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Monday, 21 August 2017

Game of Thrones S7E6: Beyond the Wall

Game of Thrones
Series 7, Episode 6
Beyond the Wall

Jon is such a gigantic failure. As a military leader. As a hero. As a king. As a person. He has failed at nearly every endeavour he has applied himself to, and someone else has always had to bail him out and pay the price for it -- and now, and now, his utter incompetence has finally had a lasting impact. Just not on him. God knows, this show can never let any negative consequence stick to Jon.


Let's get on with it.

This week's episode splits its action primarily between Dragonstone, Winterfell and the lands beyond the Wall. At Dragonstone, Tyrion tries to persuade Daenerys to soften her approach and listen to his counsel, as well as putting to her the matter of a successor. Meanwhile, in Winterfell, Sansa and Arya clash when Arya, having fallen hook-line-and-sinker for Littlefinger's trick, begins threatening Sansa -- and when Sansa sends Brienne away, there is nobody left to intercede on her behalf. Beyond the Wall, Jon's expedition ends up surrounded by the army of the dead, led by the Night King himself, on an island in the middle of a frozen lake, with only Daenerys able to save them -- but at a terrible cost.

We'll start off with the Dragonstone scene -- because it is, basically, one scene, plus one more to establish that Daenerys is setting off to Eastwatch (which she arrives at instantly, because now everyone can teleport around Westeros). It's largely meant to be set up for what will inevitably be Daenerys' turning point next episode, where she'll come to the realisation that she does have to be different, and so on, and so forth.

That's a really nice fireplace.

The problem is that I just don't buy it. I'm not buying that Daenerys is going down any kind of dark path. Both Randall and Dickon Tarly had made it clear that they wouldn't follow her, and Daenerys demanding that people bend the knee or die is no different from what Stannis did. Her using Drogon to intimidate people is no different from what Robb did. When these characters did it, people -- including me -- saw no issue with it, so why would it be any different for Daenerys?

Benioff and Weiss appear to have miscalculated somewhat with this plotline, since I don't think anybody is actually overly impressed by it -- and that's in the Game of Thrones fandom, a fandom with a huge misogyny problem.

Meanwhile, at Winterfell, we get the continuation of what must be the weirdest plot of this series so far, as Arya just kind of pettily bullies and threatens Sansa. There's no real point to anything that Arya's doing, she just seems to be delighting in making Sansa suffer, and that's not really especially in-character for her. Yes, Arya does have a tremendous capacity for cruelty, we saw that in how she made Walder Frey eat his own sons, but it's a pretty big leap to go from leveling brutal but brief cruelty at the man who murdered her brother, her mother, her sister-in-law, and her unborn niece or nephew, to leveling brutal and drawn out cruelty at her own sister for the crime of -- what, being scared? Being a child?

I think Arya has more empathy than that. I think that, while she certainly wouldn't approve of Sansa writing that letter, she'd understand -- Arya was a scared child once, too, after all. Again, I think Benioff and Weiss have miscalculated here: I've certainly seen a few people taking Arya's side, because Arya's the only female character who seems to escape the utter loathing this fandom has for women, but most people seem to agree that she's acting way out of character.

Sansa sending Brienne away is also, admittedly, a little odd.

This episode's main event, however, is the expedition beyond the Wall. I said it was pointless before, but now it's evolved to 'actively detrimental,' as Jon's total incompetence (not to mention Clegane's) leads to Daenerys having to bail him out, resulting in the death and reanimation of Viserion. I'm going to guess that this screw-up will be the gift that keeps on giving, with the reanimated Viserion most likely attacking the summit in King's Landing next week. 

Once again, Jon has encountered the White Walkers, and once again he has lost, badly -- except this time, two other people have had to pay the price for that loss: Daenerys, who's lost one of her dragons; and Benjen, who is mobbed by the dead and likely torn apart.

Beric's still alive, though! For now.

Jon's always had a pattern of needing to be bailed out: Jeor bailed him out who knows how many times, Stannis bailed him out of his wildling problem, Melisandre bailed him out of his own men having killed him, Sansa bailed him out of his failure at the Battle of the Bastards, and Sansa again bailed him out of having to take responsibility for the kingdom he was given. Now, Jon's inability to stand on his own two feet has a body count attached to it.

Next week, it looks like we'll be getting the peace summit, with Jon trying to persuade Cersei to fight the White Walkers -- and inevitably it's going to fail, it's just a question of how badly it's going to fail. The chief options are 'Cersei tries to kill everyone' and 'undead Viserion comes and causes problems,' and out of the two of them, I'd probably hedge my bets on the former.

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