Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 6 "Beyond the Wall" Review
Time catches up with us all...
“Beyond the Wall” is a very condensed episode that only focuses on two strands of the narrative. I’m completely fine with that, but unfortunately both of those stories suffer from what we’re shown in this season's second-to-last episode. Knowing full well that this episode was about dragons fighting zombies, there was still some background storytelling that was too silly to let slide.
In the north, everything takes place, you guessed it, beyond the Wall where Jon Snow and his Westerosi Expendables trek into the lands of always-winter to retrieve physical proof that the undead threat is real.
This journey was introduced to us at the end of “Eastwatch” and I’ll be damned if it didn’t sound like the most fun we’d have all season. Unfortunately, what happens beyond the Wall was messy, illogical, and oddly enough, the safest storytelling Game of Thrones has ever shown. All in all, it was pretty bad.
Most of the jumbled confusion comes by way of time and distance. Season seven of Game of Thrones has gone further distances (and back again) than any other season before it, but it’s done so in the fewest amount of episodes a season has had. While a lot of this can be written off as time saved for the viewer, “Beyond the Wall” showed a laughable amount of fast traveling that genuinely hurt the journey of our beloved characters.
If you watched the episode, you probably know what I’m talking about. Gendry, needing to quickly send word to Dany that things didn’t go according to plan (surprise, surprise), managed to book it all the way back to Eastwatch in what had to be record time. I’m talking Usain Bolt speeds, this dude managed to get all the way back to the Wall and send the message that ultimately saved the team.
Am I glad that he did? Sure, because we got to see the fire-breathing trifecta cull the army of the dead, but from a storytelling perspective, the time and distance don't add up, especially when you throw Dany’s return trip on top of it.
Let me get deep dork for a second. That arrowhead mountain that the Hound keeps going on about, it’s also where the Children of the Forest made the first white walker. To me, that sounds like it’d be as far north as you could get, not even close to being within a couple-hour run of the Wall. Remember, we spent an entire season behind the Wall in season 3, and it took ages to get anywhere.
While this wasn’t the most hurtful aspect of the episode, it really cheapened the experience and the blatancy of it all is what I’ll remember most about the episode.
Before returning to Jon and his crew, we can’t forget that a minor portion of the episode also took place in Winterfell. Sansa’s doing her best to run things as Jon, as well as the ghosts of Starks past would have liked, and surprisingly, Arya seems to be the only one getting in the way of that.
Though, that’s not entirely fair. Littlefinger is trying his best to play the sisters against one another, and he seems to be winning, but Arya is really falling full-force into the trap he’s laid out. On top of that, the way she handles things seems completely out of character. Look, I couldn’t begin to imagine the strife that Arya’s been through, but having just reunited with her entire family, all of this distrust and angst seems so out of place.
Is it to force another part of the plot, presumably Littlefinger’s death? I’d say so. But it’s definitely not being presented to the audience in a genuine way or one that’s fun to watch. This fabricated betrayal could best be compared to Barristan Selmy’s discovery of Jorah Mormont’s betrayal of Dany back in season 5.
When Barristan discovered Jorah’s deceit, there was still a level of respect for Jorah in the way he brought it forward. These were two men who hadn’t been allies for that long. Would estranged sisters now reunited not have a closer bond than to be at each other's throat? Maybe it’s the only child in me, but it all felt very silly.
Back beyond the Wall, before Dany’s combustive arrival, the team suffers their first loss. It’s Thoros of Myr, the easiest loss to bear (heh) from the viewer’s perspective, but after that nobody dies, not really.
Sure, Viserion is a big loss, but we all know we haven’t seen the last of him. Then, there was also Benjen, who foolishly swooped in to save Jon before uttering the eye-rolling words, “There’s no time” and let Jon leave without him. Another death, it’s true, but that marks the second time we’ve seen Benjen since season one. He was doomed beyond the Wall to begin with.
So ultimately, out of the team of fan-favorites, only one was killed. In Game of Thrones terms, it seems like punches were pulled, does it not? What’s even sillier is there’s a squad of unnamed Wildlings that was traveling with the crew. They only exist to be killed and it's laughable how they only show their faces before it's ripped off.
In a show that’s virtually never pulled back on the throttle, it was very confusing to see why they wanted to show death, but they couldn’t dispatch adored, yet insignificant characters. Jorah Mormont has returned to the queen one last time. Would there not have been some poetry in his loss? Tormund, we all love Tormund, but a death north of the Wall is all he’s wanted for his people. Does he not deserve the same? The Hound...well, he’s going to live longer than anybody so it makes sense he’s still kicking.
It’s well past the time that Game of Thrones needs to start killing off minor characters. It’s a sad reality, but a true one. They’ve established a universe where there is no mercy, so why betray that concept for just one episode?
‘Beyond the Wall” was one of the weakest episodes in the entirety of Game of Thrones. Thankfully, some of this show’s worst episodes blow other show’s best episodes out of the water. But if mistakes like time-jumping and plot armoring are continually being made, then we may be in for a ho-hum season seven finale. I really hope that’s not the case.
OVERALL SCORE: 6/10
Review by Henry Kulick