As winter winds chill the Seven Kingdoms and political claim is fought for, the freezing storm of death approaches on The Wall. Passionate determination and religious inspiration has joined the King in the North with other formidable players in a shared quest to find a solution for the icy extinction that looms dangerously near.
Episode Six opens with Jon, Jorah, Tormund, Gendry, Clegaine, Thoros, and Beric moving purposely through the true north in search of a dead man. A mission birthed from the idea of showing Cersei the reality of the impeding quietus that descends upon the living. Whether the crazed queen atop the Iron Throne will respond logically to the horror embodied by a Night King’s soldier remains unknown, but the group goes forth with their expedition, bravely carrying out the most dangerous and complex facet of the plan. Albeit an unlikely group of men, they all possess a special strength and unique set of skills that give them as best a chance as any for surviving the trip.
The journey begins; some of the more unacquainted parties become less so with rich dialogue that occupies the space of silence amongst the white wilderness. Tormund, in the environment he most prefers, teases Gendry about his threshold for cold, informing the boy who’s never seen snow, that the best way to keep warm is to move, fight, and fuck; the latter being the most effective. Tormund moves on to discuss the Mother of dDragons with Jon, looking to get a feel for the queen that they now seem to be aligned with. Jon remarks on her power and willingness to fight beside them with the caveat that his knee is bent and allegiance pledged. And despite his hesitation to her demands, the situation is very similar to a time not so long ago, when Jon himself urged Mance Rayder to bend the knee while trying to align two tribes for a similar cause. Tormund reminds Jon of this, noting that the King Beyond the Wall’s stubborn attitude cost thousands of people their lives along with that of his own.
Meanwhile Gendry, reunited with the two men he once considered heroes, expresses his anger to Beric and Thoros for selling him off to the Red Woman. They both respond calmly, feeling no true remorse, stating that their decisions are always a product of the Lord of Light’s will. Both believe they acted accordingly at the time, doing what was best for the side of the living in the Great War, as they feel that they’re doing now. As Gendry contests further, seeking an apology or better reasoning, the Hound reminds him that he has nothing to complain about in that he’s alive and free, cleverly citing that Beric himself has been killed six times and doesn’t find the time to bitch about it.
Later, Jorah and Jon discuss their fathers, both commenting on a similar respect they possess for each other’s patriarch. During this exchange, Jon removes Long Claw, a sword that Jeor Mormont presented to him when he served in the Knight’s Watch, in an attempt to give the weapon back to the son it was originally meant for. Jorah, however, refuses to take Long Claw from its true owner. After examining the blade, he gives it back to Jon with the wish that it serve him well first and then his children after. Whether Jorah was consciously separating Jon’s future from Daenerys, being that she supposedly can’t have children, is unknown. But what’s clear is that the two men regard one another highly and are fortunate to have joined together in this fight. This fortuitous reality holds true for not just Jon and Jorah, but for all the men who continue towards a seemingly unbeatable enemy marked by terror and death.
Bonds are forming and friendships are being forged as the men face unfavorable odds on the course of their expedition. And while their power grows in unity, the power of two sisters seems to diminish in their divide.
Back at Winterfell, Sansa notices Arya on an overlook that they both remember from their childhood. As she approaches her younger sister, she’s immediately greeted with an anecdotal monologue regarding an experience Arya had with Sir Roderick as a girl. She tells the tale of a time when she was alone in the court, privy to her brother’s bow and a set of lone targets, remarking on her stubborn will to hit the bullseye, eventually hitting the mark after countless tries. She mentions that even though she wasn’t supposed to be doing what she did, Sir Roderick had watched and had not punished her, he had approved. He knew who she really was. The story at first seems to be some sort of self-declaration of natural born fighting skills but the tone quickly changes to one that’s meant to shame her sister. Arya shifts the conversation, blaming Sansa for Sir Roderick’s death as she introduces the scroll she found as a result of Little Finger’s manipulative game. A scroll that Sansa wrote to her brother long ago asking Rob to bend the knee to King Joffrey, a message she did in fact write, but only because she was forced to do so.
It seems that Arya is unaware her strings are being pulled. She goes further by calling Sansa out as a traitor, one who’s betrayed her family by lacking the strength to fight for what’s right. Sansa responds a bit helplessly, trying to inspire empathy in her sister for the terror she was put through during her time in King’s Landing and beyond, but Arya seems to have no space in her heart for any of it. Through a cruel, cold exchange, she threatens to expose the information she’s found to the northern lords, which would effectively destroy any allegiance they have for Sansa. Arya’s deep disdain is more than palpable as she leaves her sister shocked and scared while the snow continues to fall on the castle.
Words are extremely powerful. They can destroy and divide at their worst, but in an integrated state they can uplift, bring joy and unify. As two sisters engage in using them in the former sense, the expedition beyond The Wall proves to be a place where a newfound brotherhood is using them for the latter.
The men continue with their journey, opening up to one another, potentially due to the fact that they know their return is not certain. The Hound finds himself being approached by the honest and delightfully gritty Tormund, who wonders aloud why Clegaine is such an unbelievably unpleasant fellow. He asks about his scarred face, questioning whether or not the fire wound’s to blame for his sour attitude. In a rare moment, the Hound reveals to Tormund the origin of the burn, telling of his brother’s treachery when they were young. The two men proceed, continuing with the honest dialogue. Tormund decides to follow the hound’s tale of hate with his prideful confession of love, revealing his desire for a very large blonde woman with blue eyes and the strength of an ox. The Hound instantly knows of whom he’s referring to and reacts surprisingly, a bit amused. Meanwhile, Jon and Beric share words of reflection discussing the meaning of their life’s purpose just before coming to a uniquely structured mountain that Clegaine instantly recognizes. The arrowhead-shaped land mass is in fact the one he had previously seen in the fire when Beric and Thoros called on him to explore a potential vision in the flames. This haunting landmark signifies their proximity to the Army of the Dead, and both fortunately and unfortunately for the group, they’re getting close.
As the men march onward, into the belly of the beast, the Mother of Dragons waits patiently back at Dragonstone. She sits beside her hand in the war room as they discuss some interesting topics by the light of a happily burning fire. The conversation begins with Daenerys commenting on the stupidity of heroes. By her assessment, they all try to out due one another, engaging in activities that’ll likely get them killed. She mentions that she’s glad that Tyrion himself is not a hero. It appears he’s slightly offended by this but she explains he lacks nothing in the way of bravery or cunning, he’s just not an idiot. She’s simply expressing her fear, finding that most of the men in her life, who’ve taken on this hero role, don’t come back to her as a result.
As she continues, she names off some of the heroes who’ve graced her life, one’s she’s either lost or runs the risk of losing, including her newest admirer, Jon Snow. Tyrion, noticing the selection of men she’s named, mentions that these so called heroes are not just similar in their stupidity and blind bravery, but that they also all happen to be in love with her. Her reaction to hearing that Tyrion thinks Jon too has taken this position is obvious in its form. She’s pleased by the notion and despite her initial dismissal, it’s clear she’s feeling something for him too. They move on to discuss what’s to happen if the plan is successful and the meeting with Cersei happens to pass, including what their strategy will be and how they’ll protect themselves from her sinister dealings. The discussion takes on a rather uncomfortable tone when Tyrion begins to reveal that he’s promised Jaime he’ll ensure that Daenerys’ temper is kept at bay when the two queens finally meet. It appears he’s not the only one to be slightly offended during thier conversation. Daenerys makes it clear to Tyrion that her so called, “impulsive temper”, is not that at all, but instead a sharp awareness to see through falsities and do what needs to be done to protect her empire. They discuss the burning of the Tarleys, and it’s clear they differ in their opinion of how she chose to deal with the situation. The tone becomes more uncomfortable. Tyrion changes the subject, at quite an inappropriate time, to the topic of her successor, stressing that the two of them must decide how one will eventually be chosen. At this point, she’s being spoken to not only about her death and her inability to have children, but is being told she has an erratic temper and a reckless disposition in her command. She’s had enough. She terminates the discussion by informing Tyrion that until she has a crown to succeed, the conversation of who’s going to take her place will be silenced.
The theme of silence rings true for the warriors beyond the wall with the intensity of the storm. The snow and wind is almost blinding but Tormund manages to recognize an ominous mass up ahead. As they approach cautiously, Jorah recognizes the figure as a bear. They inch closer and notice it’s ridiculous size along with one other abnormality; the creature stares back at them with bright, icy blue eyes. The men have come upon their first encounter with a Wight and assume the fighting formation. The lord of light’s ambassadors ignite their swords as the others draw their respective weapons. An intense battle ensues with a dead monster possessing inhuman strength. The few wildlings that came along are slaughtered. Beric strikes the beast with the flaming blade and the bear’s coat bursts into flames, a haunting sight for anyone, but particularly terrifying for Clegaine, who freezes in place, entranced by the burning, dead flesh. But before the beast can take out the Hound, Thoros steps in taking a near fatal wound to the chest before Jorah stabs the bear in the head, ending its terror. Thoros is immediately tended to, his wound cauterized by Beric’s red-hot weapon. The men, rattled, press forward. They know this is just the beginning.
An equally sinister threat continues to insert itself into the lives of the good back at Winterfell as Little Finger spins his web of lies to Sansa at the castle. He pretends to be a sounding board for Sansa’s fears regarding her sister. She explains to him how Arya found the scroll, one he most assuredly planted, and expresses the damage it could do to their alliance if the information was leaked to the northern lords. Pretending to care, he urges her that she has protection, reminding her of Lady Brienne and her duty to protect both Arya and her. Slowly but surely he’s adding to Sansa’s paranoia, heightening what appears to be a true fear of her sister, forging a greater division in a sisterly bond that could prove to be unfortunate for him. It appears as though both Sansa and Arya have taken the bait, but one can hope that the strength of these two resilient Stark sisters may alive and well under a guise of submission and ignorance.
Jon and the rest of the men move forward, deeper into the nothingness of the unknown. They all know they’re close to what they’ve come to find and it doesn’t take long for them to come upon a curiously small company of dead soldiers. While Jon is highly skeptical, wondering where the hell the rest of the thousands of Wights are located, Tormund urges that if they wait long enough, they’ll find out. It’s decided. The men lay a trap and prepare to capture a souvenir. The fire they’ve lit distracts the White Walkers who stop marching to investigate the scene. This is their chance. The men launch their attack against the dead, battling. Rather quickly, the threat seems to be eliminated when Jon defeats the lieutenant, which in turn, destroys the rest of the soldiers under his command, all but one.
Important to stop and note: the destruction of a captain, lieutenant or superior officer seems to effectively eliminate a sector of soldiers under his command. And while the reason for this phenomenon remains unknown, the pivotal takeaway is this: there’s a strong chance that defeating their absolute ruler, the Knight King, could result in the complete annihilation of the Army of the Dead.
As the one lone Wight snarls and jerks, the group closes in preparing to capture their monster. They work together to push it to the ground, forcing the creature into submission. The plan somehow seems to be working itself out, and then the dead soldier lets out a shrilling scream. They silence it, bag and tag it, but not before the earth starts to rumble. Billows of white start to form around the mountains as clouds of snow descend on their position. Jon can feel what’s about to unfold and commands Gendry to run back to the castle and get a raven to Daenerys to let her know what’s happened. He leaves his hammer with Tormund so he can run as fast as possible and takes off, potentially being the last hope of the group’s survival. The dead are coming.
The men take their prisoner and run as quickly as possible in the opposite direction of the storm. Their escape is interrupted as they realize they’ve come upon a frozen lake that’s beginning to crack. They carefully slow their movement, looking around for an alternative route, but shortly thereafter countless dead soldiers charge their position and they have no choice but to proceed over the frozen water. In the middle of the lake, there’s a rock that they mount, the dead circling around them. In a moment of luck or divine providence the sheet of ice cracks, engulfing the charging dead men into the icy water. This event creates a protective ring around the place of earth they’re standing on top of. As the group of freezing heroes looks around, they know their safety is merely temporary. Night is coming, the lake will freeze once more, and they’ll have no chance. For now, their only hope is that Gendry made it back to the wall and Daenerys is informed quickly of their whereabouts.
Fortunately for Jon and company, Gendry’s legs and resilience lead him successfully back to Eastwatch. Barely. As he approaches the gate he collapses from hypothermia but not before the watchmen spot him. The gate is lifted and Davos runs out to retrieve him, Gendry delivers the message. With a commanding urgency, Davos screams for the maester.
Somehow the men live to see another morning, all but Thoros. The cold night paired with his festering wounds proved to be too much for his body to bear. Jon knows the corpse must be burned and they proceed to send him off in flames with Beric speaking a prayer to their lord. Jorah and Jon approach the end of the rock they’ve taken refuge on, looking at the thousands of dead soldiers surrounding them. Jorah asks Jon why the dead men all fell when he killed the lieutenant; Jon guesses that it’s possible that it was the lieutenant that turned them in the first place. Jorah, in the hopes that this theory is legitimate, poses that they go for the captains and lieutenants and maybe then they’ll stand a chance. Jon disagrees saying their only hope is Daenerys. Beric believes otherwise. He points to the Knight King who is now visible, states firmly, that killing him, will destroy them all. Notes that it was he, who turned them all in the first place. They all look to the lord commander of the dead army, as he looks back atop the mountain, frozen spear in his hand.
Meanwhile back at Winterfell, Sansa receives an invitation to King’s Landing; a summons calling on her to come and represent her interests in the house of the crown. She refuses. Sansa commands for Lady Brienne to go in her place. Brienne is vehemently opposed to leaving Sansa behind, as she doesn’t believe the Lady of Winterfell is safe in the same confines as Little Finger without her being there to protect her. In a fiery backlash Sansa insists she needs no help in protecting herself, furthers that she’s undoubtedly capable of doing so and will be fine on her own. But will she? Is this a message to the audience that she’s not as naïve as it appears? Does she have the Little Finger situation under control? One wonders as she sends her seemingly greatest protector away without hesitation or fear.
Across the narrow sea another powerful woman receives a course-altering message. The raven sent from Eastwatch successfully arrives at Dragonstone and as much as her hand begs her not to respond, Daenerys’ decision is final. The beautiful dragon queen, adorned in a gorgeous, fur coat mounts Drogon and sets out with her children to a place far beyond the wall to ensure that this time around, she gets her heroes back.
Back in the middle of nowhere beyond the wall, the hound, in a stupid move of frustration, throws a few stones at the dead soldiers surrounding them. One of the rocks doesn’t quite make it and lands on what’s now a frozen layer of ice covering the lake. And because of this, albeit their stupidity, the Army of the Dead discovers they no longer have anything standing in the way of them and the living targets before them. They charge. The men draw their weapons, and a massive battle between the dead and the living ensues. The living fight bravely, they fight valiantly and though they’re impressive in their efforts, they’re supremely outnumbered. An air of hopelessness starts to take hold as the men begin to realize the imminent death before them when a blaze of powerful fire scorches the festering battalion. Daenerys with her three powerful dragons lays waste to hundreds in not thousands of dead soldiers before landing to rescue the soldiers of the living.
The Knight King, in an almost unfazed manner, almost as if he expected this all to happen, is given one of the frozen spears he and his command force have armed themselves with since arriving. While the chaos ensues and the men try to mount Drogon to escape, the Knight King positions himself and launches the weapon into the air. The spear lands deep the body of Viserion, ending the dragon’s life.
Daenerys watches in horror as one of her children is slaughtered. Jon has yet to join them but sees the Knight King preparing another spear and screams for Daenerys to leave. She knows she has to go, to save herself, the majority of the men, and the two dragons that she has left. They take flight, leaving Jon behind, barely evading another spear as they fly away from danger, towards the wall. Jon, who’s since been pushed by several dead soldiers into the frozen water somehow manages to pull himself up from the depths. Draped in freezing, wet garments he steadies himself and prepares what looks to be his final stand. The Army of the Dead realizes he’s still alive and all turn to face him. As he draws his sword for what seems to be the last time, when a half-living, uncle Benjen appears from nowhere and hoists Jon onto his horse. He sacrifices what life he has left for the king in the north and slaps the horse off onto a trajectory back to the wall, the Army of the Dead engulfing him.
At Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, Daenerys, the men and her dragons have all arrived safely and are preparing to leave the frozen castle at the edge of the earth. Clegaine, Beric and Tormund load the dead soldier into a boat and say their farewells. Beric mentions that he’ll see the hound again, to which he replies, “I fucking hope not” as he prepares to sail off with the zombie. Tormund and Beric hear the cry of the dragons and look up above to find them gliding over the wall. Their screams most likely symbolize the pain of losing Viserion, but it’s also possible they feel the pain of another loss. Albeit no person knowing the truth about Jon, other than Bran, it’s likely the magical creatures possess a special kind of intuition, and that they might be morning the potential death of not one dragon, but two.
Atop the wall on a watch post, Daenerys looks into the distance, hoping that Jon will somehow return. Jorah looks with sad eyes, knowing there’s likely no way the king in the north survived. He gently tells his queen it’s time for them to leave and she asks to wait a bit longer. She later turns, succumbing to the awful reality of his death when the great horn sounds. They both turn to find a horse riding towards the gate with a figure mounted on its back, clinging onto survival.
Jon is loaded onto one of queen Daenerys ships and is taken to a safe chamber where his frozen clothes are ripped off as he’s placed in a warm bed. As the men remove his armor and coat, Daenerys sees the scars from the knife wounds that penetrated Jon’s chest and stomach.
Deep revelations are being discovered leading up to the finale of season seven. Daenerys finds a true warrior in Jon, a man who’s told nothing but truth and like her, would give his life to save his people and beyond. Jon’s discovered just how special Daenerys is: her heart, her character, her spirit and her magic. Arya’s learned of her sister, her betrayals, her fight, and her journey to being the Lady of Winterfell and now, Sansa discovers the truth of her younger sister.
While Arya’s away, Sansa enters her quarters. She’s looking for something, but it’s not clear if even she knows what it is that she’s searching for. She notices Little Finger’s dagger, then a bag on the floor below it. She immediately drops to the ground, undoing the straps and opening it to find contents that horrify her. Inside, are some of the faces that Arya amassed during her time in Braavos. As Sansa touches the flesh, trying to piece together what she’s found, Arya enters the room. Sansa proceeds to ask her what the hell it is that she’s come upon. Arya, in her own cryptic way answers, explaining of her training as a faceless assassin and what the faces allow her to do. They then share an exchange that feels poisonous and vile. Arya then seems to accuse Sansa of being disloyal to Jon. She looks to be threatening her sister, as she taunts her and picks up the dagger. She ends up simply turning the blade and presenting the handle to her sister. This strange, evil feeling dynamic between the two women is off. Are the two very capable Stark daughters playing a ruse of their very own?
Jon wakes on the queen’s ship to find her sitting beside him, tears in her eyes. As he comes to he realizes all that she sacrificed, all that she’s now lost and he apologizes, very deeply, taking her hand into his. He tells her he wish they had never gone, and she replies to him that she was glad they did. Remarking you need to see the Army of the Dead to believe, and now she believes. She lets Jon know however, the severity of the loss, explaining that she can never have children, and that the dragons, those are the only children she’ll ever have and ever know. He understands. From there she powerfully announces that they will defeat the Knight King and his army, and they will do it together. He thanks her, ever so genuinely, calling her Dany in the process. Hearing the nickname is a bit of a shock to her, she explains that she hadn’t been called that since her brother, “not the kind of company you want to keep.” Jon understands the impact and makes an adjustment, “Alright. Not Dany. How about my queen.” She’s taken aback asking about all those in the north who swore allegiance to him. And he simply replies, “They’ll all come to see you for what you are.” To which she replies, “I hope I deserve it.” Ending the scene with a very loving, “You do.”
The ultra-dynamic episode concludes with what’s possibly the most game-changing moment in show’s history. Amidst the snowy hell beyond the wall we see countless dead soldiers pulling three rows of massive chains, lifting something up out of the water. As they haul forward, a gargantuan figure is hoisted from the lake, revealing the frozen, dead body of none other than Viserion. The Knight King approaches the beast’s corpse with what looks to be a hint of a terrifying smirk. He gently places his hand on the dragon’s snout, and just like that, a bone-chilling blue eye is revealed. The Knight King now has himself a dragon.