Despite a truncated season, Game of Thrones isn’t giving up the tradition of saving its most devastating moments for second-to-last. The Sunday, August 20, episode, “Beyond the Wall,” was a heartbreaker of epic proportions — and by “epic,” we mean “dragon-sized.” Here’s everything that happened in Westeros as we rounded the corner on this season’s finale.
What is Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) playing at? Whatever it is, the smarmiest man in the Seven Kingdoms has succeeded in driving a stake through the heart of the tentative peace struck by Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) — by making sure Arya found the note Sansa wrote years back swearing her loyalty to the Lannisters. Arya accused her sister of being a traitor, to which Sansa pointed out that she’s been through far worse than Arya, retorting, “You never would have survived what I survived.” Arya, who has apparently rejected Faceless Manhood for Total Jerkitude, did not come even close to acknowledging that Sansa had a valid point.
And with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) off to represent the Stark family’s interests in King’s Landing, and Sansa having just discovered Arya’s stash of space faces in a bag under her bed, it seems like only a matter of time until some Hamlet-inspired insanity unfolds at Winterfell and somebody’s head ends up on a pike.
Beyond the Wall
Meanwhile, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his band of misfits set out on Operation: Wight Snatch, marching beyond the Wall in the hopes of grabbing a zombie to show to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei (Lena Headey). Beset by a blizzard, they found what they were looking for — first in the form of a zombie bear, which badly mauled Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) before being burned to death — and then in the form of a small, shambling army of wights led by one White Walker.
As it turns out, capturing one single wight is not as easy as it seems: for one, they’re bound by some kind of bloodline magic, so that if you kill a White Walker, all the Walker’s undead minions immediately fall down and break apart. But more importantly, wights are a lot like pod people — which is to say, if you capture one, they send up a shrieking alert a la Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers that brings the entire undead army down in search of vengeance.
Fire and Blood … and Heartbreak
With Jon and his army trapped on a tiny island surrounded by the dead (and with Thoros tragically frozen to death), Daenerys was their only hope — and she came through in a big way, riding with all three of her dragons to the rescue. Alas, this would be the last flight for all three of Dany’s children. Lethally speared by the Night King, one dragon (it looks like Viserion) sank dead into the black, frigid northern sea.
Even with Jon Snow’s last-minute rescue by his Uncle Benjen (Joseph Mawle) and a real alliance between Daenerys and Jon — who held hands in the penultimate moments of this episode as he swore allegiance to her and she promised to fight with him — this doesn’t feel like a win.
Instead, it feels like extremely bad news for the human race at large, which now has only two live dragons to defend its interests … while the Night King’s army now has one undead one. (And do resurrected dragons still breathe fire? Discuss.)
Game of Thrones airs on HBO Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.