Year:  2017

Director:  Alan Taylor,

Rated:  MA15+

Release:  August 21, 2017

Distributor: Foxtel/HBO

Running time: 63 minutes

Worth: $18.00
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

milia Clarke, Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Iain Glen, Rory McCann, Richard Dormer, Joe Dempsie, Paul Kaye, Kristofer Hivju

“Beyond the Wall” is quite simply a brutal, exciting, oddly emotional hour-and-a-bit of television.

[SPOILER WARNING: Please don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode. I mean, come on, you know how this works

The penultimate episode of each Game of Thrones season tends to be a biggie and holy crap, this is no exception. After a somewhat rushed, piece-moving affair with last week’s “Eastwatch”, GoT delivers a tense, action-packed heartbreaker of an episode with massive ramifications.

We open where we ended last week, heading north of the Wall with Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Jorah (Iain Glen) The Hound (Rory McCann), Berric (Richard Dormer), Gendry (Joe Dempsie), Thoros (Paul Kaye) and Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), plus a bunch of redshirts, traipsing into the unknown.

Lots of character work takes place: Tormund being hilarious, Gendry being pensive, Snowy being serious – everyone gets a nice character moment, leading us to question – who the hell is going to die? Most telling is Tormund’s chat with Jon. They discuss bending the knee regarding Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Tormund has a surprisingly layered take on it, referring to Mance Rayder as the King who would not bend the knee, asking: “How many men died for his pride?”

Back at Winterfell, Arya (Maisie Williams) reveals to Sansa (Sophie Turner) that she has the hostage note. Sansa tries to explain herself, but Arya is playing a darker game. She understands the context of the note but wonders if the Northern Lords will be so kind. It’s a tense back and forth between the sisters, but to what end? Where is this subplot going?

At Dragonstone, Dany and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) talk about heroism, morality and Jon Snow’s relative hotness. The pair clash even though they’re quite closely aligned philosophically. Dany’s pride and temper gets the better of her, especially when Tyrion brings up the topic of who will sit on the throne when Dany has died. “We will discuss the succession after I wear the crown.” Meeting over!

Up north the time for talk is over and shit pops off. In a blizzard of blinding snow, bears attack. Correction: ZOMBIE BEARS! A brutal fight begins with some of the no name extras getting ripped apart. Thoros saves Sandor from a burning bear but gets mauled in the process. The bears are killed (or re-killed, I guess) but Thoros has been gravely injured. He’s alive, for now, but odds on he won’t be making it to the episode’s end.

At Winterfell Sansa turns to Baelish (Aidan Gillen) for help. Oh Sansa, that’s not a good call, mate. Hopefully Sansa or Arya (or preferably both) can see through this scam. Petryr manages to convince Sansa to send Brienne away and lo did the eyes of many a Game of Thrones fan roll.

Team ‘Pretty Fly for a Wight Guy’ finds a smallish group of the dead. It’s now or never. Using a clever trap involving a campfire, the lads demolish all but one screamy zombie who wouldn’t look out of place on The Walking Dead. The zombie is captured but not before he calls for his mates. Jon sends Gendry back to Eastwatch to raven for help. The rest take their captured dead fellow and run as about a million zombies pour after them. They make it to a rock in the middle of a frozen lake. The ice protects them, for now… but the dead are patient and the weak ice will refreeze before too long.

Gendry makes it to The Wall and collapses.

It’s morning back on the tiny island of the dead. Thoros has died in his sleep. No more extra lives for Berric. RIP Topknot. His corpse is burned but things are looking grim. The Night King (Richard Brake) watches from a nearby ridge. Berric reckons the Lord of Light brought him and Jon back for a reason, and perhaps it’s to defeat the blue-eyed commander of the dead. Sandor opines: “Every lord I’ve ever met’s been a cunt. I don’t see why the Lord of Light should be any different.”

Frustratingly we’re back at Winterfell again where Sansa receives an invitation to King’s Landing. Sansa sends Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) off in her place, but this has the stink of a Littlefinger plot. Brienne tries to give Sansa the good oil on Baelish but Sansa doesn’t listen.

Up north, Clegane starts fanging rocks at a zombie. And then it’s on, you guys. It’s ON. The dead attack. It’s an exciting, messy scrap and our heroes fight hard but they can’t possibly last. The dead are simply too many. The remaining extras are whittled down but before any of the named cast can bite it… DANY COMES STORMING IN WITH HER DRAGONS! Honestly, it’s amazing that after “The Spoils of War” a somewhat expected dragon attack can still be so effective, but it’s an absolute goosebumps-running-up-your-arms moment.

But ol’ mate Night King has an ice spear ready and as Jon Snow fights off more dead – when frankly he should just be getting on the damn dragon – The Night King throws the spear and kills Viserion the dragon! Viserion goes down and sinks beneath the ice and it’s weirdly heart-breaking. Jon is also grabbed and pulled beneath the ice by the dead. Dany, our heroes and her remaining two dragons flee, narrowly dodging another ice spear.

Jon emerges from the water and the dead attack but he’s rescued but ol’ Uncle Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle). Uncle B gives Jon a horse and faces the dead, a battle he swiftly loses but he’s saved his nephew.

Sansa searches Arya’s room for the note but instead discovers her Mission: Impossible face-changing kit. Arya springs her and goes full menace mode. Arya implies she could kill Sansa and take on her identity and then hands her a knife. I’m guessing we’ll see how this all turns out next week, but for the moment this whole subplot feels like a dud note and a forced conflict.

Dany watches over Jon as he recuperates. It took a dead dragon to convince her, but now Dany knows the army of the dead is real. “We are going to destroy the Night King and his army and we will do it together, you have my word.” Dany tells him. Jon then bends the knee, metaphorically (he’s stuck in bed) and the pair have a moment… but despite Jon’s enthusiasm now’s probably not the right time for some loving. Still their alliance is strong.

In the final scene the dead are dragging Viserion’s corpse from the ice and … oh Jesus, The Night King is making a zombie dragon. A ZOMBIE DRAGON, PEOPLE. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Viserion’s dead eye opens and the episode ends.

Well, holy fucking shit. Game of Thrones promised a third act full of epic battles and shocking developments and thus far has been delivering in a big way.  “Beyond the Wall” is quite simply a brutal, exciting, oddly emotional hour-and-a-bit of television. The battle scenes are superb, Viserion’s death quite shocking and his subsequent resurrection horrific and full of menace for the future.

The Arya/Sansa B-story is less successful, but perhaps it will have more room to breathe next week. You better believe we’ll be here in seven days for the season finale!


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