Battlefield Losses: 5 Thoughts on Episode 6 of 'Game of Thrones'

Steve Johnson
Chicago Tribune (TNS)

Sunday’s episode (spoiler alert) was the most action-crazed yet in this jittery, jazzed-up, on-edge season.

If “Game of Thrones” were a person, instead of a television series, we’d be looking right now for the tell-tale signs of addiction. Is there a little powder around the nose? Have valuables been disappearing from the “GoT” house? Is it time for an intervention?

I bring this up because this series’ behavior, frankly, has been frantic this season and getting more so as it approaches next week’s finale. Sunday’s episode (spoiler alert) was the most action-crazed yet in this jittery, jazzed-up, on-edge season.

Dragons went north. A dragon went down. A dragon came back. Jon Snow went north. Jon Snow went down. Jon Snow came back. Jon and Dany -- he called her “Dany,” although not for long -- held hands and made a vow together. Arya revealed herself to sister Sansa as kind of a psycho.

Here are 5 thoughts recapping “Game of Thrones” Season 7 Episode 6, the One that Still Has Me Wondering Why Zombies Wear Boots:

1. The mission that seemed stupid turned out to be stupid.

When it was all over, when a dragon had been lost and a king nearly had been, Jon sat in bed convalescing, telling Daenerys, “I wish we’d never gone.”

Uh, yeah. You risked the lives of some of the toughest dudes we’ve met just to bring a member of the Army of the Dead back to Cersei in the faint hope that this one specimen would persuade her to see the northern threat as real and take a noble stand to help humankind. Have you met Cersei Lannister?

Jon and Jorah and the Hound and Tormund and Beric and crew wandered into the northern snow, swapping stories and resentments. Tormund confessed his desire to make babies with Brienne. Beric told Jon “you don’t look much like” your father (nudge, nudge). Jon tried to give Jorah his family sword back, but Jorah said, Nah, keep it.

“I don’t give two (cares) about Wildlings,” the Hound said to red-headed Tormund in the best line from the pre-battle flurry of buddy-movie dialog. “It’s gingers I hate.”

After mostly fending off a surprise ice bear attack, they got their former man. But the prisoner’s banshee squeals led the Night King’s main army to find our heroes, and suddenly they were besieged on a rock in a lake, the thin ice the only thing keeping the Army of the Dead from recruiting them immediately to their ranks.

It was a bad situation; you could tell it was bad because Jon stopped swinging his sword and started seeing things in slow motion. He was probably thinking back to the Battle of the Bastards where he also wasn’t smart in battle and needed to be saved.

Even when Daenerys and her reptiles came flying to the rescue — dragon ex machina! — Jon managed to make a bad situation worse.

Instead of climbing on board the dragon so they could just leave, idiot Jon did the idiot thing by continuing to fight random, utterly meaningless zombies. One of Dany’s dragons was shot down, Jon continued battling undead underlings, and Daenerys had to take off, leaving Jon behind as he pludged into the water, just like the dragon had and not unlike Jaime Lannister recently had.

And so our hero (we’re now using the term advisedly) had to be rescued once more, this time by his long-lost Uncle Benjen, the Night’s Watch guy who had gone missing in the first season. As Jon pulled himself from the frozen lake, the zombies were about to get him until — Benjen ex machina! — the missing man came charging through and put Jon Snow on his horse so he could make it back to Eastwatch.

Later, Daenerys, helping Jon convalesce at they sailed back toward Dragonstone, nonetheless forgave him for the blunders. “I had to see it to know,” she said, meaning the Army of the Dead. “Now I know.”

She was probably also thinking about what she had told Tyrion earlier, that “heroes do stupid things, and they die.”

2. The dragon downfall was superbly played.

You figured the Night King’s spear would be potent as soon as it was handed to him. But, dang, one mighty throw and it brought down a dragon in the way that Cersei’s crossbow-on-steroids had not been able to.

It made you wonder why he hadn’t just hurled the spear at Snow & Co. as they stood out on that lake rock. But never mind.

The magnificent animal crash-landed into the ice like a big airliner going down. And there was a moment of silence on the battlefield as people realized what a momentous thing occurred: One of the only three dragons seen in centuries was killed.

Daenerys, who had flown to save these men at great personal risk, had paid an ultimate penalty.

It’s no wonder she later pledged to Jon, “We are going to destroy the Night King and his army. We will do it together. You have my word.”

In response, Jon accepted Dany as his queen, indicating his willingness to bend the knee to her, if not the physical ability to do so at that moment.

They’ll need to be unified, because the next, and last, scene of the episode was zombies pulling on chains that led beneath the ice. Ohmigod, you realized, there’s another, huge beat to this story: The Night King, in his ‘80s music video get-up, is going to make a zombie dragon.

And as the dead beast was coaxed up onto the ice, NK touched its snout, and we saw the eye open again, this time in the chilling blue characteristic of the undead. So much for all the world’s dragons being on the same team.

3. Arya Stark takes sibling rivalry very, very seriously.

After an initial few warm moments between the Stark sisters, things have gotten frosty as Arya all but accuses big sis of wanting to overthrow “brother” Jon (who is really their cousin) as King in the North.

This week, she read aloud the letter from Sansa she had found by snooping in Littlefinger’s room, the one in which young Sansa asked her (now deceased) brother Robb to be loyal to King Joffrey, her intended, despite the fact that Joffrey had just imprisoned the Starks’ father.

She had been forced to write it, of course, but Arya quickly figured out that such nuances would be lost on the northern lords who might be inclined to support Sansa.

Later, Arya told Sansa all about her shape-shifting abilities, an explanation that seemed as lost on her as Bran’s recent explanation of what a Three-Eyed Raven is was on TV audiences.

Arya played the scenario with the utmost menace, even walking toward Sansa with a knife, talking about taking over her identity, before turning the knife handle-first and giving it to Sansa.

Her aim, in part, is to protect Jon’s rule, but it’s not yet clear what else she might be up to. Maybe there’s a Creepiest Little Sister trophy up for grabs?

4. So it looks like they’re going ahead with the Cersei meet-up.

Tyrion and Daenerys talked it over, recognizing that Tyrion’s estranged sister would want to lay a trap and that maybe they, too, should plan one.

Tyrion urged her to be better than that. “Which war was won without deceit and mass murder?” Ms. Targaryen asked. So she’s good, in the sense of being on the side of the common people, but she’s not naively good.

The meeting of these two rival queens is a big thing to look forward to, and from the previews for next week that HBO showed, it looks as though we’ll get it next week.

My bet is that something big will happen at that meeting that will serve as a cliffhanger season finale.

5. I’m mostly OK with the show sprinting as it approaches the finish line.

It’s been highly engaging to see so much happen so quickly this season. But it’s also been a little out of character for a series that was so very patient with its stories for so long. Now instead of talking about what they’re going to do, visiting a friend for advice on doing that thing, and then disappearing from the series for a few episodes while they apparently contemplate the deed, the characters of Season 7 just do it.

I’ll allow it under the theory that the seven episodes of this season and the six of the next were all that remained. A story that has taken its time over the years, cranking our little viewing train slowly to the top of the coaster hill, has earned the right to go out in a steep plunge around corners and through loop-de-loops.

But, oy, the vertigo.





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