Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 6, "Beyond the Wall," below
Things are not working out for our heroes on Game of Thrones, as Season 7, Episode 6, "Beyond the Wall," saw Jon, Dany, Sansa, and Arya all in precarious positions, teetering on the brink of total failure and major losses. It's just too bad so much of it barely makes sense.
The show has had trouble getting the details of timing, place, and motivations right ever since its first forays beyond the books on which it used to be based. Remember when Jon took on the mutineers at Craster's keep back in season 4, and not one person present mentioned that they'd recently had three children and a simple giant as house guests? That event, which had no analog in the source material, was the first of Game of Thrones' many major logical missteps. And it just peaked in "Beyond the Wall."
Forget, for a second, the absurdly convenient series of coincidences that somehow brought Jon Snow, Gendry, Jorah Mormont, the Hound, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros, and Davos together for one glorious suicide mission. The real problem is that their quest makes no sense, which they would have realized if the show had time for them to actually stop and think about anything.
Sure, it's easy to say in the bloody aftermath: Dany just lost a dragon, a devastating blow to the forces of life, and for what? So Jon could capture a wight and bring it King's Landing, to get Cersei on their side? But they should have realized even in the thick of it: There's truly no universe in which Cersei would ever team up with her Targaryen and Stark enemies.
Facts and evidence have no effect on Cersei's actions or positions. If she's going to remain at all consistent as a character, she'll come up with some justification for dismissing what's before her eyes, should the captured wight ever actually reach her. The plan was hopeless to begin with, as several of those involved--chiefly Tyrion--should have been prescient enough to realize.
The second massive problem: There are no rules to what makes you a wight, and the plot is suffering because of it. Is it dying beyond the wall that turns you into a frosty soldier? Do you have to get stabbed or bit by an existing ice zombie? Why do they need to find the actual forces of the dead to capture one of them, when Jon, at the very least, is aware that corpses in the North tend to turn on their own (which is why he burns Thoros's body)? Sure, it would have been out of character for him to coldly kill a guy ten feet past the wall to find out, but what about whoever got owned by that zombie bear? They could have turned around right then and avoided this whole travesty, if anyone (characters or the show's writers) was using their brains.
That's not even getting into the minute-to-minute details this week. Why on earth did they undertake the journey north on foot, instead of horseback (besides the show's already strained budget)? Why did the Night's King let them sit on that rocky island for so long without even trying to send his extremely expendable forces across? If the narrative excuse is he was using them as bait, how could he possibly know that they had any connection with the dragon queen, or that she'd foolishly try to rescue them?
Just how long were they sitting there, anyway? Game of Thrones has become unbelievably sloppy with distances and timing, but the usual excuse of "they're just not showing the travel on-screen" really doesn't hold up here. Exact numbers don't exist, but there are easily thousands of miles between Dragonstone and the Wall, not to mention the distance the group might have traveled north of that. For Jon and co. to even reach Eastwatch should have taken far longer than this current war would allow, making the entire plan unworkable to begin with. Then for Gendry to jog back to the Wall, have a raven sent to Dany, and have Dany fly all the way back should have rightly taken weeks. Instead it all seems to happen in the space of a single day, or at most a few, which is simply complete and total nonsense.
More questions: Why did the Night's King throw his magic ice javelin at the dragon in the air, instead of the one right in front of him, which also had Dany on its back? Afterward, why didn't Dany turn Drogon around and roast his freezer-bitten butt, instead of letting him ready a second spear? How many times can Jon be rescued by convenient and predictable deus ex machina, a thing the show has relied on more and more in recent seasons, and what the heck was Benjen doing there at all? How was Jon able to drag himself up out of freezing water, onto ice, while wearing layers and pounds of water-soaked fur? Most importantly, why didn't Jon just get on the dang dragon when they told him to?
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Elsewhere, why exactly is Arya so mad at Sansa? What has Bran been doing this whole time? Where is Ghost, or Theon? Why did Sansa send Brienne far away after being specifically advised to keep her close? There are discussions to be had and theories to debate about the characters' rationales and reasonings, but Game of Thrones, in its penultimate season, no longer has the time or the inclination to care about these details. The series that used to spend episodes and seasons laying groundwork for big pay-offs is now only interested in the latter, and it's suffering for it.
Without the A Song of Ice and Fire books on which to lean, Game of Thrones the show has trouble standing up under its own weight. It's flashy and full of fan service, and viewers (myself included) love it for that. Who among us doesn't, deep down, enjoy watching these plot threads finally, finally coalesce and resolve? It's all happening, from Jon and Dany's romance to the Starks' family reunion. It's just not making a whole lot of sense in the process, especially as Season 7 rockets toward its finale. And although it's painful to admit, Game of Thrones the show has proved a poor replacement for the thoughtfully crafted, exquisitely plotted, and painstakingly detailed books that have yet to be completed.
As always, George R.R. Martin can't write quickly enough. I'm eager to get back to the real thing.