Reply All: A Game of Thrones Email Exchange – “Beyond the Wall”

If you missed Matt’s top moments from this episode, you can see them here. If you missed the podcast, you can listen to it here.

KEITH: Well, Ser Dracarys, that was upsetting. We all knew that the mission beyond the Wall wasn’t likely to end well, but it would appear that this was even more disastrous for the realms of men than any of us could have anticipated. I was guessing that someone would die, but I never in my life would have imagined that that someone would have been one of Daenerys’ dragons, let alone that said dragon would then be converted into a wight dragon. This, quite simply, changes everything, and doesn’t give me a whole heck of a lot of hope regarding how humanity is going to survive both the onslaught of the dead and an undead dragon.

I know there’s a lot more to say about the rest of the expedition north, as well as the episode in general, but how did you feel about that revelation in the final moments of “Beyond the Wall”?

NICK: There’s been a lot of speculation in the Throne-o-sphere that the Night King would land himself an undead dragon one way or another. Two episodes ago we saw Bronn use a bolt bigger than Cersei that temporarily brought Drogon down, and now we see how much power the Night King has. Sure raising the dead to march south is impressive, but that throw! That insane, magical spear of ice took down Viserion in one toss. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an NFL team make him an offer.

Joking aside, that final scene of the wights dragging Viserion from the depths and the Night King reanimating him with stunningly blue eyes was as chilling as the frozen lake itself. I’m looking forward (but also not looking forward) to when brother faces brothers in a literal battle of ice and fire. That is, assuming Viserion does in fact breathe ice now, but it seems likely. Long ago we thought at some point there would be two other dragon riders alongside Dany. As Jon’s journey continued throughout the show it looked more and more like he would one day ride a dragon, but the third was in constant debate. This quells that argument.

For the story, it felt necessary. We never spent much time with Viserion or Rheagal, and the fact that one of them is named after Jon’s father made it safe from demise this time around. Dany’s flame throwing arsenal is cut by a third, which wouldn’t be as hard to swallow if she were only going to fight Cersei in King’s Landing. Honestly she just needs one so long as she avoids anymore of Qyburn’s Scorpions. But now she’s seen the undead and the Night King, and finally, FINALLY understands what Jon’s been going on about ever since he arrived in Dragonstone. The true threat is the Night King, and it won’t matter who sits on the Iron Throne if he’s not stopped.

Before diving deeper into the Battle and the quick return and abrupt ending of Benjen Stark, can we talk about the great conversations during the trek north? My favorite is a toss-up between Jon and Jorah (for familial purposes) and Tormund and Sandor for humorous Brienne gothic and new vocabulary. What are your thoughts on the interactions between this ragtag crew?

KEITH: I loved every moment of those sequences. The trek north reminded me in a lot of ways of The Fellowship of the Ring, in that there were a lot of extreme long shots of the crew walking through snowy mountains and the conversations served to build relationships between a group of people that really don’t know each other that well. I absolutely agree that highlights are Jorah and Jon speaking about who should wield Longclaw, but I also really appreciated what Beric had to say to Jon about death being the only enemy. It’s a good thing that Jon has someone to talk to about being brought back from the dead, and Beric seemed to have given him some small sense of understanding of why he might have been resurrected.

If anything, I think the threat of the Night King was just made even more serious (and not just because of Viserion). The Night King is far more comfortable slinging giant ice spears than I anticipated, but I suppose that’s only because we really haven’t seen him in action just yet. Sure he’s the king of the White Walkers and commander of the army of the dead, but what other special skills does he have? What makes him so fearsome? We got a taste of that this week and I can’t wait to see him unleash even more undead fury when it comes time for the showdown between the living and the dead.

Of course, it wasn’t just action north of the Wall that drove the episode. We saw quite a bit of Sansa and Arya this week. Arya very clearly trusts her sister even less than she did before, although it’s rather baffling to me that she still fails to take Sansa’s side on this. For someone so skilled in reading other people and looking into their motives, she cannot look at things from the perspective of her own sister. She even makes a not-so-subtle threat that she might like wearing Sansa’s face around. Even for Arya, that’s just cold, man.

NICK: I’m so torn with Arya. Her arc in both the books and the show has been one of the most tremendous transformations, and now it feels like she’s breaking down the pillars she’s built over the last few seasons. She tells a heartfelt story about practicing archery as Ned watches, then quickly turns his death on Sansa without warning. Sansa understandably defends herself, because really, what choice did she have? I did love when Sansa finds out Arya was at Ned’s execution but did exactly what Sansa did to stop it all: nothing. If we revisit that moment that happened oh so long ago, Sansa was promised Ned’s life if she wrote that letter to Robb. What Sansa—and even Cersei—didn’t count on was Joffrey going rogue and making a terrible example of Ned. With Arya’s training and the things she’s been through, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Arya can so quickly push that aside and let paranoia take over. She’s so hellbent on avenging Ned’s death that she’ll have incredibly dark conversations with veiled threats towards her older sister. In their second scene together, Sansa finds Arya’s faces in her laptop bag (because where else do you keep the peeled off faces of dead men?) and Arya appears seemingly out of nowhere with the Catspaw dagger and more threats. She comes clean as to who she became during her training, and how simple it would be for her to kill Sansa AND WEAR HER FACE AROUND with no one being the wiser? So now Sansa is worried that her little sister might kill her. Littlefinger’s wedge goes deeper and deeper.

After his chat with Varys last week, Tyrion is truly trying to reign in Dany. Their discussion on her handling of the Tarly boys leaves the word “impulsive” open for debate. Tyrion is worried that she’ll become too much like her father. Dany has decided to do the opposite of what Tyrion says. Is taking all three dragons to the North to rescue Jon and company impulsive? Tyrion thinks so, Dany does not. Then there’s the succession plan, where Tyrion makes an interesting point we haven’t really thought about:

“The world you want to build doesn’t get built all at once. Probably not in a single lifetime. How do we make sure your vision endures? After you break the wheel how do we make sure it stays broken?”

All this time we’re gearing up for a massive battle for the Iron Throne, and not stopping to think that Westeros wasn’t built in a day. Tyrion has a point, just look at what happened in Essos. Dany demolished the slave masters, then left with no plan—succession–in place to prevent the masters from rising up once again, which they did before she dracary’d them in Mereen. This goal of hers is to take the Iron Throne, but what happens after that? Tyrion is assuming Dany will win the war, but what happens when Dany moves on from this world? What’s to stop others from creating chaos and rebuilding the wheel? Obviously Dany isn’t concerned about that at the moment. In Westeros, you got to get the throne first. Then when you get the Throne, you get the power. Then when you get the power, you get the people.

You’re always astute when reading between the lines in these types of conversations. How much trust for Tyrion does Dany still have? How can he better influence her to help her build the world she’s striving for?

KEITH: You know, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about that. I’m pretty sure that the fact that Daenerys is still having these types of conversations with Tyrion proves that she still has plenty of faith in him and recognizes that he has a lot to offer as Hand of the Queen. She might regularly go against his advice, but she’s definitely still listening. And even though she’s finally bought-in on the Night King and the army of the dead, I feel like she’s realizing just why exactly Tyrion was cautioning her against riding north (you know, now that one of her children is a zombie).

I also think that it’s typical of Tyrion to be playing the long game here. I don’t really think that he’s just assuming that she’s going to win the war—it’s damn near impossible for her to lose, so long as the entire realm of men doesn’t get wight-ified. He’s absolutely right to be thinking of what happens after she takes the Iron Throne, and her insistence that she’ll never have any other children (something she repeats to Jon, perhaps in an attempt to push off any notions of union he might be having) doesn’t exactly make it easy to plan for the future.

But Dany’s also got a really good memory, and the fact that Tyrion criticizes her for being impulsive in her decisions on handling the Tarlys might weigh on future decisions that she has to make. Does she show mercy in the future? Does she start turning her own attention to the long game? Or is she now even more focused on the present now that she’s seen the army of the dead?

NICK: I think her interaction with Jon after he thawed out confirmed that she’s wholly set on temporarily setting the Iron Throne plan aside and joining forces with her nephew to fight the Night King. Partially I think she wants revenge for Viserion’s death (even though she just sort of hand-waves this), but her connection with Jon is the driving force behind her willingness to back him, which in turn led to Jon verbally bending the knee. His talk with Tormund earlier reminds Jon of the price Mance’s people paid when he refused to bow to Stannis. It took long enough, but Jon’s finally realizing his pride might have gotten in the way.

The past few episodes have seen Jon and Dany give each other the eyes at different times, so we finally got to see a legitimate tender moment between the two. Jon, practically frozen from ice and Dany unburned by fire connecting to become…THE SONG OF ICE AND FIRE? Maybe it’s too obvious, but it’s fun to think about. Of course there’s the argument that Jon himself is Ice and Fire with those parents of his, but that reveal is still in the works. I thought the moment between these two was extremely touching, especially since Dany got to see the scars that put Jon on his temporary deathbed. She knows there’s more to this…Jon Snow then meets the eye, and it’s finally starting to click in her mind.

It’s interesting that no one suggested that Jon and Dany get married. Think of all the strategic marriages throughout the entire series, and when Jon previously refused to bend the knee, no one thought “hey, why don’t you, the King of the North with 20,000 strong marry the Queen of Dragons (and titles et al) who has a huge army AND three dragons?”. It wouldn’t have been the worst marriage proposal we’ve seen, and it made sense. Just a thought. If the show continues on its fan service-y route, there’s a solid chance we see Dany and Jon unite before time runs out.

What was your reaction to the Dany/Jon scene and where does their newfound alliance take them?

KEITH: Wait, we seriously haven’t mentioned their marriage as a possibility? That’s all I’ve been thinking about as they continue to grow closer, especially considering it kind of removes the possibility of Jon bending the knee to bring the North and the rest of the realm into a single, cohesive kingdom. He gets to keep his pride and get his people some additional security, and Dany doesn’t have to worry about him not bending the knee: he’ll be her husband. It’s pretty much the best of both worlds for each person. Coupled with the fact that we know the Targaryens wed brother and sister for centuries (thanks Jaime and Cersei for letting us in on that tidbit), this seems like a rather distinct possibility.

As far as their scene on the boat is concerned, it was really nice to finally see them stop posturing for a moment and be real with each other. They both realize that they’ve begun to grow close and both are genuinely happy to see each other. Jon even goes so far as to refer to Daenerys as Dany, which is something that only her brother has ever done before (and I’m not even sure we saw that back in season 1). But it’s a pretty pivotal moment in that it’s the point where Daenerys throws her full support behind stopping the Night King and Jon decides to swallow his pride and swear fealty to the new Targaryen dynasty. When they go to meet Cersei this week, they’ll no longer be presenting themselves to her as two distinct forces, but as a unified front. Cersei’s already looking to play ball—at least for a short while, until she can figure out a way to swing things to her advantage—so this might force her even further into playing along, or it might force her into playing her hand before she was really ready to do so. Either way, I’m stoked to find out.

What are you looking for from the season finale? What needs to happen?

NICK: One thing I’m looking forward to in the finale is some actual time with any returning characters before they die twenty seconds later. Benjen’s return was so sudden and over so quickly that it just felt cheap. When he helped Bran and Meera last season he refused to go back to the wall with them. When he saved Jon, he didn’t take the split second to hop on the horse and ride away with him. Is Benjen (aka television Coldhands) unable to get past the wall’s magic? As he explains to Bran, he was saved by the Children of the Forest Dragonglass stabbing, so do the parameters that keep the Night King and the army bereft of Wall access? Is this really why he didn’t go with Jon and instead got swalloed by a gazillion wights?

But I digress. The trailer for “The Dragon and the Wolf” takes us back south of the wall and to King’s Landing. We see armies forming, both on land and at sea. Jon confronts Cersei with Tyrion, Davos, Brienne, and Pod (shouts to him for moving up in the world! This might mean he dies soon), but we don’t see Dany. They’re either refraining from showing her, or the more likely reason is that she isn’t there because it would be stupid for her to go. Either way, this being the longest episode ever I can’t imagine everyone sits around and talks. There’s going to be a fight. There HAS to be a fight. I don’t believe it’s a full-on army battle, but something will go down.

Jon spent five episodes convincing Dany, and now he has to convince the most cold-hearted woman in the world of the same thing. I’m not sure the wight they captured is really going to convince Cersei of anything. I do think that this is the episode where we see Jaime turn against his twin lover, so I’m very interested in seeing that possibly come to fruition. Remember how real Jaime gets whenever Brienne is around? He’ll be facing an internal battle between his sister and the one person that’s seen him vulnerable.

As bummed as we are that the show is already at its season finale, the revelations and plot pushing has been incredible, and tomorrow night’s episode is bound to be one for the books.

Check out the trailer below for the season finale, and check back next week for our thoughts and reactions. 

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Nick Hershey

The author Nick Hershey

Nick was born and raised in Amish country, has a beard, but isn’t Amish. He’s a fan of winter as long as he’s at the top of a mountain with a board under his feet. He’s an avid sports fan, movie junkie, tv bum, and music enthusiast who still purchases CDs for some reason.