Warning: This contains spoilers. Not seen Episode 6? Click here to see how to catch up.
It may have opened on a shot of fire, but the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones Season 7 was A Song of Ice and Ice.
Beyond the wall, our gang of glorious rogues roamed, pushing on with their wildly dopey plan of trying to bring back a wight for scientific reasons. Walking and talking through what looked a lot like a Scottish summer, it offered a number of chances for them to pair off in neat and unexpected ways for a bit of backstory, shared histories, camaraderie and good old-fashioned buddy banter.
This seemed like a ripe opportunity for a Jorah or a Tormund to have to phone their agents to look for a new gig, with the odds of survival against an enormous white walker horde looking bleak. But, in the end, only a couple of Star Trek Redshirts bought it – did we even know anyone else was on the trip beyond the named players? Oh, and Thoros, the Red Priest who wasn’t quite able to discover the knack of bringing himself back from the dead.
In a show that is certainly no stranger to a deus ex machina or five, we had one of the grandest yet. Still, when someone has been saved in the past by a sudden appearance from off-screen, it has mostly been purely by the grace of the screenwriter’s keyboard. At least this one was more or less literally telegraphed, with the request for assistance sent out by bird-mail to Dragonstone.
This gave Dany the chance to don her smashing winter coat and arrive just in time to give the undead what for. This, after it looked like Tyrion was finally beginning to talk some sense into her about her tyrannical posturing, but if anything, she ended the scene even grumpier than she began it. In this instance, though, all the melting was justified, because, well, zombies, innit. The CGI boys and girls must love waiting for the call about what will be required of them next. “Right, we need a couple of massive dragons to breath fire and melt an iced-over lake that’s covered in decaying skeletons.” “Sure, no probs.”
As always, it was magnificent, taking the best of what we saw a couple of weeks ago, upping the scale and the danger and providing a proper, fist-clenching “Yass!” moment. But it did bring to mind the oft-quoted plot hole that appears to lie at the centre of Lord of the Rings about just flying to Mount Doom on a giant eagle and dropping the Ring into the volcano. In this case, it seemed the perfect chance to fry the entire bunch of them and sort this thing out, once and for all. Instead, we ended up with a zombie dragon, which was on the cards from the moment the beast was speared. It was still a thrill, even though we knew it was coming, but, dare it be said, was the action here just a touch predictable?
Mind you, there’s surely no way of guessing exactly how things are going to turn out down at troubled Winterfell. In the episode’s only other storyline, Sansa and Arya are really starting to go all Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? on one another. Suspicion and jealousy abound and there was the very real danger of, well, very real danger for Sansa.
What is a princess to do, when she finds a bag of faces under her sister’s bed? Opening the season with a Mission: Impossible moment surely necessitates closing with one, too, so you’d have to imagine that, at some point, it has to be setting it up for Arya to stick on a Littlefinger fizzog in order to do some espionage. Or does the person whose face she wears need to be dead? That would suit us just fine.
Game of Thrones Season 7 is available to buy and download as a box set on pay-per-view VOD.