We're recapping Season 7 of HBO's Game of Thrones here on Monkey See. We'll try to turn them around overnight, so look for them first thing on Mondays. And of course: Spoilers abound.
A supersized episode this week, 70! Glorious! Minutes! Of walking and bonding and mauling and wight-snatching and deus-ex-machining. It starts with the credits map, on which we once again scooch sideways from Castle Black over to Eastwatch, as so much of this week's action takes place just a hop, skip and a Gendry-jog north of it.
And even after the credits are over, we're not done with scene-setting. Because just to make sure y'all are picking up what the show is laying down, we zoom over the Dragonstone map table, to establish that our ragtag group of beardy, furry and very likely stinky warriors are indeed headed north of the wall, on their ice-zombie safari.
Now is perhaps not the ideal time to point out that their plan remains a very, very dumb one, but it must be said. Here's their whiteboard, essentially:
- Somehow find a wight in the vast frozen wasteland north of the Wall.
- Somehow kidnap said wight without getting horribly killed.
- Somehow transport wight to Kings Landing.
- Show wight to Cersei.
The problem, of course, is that they haven't really thought past Step 4, because everyone knows that there's only one way Step 5 can go:
5. Cersei's all "Pfft. Undead warrior? Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. I got a big honkin' zombie of my own, so you're not special. Now if you'll excuse me I'm just gonna be over here smiling a venomous, thin-lipped smile as I sip contemplatively from this here goblet of red wine while my zombie squeezes your heads into a custardy pulp."
But never mind that. The only thing that matters this week is that Jon Snow and the Funky Bunch are walking and bonding and explaining things to one another the way doomed soldiers do in war movies. (Did you make bets about which one(s) weren't gonna make it? Because I kind of thought the casualties would be a bit higher, and I was certain Tormund was a goner.)
These Boots Were Made for Walking. And Walking. And Walking.
Lots of tracking shots of grubby dudes walking in single file through a barren landscape; somewhere in New Zealand, Peter Jackson jolts awake, determined to sue someone for IP theft.
And this Fellowship of the Ringworm is bonding like crazy. Tormund and Gendry inspire some slashfic, Tormund suggests that Jon bending the knee (drink!) to Dany might save some lives, which will become important later. Gendry eats up some quality screen time nursing old wounds with Thoros and Beric, until the Hound calls him out for whinging and OK seriously why aren't any of these jerks wearing hats? Their fool ears should have fallen off by now.
Jon and Jorah talk through their respective daddy issues, and Jon offers Jorah his Valyrian steel sword Longclaw — which was handed down in Jorah's family for centuries — but Jorah refuses it, because honor and duty and manly man things. Hm? What? Oh, just a coupla dudes talking about their swords. Subtext, schmubtext.
Back at Winterfell, we're in for another of those Conversations On The Balcony Overlooking The Courtyard In Which One Participant Never Looks At The Other. It's usually Sansa and Littlefinger. This time it's Arya and Sansa, and Arya's being a pill about that raven-letter Sansa was forced to write back in the day.
Arya deduces — correctly — that Sansa is worried that she'll show the letter to various lords of the North. I'm not loving this whole letter subplot, as it seems engineered to gin up this arbitrary conflict, but if it comes to it, I suppose I'm Team Arya Honey Lighten The Hell Up Already.
The long march continues north of the Wall, and now it's Tormund and the Hound's turn to do a little caring and sharing. Tormund confesses his affections for Brienne, to the Hound's disgust. Beric and Jon get existential, with Beric going all "And when there was just one set of footprints in the sand, that's when the Lord of Light was carrying you," which Jon seems to appreciate.
At Dragonstone, Dany says she likes that Tyrion isn't a hero, because "Heroes do stupid things and die." (Not for nothing: Also the Game of Thrones elevator pitch.) Tyrion attempts to talk to Dany about her decision to flash-fry both Tarlys last week, but she ices him out. They discuss an upcoming meeting with Cersei, and Tyrion broaches the subject of Dany's successor, which is not an avenue she's prepared to start down. She starts up yet again about there's this damn wheel, and how she's gonna break it, and all of this wheel business is fast becoming the new "bend the knee," so let's just move on already.
Clan of the Zombear
North of the Wall, the party of 13 becomes 12 when they're attacked by an undead Pooh bear that mistakes Thoros' topknot for a hunny pot. The flaming swords come out, igniting the bear, which causes the Hound to freeze up. Thoros survives the mauling, but only just.
(This scene is here to remind you that it's not just humans who get reanimated by the weird eldritch blah blah of the Night King – it turns creatures, too, into decomposing blue-eyed vassals. It's setting up the final shot of tonight's episode.)
Sansa seeks Littlefinger's advice, which can never end well. He reminds her that Brienne is sworn to protect both her and Arya. This nugget will cause Sansa to consider sending Brienne away, allowing herself a bit more wiggle room should she decide to work against her sister.
The intrepid, smelly band of brothers ambushes a white walker and a brace of his backup dancers. After a brief struggle filled with the sound of zombie-gurgles and hisses that Sunday-night prestige cable television is built on, Jon manages to take out the walker, which serves to take out all of the wights but one. They capture this last one — let's call him Bitey – but not before he screeches a screech that summons a bunch of his fellows.
Jon sends Gendry back to Eastwatch to get help, before running with the rest of his pelt-covered posse across a frozen lake to a small island. When the wights attempt to follow, the ice breaks and plunges a good number of them into the water, which you have to imagine would be at most an inconvenience for them, what with them not breathing and all.
Night passes ... and so does Thoros. Good night, sweet priest. May choirs of man-buns sing thee to thy rest.
Jorah and Jon conjecture that killing a white walker will also take care of all the wights they've created. Beric points out the Night King, gazing placidly and bluishly down at them from an outcropping. Kill him, and you kill them all. Tidy.
Gendry makes it back to Eastwatch and collapses, and you'd be forgiven for thinking he was gonna die right there like some Westerosi version of Pheidippides. But he doesn't.
Sansa sends a reluctant Brienne down to Kings Landing. Brienne's rightly worried about leaving Sansa with Littlefinger, but it seems like it's Arya, what with that baleful unblinking stare of hers, who really bears watching.
Against Tyrion's advice, Dany climbs aboard Drogon and takes off for the North on a rescue mission, with Rhaegal and Viserion in tow.
The Island of Misfit Boys
Jon and his crusty comrades are nearing end-of-The-Shining Jack Nicholson mode. The water around them has finally frozen solid again, and the wights advance, led by one particularly decrepit Jack Skellington-lookin' mofo.
It's a big fight, and Tormund very nearly gets gotten but is saved by the Hound at the last minute. Another member of their party — let's just call him Hoodie — isn't so lucky, and falls into pack of ice-zombies who collectively act like he's a hunk of kale, and they're a blender set to LIQUEFY. And all the while, Bitey lies on the ground twitching and making noises that sound like if you crossed a Walking Dead zombie with Looney Tunes' Tasmanian Devil.
All is looking dire, and our heroes trade manfully manful looks that would seem to indicate that they're about to go down swinging, when Dany arrives with her dragons, and they proceed to light the place up. All those skeletons, all that fire — the whole lake probably smells like bone marrow. This is one umami-rich battle.
It goes swimmingly, and everyone climbs on the back of Drogon like he's the last chopper out of Saigon. Everyone, that is, except Jon, who's still fighting. Meanwhile, the Night King readies his handy-dandy mystical-magical ice-spear and lets it fly. It hits Viserion squarely in his reptilian solar-plexus, and he goes down. (We get a shot of Dany that doesn't read "horrified," to me, as much as "Did I leave the stove on?") The dead beast sinks into the icy waters.
As the Night King readies a second ice-lance-thingy, Jon is overtaken by some wights and falls below the ice. Dany takes off, and the Night King, looking smug and impassive — more than baseline — moves on.
Jon surfaces, and the horde notices him, but he's saved by the arrival of not-entirely-undead Benjen Stark, who slaps Jon on a horse and sends him back to the Wall before proceeding to go down fighting.
Benjen, we hardly knew ye. I mean that literally; we only barely remembered ye from Season 1.
Jon makes it back to Eastwatch. He's loaded onto a Targaryen ship, where Dany notices A. His telltale, OK-This-Guy-Should-Be-Really-Really-Dead stab wounds, and B. His abs. She spends some time marveling at one or the other. Or both.
At Winterfell, Sansa sneaks into Arya's room, (this is one snoopy family) and finds her Bag o'Faces, which, to be sure, is the kind of thing that'd naturally unsettle a person, even if Arya didn't appear out of nowhere and start talking in a cold, even voice — which she very much does. Then she starts walking around the room with her hands behind her back and is just being generally creepy, tossing out veiled threats amid knifeplay. (Lots and lots of attention on that knife again, this episode. Something's up.)
On the ship, Jon and Dany share an intimate moment in which he agrees to bend the knee (chug!), and she agrees that they'll take down the Night King together. The hand-holding gets pretty hot and heavy.
Back up North, the wights are working together to haul Viserion's giant scaly corpse out of the lake with chains. ("Look down/Look down/We don't got any eyes/Look down/Look down/We're now attracting flies.") The Night King comes over, lays a little blue-eyed soul on him, and bingo. Giant undead dragon. Game ... changed.
Lookit, I figured we'd go into next week's season finale down a few characters. Thoros I was expecting. Benjen was a surprise, as I'd pretty much forgotten he was still out there.
But now we got this great honkin' undead ... ice-dragon I guess? That maybe breathes ... ice? Or snow? Or hail the size of canned hams?
Next week, it looks like the two queens are finally going to meet [Renly and Loras joke redacted] and Cersei will get her chance to roll her eyes and check her watch at the captured Bitey McBiterson. Which, stirring-drama-wise, is no way to end a season, particularly the penultimate season, so expect something big to go horribly horribly wrong for many someones. Which would also make a pretty good elevator pitch for this show.