Before we get into what happened last night in the space of 71 minutes of prestige cable, some housekeeping: if you consult the rules of Game of Game of Thrones, you’ll see that killing a White Walker nets you 15 points, but there is no point allocation for killing a wight. The folks at Fantasizr have decided that wights will count as ordinary redshirt kills. Further — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — zombie polar bears will be scored as wights. Also, as this is the first episode where this question is relevant, here’s a reminder that point caps on violence apply to scenes, not the full episode. And yes, Beric Dondarrion’s flaming sword counts as magic use. Thank you to the 500 people who asked us about the sword issue on Twitter last week because they just had a feeling he was going to do that. I totally [eyes roll to stare fully into the eclipse] believe you.
Now, Game of Thrones is a pleasant shared pastime and a huge cultural phenomenon that has delighted many of us for years, and especially for that one year, 2012, when there were zero sexual assaults and Robb Stark was still alive. Game of Thrones has also thoroughly and irreversibly gone off the deep end. Did you see earlier when I had to type the phrase “zombie polar bear”? I’m not saying you need to be put off by this fact, or that we need to do anything differently. I’m just asking that we enter the next 3,000 words with a modicum of self-awareness. We’ve stuck with the zombie-and-dragon show long enough to see ourselves stick with what is now a zombie dragon show.
we stuck with the zombie show and the dragon show and now it’s a zombie-dragon show
You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become a hero who’s “too small” for Daenerys Targaryen.
Speaking of which, we begin last night’s feature-film-length episode of Game of Thrones north of the Wall, where a ragtag crew of seven sweet boys is attempting to kidnap a wight and sort through all their issues with their dead dads and each other’s sexual preferences. Led by Jon Snow, our boys are discussing whether it will be possible to get laid at any point during this mission. If you ever think you’re going through a dry spell, just remember that Jon’s girlfriend died three years ago! “There’s not a living woman within 100 miles of here,” he points out, to which Tormund leers at Gendry and responds (+5) “You have to make do with what you’ve got.”
Then Tormund and The Hound bicker about whether “gingers are beautiful” (+5 to Tormund) or if their fire-inspired hair is just scary and weird, like fire. Thoros takes a swig from his flask (+5) and shares it with Gendry (+5), who is still upset about the time he was sold as a magic component. The Hound, who has become something of an audience avatar at this point, takes him to task (+5) for “whinging,” which he explains as, “Your lips are moving and you’re complaining about something.” Inspired by all this extremely masculine intimacy, Jon tries to give the Valyrian steel sword Longclaw to Jorah, reasoning that it was in his family for centuries, and his dad probably would love Jorah again if he could see his noble actions and jawline at this time. Jorah says something like, “No, give it to your son,” which makes Jon think about the sex issue again, and pull a muscle in the corners of his very sad eyes.
Back at Winterfell, Arya tells Sansa a long story (+5) about Ned watching her shoot arrows, noting, “He was smiling, so I knew it wasn’t wrong. The rules were wrong.” She’s 14 and discovering feminism, but isn’t quite woke enough to get through a single conversation without being rude to Sansa about wearing nice clothes and caring about power. The issue on the table is whether Arya will show Sansa’s letter from six years ago to the Northern lords, painting her as a Lannister collaborator and unsuitable Lady of Winterfell. “You should be on your knees, thanking me,” Sansa manages to point out (+10). It’s fair, given that Sansa spent the last several years suffering and struggling and winning an improbable military victory for her entire family. “Sometimes anger makes people do unfortunate things,” she prompts Arya, which unfortunately sets her up for the parting shot of the scene (+10): “Sometimes fear makes them do unfortunate things. I’ll go with anger.”
I kind of wish Arya would just go back to Murder College? Her know-it-all routine and sudden lust for moral authority are on-par with a 23-year-old frat bro taking his first philosophy course as a super senior.
North of the Wall again, Tormund and The Hound are flirting. “You want to suck my dick, is that it?” The Hound asks (+5). Then he pauses to explain that “dick” and “cock” are synonyms. I am learning so much from this television program.
Tormund also talks about his crush on Brienne, saying, “I want to make babies with her. Great big monsters that conquer the world.” We are really getting through the whole range of conversation that is possible between men. Filling out our Bingo cards, Beric and Jon discuss the meaning of life and death. It’s sort of vague in their experience, since they’ve both been resurrected by magic. According to Jon, “We all die,” but according to Beric, “The enemy always wins, and we still need to fight it. That’s all I know.” They decide that fighting and dying to protect other people from “death” (whatever it is) is “maybe” enough.
“Enough” for what? Okay, there’s no time for that question. We never even came down with a firm answer on the first question of “What is death?” Moving on!
At Dragonstone, Tyrion is drinking (+5) and asking Daenerys whether she has a crush on Jon. “He’s too little for me,” she tells him (+5), which… girl. That’s rude, given the company. It’s also a thoroughly transparent lie. If you’re interested in the 2017 equivalent of this, it’s when someone says, “Do you have a crush on him?” and the best response you can muster is, “No, he replies to the tweets of people he doesn’t know.” Nobody’s buying that. Just move into the light.
They have an old conversation about how Daenerys needs to be different than all of the other tyrants in Westerosi history, and a new one about how maybe she should name an heir to her throne. He just wants to plan for the long term, no big deal here, just asking to for a plan regarding who will inherit all that exists on the whole continent, but uh, +10 to Daenerys for pointing out, “Perhaps if you planned for the short term, we wouldn’t have lost Dorne and Highgarden.”
Okay, enough politics. Here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, without knowing it, for seven years.
It’s a goddamn zombie polar bear!
This is a polar bear that someone took the time and effort to turn into a zombie. It’s beautiful. It’s ridiculous. It’s probably the reason there was no CGI budget left forGhost to do anything this season. +50 each to Thoros and Beric for magic-flaming-sword use in this scene, and if you’re playing with special teams, the Lord of Light will also net +50 for that trick. As we mentioned, zombie polar bear kills count as wight kills, so +10 to Jorah for whipping out the dragonglass. Unfortunately, the quickly dispatched zombie polar bear still manages to rip up several of the Wildling helpers I didn’t remember being part of the squad before. It also rips up Thoros, who responds by asking for his flask (+5) and muttering, “Ah, funny old life.” (+5) Yes, my dude. This is hilarious. I’m sorry about the whole front half of your body.
Editing is no longer really a concern for the creators of HBO’s Game of Thrones, so at this point, we get a short scene of Littlefinger and Sansa at Winterfell, debating what to do about Arya. They come up with nothing, pretty much. Then we’re back to ice-zombie world, where Jorah and Thoros are waxing poetic on the benefits of being drunk all the time. In my opinion, you should not drown your problems in alcohol — particularly if you are Jorah and your main troubles are unrequited love and constantly being expected to hang out with your beloved’s latest romantic interest on dangerous quests.
zombie! polar! bear!
Appropriately, it is during this conversation that Jon uses Jorah’s dad’s sword to kill a White Walker (+15), which causes five wights to spontaneously explode (+50). Now we know an important new law of physics: if you kill a White Walker, you also kill any wights it “turned” from normal dead bodies into militant zombies. Unable to fathom just killing the Night King and solving the whole problem immediately, Jon asks Gendry to run back to the Wall, send a raven to Daenerys, and “tell her what’s up” with the huge wight army they’re staring at. He says Gendry has to go because he is the fastest. This happened offscreen, but at nighttime, all the boys race each other.
After tricking a substantial number of wights into falling through some thin ice, our team settles down for a campfire and a nap. Thoros dies in the night with his eyes wide open (+50 memorable-exit bonus, reasoning: zombie polar bear wounds), a reference to the 1991 feature-film debut of Jake Gyllenhaal, City Slickers. The Hound swipes Thoros’ flask for a +5, but Jon swipes it back to use as lighter fluid. Then Beric nets another +50 for using magic-sword fire to burn Thoros’ body in an intimate little cremation ceremony. Personally, I love this Western, and think it’s very good. +25 to the wights’ special team for killing a named character.
Back in Winterfell, Sansa has adopted a resting facial expression of “My life has already gone on for far too long.”
She’s been invited to King’s Landing for unknown reasons, not likely to be good. It’s too far, and she refuses to talk to Cersei, so she tells Brienne to go in her place, brushing off her concerns about Littlefinger and the dubious loyalty of Sansa’s guards. “I’m not a child. I’m the lady of Winterfell, and I am home,” she tells Brienne (+10), and yeah, I stood up and cheered. No one is ever going to thank Sansa or call her a hero or acknowledge that dressing for the job she wants is not a crime, but she’s still going to do this mountain of unsexy paperwork anyway.
Speaking of dressing for the job you want, Daenerys is on her way out of Dragonstone in a snow-inspired outfit. Hmm.
Despite Tyrion’s best efforts at dissuading her, she’s hell-bent on flying all three of her dragons north of the Wall to visit Jon and help him out with his White Walker problem. And I thought paying for a cab from Brooklyn to Manhattan at 1AM was bad. Whatever, Dany. It’s literally the end of the world, and you might as well surrender to your impulses.
While she’s on her way, The Hound throws a rock at some wights. This reminds them to try walking across the ice. Oops. Beric, Jon, Jorah, The Hound, and Tormund spend the next few minutes netting a +50 kill cap each and looking awesome. (They do the circle-up-tough-guys shot from The Avengers five or six times in this episode, but I couldn’t bring myself to GIF it.) Tormund is rescued from a dog pile (pun intended, sorry!) by his new best friend The Hound. Beric’s fire sword is back out (+50). Jon gets half a dozen close-ups, and I’m not mad about it. More zombies start crawling out of the water, and I am a little mad about that, because it’s visually confusing, and I was already having a hard time keeping track of all the moving pieces in this sequence. Of course, just when it seems like our cutie-pie heroes are totally done for and Jon is bracing himself to die in a blaze of glory, he instead nearly dies in a blaze of fire. It’s the dragons!
They manage to obliterate long strips of the wight army, but in a turn of events you could only have seen coming if you had spent this entire season of Game of Thrones being honest with yourself about what kind of show you were investing in every Sunday night, the Night King hurls an ice spear into Viserion’s neck, killing him (+150).
Jon, who was trying to doggedly stab his way to the Night King, realizes Drogon is next and screams at Dany and crew to get the heck out of Dodge, and leave him behind. Oh my goodness, remember how earlier in this episode, we talked about the definitions of heroism and death for 45 minutes? For Jon, this means continuing to hack at wights while his only chance at escape flies away, along with his only chance at a new girlfriend. For Jorah, it means almost falling off a dragon even when we totally have much bigger problems to worry about.
At this moment, we get our second ridiculous deus ex machina of the night, but who on earth is going to complain? Certainly not me, your humble Thronesmaster, who has spent the whole morning lecturing you about accepting the state of the TV show you enabled. The semi-undead Benjen Stark rescues Jon, puts him on a horse, fights off a bunch of wights (+50) and dies (+50), finally. Good riddance only because I was having a little bit of trouble remembering the purpose of this character.
Back at the Wall, Beric tells The Hound that they’re friends now and will hang out again sometime, to which he responds, (+5) “Fucking hope not.” It’s a perfect coda to a perfect boy adventure. Meanwhile, Sansa is being forced to discover that her 14-year-old sister has a bag of only partially identified face skin under her bed.
“Where did you… get them?” she asks (+5), a line which served as a little island of expert comedic timing amid a vast ocean of ridiculous dialogue by David Benioff and Dan Weiss. While Arya could have used this as an opportunity to fill Sansa in on her formative experiences, then listen to Sansa explain some of her own, then come to a place of mutual understanding and respect, she instead threatens to cut Sansa’s face off (+10). Whatever. She also hands the Valyrian steel dagger over for a tentative +50 to Sansa. Ideally, Sansa will later cut Arya’s face off with it, because I’m sick of this shit.
And speaking of things I’m sick of: I had “+25 each to Daenerys and Jon for sex with a blood relative” proactively written at the top of my note sheet for the entirety of last night’s episode, and then had to erase it. Give me a break. Jon does get a +5 for the bold come-on of calling Daenerys “Dany,” and then, so throatily that I can’t believe he did it without the assistance of a Nolan Batman voice-changer, “How about… my queen?” These two share absolutely the weightiest moment of hand-holding I have ever seen, so charged with something that it actually brings Daenerys to tears.
This could be the start of a beautiful love story, or it could be one of those episodes of The Bachelor from the early 2000s, before the producers figured out that the adrenaline rush of bungee-jumping dates created way too much sexual tension to televise. After all, Dany and Jon did just watch each other battle zombies and almost die and look incredible while doing it. Sometimes it is hard to sort out which of your feelings are love feelings, and which of your feelings are attraction based on perceived competence. In other words: sometimes you just think it’s super hot that a person is good at things.
I guess we’ll find out next week, in an 81-minute season finale of The Zombie Dragon Show.
And yeah, okay, in the final seconds of this week’s episode, the Night King gets +50 for the magic he used to turn Daenerys’ dead dragon into an undead ice zombie dragon. Haha. We all did this. Together.
THE VERGE FANTASY LEAGUE STANDINGS
1. KWAME OPAM, 550 POINTS
Top scorer: Thoros of Myr, 110
Special team: The Dothraki, 0
Note: Will Kwame be able to hold first place now that three-fifths of his team is dead? What is “death”? Why do we fight it? Does Kwame, who now works at The New York Times, remember that he is participating in this game?
2. MICHAEL ZELENKO, 545 POINTS
Top scorer: Arya Stark, 25
Special team: The Royal Army, 0
3. CHAIM GARTENBERG, 465 POINTS
Top scorer: The Night King, 200
Special team: The Wights, 25
Note: Chaim dropped Randyll Tarly and picked up Alys Karstark. Thank you to Chaim for paying attention.
4. ANDY HAWKINS, 400 POINTS
Top scorer: Jon Snow, 115
Special team: The Unsullied, 0
5. SARAH SMITHERS, 375 POINTS
Top scorer: The Hound, 70
Special team: Dragons, 50
6. TASHA ROBINSON, 310 POINTS
Top scorer: N/A
Special team: The White Walkers, 25
7. LIZ LOPATTO, 280 POINTS
Top scorer: Sansa Stark, 75
Special team: The Lord of Light, 50
8. LOREN GRUSH, 265 POINTS
Top scorer: Jorah Mormont, 60
Special team: Brotherhood without Banners, 0
9. T.C. SOTTEK, 225 POINTS
Top scorer: N/A
Special team: Wildlings, 0
10. BRYAN BISHOP, 225 POINTS
Top scorer: Beric Dondarrion, 200
Special team: The Night’s Watch, 0