Warning: spoilers ahead for Episode 6 of Game of Thrones Season 7, "Beyond the Wall."
The penultimate episode of every Game of Thrones season tends to be huge, from the beheading of Ned Stark to the execution of the Red Wedding to the culmination of the Battle of the Bastards. There is almost always at least one big death, and so many fans went into "Beyond the Wall" expecting somebody significant to die. Well, we were right that there would be a significant death, but it wasn't the death many of us expected. One of Dany's dragons was slain by the Night King in an absolutely heartbreaking twist... that is probably the best thing that could have finally happened to the story of the Great War.
We should have known something was up when Dany flew north with all of her dragons instead of just one, as she usually does when riding into battle. She took a couple of spares, and now she's down one dragon. Her heroic rescue of Jon's crew (minus Jon and Thoros of Myr) was going well as her dragons showed just why they would be such a formidable threat against the White Walkers. They seemed unstoppable. Then, the Night King flung was looked like a spear made our of ice at poor Viserion, and Viserion went down hard. The injury itself seemed mortal; the fact that Viserion fell into a lake sealed the deal. Even if he hadn't died from the original wound, he would have drowned in the icy waters. R.I.P. Viserion.
As devastating as it was for Dany to lose one of her dragons shortly after she said that the dragons were the only children she'd ever have, the death of Viserion ups the ante for the Great War in some pretty fantastic ways. The stakes for the Great War just didn't feel all that high ever since Dany warmed up to Jon. It was clear that she would end up helping him fight the White Walkers, and her roasting of the Lannister army proved that even one dragon can dominate in battle. The prospect of three fire-breathing dragons that can fly going up against the White Walkers and their ice zombies just wasn't that exciting, because of course Dany would win. Of course she would.
Now we can't be so sure. The Night King took down Viserion with one ice spear, and he probably would have taken down Drogon as well if Dany hadn't flown off and left Jon behind. We now know that Dany's dragons aren't unstoppable forces that will be able to simply scorch the army of the dead and their White Walker masters to death without breaking much of a sweat. Sure, she still has two dragons, but she'll have to be a lot more cautious now.
Besides, Viserion's death means that we got the truly awesome scene of the wights mindlessly hoisting Viserion's corpse out of the lake so that the Night King could resurrect him and turn him into a wight dragon with bright blue eyes. We've never seen a real dragon vs. dragon fight before. Between Viserion the undead and the Night King's ice spears, the Great War just got real for Dany's forces. I love the dragons as much as the next Game of Thrones fans, but one of them really needed to die in Season 7. It's hard to be invested in a game when one side has all the firepower, and Dany's dragons gave her an unfair advantage. Now that she's down one dragon and the Night King has one in his corner, the Great War is going to be pretty exciting.
Tune in to HBO on Sunday, August 27 for the Season 7 finale of Game of Thrones. For your viewing options once the season ends and we're stuck in another hiatus, take a look at our fall TV premiere schedule. Don't forget to swing down our list of wild Game of Thrones theories that just might be true as well, and check out the Season 7 finale trailer.