SPOILERS…OBVIOUSLY

Polar bears, dragons and zombie dragons, oh my. Yes, yes…our fellowship did their thing, and more of them returned alive than expected. I’ll talk about that, but first a tangent: is Game of Thrones turning into glorified fan fiction?

Season 7 has been a lot of fun, and “Beyond the Wall” didn’t really disappoint. It’s just…I don’t know. Something is starting to feel a bit off. I first noticed it last episode, and really couldn’t get away from it in “Beyond the Wall.” I’m suddenly very aware that we are in the David Benioff and D.B. Weiss era of the larger GoT saga, the two showrunners replacing George R.R. Martin as the true authors of the text. This started last season, of course, but it seems all the more apparent this season, especially considering how often the “Inside the Episode” featurettes with Benioff and Weiss include language like “we were thinking…” or “we thought it would be a good idea to…” Everything we just watched in this episode might never make it into the books, whenever Martin finishes them, that is, because most of it seems to be coming from Benioff and Weiss’s imagination.

They’ve earned that, though. No one could have possibly done a better job of adapting (and often times tweaking) Martin’s work in those first five seasons. When he proved incapable of finishing his novels fast enough they took the baton and ran with it, with Martin’s blessing (and slight consultation). They’re two guys who came to this project as superfans, and have now emerged as definitive co-authors.

But the further we get away from the last Martin novel (which roughly corresponds with season 5 of the show) the more false notes we’re starting to hit, particularly this season, which has felt rushed and occasionally frustrating due to its questionable character choices with Bran, Sansa and Arya. For example, there were moments between those latter two in “Beyond the Wall” which I just didn’t buy at all. Arya’s now threatening to cut off Sansa’s face and parade around as her?

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Nope. Nuh-uh. Try again. I don’t care what she’s been through with her faceless man crap. Arya would not turn her homicidal rage on her only sister after just the slightest manipulation from Littlefinger, not with how much family means to her. She’s a black & white rage monster who struggles to see the grey, but surely she’d at least give her sister a chance to explain herself and share the horrifics details of the hell she went through to reclaim Winterfell for their family (she kind of does, but not really).

Perhaps the fault is my own. Perhaps I so longed for a Stark reunion that I failed to recall the enmity Arya and Sansa shared back in the first season. And perhaps after Arya’s massacre of the Freys she really would be a sociopath with an itchy trigger finger (or stabbin’ finger…wait, that’s not really a thing, is it?), even if her new target turns out to be her only sister.

But it doesn’t feel that way. If anything, it feels more like wheel-spinning, something for the Starks to do while everyone is off having a much more interesting season elsewhere. Either that or Arya is running a counter-scheme to Littlefinger’s and playing the part he wants her to before revealing her true plans. I don’t think so, though.

One single objectionable storyline does not a fan fiction make. But how about several of them, such as Cersei’s pregnancy, Jon and Dany’s rushed romance, Bran’s new resting douchebag face, Bronn not dying, Jamie walking away from his brush with Drogon far too easily, the Night King killing and claiming one of Dany’s dragons or Jon being saved out of nowhere by his uncle? These aren’t all egregious missteps, but they’ve all given me pause, enough to make me wonder: Is this really how this story is supposed to end? Or is just Weiss and Benioff’s best guess?

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For example, is the Night King really supposed to have a zombie dragon? Doesn’t that kind of feel like a storyline from two superfans looking to do some outlandishly cool shit and not the carefully planned out “and then Jon, Danny and Tyrion flew the three dragons into battle” inevitability? Or is this exactly the kind of twist Martin would want, flipping our predictions of the three riders back on us by revealing the third dragon rider will actually be the Night King? Now if only the good guys had someone powerful enough to wharg into a zombie dragon. Who could that be.

Either way, this is the story we’re getting, even if it’s not the one that was intended. And, really, when episodes are as purely entertaining as “Beyond the Wall” who am I to complain? We were treated to hilarious banter between the fellowship, amazing fight scenes with a zombie animal, a sad death, an ingeniously staged standoff atop a frozen lake and the sight of Dany riding her dragons north of the Wall and laying waste to the damn Army of the Dead. We’d wondered who among the Fellowship would die. Turns out, just the Eye Patch Guy’s priest and a bunch of free folk, and that’s because the true, longer-lasting casualty in the battle came from an unexpected combatant. Poor…um, whichever dragon you were. Not Drogon. I know that much.

And that now leaves us with the looming possibility of dragon on dragon violence. I have no idea if that’s what George R.R. Martin wanted from the story, but it’s what we’re getting and while it might give me pause it’s still pretty damn cool.

THE NOTES I WROTE WHILE WATCHING THE EPISODE

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  1. Kit Harrington sure is short. I mean, I already knew that, but just about everyone else in this little Fellowship towers over him. Even Dany thinks he’s too short.
  2. Jon has to know that without that sword he’s just as vulnerable as anyone else in a fight with the White Walkers, right? Thank the Lord of Light that Mr. Khaleesi turned him down.
  3. Arya is suddenly the Danny Rand of this show.
  4. Tormund is so in love.That might be a bad sign. His “I’ve got a gal waiting for me back home” is exactly the type of thing a soldier in a war movie says before they die.
  5. “Perhaps if you planned for the short term we wouldn’t have lost Dorne and High Garden” – She’s got a point, Tyrion. Cersei and Jamie schooled you good.
  6. Say, that is a good question. Since she can’t have kids who will succeed Dany once she dies?
  7. Poor Hound. Fire. Why did it have to be fire?
  8. Poor cannon fodder Free Folk. Didn’t expect them to start falling this fast. But what are you going to do? That was a freakin’ zombie bear.
  9. An army of the dead advancing atop a frozen lake? This is like “Hardhome” meets The Revenant.
  10. Bye-bye cool Brotherhood priest whose name I could never remember. You went out a flame sword-wielding badass.
  11. Man, the Stark sisters have dropped several IQ levels since returning home to Winterfell.
  12. HBO Now is suddenly struggling to keep up the livestream. Anger level, rising.
  13. If only the Army of the Dead had some archers…
  14. And this is why you don’t skip rocks across a frozen lake, Hound.
  15. Dragons to the rescue any minute now. No, seriously. Any minute now. Heck, any second now. Because these dude are screwed.
  16. Tormund, nooooooooooooooo! Somebody. Save. Him. Now!
  17. Yessssss! Dragons to the rescue! Take that you freakin’ zombies.
  18. Crazy thought: could this whole thing have been avoided if Dany had just flown ahead with the dragons and laid down some covering fire once the fellowship had isolated an advance scout unit of the dead?
  19. Shit. There goes the whole “Danny, Jon and [insert name of other]” flying three dragons into the final battle theory.
  20. Screw you, Night King. Drogon’s not going out that easily.
  21. I’m not even going to pretend to understand how Jon’s last-second rescue by his long-lost uncle makes any sense.
  22. That’s right, Dany. The knife in the heart talk surrounding Jon wasn’t just talk.
  23. Ugh. The Stark sisters again. Arya’s a freakin’ sociopath these days.
  24. Now Arya’s threatening to kill her sister and take her face? Nope. Not buying it. Arya is not that far gone, is she?
  25. Zombie dragon? Oh, this is very not good.

FAVORITE LINE

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Tormund: “You have to make do.” Oh, you cheeky bastard. Love it.

THINGS TO REMEMBER GOING FORWARD

  • They’re now operating on the Vampire DiariesOriginals principle: Kill a White Walker, kill all the undead it created. Why that didn’t happen in “Hardhome,” though, I have no idea.
  • Dany can’t have kids. Or so they keep saying

What did you think of “Beyond the Wall”? And what do you think Cersei has up her sleeve for the finale? Because that gathering of all the Kings can’t go well, not when one of them is as desperate and emotionally damaged as her. Let me know in the comments.

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

34 Comments

  1. Great in-depth post and I agree that I have enjoyed this season but some of the choices that the characters have made is questionable. I imagine a lot of it relates to the limited timeframe the writers are working with. However, I don’t think Cersei will care about White Walkers even if you are able to prove it to her and Dany only needed to fly over to see. However, I guess the characters may not realize how far gone Cersei is and Dany would possibly never have trusted Jon enough to go and see for herself. Also, was there ever a developed plan to actually capture a wight, or were they just hoping for a straggler?

    I plan to go back and read the books but from what I have been told, and from what the show implied, Drogo was Dany’s one and only. All other relationships for her were basically just to pass the time or relax. Jon would seem to be to preoccupied with keeping everyone alive to care about having a relationship. For me, their whole romantic arc feels forced.

    You shouldn’t kill characters for shock value alone but some of these people are escaping death quite easily.

    Again, this just may be because the writers have limited episodes and no longer have the books to base anything off of. They may be trying to please as many people as they can however, one of the hardest lessons is learning that is rarely, if ever, possible.

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  2. I didn’t really notice the things you complained about while watching this episode, but once you pointed them out they were painfully obvious. You’re correct… the writing and story telling has not been anywhere near as engaging as when it came directly from Martin.

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  3. I don’t really think Arya is planning Sansa any harm. I think she’s trying to PUSH her hard enough to determine her true character — to see if she’s still the spoiled child who wanted nice things or if she’s matured and cares about more than just herself. But, I sure didn’t like that scene where it DID look like she was threatening Sansa.

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  4. It was fun to discover a bit more about how the face thing works. I guess she literally carries the faces around with her. It sure seemed careless of her, however, to leave the faces so easily discoverable.

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  5. –> “Jon and Dany’s rushed romance”

    I’ve mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, you’re right — the romance doesn’t feel earned. It would have been more satisfying to have seen them interact more and find first mutual respect and then attraction and finally love.

    On the other hand, there have been plenty of fine romances based on love at first sight — a deep connection upon first meeting. Like finding your sole-mate. You don’t need to spend time together to know how you feel.

    I did find Danny’s reaction to seeing him fight, then seeing him sacrifice himself to save her and Drogon, and finally when she saw all his scars — including the one that confirmed Davos was telling the truth about being stabbed in the heart. I actually felt her pain upon seeing that. I felt her admiration soar at that point. And I felt her intense desire to see him recover.

    I did, however, think her response to him calling her his queen would be, “Fine. But only if I can call you my king.” And I’m glad they didn’t rush it THAT quickly.,

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  6. –> “Bronn not dying, Jamie walking away from his brush with Drogon far too easily, the Night King killing and claiming one of Dany’s dragons or Jon being saved out of nowhere by his uncle? ”

    I had no problem with those, though I did expect Bronn would die in that battle. I thought the Night King killing the dragon was appropriate. We all needed to see that having dragons is no guarantee of victory. I WOULD like to know, however, why getting hit with the King’s ice spear caused the dragon to ignite with fire. AND WHY the fire hurt and killed the dragon.

    Jon’s uncle being on the scene felt right, too. It is consistent with what we’ve learned about his uncle that he’d have been keeping an eye on the Knight King’s army.

    What was NOT realistic to me was John surviving his underwater battle with the undead, somehow making it to the surface, and then right where his sword was.

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  7. Question about the two flaming swords. What caused the flames? Was it an aspect of the swords? Or a power given to the men wielding them?

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    1. The men wielding them since they both worship the Lord of the Light.

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      1. So, nothing special about the swords? And to any other man wielding them they’d just be a mundane sword? I figured that was the case but wasn’t sure.

      2. As far as I know, yes, just regular swords those dudes used their magic to turn into fiery badasses. From what I’ve read, the priest actually wielded that same flame sword in that one battle he was too drunk to remember. It was the battle where the Starks, Lannisters and Baratheon’s took out the Greyjoys for siding with the Targaryens. It’s when Ned took Theon as punishment for the Greyjoys siding with the wrong side. So, even as far back as that he was running around with that kickass fiery blade.

      3. Was a bit cheesy. I mean it was almost he-man or thundercats the way he raised it.

      4. Thunder, thunder…thunder!

        Except, ya know, fire instead of thunder.

  8. I literally gasped out loud when I realized the Knight king was going to turn the dead dragon. I did NOT see that coming. And it’s frightening.

    I also had not considered the possibility of Bran wharging into the undead dragon. Have we ever seen anyone wharg into the undead?

    Reply

    1. Not that I’m aware of – on Bran wharging. It’s just something to remember as a possibility but not a guarantee. He might be able to do that, and there was that one line from that one child of the forest to him about never walking about but instead flying. He might have already achieved that through wharging into those birds, but she might have actually meant he’d take over one of the dragons. It’s just a fan theory, and this season most fan theories have been torn to shreds.

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  9. What I half expected and fully hoped would happen for Jon’s rescue was the third dragon would sense Jon was in danger and swoop in, taking out a big swath of undead and allow Jon to ride him to safety. That would have been much more satisfying to me than the uncle sacrificing his life. And it would have given Danny a very powerful reason to be impressed and more attracted to Jon.

    Is Jon now going to be faced with fighting an undead version of his uncle?

    Reply

    1. The thing with his uncle is that he’s already half-dead. By my understanding, he’s half-wight, half-human. No one seems to understand what to make of that, and I don’t know that his apparent demise in this episode means he’s now a part of the Army of the Dead.

      Jon’s survival…they just couldn’t risk it with the dragons. They would have been dead meat, unless maybe one of the dragons flew in behind the White Walkers and laid down fire to distract them long enough to be able to then save Jon. Still, the potential power of seeing Jon fly a dragon out of there sure as hell trumps his uncle just popping in from the sidelines out of nowhere.

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      1. Yeah, I wasn’t expecting Danny to SEND the dragon to Jon, but it would have been awesome if the dragon did it of it’s own fruition — solidifying the idea of Jon being a Targarian. There would have been plenty of ways that rescue could have been written to avoid getting the dragon killed.

  10. I fully expected Dog to use the hammer to break up the ice all around their little island, giving them the protection of a moat. Or at least to make the attempt.

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    1. Same here. That seemed like a definite lightbulb moment, but The Hound didn’t pick up on it, I guess.

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      1. Yeah, he’s more of a fighter than a thinker.

  11. I can’t recall the blacksmith / other bastard’s name. But I was extremely disappointed in his part of the story this episode. All that build up of how great he is with that war hammer and he just ended up being the messenger boy.

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    1. Gendry is his name, and that did seem like a lot of build-up with no real payoff. The bastard sons of Ned and Robert heading into battle to save Westeros. Yeaah!! Let’s do this shi…

      Oh, Gendry fell down. Now he’s running back to base to send a raven.

      Ok…ay. That’s still kind of cool. I guess. Without Gendry, Dany never would have gotten that raven and never shown up. Still, did it have to be Gendry? I guess he’s the only one other than Jon who Davos would greet at the door with that much emergency and emotional baggage.

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  12. –> “on has to know that without that sword he’s just as vulnerable as anyone else in a fight with the White Walkers, right?”

    Jon shares this character flaw with his “dad” — doing the right thing even if it means harming or disadvantaging your own self.

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  13. –> “And this is why you don’t skip rocks across a frozen lake, Hound.”

    Yeah, what the heck was he thinking??? And why didn’t any of the “smarter” men stop him?

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    1. You would have thought so, right? It almost writes itself. Jorah or Jon tells him to stop. He mouths off. Says the word cunt or something. He loves doing that. Either persists in doing what he’s doing over their protests or agrees to stop, but not before tossing one last rock and yelling something at the zombies only for that to be the moment that it bounces off the zombie and on to the not-quite breaking ice.

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  14. Love this show even sans George RR Martin. I knew the dragon woukd be a zombie. They need that to make the battle next season be more balanced. The real question is what can cersai bring to the table compared to the sides we saw battle today? Also how effective is message by raven? Im ditching my hotmail for this method as that got to Dany and she saved them in the nick of time. Oh man that uncle rescue was an ex machina if ever I saw it. So obvious and made no sense other than to get jon snow out of a dramatic bind. Was really good watching these guys bond then mostly die. Including dennis pent the guy who famously interviews celebs with insults such as asking steve martin why he isnt funny any more? Cant take him seriously even after being mauled by a bear. Oh the dany and jon snow romance is one although could barely hear what they were saying. She was half blubbing and he was whispering. He said he would bend the knee but not sure the rest given she then let go of his hand. Somebody was someones humbke servant i think. This whole dany cant have kids is to big up any likelihood dany gets pregnent by jon. Hey leave the man alone about his height. At least they arent cruising him via high shoes or having him film lots with leter dinklage. I am just thinking what career he has after GOT finishes? He cannonly play Jon Snow and spooks was rubbish even though i loved the series. Still i think the show is progressing well. The sister banter is just littlefinger manipulating them both. Cant wait to see him go and bronn and captain plasma.

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    1. “I am just thinking what career he has after GOT finishes?”

      It makes sense to wonder that. The few things Harrington has done away from GoT haven’t really inspired much enthusiasm. He was at least fairly funny in that HBO tennis mockumentary with Andy Samberg a year or so back.

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      1. I read some time back that the supporting actors tend to have a much longer career than stars do. Audiences tend to over-associate a star to a particular character — think George from Seinfeld, Data from ST:Next Generation. But supporting actors have a lot more leeway and can take on a much wider variety of characters.

        It’s obviously not 100% true, but I suspect it’s more often the case than not.

      2. True. To some, Kit Harrington will always be Jon Snow and nothing else.

      3. And there was that sketch where he is a guest who comes to dinner at one of those us chat show host sketch. Really funny. But he just sending up his jon snow character. He could go the way of viggo moristen career.

      4. Oh, good call. I forgot about that sketch. I really don’t know what to expect from Harrington post-GoT because I really have no idea what kind of actor he is away from Jon Snow. I’ve seen enough to get a sense that he might have a slight knack for comedy, but not Jon Hamm territory.

      5. Well I am recording Pompeii off the TV to watch on weekend so will let you know but suspect I know the answer.

  15. Ps sisters do fight. I got too hear. Only little. One minute they are declaring eternal love and loyalty for each other the next they are threatening to cut each others face off. Definately real on GOT. I am. Dissalointed by the lack of nudity and lack of disposingn of key cast that G R R martin was so cavalier ar at doing in other seasons. Why are they saving them all until the last. Duran could have gone as good Brohn and a few others.

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  16. […] but it also contributes to my on-going sense that we are now watching Game of Thrones fan fiction (as I argued here). I guess I’m still just too stunned to process it all, much like Jamie after he first saw the […]

    Reply

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