A bit of background info relevant to Beyond The Wall for anyone with a fuzzy memory of seasons past…
Warning: contains major spoilers for Game Of Thrones 7.6
Game Of Thrones just delivered its fieriest, iciest episode yet, and here’s our spoiler-filled review. For anyone, though, who found themselves struggling to remember exactly what the story was with those flaming swords or where they might have seen that arrowhead mountain before, here’s some background info on what went on in Beyond The Wall…
Why is the Hound scared of fire?
Sansa heard the story from Littlefinger in season one, and Arya heard it from the horse’s mouth in season four. As a child of around six, Sandor’s older brother Gregor held his face against burning coals as punishment for borrowing one of his toys—a wooden knight as Littlefinger tells it—scarring him for life. “Pressed me to the fire like I was a nice, juicy mutton chop,” the Hound tells Arya. “The pain was bad, the smell was worse, but the worst thing was that it was my brother who did it and my father who protected him told everyone my bedding caught fire. You think you’re on your own.”
What’s Beric Dondarrion’s story?
Ser Beric is a Westerosi lord sent by Ned Stark with one hundred men after Gregor Clegane (aka the Mountain) and the Lannister soldiers who were raiding the Riverlands in season one, raping, torturing and killing the common folk. Dondarrion’s group were ambushed by the Mountain in the Battle of Mummers Ford. The Mountain killed Dondarrion with a spear and left only forty survivors. Saying a prayer to the Lord of Light over Dondarrion’s body, Thoros of Myr unwittingly resurrected him from the dead.
The Brotherhood Without Banners was formed by the survivors from the battle, who swore to serve no House but to protect the common people. Ser Beric went on to die a further five times (losing his eye to Lannister soldiers who stabbed him in it when executing him for treason), and each time Thoros brought him back.
In his season one scene, Ser Beric was played by David Michael Scott, from season three onwards he was played by Richard Dormer.
What’s Thoros of Myr’s story?
Drunken carouser Thoros was born in Essos where he trained as a Red Priest. He was sent to King’s Landing to convert King Robert Baratheon to the Lord of Light, but instead fought for him against the Greyjoy Rebellion where he made his name at the Siege of Pyke.
Thoros joined up with the newly formed Brotherhood Without Banners after unwittingly resurrecting Ser Beric Dondarrion from the dead after the Battle of Mummers Ford. Each time Dondarrion has died since, Thoros has resurrected him. The power of resurrection isn’t his, he says, he’s just “the lucky drunk who says the words”.
Is that it for Beric’s resurrections now?
It would seem so. With Thoros dead, that cat’s reached the end of his multiple lives.
Why are Thoros and Beric’s swords on fire?
Thoros was famed for using a wildfire-coated sword in battle, as mentioned in this episode at Pyke during the Greyjoy Rebellion, but Beric Dondarrion has always used magic to keep his alight. When he lit his sword in preparation for doing battle with the Hound in season three, he did it by slicing open his palm and wiping blood on the blade. Magic seems to light both swords on fire with remarkable ease nowadays, however.
Where have I heard “I am the shield that guards the realms of men” before?
Jon recited these words to Beric Dondarion in their discussion of the Lord of Light this week. They’re taken from the Night’s Watch oath sworn by members when they join up. As follows:
“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honour to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”
Why does Daenerys say she can’t have children?
Back in season one, Dany was heavily pregnant with Khal Drogo’s son (“the stallion who mounts the world”) when his men raided a village, raped its women and took them prisoner, as is the Dothraki’s wont. When Dany demanded the women be placed under her protection, Khal Drogo’s second in command objected and the two men fought, with Drogo sustaining a wound to the chest. One of the women Dany saved, Mirri Maz Duur, offered her services to Drogo as a healer, but the wound festered because the healer was acting in revenge for her people, and he drew close to death. Dany agreed to the healer performing a blood magic spell that made a living sacrifice of his horse to bring Drogo back to life.
When Dany went into early labour and the midwives refused to attend her, calling her ‘cursed’, Ser Jorah carried Dany into the tent where Mirri Maz Duur was performing her blood magic spell on Drogo so the healer could help Dany. When Dany awoke, she was told her son had been stillborn and malformed, and Drogo was in a vegetative state, all as a result of Mirri Maz Duur’s revenge curse on the Dothraki leader, which leads Dany to believe she will never again have children.
Has The Night King battled dragons before?
It very much looks like it. If the Night King is, as he appears to be, the first White Walker created by the Children of the Forest thousands of years ago, then he has many centuries of experience with dragons, giants and all sorts. Judging by that ice javelin and those chains, he clearly knew to expect the imminent arrival of dragons in this war.
Why didn’t the Wight-hunting party take a raven with them in case of emergencies?
The same reason they didn’t venture out on horseback: poor planning/lack of available resources/inclement conditions. Jon’s lot need to get in whoever handles logistics for the army of the dead, because they were impressively able to source massive dragon-pulling chains beyond the Wall, where blacksmiths must be thin on the ground.
Which of Dany’s dragons was killed by the Night King?
Viserion, the one she named after her cruel brother Viserys. That leaves Drogon, named after Khal Drogo, and Rhaegon, named after her brother Rhaegar… who just happens to be Jon Snow’s real (and legitimate, we learned last week) father.
How did Ser Jorah and Tormund kill all those Wights without fire or Valyrian steel?
If you look closely, you’ll see they used dragonglass weapons. Jorah had a dragonglass dagger and Tormund a dragonglass axe. Jon was clear to point out in his talk on dragonglass to the Lords of the North that it not only kills White Walkers but also Wights.
Did we already know that the vampire siring rule applies to Wights and White Walkers?
No, that’s a new one, but it’s a game-changer. If every Wight created by a White Walker crumbles the instant their ‘sire’ is killed, it makes the battle against them a lot easier. Target the White Walkers and job’s a good’un. Seeing as the Night King created the rest of the White Walkers, if he’s killed perhaps Beric’s right and they’ll all vanish in a poof.
How many White Walkers are there?
We don’t know is the simple answer. Craster boasted of having ninety-nine sons, so if he was telling the truth, they were all presumably sacrificed to the Night King to be transformed into White Walkers. That’s a fair few but a good many of those, thinking logically, would surely still be infants? (Unless White Walker magic makes babies grow up quickly. If not, are the little ones in some kind of White Walker childcare centre?)
If the Night King’s been transforming babies for thousands of years, he could have built up a good number, but the most we’ve seen in any one go is only in the tens. His resurgence seems to be linked to the magic surrounding the birth of Dany’s dragons though, so perhaps he was in a sort of hibernation until that awoke him?
Is Viserion a Wight or a White Walker dragon now?
This is an interesting one. The Night King physically touched him in order to resurrect him, rather than just using the arm-waving magic he used at the end of Hardhome to resurrect the dead of the battle. Does that make Viseryon a Wight now, like those zombie horses or that bear, or as dragons start off magical, is he now something different? Does an undead dragon breathe ice, for instance?
Don’t Wights like water?
They certainly seem to avoid it. In Hardhome, the human survivors got away by sea. In this episode, the threat of plunging into icy waters beneath the frozen lake stopped the Wights dead in their tracks (excuse the pun).
How much Wights think is an interesting question. This episode showed them capable of basic physics by recognising that the ice had refrozen enough to bear their weight. The one Jon and co. caught even seemed to be calling for help. They obviously have something going on inside their heads, even if those heads are in part see-through.
Remind me exactly what happened to Lord Commander Mormont?
Jeor Mormont, father to Ser Jorah Mormont, was the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch when Jon and Samwell were new recruits. He chose Jon Snow as his steward, planning to train him up for leadership one day. When Jon saved Mormont’s life by throwing a lantern at the Wight attacking the commander, Mormont rewarded him with the gift of Longclaw, his family Valyrian steel sword, whose pommel he’d had reshaped from a bear to a Stark direwolf. (Jeor’s son Jorah had forfeited his right to the sword when he was exiled from Westeros for slave-trading – for which crime Ned Stark wanted to execute him.)
After his experience with the Wight, Jeor led a ranging party beyond the Wall to investigate rumours of more undead. Along the way, he took the group to a Wildling keep ruled by Craster, a cruel man who made incestuous wives of his daughters and sacrificed his sons to the White Walkers in exchange for being left alone by them. After the group were attacked by a group of Wights, they returned to the Wall, via Craster’s Keep. When Mormont’s men killed Craster for treating them cruelly and withholding rations, he upbraided them and was stabbed in the back by them. His corpse was desecrated and his skull was turned into a drinking vessel, before Jon returned and slew the mutineers in revenge for Jeor’s murder.
Does the Hound really hate redheads?
It’s all talk. Sansa’s a redhead, after all and he did his best to protect his “little bird”, offering to take her to Winterfell when he deserted the Lannister army during the Battle of the Blackwater in season two. When she asked him where he was headed, he replied “Some place that isn’t burning. North maybe.” True enough, North’s where he’s ended up.
What’s Benjen Stark’s story?
The brother of Ned Stark, Benjen was the First Ranger with the Night’s Watch who accompanied Jon and Tyrion on their journey to the Wall in season one, before leaving to range beyond the Wall after hearing “disturbing reports”. His horse returned alone, and the corpses of two of the rangers accompanying him were discovered dead in the forests beyond the wall, but he wasn’t heard from again…
…until season six. Benjen was Bran and Meera’s mysterious rescuer as they flee a group of Wights. He explained that he and his party were killed by White Walkers but the Children of the Forest stopped him from turning into a Wight by putting a piece of dragonglass in his chest. Neither truly dead nor alive, he can never again pass south of the Wall because of its magic, but continues to fight for the living north of the Wall. Here, he appears to sacrifice himself to save Jon’s life.
Why all the cracks about Jon Snow’s height this season?
After Gendry’s dig at Jon being shorter than his dad, Jon’s now “too little” for the mother of dragons, apparently. Too nephew-y, you mean.
Whose faces does Sansa find in Arya’s bag?
We saw two, though there may have been more. One definitely belonged to Walder Frey, and the other bearded one could have been Merryn Trant if you squinted, but looked more likely to be one of the Frey sons who ended up in that pie.
Why did that arrowhead mountain look familiar?
Because it appears to be the reverse side of the stone circle location in Bran’s season six vision explaining how the Children of the Forest created the very first White Walker by inserting a blade of dragonglass into a man’s heart. A key location, any road.
Who is currently en route to King’s Landing?
Pretty much everyone of import. Cersei’s invited them all to a big meeting, where Jon plans to present her with the Wight captured in this week’s raiding mission, Theon plans to rescue his sister from his uncle, Lady Stark plans to be represented by Brienne, and Dany (or her representative) plans to be flanked by her armies. That’s sure to go without a hitch, wouldn’t you say?