Game of Thrones

GAME OF THRONES: The 12 Biggest Questions Raised By Episode 6, “Beyond The Wall”

HBO/Helen Sloan

The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones’ seventh season, “Beyond the Wall,” was, in a word, bananas. We saw Jon’s “suicide squad” somehow survive in the cold for days(?) against the White Walker army, learned that Gendry is some sort of marathon sprinter, and that the Night King is really good at javelin-throwing. It was definitely one of the heaviest episodes yet in terms of fantastical elements, something that Game of Thrones has been edging more towards this season at the expense of the political drama that was featured so prominently in earlier seasons (although there has still been quite a bit of that too). All-out war with the Night King and his army is just over the horizon, as Daenerys is now fully on board with the idea that stopping an invasion of ice zombies is probably something she should be concerned with, but things aren’t exactly looking good for the living as we head into next week’s season finale.

12. Why Did Sansa Send Brienne To King’s Landing?

Not long after Sansa’s first run-in with her disturbed sister Arya (more on her below), Littlefinger has a conversation with the Lady of Winterfell in which he tells her something about Brienne being sworn to protect both of Catelyn Stark’s daughters, meaning that she wouldn’t let one sister harm the other (at least, that’s what I think Littlefinger was implying; it’s hard to know for sure with that guy). So what does Sansa do? She sends Brienne away at the first opportunity. Yes, Sansa has a reason for doing so, as she sends Brienne to be her representative at King’s Landing after receiving an invitation to go there … but couldn’t she just have ignored the invite altogether?

Why would Sansa send anyone down to King’s Landing at this point, let alone her most trusted and skilled bodyguard? Maybe there’s something I’m missing here but this just felt like a dumb move on Sansa’s part, almost as if the writers needed Brienne to not be in Winterfell anymore and came up with the first excuse that popped into their heads. Oh well, at least we’ll get to see Brienne and Jaime together again!


11. What The Heck Is Going On With Arya?

Building off the discovery of Sansa’s letter last week, Arya and her sister share a pair of unnerving scenes in this episode, with Arya basically accusing her sister of treachery and threatening to add her face to her collection for good measure. Sibling conflict is nothing new for Game of Thrones but there’s just something about this one in particular that doesn’t feel right and it all has to do with Arya’s characterization. Simply put, her actions here seem to contradict the arc she’s been on for the last season or so.

If you’ll recall, Arya’s big turn in Season 6 was figuring out that she did have an identity and that her status as a Stark was still important to her. She even ditches her plan to kill Cersei in favor of returning home to Winterfell after hearing that her siblings are still alive. And now we’re supposed to believe that she’s ready to kill her sister because of a letter she discovers; a letter that Sansa stresses she was forced to write under duress? What’s even worse is that Sansa provides a well-reasoned response, but Arya still accuses her of betraying their family, arguing that she just stood by while the Lannisters executed their father (Arya sure has a lousy memory). Perhaps this is all a big ploy on Arya’s part to get Littlefinger to trip up and reveal his true plans but as things stand now, this is a frustrating turn for Arya that doesn’t feel believable. Source: Watchers on the Wall

10. Jon Isn’t Very Good At Making Plans, Is He?

Technically, the first part of Jon’s crazy plan to capture a wight was a success, even if it did result in the deaths of several “red shirts” and gave the Night King a dragon to ride around on. However, even though Jon and his team successfully got a wight and are now taking it south to King’s Landing, that doesn’t mean this isn’t one of the dumbest plans ever. For one thing, the plan’s success hinged on a whole bunch of conveniences to work out properly; as in, it was very convenient that Jon’s party came across a small group of the dead first and were able to dispatch them quite easily, with the added bonus of one single wight being kept alive because it just so happened to not be turned by the White Walker that was commanding its squad (again, very convenient).

In all seriousness though, this isn’t the first time Jon has convinced others to follow him into certain death and been supremely lucky that there are women out there who care about him enough to save his behind at the opportune time (Battle of the Bastards, anyone?). Couldn’t Jon have just asked to take Rhaegal for a ride, swooped over a group of wights, snatched one up and flew back? It sounds ridiculous, but it’s still a lot less stupid than the actual plan that was carried out. Oh and there’s still the matter of thinking that Cersei will just suddenly be on board with dropping everything and helping fight the White Walkers after seeing a wight. Because if there’s one thing Cersei is good at, it’s seeing reason, right?


9. How Long Was The Suicide Squad Stuck On That Frozen Lake?

Game of Thrones has had a loose connection with the realities of time and distance all season long, but “Beyond the Wall” stretches things to the point of absurdity. Right from the moment Jon tells Gendry to sprint back to Eastwatch in order to send word to Daenerys to fly her dragons north to save them all, concepts such as time, geography, and even reality go flying out the window. This article breaks things down pretty well and argues that, at minimum, it would take four days from the moment Jon tells Gendry to run to the second Daenerys arrives north of the Wall, meaning that Jon and his suicide squad somehow survived exposed to the elements for over half a week.

Even if we can buy that these guys are hardy enough to weather the cold for that long and have enough food and water to sustain themselves, there’s no way they’d be in fighting shape after that amount of time, which makes their subsequent hard-fought stand against the White Walker army even harder to believe. But hey, if the Lord of Light wills it, apparently anything is possible.


8. Why is This Show So Afraid To Kill Off Characters?

With a plan as dumb and suicidal as the one at the center of “Beyond the Wall,” it’s almost guaranteed that not everyone is going to make it back. The first part of this episode is surprisingly comedic, but it also has an undercurrent of dread, as we just know that some of these characters aren’t going to be coming back. And yet, much like the “Loot Train” battle from just a few episodes ago, Game of Thrones manages to feature an intense, climactic battle with the bare minimum of casualties. Sure, there are deaths, but losing a handful of red shirts and Thoros of Myr (a cool guy, but definitely the least important named character among Jon’s group) is pretty much the best case scenario here. The worst part is that the episode sets up a significant potential death with Tormund, whose talk of making it back to Winterfell to see his beloved Brienne would signal him for death if this were an earlier season of the Game of Thrones, or any good drama series really, for that matter. Like many fans, I love Tormund and would have been sad to see him die and yet, I was actually kind of upset that he was saved from being pulled under the ice by a group of wights at the last second.

As if to add insult to injury, the other two deaths worth mentioning amount to Dany’s least important dragon and Benjen Stark/Coldhands, the latter of whom I honestly had forgotten was still around anyway. I’m sure we’re in for at least one major character death in the finale, but it still feels strange to see a show that built much of its reputation on unexpected character deaths being so conservative with its characters at this stage. There’s still plenty of time for things to switch back and the bodies to start hitting the floor again but at this point, having a name is practically guarantees survival on Game of Thrones.


7. Why Didn’t The Night King Kill Drogon?

If one were to declare an overall “winner” of this episode, it would have to be the Night King, who manages to kill a dragon with one toss of an ice spear and nearly succeeds in killing another. While from a narrative perspective it makes sense that the Night King targets Viserion first and not Drogon — we wouldn’t have much of a show to watch if every character on Drogon’s back ended up dead — it’s kind of crazy that the Night King picked Viserion over Drogon as his first target. I don’t want to downplay the Night King’s aiming ability, as he’s clearly a master of throwing ice spear things, but would it not have made more sense for him to try and hit Drogon first?

Dany’s prized dragon was not only a stationary target closer in range, but was carrying a whole bunch of important people on his back. If the Night King had thrown that first spear at Drogon instead of his second, he almost surely would have hit him and doomed Daenerys, Jon, and the rest to die. I don’t want to say that the Night King is bad at his job or anything, but you’d think he was pulling for the other team to win here, given that he also could have thrown one of those spears at Jon and the others while they were standing motionless in the middle of a frozen lake for half a week, but I digress.


6. Have The Three Dragon Riders Now Been Revealed?

While the loss of Viserion is a crushing blow to Dany and anyone else who values having dragons on their side, his transformation into an ice dragon at the end of the episode has the benefit of giving all three dragons an important narrative role going forward. Up until this point, Rhaegal and Viserion have largely taken a backseat, as Drogon is the only dragon Daenerys rides and thus, the one we see the most often. However, now that Daenerys is down a dragon, Rhaegal should theoretically become a more important asset, especially if he ends up becoming Jon’s mount, which seems to be where we’re headed.

There was speculation that Tyrion would be the third rider because he could be a secret Targaryen. While he could very well still be related to Daenerys and Jon, there really isn’t much hope of seeing him ride a dragon now since the Night King will surely be flying around on Viserion in the near future. That being said, there’s always a possibility that Bran Stark could warg into Viserion and wrest control of the dragon from the Night King, but we’ll have to wait and see how things play out.


5. So, Did Daenerys Just Have That Snow Outfit Pre-Made And Ready To Go?

Daenerys has certainly been winning in the wardrobe department this seasons, as her outfits are uniformly badass, but did anyone else think it was kind of ridiculous that she was able to conjure up a snow bodice right before heading north. She definitely wouldn’t have had time to get someone to make that before leaving Dragonstone, which implies that she already had this outfit in her closet, ready to go when needed. Does this mean Dany has been planning to go north all this time? The plot thickens … (okay, not really, it’s just amusing that she was THIS prepared).


4. Does a White Walker Dragon Breathe Ice?

We’ve yet to see Undead Viserion in action, so we don’t know how his abilities will differ from that of his brothers now that he’s under the Night King’s control. One would assume that he’ll now breathe ice instead of fire, but it’s also possible that he’ll continue to breathe fire, since that’s what dragons do. Ice seems the likelier of the two though and if so, it raises some interesting questions about how it will all work. Is ice breath stronger than fire breath? Could the Night King just fly south and start freezing towns and cities in his path? One thing is for certain: the White Walkers just got even more terrifying now that they have a dragon at their disposal!


3. #CleganeBowl, Confirmed?

The Hound successfully survived the mission north of the Wall and based on his departure with Beric Dondarrion, it seems that he’s off on his own now and is no longer travelling with the Brotherhood Without Banners. So what does this mean for the Hound going forward? The fact that he didn’t die in this episode is a clear indication that his arc isn’t done yet, which leads me to believe that he could end up at King’s Landing with all the other major characters in the season finale. Which means … CleganeBowl could still happen, folks!

Returning to King’s Landing will see Sandor Clegane reunite with his brother Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, which can only end with the two battling to the death. The Hound has a score to settle with his older brother, after all, and at this point, who else is going to go toe-to-toe with the Mountain after what happened to the last guy? Source:

2. Would Learning The Truth Stop Jon From Hooking Up With Daenerys?

Just prior to the scene where Viserion is dragged out of the ice and turned into the Night King’s new pet, we get a touching moment between Daenerys and Jon, who seem to be well past the flirting stage now. Jon declares Daenerys to be his queen and even calls her “Dany,” which seems to both surprise and please the mother of dragons. It would seem that Jon and Dany coming together romantically is inevitable at this point, but the interesting thing will be if this happens before or after Jon’s true lineage is revealed. If it happens after the fact, the pair might be a bit disturbed by it but it probably wouldn’t be enough to get in the way of love at that point. However, if Jon learns the truth before making it official with Daenerys, would it be enough to stop him from hooking up with his aunt? I guess we’ll find out!


1. How is Cersei Going to Screw Everything up?

Alright, so the Night King has a dragon now but that’s okay because Jon and Dany are on their way to King’s Landing with wight in tow, ready to show Queen Cersei that the White Walker threat is real, which will definitely convince her to stop being a tyrant and focus on the real threat to Westeros … right? Sure, Cersei may admit that the White Walkers exist and she could even agree to an alliance with Jon and Daenerys in order to help stop it, but if anyone on the other side actually thinks Cersei is going to keep her word and not try to backstab them at the first opportunity, they don’t know Cersei.

Come to think of it, the White Walkers’ imminent invasion arguably benefits Cersei the most, as she is the furthest removed from the threat and also the one who cares the least about it. She could just team up with her enemies, not actually do anything and let them sort the whole problem out, and then hit Jon and Daenerys when their numbers have been depleted from fighting an undead army. It will be interesting to see what strategy Cersei takes here because even though she looks like the losing side right now, she stands the most to gain from this proposed alliance that she is absolutely going to find a way to betray.


Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)

Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)