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In past seasons of Game of Thrones (Sundays, 9 p.m., HBO Canada), some viewers have complained that the action didn’t really pick up until the penultimate episode. Of course at that point we’d have a huge episode that turned everything on its head. Episodes like “Blackwater,” or “The Rains of Castamere” (which might as well have been called “The Red Wedding”), had us reeling as we heading into the finale.

Well, no one can say that the action has been lacking on this seventh season of the HBO series, but hot damn if Sunday night’s penultimate episode, “Beyond the Wall,” didn’t leave us in serious need of a therapy session. Sibling rivalry, one of the most epic battle scenes in the series to-date and a budding, (albeit innocent) incestuous relationship were just the start of things as the show took its iciest turn to date. Let’s not waste any more time though because there’s a lot of snowy ground to dig into and cover here.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

We’ve long known that Arya and Sansa don’t see eye-to-eye on many matters. Their sibling rivalry runs deep — all the way back to season one and beyond. So it’s no surprise that following a happy-ish reunion the sisters have resumed their old ways, thanks to the antics of one Petyr Baelish. There’s never an episode where we don’t expect that character to twirl his plotting moustache, but there was a full-blown pinwheel of twirling going on the past two episodes as he dug his claws further into Sansa. Of course, Arya didn’t help matters by basically threatening to cut off her sister’s face in a scene that had Sansa shaking in her pretty winterized boots. For once we’re on Sansa’s side here: the sisters at each other’s throats is exactly what Cersei would want. Can’t they both just realize that neither could have survived what the other suffered these past seven years and call it a truce? Maybe Bran should just fill them all in with his raven powers so that we can get on with the more important issues at hand.

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A sworn knight

Unfortunately things aren’t looking so great for either sister right now, given that the one person who has both of their interests at heart — Brienne of Tarth — has just been sent away to King’s Landing, presumably for the upcoming summit between Cersei and Dany. Kudos to Sansa for not going herself, given everything that happened to her at that terrible place, but did she have to be so darned mean to Brienne? Sansa keeps telling everyone (including herself) that Littlefinger doesn’t have that much sway with her, but we all know better. Was Sansa’s intent in sending Brienne away to remove one of Arya’s protectors? We hate to think of either sister actually harming the other but writers have certainly set us up for that. In the world of Game of Thrones we suppose we’ve seen worse.

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Tyrion’s political sway

So far Tyrion is batting well below average when it comes to advising the Mother of Dragons on how to best win the Westeros war, but he continued to push his luck on Sunday night by bringing up both the issue of her temper and her potential successor. The anger issue has definitely boiled over a few times this season as fiery Dany returned home, but until Tyrion pointed out that everything Dany wants to achieve probably can’t be done in a lifetime we haven’t really thought about her death. After all, she’s the ultimate hero in this tale, is she not? The Breaker of Chains and all of those other impressive titles? The fact that someone brought up her death is making us think that hers could be coming. And it’s not a thought we’re particularly happy with. Neither is Dany, it seems, since she pretty much put Tyrion in his place over the notion.

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A band of misfits

We all knew what was awaiting Jon Snow and his ragtag group once they came across the White Walkers and wights, but before we got there we got lots of West Wing style walk-and-talks. Jon stopped to have a heart-to-heart with nearly everyone, musing about swords with Jorah and life purposes with Beric while (we can only imagine) everyone else in the group up ahead waited for him to catch up. This was a smart move for several reasons: one, it upped the stakes for everyone just a little bit, since we got to know them better and two, it reminded us of several events in the past. And it continued to show that Jon Snow is the ultimate leader who can bring anyone together with a common purpose, even if he doesn’t know what he’d actually do with himself once that purpose is achieved.

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The creepy polar bear

Lost may have made us wary of polar bears, but Game of Thrones resurrected our fear of them when Jon and co. came across a gnarly, undead one. Apparently the showrunners have wanted to get one of these beasts into the series for years, just because it’s kind of cool, but more importantly the undead animal reminded us of something we should have all been paying more attention to: animals other than horses can be turned into icy machinations of their former selves. More on that later…

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When the North freezes over

If we really break it down, Jon sending Gendry running back to the wall to send word for Dany was pretty much the only chance for everyone involved after the Night King outsmarted Jon in his quest to capture a wight or White Walker. Damn Cersei and her apparent need for proof that shit has gotten real. But everything needed to work out perfectly in order for this plan to actually succeed. We were all willing to suspend disbelief for that to happen (does time have no meaning in Westeros?), so we felt a huge sense of relief when Dany indeed swooped in with her babies to burn the army to a crisp.

What we didn’t see coming, at least not until the Night King picked up that icy javelin, was one of those dragons meeting his end. We got a taste of potential harm two weeks ago when Jaime’s army attempted to take Drogon down, but the weapon that took down Viserion was a lot swifter and deadlier. Watching the beast quickly go down in a bloody blaze of fire was impressive, disheartening and brutal. As he sunk into the icy waters we may have been fighting back tears. And then there were two…

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Jon is a stubborn bastard

If you weren’t yelling at Jon to stop fighting at that point and climb aboard the Drogon express you clearly weren’t as into this battle as we were. So when Dany was forced to leave him behind in an apparently icy grave our hearts sank… but only a little. Sure, if we stop to think about it we don’t actually believe that Jon could have swam his way up out of subzero waters in all of that chainmail and stumbled back onto the ice to continue fighting. But we continued to suspend disbelief. After all, this character returned from the dead; we don’t expect him to actually die again anytime soon.

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A surprising saviour

Everyone who expected Rhaegal — the dragon named after Jon’s birth father Rhaegar — to come swooping in to grab Jon raise their hands. Instead it was Benjen Stark, sent by the Three-Eyed Raven (aka Bran) who came to the rescue with his fireball. Convenient? Of course. But this is Jon Snow we’re talking about. Luck seems to come to him when he needs it most. Also this rescue may have been another clue in an increasingly popular fan theory that… well, we won’t spoil anything, and it’s way too long to go into for our purposes, but you can read up on it here. Or, here. And also here. Like we said, it’s an increasingly popular theory.

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Romantic tensions

With a ripped Jon naked and alive in Dany’s boat, it was time for the two to have a real heart to heart with everything laid out on the table. Jon was understandably sorry for causing Dany to lose one of her dragons, while she is now dead set on taking down the dead. (See what we did there?) Viserion was one of her children, so she now has personal stakes in the battle. Aside from keeping all of these people alive that is. Anyhow, the aunt and nephew shared a tender hand-holding moment, but it went no further. Obviously these two are sparking, and they have no idea that it could be because they share blood. Bran really should open up his mouth about that connection at some point, because we can see that spark going a lot further if things ever settle down. Not that we believe things will actually settle, mind you. Not with so many wars happening all at once. In the meantime, we’ll just take the fact that he called her “Dany” and bent the knee. Finally. Guess we know who that potential successor may be.

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A dragon is reborn

Where the hell did the army of the dead find chains that could hoist a dragon? That was the first thing that came to mind when the dead started hauling Viserion out of the icy waters. The second was “holy crap.” Does a dead dragon breathe ice? How the hell did the Night King manage to get that upper hand? It almost seems fitting that it was Viserion that took the shot now that we know his fate — the man he was named after was an enemy to Dany too. Plus he had those piercing blue eyes. At any rate, the death (and resurrection) goes against the fan theory that Tyrion is actually a Targaryen and was therefore meant to ride the third dragon, which leads to a whole bunch of new questions about who the Night King really is.

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With one episode left in the season, we’re not likely to learn that answer anytime soon though.

Here’s a preview of next week’s finale. Hold onto your caps, because all of the important figureheads will finally meet up. And with Cersei setting traps, it’s bound to get nasty.

 

 

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO Canada.