In a fast-paced season, where everyone has legit teletransportation powers (or simply run impossibly fast), Game of Thrones still manages to find time for tying up present events and to make some amazing callbacks from previous seasons. It all adds up to the hype of having only seven episodes before the ending of the whole series, but these past references also help entwine the fates of the living and the mistakes of the ones that are already gone.
In this week's episode, "Beyond the Wall," a lot of time was spent in the North, either following Jon and his motley crew, or in Winterfell watching Arya make a fool of herself. Nevertheless, there were some interesting callbacks to be had, so let's mimic Jon Snow's wight fighting technique, and pick these out one by one.
Note: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 6, "Beyond the Wall."
Pride Is A Killer Sin
Previously this season, Daenerys popped the question to Jon (no, not that one!) about whether his pride was more important than his people's lives, paraphrasing Jon's words to Mance Rayder in Season 5. Pride seems to be one of the recurrent themes this season because, in "Beyond the Wall," it was Tormund who had an interesting take on how dangerous pride could actually be.
When Jon told him #Daenerys would only help if he bent the knee, the Wildling joked that Jon had spent too much time with the Free Folk and, therefore, had become averse to kneeling. Truth is, Tormund has spent some quality time with the Northerners himself, and he's come to understand that kneeling might not be such a bad thing — if it gets you the help you need. The issue here is that Mance's pride ended up costing many of his people's lives, exactly as Jon's refusal to kneel to Dany did in this episode. Had he bent the knee, she would've joined them beyond the Wall with her dragons in the first place — either burning them all, or making the job of capturing a wight a much easier task.
'I'm Glad He Didn't Catch You'
Ever since Season 1, there's been a respectful and trustworthy relationship between Mormonts and Jon Snow (which Lyanna Mormont loyally held on to), and it was expected that Jon and Jorah would eventually meet and decide who got to keep Longclaw. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont gave the sword to Jon (as a reward for his bravery in saving him) because his son Jorah had disgraced the Mormont family by trading slaves. In "Beyond the Wall," the ever honorable Jon Snow tried to give the sword back to Jorah, but the knight refused the heirloom — leaving it to Jon and his children.
Interestingly, Jorah's father wasn't the only dad mentioned in that conversation, seeing that Eddard Stark had been the one to pass judgement on Jorah's slave trading, years ago. Although both Jon and Jorah might eventually clash, because of their feelings for Daenerys, it was nice to see them bonding so amiably. Perhaps, Jorah giving Longclaw to Jon is a symbolism that he'll eventually pass on the mantle of Dany's protector over to the King in the North.
A Clash Of Sisters
In Winterfell, the Stark sisters had a hard time seeing eye-to-eye (as they've always had), but there was some closure to be had when they talked about #EddardStark's execution back in Season 1. They were both there, and they both experienced it from their own perspectives — Sansa from the steps of the sept, and Arya from Baelor's statue — and that has clearly affected their judgement and expectations of one another. In truth, it's all about how helpless they both felt seeing their father injustly executed wthout having the means to help him in any way.
In the past five seasons, Arya and Sansa have done their best to amend that and never feel helpless again, each forging their own path. Arya has vowed to kill any and everyone who's wronged her and the ones she loves, while Sansa has chosen to beat her enemies at their own game. Where Arya went all Jaqen H'ghar on the Freys, Sansa manipulated Ramsay into defeat in the Battle of the Bastards. It was actually nice to see the current Lady of Winterfell take credit for winning the battle and her home back (something we all knew about, but still credited to Jon a bit).
The Wheel... Again
It's interesting that, with so many pieces of dialogue to draw back from, this thing about Daenerys wanting to "break the wheel" keeps popping up so often. Initially, it may have just meant that she'd destroy the Westerosi government system, but the more they mention it, the more I can't help but think there's a deeper meaning.
One such subtext could be that breaking the wheel means breaking the pattern, or simply not doing things the way they've always been done. Think about all the father symbolism Game of Thrones Season 7 has been meticulously inserting in every single episode; breaking the wheel then becomes not following in your father's footsteps, and not making their mistakes. It's possible that only when they forge their own path, and make their own choices based on their own experience, will this new generation be able to save Westeros from the Long Night.
I See Fire
The Hound's vision finally came to life, but what he didn't foreshadow was that he'd be face to face with a flaming bear. Sandor Clegane's biggest fear is obviously fire — since he got his face burned as a child, by his brother, the Mountain — and that's probably the one thing guaranteed to give the former King's Guard a moment's pause (that, and Brienne of Tarth). In Season 2, during the Battle of Blackwater Bay, the Hound abandoned the battlefield and left King's Landing for good, when the sight of burning men made him turn on his heels.
In "Beyond the Wall," Clegane was once more staring his worst enemy in the face and he, once more, froze up. Some may say that Thoros of Myr's death is primarily the Hound's fault, since he was the one who was supposed to help the Red Priest, but didn't. The point is that the Hound's inability to deal with fire might amount to one of two things: He'll either be eventually burned to death, or he'll step up and let go of his fear in order to save someone else in the future.
The Ghost Of Past Battles
Just like Daenerys' battle with the Lannisters showed some similarities with the "Battle of the Bastards" and "Hardhome," so did "Beyond the Wall" in the battle sequence between Jon's crew and the wights. The Night King's army circling our heroes was shot just like Ramsay's forces surrounding Jon's army in the "Battle of the Bastards," just as Jon reemerging from the water referenced his emerging from underneath the soldiers then. Even before the fight started, Jon saw the Night King's cold mist approaching, as he did in "Hardhome," only this time Jon knew what to do.
Personally, I think these connections are there to help us link all those dire moments together, and perhaps hint at Jon Snow's ultimate doubt of what his purpose actually is. In all these battles, just as Jon thought all was lost, the camera always moved around focusing on the people fighting next to Jon (as if Jon himself appreciated those who would lose their lives fighting at his side). It's possible that, when the time comes to fight the Night King, Jon will make the ultimate sacrifice and opt to face him alone, instead of leading men to their death with him. Like Daenerys said in this episode, heroes have a tendency to do brave things and end up dead after all.
Say My Name
After all that push and pull about bending the knee, Jon and Daenerys shared their first tender moment, when she was watching over him on the ship and he called her "Dany." However odd it might seem for fans to be shipping an incestuous relationship, that moment was the actual beginning of what will be an epic match in Game of Thrones. Daenerys, of course, thought back to her brother, Viserys — who used to call her by the nickname — and she immediately let Jon know how unwelcoming that memory was. Although Jon might end up calling her Dany and creating new, loving memories for that pet name, bringing up Viserys was a nice touch to mourn the loss of her recently lost dragon, Viserion.
There's a lot yet to unfold in the 80-minute finale next week and, now that a Wight is traveling south to King's Landing, the winter will finally take over all of Westeros by the time Season 8 premieres. With fathers and their lessons heavily featuring in this season's #callbacks, there might be a chance #JonSnow will figure out his parentage soon enough (perhaps even in the finale); and it's become ever so clear that the old rules and traditions no longer apply in Westeros as its people fight the War of the Dawn.
Game of Thrones Season 7 finale airs next Sunday, August 27, on HBO.