Season 7 of Game of Thrones has been filled with incredible highs and baffling lows. And with only one episode left in the season, plenty of threads are still dangling. While season 7 has been very strong overall, “Beyond the Wall” featured the show’s strengths and weaknesses on full display.
Note there are spoilers ahead
Before we get into what made last night’s episode such a rollercoaster, I’d like to focus on Tormund. Specifically, how the show used him to pull off such a devastating bait and switch.
When the episode begins, Tormund immediately becomes the focal point. In the quieter moments, he’s full of humor, wit, and gusto, ready to tackle the wights and have giant babies with Brienne, who he’s crushed on since they met in the North. (Unfortunately for him, the feeling isn’t mutual. Yet.)
As they continue traveling beyond the wall, Tormund pesters the Hound (his new BFF) with questions, generally getting under his skin—but in a charming way. The way the episode focuses on Tormund is a classic Hollywood tactic: Endear a popular character to the audience and then kill that character off.
It seemed as though Tormund’s early spotlight meant he was headed for the grave, but HBO had other ideas. As Jon and his band of brothers are in the thick of battle, Tormund is dog-piled by a bunch of wights. But just before he could get dragged under the ice—something, I might add, that happened to Jon Snow—the Hound saves the day. See? They are BFFs.
Tormund, who has become a fan favorite in Game of Thrones, came this close to death. It would have been a devastating turn of events considering how well-liked he is by audiences. But the episode wasn’t without significant loss.
Just as Tormund is saved, Daenerys swoops in with her dragons, reigning hellfire from the sky. It just so happens, however, that the Night King is an expert at killing dragons. Casually, he picks up a huge ice spear and hurls it at Viserion, killing him in one blow.
So, Game of Thrones let Tormund live so that Viserion could die. Which I am okay with because I would have been incredibly upset if he didn’t get to see Brienne one last time. (To be fair, there is no guarantee that he will since he stayed at Eastwatch while everyone else, including Brienne, are headed to King’s Landing.)
The bait and switch may be interpreted as cheap by some fans of the show, but I thought it was very effective. There were a few times when I thought he would die but, like Tormund said, red heads are special.
That being said, “Beyond the Wall” was all over the place from a narrative perspective. The whole storyline between Sansa and Arya is a big head scratcher, while it looks like Brand has been all but forgotten (again).
The show also asked audiences to really suspend their disbelief, as a lot of geography was covered in a relatively short time. I know that Gendry is a fast runner, but he’s not that fast. And the Ravens featured in the show must have teleportation powers, because word about Jon Snow’s predicament got to Daenerys incredibly fast.
Much of the show’s current stumbles have to do with this season’s shorter-than-normal length. Whereas we typically get ten episodes (give or take), we’re only getting seven. Next season, which will be the show’s last, is going to be even shorter.
The season finale promises to be epic as Cersei, Jon, and Daenerys all convene at the same place for the first time. Does Jon actually think Cersei is going to listen to him about the threat beyond the wall? Even with proof, Cersei is too power-hungry to care.
Most importantly of all: What’s going to become of Viserion now that he’s a zombie dragon?