Sunday night on Game of Thrones, seven men ventured north on a (suicidal) mission to capture a White Walker, the very thing that’s threatening the continued existence of the human race. There were undead bears, flying spears, a very fast man named Gendry, and a few things that didn’t make so much sense. After yet another momentous penultimate episode of Thrones, Ringer staffers dragged themselves out of a freezing lake to answer some questions.
1. What is your tweet-length review of “Beyond the Wall”?
Mallory Rubin: I don’t want to write a tweet-length review because I don’t want to encourage the belief that rushed exposition makes for good storytelling.
Alyssa Bereznak: Incredulously stupid suicide missions beyond the Wall sow incredulously bad GOT episodes.
Andrew Gruttadaro: Thirty seconds after the episode: “That was fun!”
Sixty seconds after the episode: “Man, that was rough.”
Ben Lindbergh: For the first time, Game of Thrones feels as dumb as any other big-budget CGI spectacle.
Juliet Litman: This was among the worst episodes of this otherwise excellent show because the entire premise was absurd.
Zach Kram: I should have watched the leak, because then I wouldn't have been disappointed on Sunday night.
Katie Baker: Definitely fan service, but I was the fan being serviced, so.
2. What was the best moment of the episode?
Litman: When the bear comes charging at Snowcean’s 7. That elicited my only audible reaction.
Bereznak: I liked it when Tormund said he was gonna make big, conquering babies with Brienne of Tarth. It was very romantic.
Lindbergh: Dany’s winter wear.
Kram: Beric's religious contemplation—he doesn't know what his god wants from him, only that he must be alive for some purpose—added a subtle, grounded subplot in an hour packed with dragons and zombies.
Baker: Tormund and the Hound's convo re: Brienne. Find yourself two men who will chat about ya like that.
Rubin: It’s hard not to pick Tormund learning the word “dick,” a high point even for our most loquacious wildling, but I’ll go with the Jon-Jorah Longclaw chat. So much of Thrones hinges on the weight of the family name, the pull of legacy. This exchange reminded us that there are even more powerful forces at play: self-awareness and choice.
Gruttadaro: Viserion being dragged out of the ice in the last shot of the episode was legitimately cool. … Let’s just not talk about where the Night King got those chains.
3. What was your least favorite part?
Bereznak: Tyrion’s conversation with Dany. It reminded me that Tyrion, who was once a freewheeling delight of a character, is now just a bland voice of reason who is supposedly responsible for keeping an ill-tempered queen under control. I miss the drunk, womanizing Tyrion of the past. At least he always had jokes.
(Also, while we weren’t watching, raven technology was vastly improved and a messenger bird can now apparently travel at the speed of a single tweet.)
Baker: I could pretty much deal with a far-too-conveniently-timed appearance by one fire-wielding beast, but layering Benjen Stark's arrival on top of that was a bit much. Also, I was kind of hoping Jon Snow would stay dead?
Gruttadaro: It says a lot about the Arya-Sansa plot turn that amidst all of the absurdity north of the Wall, the Arya-Sansa plot turn was the only thing that made me yell at my television.
Rubin: Every line Arya uttered. I used to laugh at the “Arya is really the Waif!” and “Arya is really Jaqen” theories, but now I kind of, sort of (OK, not really, but still) want them to be right, because either twist would feel less befuddling than Arya, an expert character study who’s literally been trained to sniff out deception, not being able to tell that Sansa’s being truthful. I hope that Arya’s playing some sort of long game and hasn’t really morphed from one of the most compelling characters in literary history into a cartoon villain, but even then: Play it with Littlefinger, not your sister.
Litman: Among all of the daft aspects of the episode, the sloppy development of Arya was in sharpest relief. I have so many questions: Wouldn’t her training in Braavos have taught her to not let her sociopathic tendencies become apparent? Shouldn’t she know that Littlefinger was setting her up? Have her own memories of Ned’s beheading dissolved so that she has forgotten Sansa’s own hysterics? Is it really wise to transport the faces in a random briefcase?
Kram: Amid the mishmash of mishegas that transpired beyond the Wall, the most annoying moment was Benjen showing up for another 54 seconds of screentime—I counted—before dying. Rhaegal rescuing Jon would have combined symbolism with fantasy-genre wonder; instead, the show offered "Hey! I know that guy!" fan service as a pure plot device.
Lindbergh: Benjen saying “There’s no time!” and making a pointless last stand. No time to … get on a horse?
4. Who was the MVP of the battle up north?
Rubin: I don’t feel good about this, guys, but it’s the Night King. As always, though, I’m prepared to make a case for Jon: Even though he went along with Tyrion’s moronic plan, and even though he spent a good deal of the episode standing on a rock in the middle of a frozen lake, and even though he needed bae to come rescue him, he still showed the now signature courage that’s made him this tale’s most worthy hero. Jon’s commitment to fending off the wights so that his comrades could have time to mount Drogon and fly away was truly admirable; he really is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. He also gained valuable intelligence about the bond between the Walkers and their wights. AND he wound up in bed with Dany, sort of. Shouts to Jon, now and always.
Litman: The Hound. Without his idiotic throwing of stones, there would be no battle in which he could valiantly save Tormund.
Baker: Beric Dondarrion, for providing such inspo to Jon Snow and for having the Lord of Light's magic touch on his side.
Gruttadaro: The Hound, for lobbing rocks at that wight. Sure, it for some reason started an onslaught, but everyone was being so dour on that rock—who can blame him for wanting to lighten the mood with a prank?
Bereznak: Uncle Benjen. Just when it seemed like Jon Snow was doomed, he showed up on the back of a horse, swinging a flaming battle mace, completely DTS (down to sacrifice). Props to him, for inexplicably chillin’ out in the cold for multiple seasons, waiting all these years to swoop in at the last minute and save the day.
Lindbergh: Either Drogon or the first wight to test the ice.
Kram: Mulan, because when she was a member of a small band of heroes facing a horde of indistinct attackers beneath a mountain in a wintry clime, she figured out a way to use her dragon to win the battle.
5. ICE DRAGON!!! Your thoughts?
Baker: ICE DRAGON!!! Your move, Qyburn.
Bereznak: I am distraught at the thought of Drogon and Rhaegal having to confront their ice dragon sibling on the battlefield in the near future. That’s going to make the next family reunion pretty unbearable.
Separately, I do have a couple of questions about Viserion’s resurrection. Where did the White Walkers find those random chains to pull him out of the water? Do they have, like, blacksmith wights set up in outer camps just making things? If so, seems like a pretty good wight gig, if you had to be a wight.
Litman: I am mad at my colleague, Maester Jason Concepcion, for so accurately predicting this.
Lindbergh: One of the worst-kept secrets in the show’s seven seasons. On the plus side, with one dragon down, we no longer need to speculate about who’ll ride Dany’s third dragon. Now that two dragons remain, the answer is simple: Jon, meet Rhaegal. Rhaegal, meet Jon.
Kram: I agree with Riley. Dany and Co. weren't underdogs before, but—pardon the pun—an ice dragon tips the scales.
Rubin: It’s like we’re in the Shivering Sea, guys! If there’s also a dragon in the Wall, I’m going to melt. (As will the Wall, probably.)
6. RIP, Viserion, though. How do you think his death will change Daenerys?
Kram: Mothers who have lost (or almost lost) a child on Thrones include: Catelyn, who then took steps that yielded a continental war, and Cersei, who then took steps that yielded a continental war. At least Dany's already embroiled in a continental war; look at her, breaking wheels already!
Rubin: I’m an animal lover, so this pains me to say, but: A dragon had to fall. As Jaime noted last episode, Dany’s three dragons were going to be match point. She had to suffer a loss, both so that she’d gain some humility and stop considering herself so invincible—and, crucially, so that she actually wouldn’t be so invincible. Dany frequently notes that her dragons are her children; hopefully losing one—in part because he was less equipped for battle after she foolishly chained him (and Rhaegal) in the catacombs of Meereen, stunting his (and Rhaegal’s) development—will jump-start her maternal instinct and allow her to rediscover some of the instincts that helped her earn her titles, titles, titles in the first place.
Lindbergh: Judging by the conversation in which she said she didn’t regret the extremely regrettable mission that led to his death, not a whole lot. But she is taking the White Walker threat seriously now that she’s seen it herself.
Bereznak: A few episodes ago, she almost got killed because she landed Drogon mid-battle to perform first aid, so the loss of Viserion has to add to her budding ruthlessness. Or maybe it’s exactly the thing that was needed to soften her up, and create a romantic opening for Jon?
Gruttadaro: I’m more worried about how it’ll affect Drogon and Rhaegal. After their mother led their bro-bro to his death, will they trust her so faithfully anymore?
Litman: Considering she’s already a fairly impetuous ruler, I don’t think very much. To me, the more important question is how this will change the idea of three dragon riders. It doesn’t really matter if Tyrion has a dragon affinity anymore, and limits his impact in the remaining seven episodes.
Baker: Everyone on this show becomes far more interesting when they're out for serious revenge and Dany sure could use some of that.
7. Finish the sentence: “The drama between Sansa and Arya is …”
Gruttadaro: … erasing seasons’ worth of character development.
Litman: … tiresome.
Bereznak: … unrealistic. Arya is too smart to get angry at Sansa for some dumb raven she sent years ago as a teen in captivity. (Besides, Sansa already told her she’d wished she’d killed Joffrey!) And yet, for no apparent reason, Arya is still obsessed with the idea that Sansa liked to knit and wear dresses and dream of being married to a prince—despite the fact that these are clearly no longer Sansa’s interests. She even strangely threatens to snitch on Sansa, which would not be in her or the House Stark’s best interests. And while I’m on a rant, I don’t buy for a second that Sansa would so easily take her eye off of Littlefinger just to bicker with her little sister.
Baker: … a classic example of the dangers of snooping! (P.S.: As I browse Twitter, I'm sensing I might be extremely alone on this, but I didn't hate it or think it was out of character for Arya. A hot-headed extremist has always lurked beneath the cold-blooded assassin, and in general I feel people tend to be more irrational when it comes to holding grudges against family members, not less.)
Rubin: ... confounding and hopefully extremely short-lived.
Lindbergh: The past several seasons have taught us that they’re too intelligent for this, and I can’t take their squabbling seriously.
8. What is Jon and Dany’s couple nickname?
Bereznak: Jonerys, obviously.
Litman: They don’t deserve one because they have zero chemistry. More Grey Worm and Missandei, please!
Baker: Ned Stark's Bastardaenerys (to everyone except Gilly and Sam).
Lindbergh: Ice and Fire!
Kram: All good celebrity couple names involve portmanteau, taking parts of each half of the couple so each can contribute. Therefore, Jon and Dany's should be: Jonerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne, rightful queen of the Andals and First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains. (Try fitting that one in a TMZ headline.)
9. After a surprising amount of people survived this episode (though again: RIP, Viserion), how nervous are you for the finale?
Bereznak: I don’t think I can actually think about it if I want to function for the next week.
Litman: Jaime should have drowned. Bring on the deaths.
Lindbergh: Very nervous, but only about continued clumsy characterization, implausible plotting, and decisions that don’t feel true to the rest of the series. It took too much careful work to get here for the series to suffer from rushing right at the end.
Gruttadaro: I’m saying it now: Cleganebowl is gonna happen, and the thought of the Hound’s head being squished by the Mountain is extremely disturbing to me. So to answer your question, very.
Baker: I mistakenly thought that Tormund got eaten by the bear and half of me was despondent but half of me was like, respect to the show for being that ruthless! So now I'm braced for anything. Bring it on.
Rubin: RIP, Thoros, too! I’m extremely nervous about the finale, but not necessarily because of the potential deaths. Cersei already pulled the gather-everyone-in-one-place-and-blow-them-up trick; as Stannis would say, she “can only play it once.” At least, I hope. Still, it feels like carnage awaits, which gives me (perhaps misguided) hope that we’re going to lose the people that we’re ready to lose. Give me Cleganebowl and get Frankenmountain out of my life. Awaken Arya’s inner eye and inner heart and slice Littlefinger out of the story. (I’ll miss him, truly, but it’s time.) Turn Jaime’s gold hand into the gold star on Valonqar theories worldwide. Just one plea: Protect Ghost!
Kram: I'm less nervous about beloved characters dying than I am about watching the last Thrones episode for 18 or so months, without possessing confidence beforehand that it's going to satisfy.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.