Helen Sloan/HBO
James Hibberd
August 20, 2017 AT 10:18 PM EDT

Beyond the Wall: Where are all the travel scenes? complain some GoT season 7 critics. Well, here ya go — some good ol’-fashioned walking and talking, just like an episode of The West Wing if it were shot on a gorgeous glacier in Iceland. 

We get some jaw-dropping shots of the icy winter wonderland as Jon Snow and company trek north without any Gore-tex or even thermal underwear while having a series of brief chats: 

— Jon and Beric bond over being resurrected and the existential angst that goes along with that. “What’s the point in serving a god when none of us knows what he wants?” Jon asks. I realize that Beric has a really cool voice; I want him to narrate audiobooks. 

— Gendry is razzed by the older men for complaining about Melisandre’s bondage rituals. The Hound is not a man you can ever complain to, and he introduces American GoT fans to the British term “whinging”: “Your lips are moving and you’re complaining about something. That’s whinging. [Beric’s] been killed six times and you don’t hear him bitching about it.” We can all use “whinging” instead of “whining” now if we want to sound well-traveled. 

— Jon has a chat with Ser Jorah and even offers him his father’s sword, Longclaw (Jorah’s father was the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who was killed in the Craster’s cabin mutiny). Ser Jorah refuses. They’re two noble men being all noble. If I were Jon, I would hope Ser Jorah would take the sword because walking for miles in the snow while carrying a giant piece of steel on the side of your hip must be brutal. 

— Tormund tries to brag to The Hound about Brienne and says he wants to make “great big monster” babies with her. The Hound doesn’t buy Tormund’s attempt to pass off Brienne as his fake Canadian girlfriend. 

— Tormund gives Jon some grief about not bending the knee, echoing Daenerys by noting pride shouldn’t get in the way of making smart alliances. Jon keeps halting his walk in mid-conversation to have a meaningful moment with somebody, and I keep imagining the entire group behind him having to stop and wait awkwardly while he finishes.

They enter a blizzard and see something ahead. A threat. A zombie polar bear! This is something the GoT team have wanted to get into the show for years. The gang form a circle, back to back, coming together now that they’re under threat. The resulting attack, staged by director Alan Taylor, plays a bit like a shark attack on dry land.

They fight the bear, setting it ablaze. Except the toughest talker of all of them freezes in the face of danger. The Hound, to use a Watership Down term, once again goes tharn when facing the threat of fire. I like that none of the men give him grief about this afterward. Thoros, whom The Hound once mocked for his top knot, jumps in and saves The Hound’s life but is mortally wounded. The bear also serves a purpose that pays off later: Showing that it’s not just humans that can be raised from the dead.  Next: The Wight Stuff    

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