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Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall”

Far sooner than most of us probably expected, “Beyond the Wall,” the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones’s seventh season, sees Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) dragons doing battle with an army of White Walkers. It’s an action-packed moment, for sure, but its sense of thrill is ultimately unearned. Given how hard the series has worked to establish not only the stakes of Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) mission, which supposedly only he could carry out, but also the terror of the creatures beyond the wall (who seemed unstoppable in “Hardhome”), it’s almost ludicrous how Daenerys simply swoops down out of nowhere to save the day. There’s no handwringing about who might die here, and in contrast to “The Spoils of War,” which strikingly invited our sympathy for those on both sides of the skirmish at the episode’s climax, “Beyond the Wall” simply offers up a battle between CGI dragons and CGI zombies, to pulpy effect but no moral consequence.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

“Eastwatch” picks up exactly where the last episode of Game of Thrones left off, with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) fishing Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) out of a river, and marks a turning point for the series, as it finally fully embraces its fantasy. To this point, Game of Thrones has carefully rooted itself in medieval lore and tactics (dragons-as-nuclear-bombs notwithstanding), but “Eastwatch” feels more like a heist movie than what’s come before. To some extent, this is a result of the ever-accelerated pacing: The journey is no longer shown, only the destinations, and character re-introductions are distilled into essential quips and action. But more importantly, it’s an episode that dials back from the epic confrontations that have filled out the majority of this season, choosing instead to focus on eight brave individuals and their almost certainly hopeless quest.