This post contains spoilers of the Game of Thrones Episode “Beyond The Wall” and prior episodes of the series.
Game of Thrones has traditionally saved its most stunning scenes for the penultimate episode of a season. Ned Stark lost his head, the Battle of Blackwater, the Red Wedding, the battle for the Wall, Daenerys harnessing the power of her dragons, and the Battle of the Bastards all took place in the second-to last show of the every season. For the first time in seven years, Game of Thrones has produced a more balanced season and “Beyond The Wall” was just one in a series of action-packed episodes of this installment of the series.
The three plots of the episode featured mixed results. Daenerys continued her bizarre questioning of Tyrion’s loyalty and the Stark sisters clashed again. Both of these plots are frustrating and neither is having an enjoyable direction. Even though Tyrion was named as Daenerys’ most important adviser, her logic for questioning his judgment makes little sense and is only way to create unnecessary friction in the Targaryen camp. Similarly, the drama at Winterfell is needless. The Starks have finally reunited, yet Sansa and Arya are interrogating each other and Bran is flashing occasional omnipotence that has not proven to be terribly helpful.
One week after the ill-conceived, but enticing, plot of kidnapping a member of the army of the dead was hatched, “Beyond The Wall” did not disappoint. Flaming swords, a frozen lake, and an encircled band of warriors all made for a unique circumstance. The sequence was well-filmed and another testament to the production crew of Game of Thrones.
The clash beyond the Wall featured three outcomes: one was predictable and the other two were more unforeseen. Daenerys swooping in with her dragons to save the day was really the only logical outcome to the group’s predicament.
As unlikely as it was that Jon Snow would die again, his rescuer was not as anticipated as Daenerys’ dragons. Benjen Stark had previously rescued his other nephew, Bran, in Season Six. His first appearance this season was brief, but amazing. Benjen hacking through the Army Dead with his flaming flails was an unexpected and refreshing twist to the episode.
The biggest (and least predictable) outcome was Daenerys losing one of her three dragons and what became of one of her scaled children. After centuries of a dormant war between the living and the dead, the dead were better prepared for Daenerys’ dragons than anyone in Westeros or Essos. The dragon received an epic death as it crashed through the ice, but its resurrection was more shocking and creates more exciting possibilities. Will the dragon breathe ice or fire? Will it clash with its brothers in the sky? Will it fly over the Wall?
All of these future stories are intriguing and create a new dynamic as the dead look to defeat the living. The other emerging plots of the season seem to be more directionless and excessive. An inquest of Tyrion’s loyalties and Stark family drama are derailing the known qualities of previously well-established characters. The most important stories of this season have been handled well, but Game of Thrones is creating extraneous drama that is threatening to undermine the final seasons of the series.