The opening scene of this week’s Game of Thrones felt like something out of a Hollywood action comedy about a ragtag band of misfits with a plan that’s just crazy enough to work.
But the banter among fellow suicide mission enthusiasts does more than remind us that the members of Jon’s crew are consummate badasses.
(We know, we know … like the rest of the world, you’re probably being haunted by visions of zombie dragons, but we have to start at the beginning.)
The psychological motives behind Jon’s unwillingness to cede power to Daenerys are addressed in an illuminating conversation with Tormund.
A separate exchange reminds us of Gendry’s ample cause to be pissed at the Brothers Without Banners.
The exposition continues with a scene that reminds us of how much Jon and Jorah have in common
There’s a poignant near-transfer of ownership for one of the show’s most vaunted weapons, but in the end, Jorah refuses to accept Longclaw … a decision pays off for Jon in the battle to come.
While it’s the action scenes that get the most attention, it’s scenes like this that reminds us how deftly GoT has managed its myriad plot strands over the years.
Speaking of rehashing the past, Sansa and Arya go from sharing fond memories of their childhood at Winterfell to butting heads over the death of their father
Littlefinger’s duplicity is paying off in spades, and his campaign to tear the sisters apart is going according to plan.
It’s yet another scene that reminds us of the moral murkiness the show is willing to wade into:
We’re reminded that Sansa betrayed her family, but also that she arguably played a larger role in the recapture of Winterfell than any other individual.
The ante is upped when Arya threatens to expose Sansa, but we think it’s pretty clear this conlict will be resolved with one of the Stark girls burying that incriminating dagger between Lord Baelish’s ribs.
The unlikely comedy continues north of the Wall with a bit of witty repartee between Tromund and the Hound
Shortly thereafter, we shift into heady philosophical territory as Jon and Beric discuss the nature of their battle against death
From there, Tyrion and Daenerys talk strategy and the nature of heroism.
Yet again, Dany is given reason to doubt Tyrion’s loyalty.
It’s a tense scene, but the conflict that’s quickly upstaged by a run-in with an udead bear in the North.
The ever-awesome Thoros of Myr just barely survives, but he’s worse for wear on a quest where the odds of survival were already virtually nil.
Predictably, the insane quest to capture a live wight quickly goes from bonkers to completely batsh-t
The suicide squad is successful in capture their evidence zombie, but they’re soon stranded on an ice floe with a damn Woodstock’s worth of Walkers looking on
Not surprisingly, the perpertually-dope Thoros doesn’t survive the stand-off (pour out your flasks for a real one, y’all).
Fortuately, Beric is no less bold without his resuscitator, hatching a plan to take down the Night’s King
In the south, the gears of politics continue to grind, as Sansa is summoned to King’s Landing and decides to send Brienne in her stead.
Her situation mirrors Dany’s in a number of interesting ways, as both women
The Khaleesi who is also defying her advisors, but unlike Sansa, she’s doing it by accepting the invitation to head south.
From there, we get one of the most incredible battle scenes of the season, which is really saying something, as the show has delivered jaw-dropping effects on a number of occasions in its truncated seventh go-round.
Viserion is struck down by a well-aimed ice spear from the Night’s King,
We briefly think Jon is toast, but he claws his way out of the ice with the help of Longclaw.
(Not much tension there, as we all knew it was still too early in the story for us to lose one of its primary driving forces.)
Jon is rescued by Benjen in yet another poignant reminder of the events of Season One.
After all, it was Benjen who convinced Jon of the virtues of joining the Night’s Watch, setting his entire story arc in motion.
There’s a brief but compelling scene in which it briefly appears that Arya is about to steal her sister’s face, but it winds up as another reminder that that dagger has Littlefinger’s name on it.
Following his rescue, Jon finally bends the knee (as much as one can from a sick bed), and Dany acknowledges that the biggest threat to Westeros is the army of the Night’s King.
And she has no idea how right she is:
Just when you didn’t think they could cram another stunning twist into this episode, it happens …
Zombie. Motherf–king. Dragon.
Viserion is dragged from the ice, now reborn as essentially an undead nuke.
Needless to say, this doesn’t bode well for the citizens south of the wall, who presumably not being incinerated by zombified flying beasts.
Watch Game of Thrones online to get caught up in time for next week’s apocalyptic season finale.