Well, that episode was something! I feel like the best way to break it down is by handing out some superlatives for a job well done! Mostly…
Best Unsung Heroes: The Randos
If ever you were confused as to who was being ripped apart by an undead bear or a wight, it was a rando. We barely knew ye, Randos of Eastwatch! Let’s face it, Game of Thrones has gotten to a point where they can’t afford to kill off characters as swiftly as they once did. The scope of the show has gotten so narrow that we need to keep most people around. So we gotta have some rando dudes following our gaggle of heroes around, if not for the practicality of carting around supplies, then to be the easy prey. They served their purpose.
Best Comeback: Benjen Stark
I mean, what a committed actor. You’re pretty much only cast for your likeness to Sean Bean, but you’re a fucking Stark on Game of Thrones! How exciting! Until it turns out you’re only called up six times in the entire series. SIX TIMES. I guess being Benjen Stark becomes a pretty easy and lucrative side gig.
But I digress. There’s something about both times Benjen’s reappearance surprised the heck out of his nephews that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Maybe it just feels good to see a Stark saving a Stark. Maybe it’s just nice to see a familiar face. Most likely it’s because we needed that Stark ex Machina, but warm and fuzzy nonetheless. I don’t know if he’s really, truly dead now that the wights swallowed him up (as opposed to kinda dead after the Children of the Forest saved him) or what he meant by “There’s no time” when Jon told him to come with him (there’s no time to get on a horse???), but I wouldn’t doubt good ol’ Benjie will come back around again.
Best Peptalk Giver: Beric Dondarion
I appreciate how much Beric’s personality has filled out this season. He’s a pretty jovial guy, which helps to buck up a lot of the dour fellows in his present company. But I guess who wouldn’t be, when you’ve died and come back to life six times? That makes him a particularly good ally for Jon, who seems to feel increasingly unworthy of the gift of a second life. “Death is the enemy,” Beric tells Jon. And then: “You and I won’t find much joy while we’re here, but we can keep others alive. We can defend those who can’t defend themselves.” The latter bit really hit home for Jon, who echoes a section of his Night’s Watch vows, and gives him a much needed nugget of inspiration.
We never think of Tormund as someone who has a whole lot of critical thinking skills. He’s not dumb, per se, his talents just… lie elsewhere. So when he’s talking to Jon about Mance Rayder (the other King in the North once upon a time) it’s surprising to hear him criticize Mance for not working with southerners sooner. Tormund said Mance was, “A brave man. A proud man. The King Beyond the Wall never bent the knee. How many of his people died for his pride?” That admission, of course, helped Jon to bend the figurative knee to Daenerys by the end of the episode.
Most Likely to Overthink Everything for No Reason: Arya
Arya just can’t let sleeping direwolves lie. I didn’t necessarily expect her to make a complete personality shift now that she’s back in Winterfell, but she seems to be operating under a self-fulfilling prophecy of skepticism. She and Sansa always had a fraught relationship, sure, but Arya of all people should know how truly terrible things can change a person. She’s not giving Sansa any credit at all, and by being so antagonistic is bringing out the worst in Sansa.
Just Plain Dumbest: Sansa
Come on, girlfriend. She knows better than this. She knows so much better than to trust a thing Littlefinger tells her, let alone fall right into his carefully-set trap. Sansa’s letting Arya get to her. Now, it’s not to say that Arya’s not calling out Sansa’s bullshit in a pretty truthful way, (she fucking said, “We’re in Winterfell because of me.” whoops!) but the paranoia that’s being drudged up is leading her to make really dumb decisions. In particular, making Brienne go to King’s Landing for an unknown summons and leaving Sansa to vulnerable to literally everyone.
Biggest Sacrifice: Viserion
By the time Game of Thrones is over, the Most Tragic Deaths list will include Hodor, all the good guys at the Red Wedding, and Viserion. (Let’s be real, there will probably be more, but let’s not spend our lives agonizing over how our favorite characters are going to die.) Sure, Drogon’s the one who’s hot shit, but Dany’s children come in a set of three! And how he’s a freaking wight dragon?! Will he spew snow out of his mouth?! What’s the opposite of dracarys?! Clearly I’m still not over it. How devastating. A song of ice and fire indeed.
(Quick note: I did confirm that it was Viserion, not Rhaegar, who met the Night King’s spear thanks to the subtitles in the episode. Not that there’s much distinction, but still.)
Most Impressive Feat of Physical Skill: The Night King
When you think about it, what else do the White Walkers have to do up there? They don’t eat, they don’t sleep. They really just walk around a bunch. What we didn’t know is how they practice their track and field skills! With a flick of the Night King’s wrist, dude took out one of the most feared beings in the literal world. And turned it into an even more fearsome being. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.
Let’s not worry too much about timelines here, in fact, it’s never been something that Game of Thrones has been very good at. Also, don’t worry about how Gendry knew how to get back to Eastwatch on his own, particularly since it was the first time he’d ever seen snow. No, don’t let that fridge logic get in the way of his accomplishments! Gendry knew how to get back and ran however many miles for however long to get Daenerys to save Jon and crew. If it weren’t for him, half of our heroes would be goners!
Make-You-Shit-Yourself-Scariest: The Wight Bear
You thought The Revenant was some shit?
Game of Thrones: Hold my bear.
Most Still on His Game Somehow: Littlefinger
Just when you think he’s put in his place, this motherfucker slithers his way out. That intimidating skepticism of Arya’s got Littlefinger turning his big dumb wheels, and to stay in Sansa’s good graces he knew he had to pit the sisters against each other. For what end? I guess he figured out pretty early that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with Bran. He needs to keep himself afloat in the social structure, and he knows his best bet is with keeping Sansa on his side. You have to know Game of Thrones is still on its shit when Littlefinger can STILL, after seven seasons, drive us all crazy. Also, part of me thinks that he forged that King’s Landing scroll just to get Brienne out of Winterfell, and that she’ll show up there and everyone will be all, “TF are you doing here?”
And that means we’ll be that much further from Brienne and Tormund getting together! Fuck Littlefinger!