There are no books to work from on Game of Thrones this season — even George R.R. Martin might be surprised with what’s happening on the HBO series — and things could get confusing. To help you out, after every new episode, two resident Thrones experts will answer your five most pressing questions.
1. How did Beric’s sword catch on fire so easily?
Ryan: On Game of Thrones, fire and swords go together like peanut butter and jelly, making Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr my favorite members of the Westeros Magnificent Seven (with a shout out to the group’s band of expendable Night’s Watch fodder). As for why their swords catch fire, you can thank the fire god R’hllor, also known as the Lord of Light.
Thoros is one of R’hllor’s red priests, and he (unwittingly) resurrected Dondarrion when performing a ceremony called the Last Kiss. Since then Beric has had the ability to light his swords ablaze using his own blood as a sacrifice. Thoros seems to have figured out the trick as well, just more proof that magic is quickly becoming more potent in Westeros.
Speaking of the sword he uses, there doesn’t seem to be any particular importance to the blade Beric took beyond the Wall. When footage first aired of his sword catching fire, some fans wondered whether he might be wielding Lightbringer, a flaming sword of prophecy that is supposed to help win the Last Battle. Two things seem to discount this: 1) In this episode, Thoros’ sword catches fire in exactly the same way and 2) Back in season three, one of Beric’s previous flaming swords is broken in half by the Hound when they fight. Sure, I guess this latest one could be Lightbringer. But don’t believe the hype: there’s no indication thus far that he’s using a special weapon at all. Which is too bad, because Jon Snow could really use something like that right now.
Josh: Oh, but as half of Twitter pointed out, Jon does have a special weapon.
Except not really. Longclaw has a storied history (it had been in the Mormont family for five centuries before Lord Commander Jeor, a.k.a. the Old Bear, gave it to Jon, who replaced the bear on the pommel with a direwolf), and the fact that it’s crafted from Valyrian steel lets the King of the North slice through White Walkers like they’re made of butter. But there’s nothing special about the eyes. Watch the GIF long enough, and you’ll see it’s just water splashing onto the sword. Game of Thrones already went full Lord of the Rings the last two episodes — there’s no reason to add an all-seeing eye, too.
2. What’s the deal with Arya’s bag of floppy faces?
Ryan: Meanwhile in Winterfell, Sansa discovered how fierce the competition for weirdest returning Stark kid is (sorry, Bran) by stumbling upon Arya’s satchel of faces. Okay, maybe “stumble” isn’t the correct word. She went snooping through Arya’s room and found the bag half exposed under the bed. Let’s be clear: they are faces and not just masks. The House of Black and White, where Arya underwent training throughout season six, had an entire hall full of faces taken from those who came to the temple to die. At the end of the season, Arya added the slain Waif’s face to her ever-growing collection.
Those faces looked cool in the Hall of Faces ads used to promote Game of Thrones, which makes what Sansa found look extra tacky in comparison. But they clearly get the job done, as we saw when Arya took Walder Frey’s face and murdered his family. Faceless Men are no joke, and that makes me wonder whether Arya wanted the faces to be found by Sansa. Is it part of a ploy to test Sansa’s loyalty and/or flush Littlefinger out as a traitor?
Josh: A small part of me believes that Arya — whose new emotionless demeanor is upsetting — and Sansa are working together to expose Littlefinger (they both know he’s always watching, so they’ll continue to make a big show out of their rivalry, even in private). But an even bigger part wants Arya to have already killed Petyr Baelish, and she’s posing as Littlefinger to test her sister’s allegiance. Does it make sense? Probably not, and it would deprive viewers of seeing Littlefinger’s extremely satisfying death. But it would be cool! (I’d rather have “cool” than the current “Arya, what are you doing, and why?”)
3. Why did that one White Walker survive when the others crumbled?
Ryan: For a guy who knows nothing, Jon Snow was pretty quick to offer a good explanation for what happened there: maybe killing a White Walker causes all of the wights raised by said White Walker to die as well. The theory fits the facts, and if it’s true it could make defeating the White Walkers and their undead army a whole lot easier than originally anticipated. All of a sudden, the Night King goes from being an unstoppable badass to the biggest liability since that thermal exhaust port on the Death Star.
Josh: So, you’re saying Jon Snow needs to bring a wight the size of a womp rat to Cersei? Honestly, that’s no crazier than the actual plan, although I got a hardy chuckle out of The Hound shoving his new travel companion through a dragon spike. It’s still better than the average Delta flight, am I right, folks?
Anyway! “North of the Wall” also confirmed that, no, wights can’t swim, which explains why Jon was able to get away in “Hardhome.” Although it doesn’t explain how they were able to put chains around Viserion…
4. Who was the MVP of the North of the Wall gang?
Josh: There are seven players to choose from here: Jon Snow, Tormund Giantsbane, Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Jorah Mormont, and Gendry. I’m eliminating Thoros immediately for doing a bad job at staying alive. Jon is out of the running, too, for continuing to fight wights when Daenerys was ready to take off. Ditto Tormund for almost dying and The Hound for being a big baby when it comes to fire. That leaves three competitors: Jorah, Beric, and Gendry. I’m tempted to pick Beric, but that would be cheating; he has the Lord of Light helping him, and a sword that explodes into flames. It’s like my grandma always says: Anyone can fend off ice zombies with a fire sword. Jorah is the one who smartly threw a bag over the wight’s head, but he also earlier in the episode turned down a weapon with an adorable direwolf on it. Not cool. Therefore, the winner is: Gendry.
It may seem like an odd choice, considering Gendry didn’t do any actual fighting. But without his impeccable speed — everyone knows rowing and forearm strength helps you run (?) — Jon Snow and the rest of his frozen ragtag team would be dead. If the White Walkers didn’t get to them, the cold or starvation or utter boredom would have. (The Hound wouldn’t think twice about eating Beric the second he starts looking like a turkey.) But, somehow, Gendry is able to race miles (we assume; there’s no way of knowing how far they are from the Wall, though the safe bet is: a lot) without proper athletic wear, food, water, or even a Garmin watch. Those bastards are so uncivilized. Try not to think too much about the geography of Game of Thrones, or how Jon somehow knows Gendry is the fastest member of the group even though they just met, or where is Ghost, and appreciate Gendry’s moment of glory. The only thing more impressive than his sprinting was the Night King’s javelin skills.
Who’s your MVP?
Ryan: I’ve got to give it to the unofficial team captain Beric, not because of his flaming sword but because of his steadfast leadership skills throughout the whole endeavor. Who’s there when fellow dead man walking Jon needs a pep talk? Beric. Just got mauled by an undead bear? Beric will tell you to rub some dirt on it and get back in the game. He’s also perfect for when you need last rites read, or to burn a teammate’s body in a pinch. Who needs flint or other fire-making tools? Beric is better than a Bic lighter. And considering he made it back from the Wall, I bet he’s got some extremely important information regarding the Lord of Light and the nature of fire magic left to share.
5. And who was the LVP?
Josh: I mean, not to add insult to fatal injury, but it has to be Thoros of Myr, right? Considering he’s, y’know, dead and all. My dude with the topknot had a good life, and he went out the way we all should hope to (freezing to death after being attacked by a zombie bear), but dead is dead. Tormund should have died, considering he had something like seven gnawing bad guys on him, and Jon Snow was an emotional dingus, and The Hound nearly killed everyone because he had to throw that rock. But the night is dark and full of terrors, and unlike everyone else, Thoros couldn’t survive it.
Make your case for another LVP.
Ryan: I’m not going to hold it against Thoros for not making it back. All men must die on Game of Thrones. It’s what they do when they’re alive that matters, and Thoros jumped right in front of that undead bear thing to save The Hound, who pulled a Saving Private Ryan and cowered while his rescuer got shredded up. Then there was that rock incident: The Hound threw not one, but two stones that kicked off the second round of undead attacks.
But even with all that in consideration, I’m giving the award to Jon Snow for losing his head in the heat of battle and taking his frustrations out on a couple of lowly wights instead of accepting Dany’s dragon ride. That genius decision gave the Night King time to showcase his rocket of an arm and kill a dragon. Sooner or later, rocks or not, the undead would have crossed that frozen lake. But the death of Viserion? That’s on Lord Snow. I hope everyone thinks about that every time the undead dragon shows up moving forward.
Josh: I think we can both agree it wasn’t this dope.
Farewell sweet redshirt prince, whoever you were.