We’re currently in the golden age of television. Since 24 first hit our screens in 2001, every series has cinematic levels of beauty and story telling that can only be achieved across multiple hours of character building. Alongside 24, we’ve had The Walking Dead (the early years), Breaking Bad and The Wire to name a few. Game of Thrones however, is simply on another playing field. Right now, it’s the gold standard for television and we’ve all just witnessed one of the best episodes in the history of small screen entertainment.
It’s no new thing for Game Thrones though. We’ve seen Ned Stark lose his head, The Red Wedding, Hodor’s death and even Dany’s destruction of the Lannister army.
Time and time again, Thrones hits us in every one of our senses and once it’s finished, it’s going to be hard for anything to reach the same heights.
In short, Beyond the Wall had everything. Last week, we saw our band of Avengers go beyond the wall and that’s where we picked up this week. Seeing so many different characters come together can’t help but raise a smile and the interactions between them added some wonderful elements of humour to an otherwise bleak setting.
Mostly, it was delivered by The Hound, Tormund and Gendry and I found myself laughing at the way they bonded and the things they discussed; something that doesn’t always happen in Thrones. In amongst that, there were more sombre and serious chats, mostly between Jon and someone else but these struck a balance that even Marvel would be proud of.
Naturally, it wasn’t long before a shift in narrative and we were in the thick of the action. The first, small battle with the dead sufficed to get the pulse racing and once the whole army had The Avengers trapped, it was hard to see how they were getting out of it.
Unsurprisingly, Thrones knack of almost perfect timing saved the day once again and Daenerys swooped in to have us all silently cheering. Even though we’ve seen it multiple times now, seeing her seated on Drogon as he opens his lungs is still breath-taking. Coupled with a sublime score, it seriously gives me goosebumps and it’s just one of those spectacles that can’t be rivalled on TV.
Another shift in narrative later, the episode hit us with anguish as the Night’s King downed Viserion. I’m not sure if I’m on my own here but I’ve always hated watching the death of an animal over that of a human. The death of Sam in I Am Legend almost killed me and every time we say goodbye to a Direwolf in Thrones, I’d always rather it was one of the human characters instead.
So naturally, watching Viserion fall from the sky, coupled with Dany’s clear emotion and the harrowing cry of the other dragons was extremely powerful. It was a cruel way to play with our emotions considering what we’d seen in the rest of the episode but it was extremely important. If all three dragons had survived, the threat of the White Walkers would have felt significantly diminished. As it is, they’re still as dangerous as ever and there’s no get out clause for Wetseros. It’s still going to be a titanic battle and that means we’ll still have the same standard of episode up to the end of Season 8.
Finally, we ended with a tender moment between Jon and Dany. It was the perfect way to close this part of the story following the rollercoaster we’d been on so far. It allowed them and us as fans to take stock of what had happened. Not only that but it brings us closer to seeing Weteros united. Now that The Hound is taking proof to King’s Landing, surely it’s only a matter of time before The Lannisters join the team. Maybe.
Whilst the most important parts of the episode were on The Wall or beyond, Winterfell also had its fair share of drama. For some reason, Arya seems intent on scaring Sansa. It’s pretty frustrating seeing as we’ve only just seen the remaining Starks reunited but the one thing it’s made me realise is that I don’t particularly like Arya or Sansa as characters in Season 7. The storyline at Winterfell just doesn’t show any signs of moving along and it’s becoming a little tedious.
It’s the smallest of complaints though and if Thrones keeps delivering episodes of this standard, it’s absolutely forgivable.