Cersei Lannister didn’t so much as lift a finger from her wine glass during “Beyond the Wall.” But everything went her way regardless. Daenerys is arguing with Tyrion, the King in the North was nearly killed (again), the Stark sisters are at each other’s throats, and one of the three dragons threatening the Queen’s reign perished — not bad for staying off screen the whole hour. Let’s start with…
Dragonstone: We open with a creepy crawl heading north across Dany’s table map, stopping at the carving of The Wall. Fire crackling. The sound of ocean waves outside. Nobody is there. It’s a rather unusual shot for the show, and it was the brainchild of director Alan Taylor, who told us on Monday it serves as a visual transition taking our tale north of The Wall. Also, since this is the same room we’ll find Tyrion and Dany in later, the shot serves to visually unify the episode’s two storylines.
Winterfell: Has anybody ever watched Game of Thrones and thought that for all the heartfelt sentiment wrapped around the Starks’ ancestral home, it’s a dreary place? All dark gray and barren and cold-looking; more like a horror movie villain’s lair than a hero’s homestead. I find myself increasingly agreeing with Cersei’s snobby assessment of Winterfell in the show’s first episode. This is not a vacation spot that would get even three stars on TripAdvisor.
Yet the castle’s Gothic vibe is serving Winterfell’s current story line well, as the two Stark sisters increasingly turn on each other thanks to Littlefinger inflaming their darkest impulses.
Arya joins Sansa on that courtyard balcony she likes to hang out on and shares a warm memory of Ned Stark watching her practice archery. We can picture this in our minds and smile. But it’s just a setup before lowering the boom: Arya accuses Sansa of betraying her family with that letter Littlefinger tactfully leaked (for the record, Robb Stark saw right through Cersei’s ploy with this letter, so it didn’t have the impact Lannisters wanted). Arya also reveals she was in the crowd when their father was executed. In another tale, the sisters might have bonded over their mutual horrific memory, but not in this one.
Being the younger sister, naturally Arya threatens to tattle. She even raises the visual of Lynanna Mormont’s reaction, which would indeed be entertaining. It’s easy to picture Lyanna being in Sansa’s place back in season 1 during that meeting at the Red Keep with Cersei, Pycelle, and Littlefinger and telling them to go f— themselves.
Sansa snaps out of her shock to shoot back, “You should be on your knees thanking me. We’re standing in Winterfell again because of me…I suffered things you can never imagine. You never would have survived what I survived…Do you know how happy Cersei would be if she saw us fighting?”
If Sansa posted this on Facebook, everybody would Like it. For once, our longtime fan favorite Arya is so very in the wrong. Though to be fair, neither Sansa nor Arya would have survived each other’s journeys. As Arya’s portrayer Maisie Williams wisely pointed out in an EW interview years ago: “If Arya had gone through what Sansa has, she’d be dead. If Sansa had gone through what Arya has, she’d be dead. They’re both just good at handling what they’ve been put under.”
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Despite the logic of Sansa’s points, Arya refuses change her mind and remains angry and intractable. She can’t help but think: Sansa may be a capable politician, but what about her r-mails? Next: Twisted sister