A lot of things happened during Season 7 of Game of Thrones, including in its penultimate episode, "Beyond the Wall." But let's be real: The only thing that truly mattered is this.
Yup — and yikes!
In that episode, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) brought a motley crew of tough guys beyond the wall. They were on a (successful) quest to capture a wight in order to prove to Cersei (Lena Headey) that everything is about to go to hell. But then they got trapped by the Army of the Dead — that is, until Dany (Emilia Clarke) flew her dragons to get them out of there. Great, right?
But no! Mid-rescue, the villainous, single-minded Night King threw a spear at Viserion, bringing the dragon down. Strategically, it seemed, the Night King killed Viserion (weep!). But after Jon & co. escaped, the wights hauled the dragon's body from the depths of the lake in order for the Night King to zombify him — as shown in the episode's final shot, pictured above.
On April 14, Game of Thrones will begin its six-episode final season on HBO. It has so far won three Emmys for Outstanding Drama and has been the most popular show on television among the networks that report ratings.
Since it premiered in 2011, the show — based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels and created for TV by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff — has inspired reams of intelligent analysis, controversies over its depiction of rape and race, and endless fan theories. It has introduced us to actors we will probably see for years to come. And it's — mostly! — been fun as hell to watch.
So before we start to say goodbye to our friends, let's say hello again to what happened in the Season 7 finale. This episode, "The Dragon and the Wolf," had a 1-hour, 20-minute running time, so we have a lot of business to attend to.
If you had asked me to bet on which character I thought we would see first in "The Dragon and the Wolf," I might have said anyone but Grey Worm. But life is funny sometimes!
Behold, Grey Worm leading the Unsullied at a possible siege of King's Landing. The Dothraki are behind them as a further show of strength.
Tyrion, Jon, and Ser Davos are also on their way to King's Landing.
Jon asks Tyrion how many people live in King's Landing, and Tyrion says, "A million, give or take."
"That's more people than the entire North," Jon responds. (I found this census information to be actually interesting.)
In the first of a series of reunions at the Dragonpit summit, Tyrion runs into fan favorite, Podrick Payne, his former squire.
Tyrion and Pod last saw each other in Season 4, when Tyrion was wrongfully imprisoned for killing Joffrey. Pod wouldn't turn on Tyrion, though he was pressured to, endangering himself because of his loyalty. Tyrion then ordered him to leave King's Landing, and Pod became Brienne's squire.
"I never thought I'd see you again, my lord," Pod says.
"Supporting the enemy, no less," Tyrion responds.
"Hard to blame you," Pod says.
"Cersei will anyway," Tyrion answers grimly.
Speaking of Brienne, she and the Hound are the next pair to reunite. This is a special one, because when they last saw each other, they fought over Arya, and Brienne won, leaving him for dead!
That was also in Season 4. Here, she tells him that Arya is alive and back at Winterfell. He asks her who's protecting Arya there if Brienne is at King's Landing.
"The only one that needs protecting is the one that gets in her way," Brienne answers.
So much of this episode — and in fact, the whole season — feels like fan service. And that includes a bit later in this scene between Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Tyrion, during which Bronn teases Tyrion and says he's delivering him to Cersei.
"It's good to see you again," Tyrion says.
"Yeah, you too," Bronn answers.
It's like fanfiction! (And it works most of the time.)
The summit convenes in the Dragonpit, and both sides enter one by one.
(Though Dany is noticeably absent.)
Before everything starts, the Hound approaches his brother, the Mountain — the evil rapist and murderer brother who is also Cersei's bodyguard.
I believe the last time these two saw each other was in Season 1? At Robert's tournament to celebrate Ned's appointment as his Hand? The Mountain was about to kill Loras Tyrell after losing a joust to him, and then the Hound broke in to stop his brother. Do correct me if I'm wrong! (I'm sure you will.)
Fans had basically given up on the idea of Cleganebowl — when Sandor Clegane (the Hound) would finally try to take his revenge on his brother, Gregor (the Mountain), for burning his face when they were kids — because the two characters had not been in the same place for so long. (Not to mention that the Mountain is, you know, basically dead. Oberyn Martell poisoned him during their trial by combat in Season 4, but Qyburn has somehow — disgustingly, I'm sure — kept him alive.)
But in this scene, the Hound stomps up to his brother with purpose. "Remember me?" he says with a growl. "Yeah, you do. You're even fucking uglier than I am now. What did they do to you? Doesn't matter. It's not how it ends for you, brother. You've always known."
If that isn't a promise that we will see Cleganebowl in Season 8, I don't know what is.
Wait, Dany isn't here yet. Oh! There she is.
It's basically the most impressive entrance anyone in the Seven Kingdoms has ever made...
...except to Cersei.
"We've been here for some time," Cersei says through clenched teeth.
"My apologies," Dany responds, smugly.
Before they get to the presentation of the wight, which is what everyone is there for, Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) spots his nephew Theon (Alfie Allen) among the Dany contingent. Euron yells out that he has Yara, Theon's sister, and he's going to kill her if Theon doesn't submit to Cersei.
Tyrion cannot believe this delay, and says, "I think we ought to begin with larger concerns."
Euron then makes a little person joke!
"Then why are you talking?" he says, pleased with himself. "You're the smallest concern here."
And then there's this amusing exchange between Tyrion and Theon.
Tyrion: "Do you remember when we discussed dwarf jokes?"
Theon: "His wasn't even good."
Tyrion: "He explained it at the end. Never explain it — always ruins it."
(If ever there's a character in fiction who I can't believe has been redeemed for me, it is Theon Greyjoy.)
Just as Euron launches into an anti–little person treatise, saying he would have been killed in the Iron Islands, Cersei puts an end to his nonsense.
"Sit down or leave," she says.
Jon and Tyrion step forward to plead their case.
"This isn't about living in harmony. It's just about living," Jon says. "The same thing is coming for all of us."
Dany then gives Cersei her word that she won't attack King's Landing until they deal together with the Army of the Dead.
"The word of a usurper," Cersei spits back.
And then the Hound walks into the Dragonpit with the fucking wight in a fucking box.
The Hound kicks the box over, and the wight doesn't need to be asked twice — he shoots out of there...
...and heads straight to Cersei, who, being the stone-cold killer she is, does not blink.
If this happened to me, I would 1) abdicate my throne, 2) move across the sea, and 3) never stop crying. Yet look at Cersei! She's totally fine!
The Hound jerks the chain he has around the wight, and cuts him in half. The crowd then sees the wight's various parts keep moving.
Qyburn, the creep, becomes obsessed with the still-moving hand of the wight.
Jon, thank god, takes the hand from Qyburn, and explains the threat posed by the Army of the Dead.
"We can destroy them by burning them," he says. "And we can destroy them with dragonglass. If we don't win this fight, then that is the fate of every person in the world.
"There is only one war that matters. The Great War. And it is here."
This scene gets a bit bogged down from here, and we have a lot to get through. So boiled down to what's essential, here's what happens next in the Dragonpit.
1) Euron weirdly TOUCHES the wight (pictured above, WHY), on his way to — pretending to, it turns out — ditch King's Landing to go back to the safety of the Iron Islands. He takes his fleet and seemingly abandons Cersei. (After ascertaining that wights can't swim.)
2) Cersei says she will accept Dany's truce. If, that is, Jon won't choose one side or the other. "I know Ned Stark's son will be true to his word," says the person who was totally behind the beheading of Ned Stark.
3) Jon then annoys everyone by telling the truth: He has already bent the knee to Dany. "I cannot serve two queens, and I've already pledged myself to Queen Daenerys of House Targaryen," he says. True to his word — to a fault!
4) Cersei leaves in a snit. "The dead will come north first. Enjoy dealing with them," she says as she huffs on out of the Dragonpit with her entourage. "We will deal with whatever is left of you."
5) Jon! Idiot!
6) Dany and Tyrion take turns scolding Jon for telling the truth, with Dany reminding him that Viserion died for this cause, and he's done fucked up.
Tyrion sums up the situation thusly: "The more immediate problem is that we're fucked."
He goes to talk to Cersei by himself.
What follows is an important scene in the annals of Game of Thrones history, in that Tyrion and Cersei hash out their grievances with each other. Both actors are excellent in this scene as they joust with each other. But that's not why you're reading this post! You want the bullet points!
So here they are.
1) Cersei accuses Tyrion of working with Dany to continue his destruction of the Lannister family, and in a trademarked Cersei sick burn, calls Dany "a foreign whore who doesn't know her place."
2) She gets mad at him all over again for killing their father, Tywin, which resulted in every other bad thing happening to the family, according to Cersei's logic. She says that after Tywin's death, "the vultures came and tore us apart."
3) She says he's responsible for the deaths of Tommen and Myrcella. Which is really wrong, because Tommen killed himself after Margaery died in the fire of the Great Sept of Baelor that Cersei set as revenge for them torturing her there.
Myrcella was killed in Dorne after Oberyn Martell was killed by the Mountain in the trial by combat when Oberyn took up arms on Tyrion's behalf when he was falsely accused of murdering Joffrey. In other words: also Cersei's fault!
But they didn't have Twitter back then, so maybe Tyrion doesn't know all the ins and outs.
4) He's also trying to be conciliatory in order to make Cersei see reason — ha! He then figures out that she's pregnant because, like so many pregnant women before her, she keeps touching her stomach. "You're pregnant," he says. A freighted silence falls between them.
Meanwhile, back at the Dragonpit, Jon and Dany continue to bond.
Jon tells Dany he's sorry; she says she respects him. She also tells him she can't have children; and he wonders whether the witch who told her that was, in fact, reliable. (I've wondered that too, Jon!)
Dany: "I can't forget what I saw north of the Wall."
Jon: "It appears Tyrion's assessment is correct: We're fucked."
Seemingly convinced by Tyrion, Cersei comes back to say she will help.
"My armies will not stand down. I will not pull them back to the capital," she says. "I will march them north to fight alongside you in the Great War. The darkness is coming for us all — we will face it together.
"And when the Great War is over, perhaps you'll remember that I chose to help, with no promises or assurances from you. I expect not," she says in typical Cersei form.
"Call our banners. All of them," she tells Jaime.
Cersei would be good at being good, if she were good. But this turnaround is too much to hope for, as it turns out.
Meanwhile, up at Winterfell, where the night is dark and full of even darker screenshots, Littlefinger continues to try to turn Sansa against her sister Arya and brother Jon.
Sansa says that Arya would pick Jon over her, to which he's all Mmmhmm, something to think about. She then tells him that Arya was one of the Faceless Men, which Littlefinger should really take more seriously, as he will soon find out.
Playing one of his Littlefinger-y games, he takes her through what would be the worst-case scenario.
Littlefinger: "What's the worst thing she could want?"
Sansa: "She could want me dead. Because she thinks I wronged my family."
Littlefinger: "Why did she come to Winterfell?"
Sansa: "To kill me."
Littlefinger: "After she murders you, what will she become?"
Sansa: "Lady of Winterfell."
Dunnn — dunnn! (Littlefinger thinks he has Sansa right where he wants her.)
Back at Dragonstone, Team Dany makes travel plans to go north — water or air?
Jon decides they should sail together to White Harbor as a show of unity.
(And, you know, so they can have sex.)
Theon follows Jon into the throne room at Dragonstone.
He then spills out his worries to Jon, saying he admires him for telling Cersei the truth, making him pretty much the only one.
"I always wanted to do the right thing, to be the right kind of person. But I never knew what that meant," Theon says. "It always seemed like there was an impossible choice I had to make: Stark or Greyjoy."
They then talk about how Theon betrayed Ned, and Theon is full of anguish.
"But you never lost him. He's a part of you. Just like he's a part of me," Jon says to comfort him. He then adds, "It's not my place to forgive you for all of it. But what I can forgive, I do. You don't need to choose. You're a Greyjoy, and you're a Stark."
Theon tells Jon that Yara was the only one who stuck by him when he was being held captive by Ramsay Bolton.
"She needs me now," he says.
"So why are you still talking to me?" Jon replies.
Reader, this scene is more fan service. But also, reader? I cried.
Theon goes to the beach to fight some horrible Ironborn guy for their boats.
I'm sure this guy has a name, but there's no way I'm going to scour the internet to remind myself. There are limits!
Theon's lack of testicles — thanks, Ramsay! — turns out to be his secret weapon, much to the confusion of the horrible Ironborn guy. Theon eventually wins the fight, and heads off with the other Ironborn to try to save Yara.
After standing on Winterfell's wall of freezingness for a while, Sansa says to a guard, "Have my sister brought to the Great Hall."
Arya stands flanked by soldiers; Sansa and Bran are at the high table.
And so begins one of the most satisfying and frustrating scenes of the season. Many viewers had guessed that Arya and Sansa were working together to set up Littlefinger. And yes, had we seen them planning his downfall, it would have taken the surprise out of what happens here. Still! I would have liked to see the Stark women formulate this flawlessly executed plot to punish the man who has set into motion the events of the entire show. (Though in that sense...thank you, Littlefinger!)
Anyway, here we go.
Arya: "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Sansa: "It's not what I want, it's what honor demands."
Arya: "And what does honor demand?"
Sansa: "That I defend my family from those who would harm us. That I defend the North from those who would betray us."
Arya: "All right, then, get on with it."
Sansa: "You stand accused of murder. You stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges—" LONG PAUSE "—Lord Baelish?"
Lord Baelish — busted!
Sansa calmly and logically lays out the case against him.
Sansa says he murdered Lysa, her aunt; Littlefinger says he did it to protect Sansa. She then says he conspired to kill Jon Arryn, adding that he also sent her parents the letter saying the Lannisters had killed Jon Arryn, which started the whole mess that is the events of the entire show. (Again: Thank you, Littlefinger!)
"The conflict between the Starks and the Lannisters, it started with you — do you deny it?"
Sansa also says Littlefinger conspired with Cersei and Joffrey to murder Ned. Littlefinger sputters, but then Bran — aka the Three-Eyed Crow — speaks: "You held a knife to his throat. You said, 'I did warn you not to trust me.'"
Arya then piles on: "You told our mother this knife belonged to Tyrion Lannister. That was another one of your lies. It was yours."
He throws himself on Sansa's mercy, but she then says he sold her to the Boltons, which is truly the final straw.
Sansa says: "I'm a slow learner, it's true. But I learn."
Littlefinger is on his knees now, begging.
"I loved your mother since I was a boy," Littlefinger says, realizing his fate.
"And yet you betrayed her," Sansa answers calmly.
"I loved you — more than anyone!" he yells.
"And yet you betrayed me," she answers.
Just remember, parents who name your daughters "Arya," a name that has become more popular because of Game of Thrones...I love Arya too, but she's a killer!
Back at King's Landing, poor dumb Jaime — who actually believed Cersei — plans their military's journey north.
"I always knew you were the stupidest Lannister," Cersei tells him.
She tells him she didn't mean a word she said at the Dragonpit. Jaime can't believe what he's hearing, because apparently he has paid no attention to the first 7 and 6/7ths seasons of this show.
Cersei wants their "child to rule Westeros," she says. "The monsters are real," she continues. "Let the monsters kill each other."
She points out there were only two dragons, making her the only one who has noticed that Dany is not invincible.
Cersei adds that Euron did not in fact chicken out, but instead sailed to Essos to bring the Golden Company back to Westeros. (Might we see Daario again in Season 8, if we're bringing characters back from the East?)
Jaime wants to keep his pledge.
"And that would be treason," Cersei tells him.
He responds: "I'm the only one you have left. Our children are gone, our father is gone — it's just me and you now." She answers, "There's one more left to come."
He goes to leave, daring her to kill him (Tyrion did this too), but she can't do it.
As Jaime leaves to go north to Winterfell (and to Brienne), he notices that it has started to snow in King's Landing. Winter is truly here.
Sam and Gilly arrive at Winterfell. Hooray!
We don't see Gilly again, but Sam goes to talk to Bran, who is contemplatively sitting by the fire like he does.
I love the character of Sam — and John Bradley's portrayal of him — very much. He could make Sam a buffoon, but he doesn't. However, that's not to say Sam isn't funny! And he actually brings out some humor in Bran, who, let's face it, is humorless now that he can see all of time. (No judgments; I'm sure I would be too.)
These two, of course, have met before. In Season 3, Sam and Gilly helped Bran, Hodor, and Jojen and Meera Reed go beyond the wall. Sam even gave them dragonglass.
"I wasn't sure if you'd remember me," Sam says.
"I remember everything," Bran answers.
Sam then asks what happened north of the Wall. "I became the Three-Eyed Raven," Bran answers. Huh? Sam asks.
"I can see things that happened in the past," Bran says. "I can see things happening now, all over the world."
Bran says Jon is on his way to Winterfell now — "You saw this in a vision?" Sam asks excitedly. Bran holds up a piece of paper delivered by a raven. Bran practically made a joke, guys!
Then they get down to business about Jon, and between the two of them, they know everything.
Bran tells Sam what he has seen.
"He needs to know the truth. The truth about himself," Bran says. "Jon isn't really my father's son. He's the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and my aunt Lyanna Stark. He was born in a tower in Dorne. His last name isn't really Snow, it's Sand."
And then Sam — without giving Gilly credit, by the way! — tells Bran that Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia Martell in order to marry Lyanna.
"Is this something you can see?" Sam asks Bran.
Indeed it is.
Bran spells it all out for the viewers who may still not get it. "Robert's Rebellion is built on a lie," he says. "Rhaegar didn't kidnap my aunt, or rape her. He loved her, and she loved him."
At this point, the show makes an interesting choice to have Bran's soliloquy about who Jon really is over the scene of Jon and Dany finally — finally! — having sex. It's been seven seasons leading up to this, after all. But OK!
Through Bran's eyes, we once again see Lyanna dying after childbirth, as Ned leans over her.
"His name is Aegon Targaryen, and you have to protect him," Lyanna says. "Promise me, Ned."
I have full chills, by the way.
As Jon and Dany fully do it, Bran says the thing that will probably break them up.
"He's never been a bastard. He's the heir to the Iron Throne. He needs to know. We need to tell him," Bran says.
Here's a screenshot of Dany and Jon having sex without Bran's monologue.
We also saw Tyrion watch Jon go into Dany's quarters, and the scene ends with him lurking outside. He does not approve of this union.
The climactic scene that will end the season is about to happen. But first, we get a (delightful) fan-service-y moment between Sansa and Arya on the wall of freezingness.
Sansa hopes Arya isn't bothered that she, not Arya, is the Lady of Winterfell.
"I was never going to be as good a lady as you, so I had to be something else," Arya tells her. "I never could have survived what you survived."
Sansa: "You would have. You're the strongest person I know."
Arya: "I believe that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me."
Sansa: "Well, don't get used to it. You're still very strange and annoying."
Sansa then quotes what Ned said about the pack in Episode 1 of Game of Thrones.
"When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives," she says. Arya answers: "I miss him."
"Me too," Sansa says. They look at the view together.
(Sophie Turner has a tattoo that says "The pack survives," by the way.)
OK, let's get to this. Bran is sitting at the Weirwood tree at Winterfell, warging the fuck out to watch the goings-on at the Wall through the eyes of a raven.
At the top of the Wall, Tormund and Beric continue their wonderful bromance by discussing their fear of heights.
Suddenly, the Army of the Dead come out of the forest.
They stop their march in unison. All together, the Army of the Dead is a formidable group.
That's very bad. But then it gets much worse. The Night King swoops in riding Viserion and uses him to melt the wall!
Everyone on the Wall, including Beric and Tormund, panics and tries to run to safety.
They are utterly helpless.
The Wall falls. THE WALL FALLS.
The. Wall. Falls.
P.S. It looks like Beric and Tormund may have died in the collapse. But we did not see that happen, so I will hold out hope.
Here's the final shot of Season 7: the Army of the Dead marching south, presumably to Winterfell.
Here it is again. Viserion and the Night King could theoretically get to Winterfell in about two minutes.
So many things need to happen in the final season of Game of Thrones that I get anxious just thinking about it. The war against the dead needs to end, and so does the war among the humans, which was once known as the War of the Five Kings.
All of those kings are dead now, of course, so the real conflict in the future will be between Lannister and Targaryen.
But which Targaryen? Dany is not going to be pleased after Jon finds out that he is Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Jon, however, is not power-hungry, so who knows what will happen?
Television will be a less interesting place without Game of Thrones. The HBO show has pushed the boundaries — and the budgets — of what a TV show can achieve. Going forward, ambitious networks and streamers will forever be chasing its success.
And considering that George R.R. Martin may never finish the book series — The Winds of Winter is nowhere to be seen — we're heading into what might be the only conclusion for this story that we're ever going to get.
So it better be good.