ordinary and soap-opera like.
They encounter a stupid zombie bear that mortally wounds Thoros of Myr. This was a very stupid scene.
Eventually, they find a white walker who has separated from the horde in order to resurrect more dead. Jon is able to defeat him, and they are able to capture one of the zombies. It’s a bit odd that this is the only one that didn’t disintegrate when they killed the Walker (I think they die when the one who revived them dies), so it would’ve made more sense if a few “lived” and they narrowed it down from there. Either way, they get the prize they were looking for.
At that point, they are surrounded by the Night King and his army. They are near a frozen lake, and the pressure of walking on it forces the ice to cave in, and the army has to halt, trapping the remainder, now the Ridiculous Six after Thoros succumbs to his wounds, on a rock in the middle of the frozen lake. Jon was smart enough to send Gendry back to Eastwatch when they were surrounded to send a raven, and Gendry makes it, sends a raven, it arrives it Dragonstone, and Dany flies for them to burn the army and save them just in time for lunch.
Once Dany arrives, she is able to get five of them on the dragon with the zombie, but Jon is too far away, and continues fighting through the crowd as Dany leaves. He falls into a crack in the ice, is able to survive, and eventually is rescued by Uncle “Coldhands” Benjen, and arrives safely back at Eastwatch.
Here’s how I would have done this because this preposterous sequence of events has ruined Game of Thrones for me, so I have a proposed change. Not only was the timing strange, but there wasn’t enough deaths for the scenario, even if you are willing to accept the “bring a zombie to Cersei” mission in the first place.
I would’ve done the opening just as they did, but make a point to show that it’s only 5-10 miles past Eastwatch and not more than a day’s travel. It doesn’t appear like they camped overnight, so this is clearly around the distance they covered, but I would appreciate a more concrete proof. Then, I would have the Hound leading this mission. He’s the one who saw the vision in the flames, and I would have him act as the leader of this group for the time-being. His importance to the show would be entirely predicated on his ability to guide our group, walking through the deep winter, to its destination.
I would cut the snow bear scene out entirely.
Then, when they are perched on this rock, I would have had the previous episode end. What I mean is that the last episode should’ve ended with them surrounded by walkers on the broken ice, waiting for their doom. The reason that so many people have had issues with Dany getting there so fast is not because it’s impossible, it’s because it was paced poorly.
Let’s say Gendry runs back to Eastwatch on a ten mile sprint. I think he should collapse from exhaustion, and it’s Benjen who saves him, not Jon, and carries him to the castle after Gendry says that his friends, including Jon, are in danger. This sets up the near-parental bond that Benjen and Jon used to have, and allows for a more dramatic pay-off when they finally meet in the next episode. Benjen pushes Gendry through the wall, and let’s say this ten-mile sprint combined with horseback ride took two to three hours, it would then take maybe a half hour to write the message and send it to Dany via raven…
The show has consistently shrunk the size of Westeros in order to speed the processes along. Ned and the King’s Royal Party got from Winterfell to King’s Landing in two episodes when half of the group were in portable houses. Jon and Tyrion got from Winterfell to Castle Black with only one night’s camp in the middle. The month-long journeys didn’t really happen that way in the show, and most characters took two to three episodes to travel, rather than just one in this season. I’m willing to forgive this “fast-travel” because we have less episodes left and less time to spend chatting on the road. The issue is that all of this happens in one episode, if we cut the last episode off with them stuck on the rock, and started this one with them all freezing one or two days later, and Thoros having died just from freezing to death, a week’s layoff in the episode wouldn’t be bad when Dany came flying in, even if it’s the same amount of time that’s past. It’s just divided up and made the pacing more digestible.
So, as they all freeze on the rock and mourn the now frozen Thoros, the raven would take let’s say 12 hours to reach Dany, and then it would take her another six to eight hours to fly there, assuming that Drogon is about as fast as an airplane. When she was sailing on ships previously, the dragons flew ahead like it was nothing. I think that the entire process would take about 24 hours, which is what the show does, having them there for one night, but all of this occurring in one episode was poor pacing and made it seem like a deus ex machina. Divide that up, and we’re golden. I don’t buy that the characters travel that much faster, we just don’t have the episode breaks between them anymore to save time. In this case, it affected the pacing of the episode and thus its quality.
I would have the dead begin marching on them, but first, have the Hound light his sword on fire just as Beric does, showing that he’s convinced by the Lord of Light, and that he’s conquered his fears. When the Night King sees that the Hound is leading the mission and serves the Lord of Light, he would mistakenly believe that he’s the actual leader, and he should test out one of his spears on the Hound, killing the Hound before the dead even reach our ranging party. As the Hound dies, he should say to Jon “tell that little cunt that she can cross me off her list” or something like that.
The group would obviously be incensed by the death of the Hound, but Dany would arrive before anything too bad can happen. At this point, Jorah would give Dany the zombie, and climb on board with Tormund. Beric would also climb on, but see Jon in a world of trouble fighting off the dead, and climb off the dragon to go save him. Beric’s final death would be in aiding Jon get to relative safety. He would be the person who separates Jon from the pack, not fucking Benjen. We’ve then lost Beric, Thoros, and The Hound because they’ve all served their plot purpose. The Hound guided them, Thoros kept Beric alive long enough to save Jon, and Beric dies saving Jon, thus fulfilling their protection of the “Prince Who Was Promised” prophesy. Then, Dany would have already left, but Jon, running from the Night King and freezing his ass off, would be picked up by Rhaegon who senses his Targaryen brother is in trouble. Could you imagine Dany’s misty eyes watching Jon fly home on one of her dragons. That’d be dope as hell, and a great climax to his build-up of the Targaryen heritage. We would grieve the loss of the Hound, but Game of Thrones should kill off more than just fucking Thoros of Myr in that situation. I was frustrated.
Now, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t super tense when the Night King speared Visereon through the heart and killed him. It would’ve been cool if we had a prequel to how strong his spears are (like killing The Hound with one), but them awakening the dragon and the final shot being him waking the blue eye is pretty great. I can’t complain about that very much. We kinda knew one of the dragons would die, and it was satisfying. The effects were great.
Finally, we get the Daenerys/Jon love scene in the ship. This season has given us one thing that is better than the rest of the plot-lines and it’s this build-up. Their marriage and love makes too much sense not to happen, combining the Queen of the South with the King in the North. Imagine them flying into the North together on dragons and giving a speech to the Northern lords together, as a united team and romantic item. No way they could resist a team build on positive character like that. I don’t even care that their related, because the Targaryen blood line always inbreeds in order to keep their temperature powers and dragon whispering as strong as can be. This is also why Jon can easily survive the freezing water and why Dany doesn’t need to wear anything more than a white blazer North of the Wall. They are temperature resistant.
We’ll see how the season ends, and like usual, there were some great moments. But the “Wight Hunt” scene was paced horribly and was preposterous, and if they had executed it better, we’d be happier with where the show was headed. Instead, I have serious doubts as we head into the final stages of the show.
Episode Score: C