‘Game of Thrones’ recap: ‘Beyond the Wall’ is full of icy terrors and gripping action

The penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones” season 7 begins innocently enough. “Beyond the Wall” opens with familiar tension among the men of Westeros. While venturing north of the Wall, the group bicker about their differences and debate family legacies. But after the deadly confrontation with the enemy, none of these characters will ever care about such petty squabbles again. This episode is dark and full of terrors, so let’s dive right in.

Quarreling Sisters – Arya (Maisie Williams) recounts a story to Sansa (Sophie Turner) of their father, and how he approved of her bending the rules when they were unjust. “Now he’s dead,” she snaps, “killed by the Lannisters with your help.” She produces her letter, in which she urged her brother Robb to pledge allegiance to King Joffrey, and reads it as if the words were weapons. Sansa protests that she was only a child and her hand was forced, but Arya doesn’t buy it. Sansa is terrified of the Northern lords discovering the damning document. Indeed she confesses to Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) in private that she believes they would abandon the fight if they found out. Sensing her apprehension, Baelish suggests that Lady Stark use Brienne’s (Gwendoline Chrisite) oath to protect her to her advantage.

Blue Eyed Bear – Jon (Kit Harington) asks Beric (Richard Dormer) about the Lord of Light, but the knight has doesn’t know the god’s purpose in reviving the King of the North any more than Jon does. “I don’t know what he wants, but we fight for life … we can keep others alive … maybe that’s enough.” The Hound interrupts their conversation as he spots the mountain from his vision in the flames. A hulking figure drifts into view, and someone asks “Do bears have blue eyes?” The creature bounds towards the men, revealing that it is undead, part of the Night King’s army. Beric and Thoros (Paul Kaye) battle the beast with their flaming swords, but Thoros is bitten in the chest and brutally mauled before Jorah (Iain Glen) fells the beast.

Bring Out Your Dead – Jon spies a small group of wights lead by a White Walker, so his group ambushes them. As the men fight off the dead, Jon duels the White Walker and manages a killing blow. The Walker explodes into dust, and most of the wights similarly combust. They tackle the only one still standing and bind him so they can bring him back to Eastwatch. But the dead man lets out a high-pitched screech, calling forth something in the distance. Sensing what’s coming, Jon orders Gendry (Joe Dempsie) to run back to the Wall to send a raven to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). The group grabs their zombie prize and runs as a horde of wights emerge from the snowy mist in ferocious pursuit. The men wind up running across a frozen lake, sprinting to the relative safety of a rock formation in its center. The dead attempt to reach the rock, but the ice breaks underneath them, leaving the heroes stranded. Thoros dies from his wounds while the Night King looks on.

Trouble for Sansa – A letter arrives requesting Sansa’s presence in King’s Landing, but she has no intention of setting foot in the capital with the Lannisters in charge. She chooses to send Brienne as her representative. Brienne protests the decision, fearful of leaving Sansa with Littlefinger whom she believes is plotting against the Starks. Sansa doesn’t take her advice, instead opting to search Arya’s room. Among her younger sister’s possessions are many faces. Arya of course silently enters the room and catches her sister in the act. She tells a terrified Sansa about her training as a faceless man. Grabbing a dagger from the table she intimidates her sister: “I wonder what it would feel like to be the lady of Winterfell … All I would need is your face.” Could these recently reunited sisters really becomes violent to one another?

Battle on the Lake – The water finally freezes over once more and the dead charge at the small band of men. An epic clash of swords and bone ensues. At one point Tormund is overcome, stabbed and bitten by the ghouls. He is about to be dragged to a watery grave when the Hound crushes the wights and pulls the Wildling to safety. Jon, still protecting the captured wight, is running out of land to retreat to. When it looks like the end is in sight, Daenerys dives into the fray with her dragons. The beasts use their fiery breath to lay waste to the undead, and Drogon lands on the rock to pick up Jon and his men. As Dany waits for Jon before fleeing, the Night King senses an opportunity and lobs an ice javelin at an unaware Viserion. The dragon erupts in fire and screams in pain as he plummets into the lake and dies. Jon then tells a horrified Dany to take off without him as he is pulled underwater by the dead.

Last Act of Coldhands – With Dany and his team gone, Jon manages to claw his way to the surface. The army of the dead spots him and charges forward to finish off the half-frozen warrior. Suddenly a cloaked rider appears and gallops through the horde, twirling a flaming brazier to smite the undead. He makes his way to Jon and reveals his decayed face. “Uncle Benjen!” Jon exclaims, before the missing uncle puts him in the saddle. Jon begs him to ride back with him, but Benjen (Joseph Mawle) says there is no time before sending the horse speeding towards the Wall. Benjen takes aim at the incoming wights but is quickly devoured. His sacrifice allows Jon to make it back to Eastwatch. Dany promises Jon they will destroy the Night King together, before Jon swears allegiance and names Dany his Queen.

Ice Dragon – The dead pull on enormous chains, hauling the corpse of Viserion out of the lake. With much effort, the dragon’s carcass is brought ashore. The Night King kneels and places a hand on the lifeless body and Viserion’s eye springs open, blue as ice. If Jon thought an undead bear was trouble, just wait until the Night King brings an ice dragon to battle.

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