Well, this is not good.
Am I talking about the events of the episode or the episode itself?
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Maybe a bit of both.
In hindsight, was it really a good idea to go on a quest to retrieve a single fresh wight to dump at the feet of a mad, morally corrupt Queen who is 100% guaranteed to screw you over at some point? Was it worth giving your even more powerful enemy a fucking dragon?
In Dany’s defense, she’s used to her scaly kids wrecking everything in their path, but The Night King sure as shit did what Bronn couldn’t do two weeks ago while expending 1/1000th of the energy. Like, not even a flinch as he walked through the flames to throw his icicle at Viserion. And the result was a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, heart-stoppingly awful perfect shot. No one, I think, could have predicted that. (Except for fans who figured Dany needed to get knocked down a rung for a more fair fight.)
It was like watching a plane crash in slow-motion. As it’s crying in pain. Poor baby!
And yet, Dany was way too calm about the whole thing. I felt like Dany was more upset over leaving behind Jon, who admittedly has better hair than a dragon but isn’t quite as entertaining when he opens his mouth. She just met this King Snow bloke like a month ago. Viserion is one of three dragons in all of existence born of Dany’s grief and sacrifice and personal spiritual fire and eons of birthright and he was just cut down. You don’t want to take a moment here?
Trust us, Dany, there are plenty of other broody men in Westeros. But his sexy stab wound scars remind you of your own sacrifices for leadership and yadda yadda yadda and get you all misty-eyed? Ugh. Really didn’t feel this reaction was weighted right. Even if Dany got visual proof of climate change, the raid seemed foolish and under-equipped.
I admit, though, I definitely felt an ice dragon would come and balance the scales (excuse the pun) and I’m excited to see it in action in the season finale. And I’m glad it’s not Drogon. Even though he was parked right on the ground in front of The Night King; The Night King is a show-off on top of being an ice-cold asshole.
D&D know what fans of the TV show want: tits and dragons. I’m surprised and appreciative that we’re getting way more of the latter this season. But is the spectacle more important than the story? I’m a book reader first. I enjoy a more languorous pace and more concrete motivation instead of watching pieces move on a painted table.
Sometimes, the movement works, as it did at the start of the episode, with all of the Magnificent Seven talking to each other in different combinations. I love me some dragons burning shit and guys in furs swinging swords, but I appreciate good conversation, too. Jon talks to Jorah about Jorah’s father! Jon and Beric discuss their vows. Gendry whinges. Tormund tells the Hound he loves Brienne!
Less fun banter was going on in Winterfell. Speaking of the Maid of Tarth, Littlefinger actually offered good advice about Brienne being willing to intercede between the fighting Stark girls if Arya gets too out of line against her sister. But then Sansa summarily sends Brienne to King’s Landing as her emissary. Brienne, who speaks the truth about Littlefinger. Or did Littlefinger get under her skin and she, in turn, sent Brienne away from Arya? Arya has proven she doesn’t need anyone to do her murdering for her, so it makes no sense to send Brienne away. How can Sansa honestly believe anywhere is ever safe again, after the horror she’s endured? It didn’t ring true to her experiences at all.
And Arya is behaving in the same unbelievable way. First, I’d like to point out than Sansa was 100% correct in saying that Arya couldn’t survive what Sansa suffered, nor could Arya have won back Winterfell. Arya is not here to play the game of thrones. She is here to be a weapon. And a smug jerk. Arya most likely would have gotten herself killed had she tried to assassinate Joffrey in season 2, she doesn’t have the patience for diplomacy and would never suffer the political marriages to Ramsay or Tyrion. I almost wonder if the degradations Sansa endured would in fact break Arya because they came in a form Arya just doesn’t comprehend.
Just because Sansa wore dresses instead of floppy rubber faces, doesn’t mean she wasn’t a prisoner.
Arya’s less stabby talents are her ability to uncover lies and observe and analyze motivations. But she’s either too blinded by her own bias to believe that Sansa isn’t a traitor to her family or she’s too dumb to see that Littlefinger has serious motives for making the Stark sisters distrust one another. And Arya is, what, going to turn the Northern lords against Sansa and this will somehow help Jon? This whole storyline feels like manufactured conflict to keep the Stark girls spinning their wheels while the plot moves forward Beyond the Wall.
How many more will get ground down under Westeros’ wheel of story? Sure hope no more casualties are dragons.
- “Gingers are beautiful.” I am here for Tormund’s positive body image.
- I’m not a war strategist, but I have some questions. Why did the raiders not bring more torches or fire of some kind? A few Molotov cocktails or something? Why did everyone not have some dragonglass? Why did they not bring Dany from the start instead of having Gendry run and send a raven? How close was the Wall that Gendry could run there in the first place? Or was his hammer just that heavy? Remember when it took a full episode to get to Craster’s? This isn’t the usual time travel whine, it’s a logical question. Why did Dany bring all three dragons with her to an unknown battlefield to face an inhuman army for the first time? Is there a Home Depot Beyond-the-Wall for the Night King to buy all those giant chains?
- Loved every time Sandor interacted with fire; how he froze at the flaming bear, how he turned away when Thoros’ body was being burned. Great acting. (Also: RIP Thoros. You had a somewhat peaceful death which is better than most on Thrones.)
- BENJEN EX MACHINA! I’ve long been the biggest fan of Sean Bean’s fictional big-nosed brothers. (See: my obsession with Faramir in LOTR.) But to see Benjen for thirty seconds was worse than not seeing him at all. He very obviously did have time to hop back on the horse with Jon. What a disappointing reunion in the service of, again, manufacturing unnecessary drama. We knew Jon wasn’t gonna go out like that. He hasn’t even kissed Dany yet.
- Jon is totally gonna ride Rhaegal, isn’t he? Dany’s first love is named after her husband, Jon gets the one named after his dad, and the Night King terrorizes them both with a dragon named after Dany’s first tormentor.
- There sure was a lot of talk about babies last night: Tormund, Jorah, Tyrion, Dany. I WONDER WHAT THAT IS FORESHADOWING. But not really. But I kinda hope they don’t go there. Dany’s infertility brings up interesting questions of succession. I see her as Elizabeth I, only her marriage is to her dragons and her country. I predict a long-distance political marriage to Jon; no way is he living in King’s Landing. And a kind of parliament for democratically elected representatives. A new world for Westeros.
- Next week: Everyone remembers Grey Worm’s been trapped at Casterly Rock all season. It cannot be the season finale already! But it is. Dammit. *throws a tantrum*
Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Reach her via raven or on Twitter.