The 9 MVPs of this week's horribly bittersweet episode of 'Game of Thrones.'

Welcome to “A Song of Nice and Fire” Upworthy’s weekly series recapping one of the most brutal shows on TV. Since brutality is not really in our wheelhouse, Eric March has taken it upon himself to dig deep, twist and turn, and squint really hard to see if he can find the light of kindness in all the darkness. He may not always succeed, but by gosh if he won’t try his best.

Here’s what he found on this week’s "Game of Thrones."


Last week, Jon Snow and the magnificent seven-ish went striding beyond The Wall, into the unknown and certain danger.

So. How'd it go? Image by Helen Sloan/HBO.

While Team Ice Eagle Justice technically achieved what it set out to achieve — capturing a white walker — in true Thrones style, it failed to do so without racking up some horrifically tragic collateral damage, paving the way for even more horrifically tragic collateral damage to come in next week's season finale.

In such a boondoggle of an episode, it was hard to find MVPs. Still, I have to give credit in the vanishingly few places where credit is due.

Here are the MVPs of niceness and kindness from Game of Thrones, season 7, episode 6:

1. Tormund Giantsbane, who defended the honor of gingers everywhere

Honor. Dignity. Freckles. Image by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Though the witty banter of gruff dudes trekking through the snow proved particularly saltily entertaining this expedition, special points to Tormund for characterizing pale, freckled redheads as "kissed by fire." Representation matters! Even for pasty white people.

Tormund earns double points for puncturing The Hound's self-serious facade for a second and a half, and triple points for giving the entire U.K. a much-needed post-Brexit morale boost.

2. Arya's bag of faces, for enabling a medieval feminist fantasy

Sometimes when you snoop in your sister's bedroom, you're going to find something you wish you hadn't, whether it's a M-A-S-H note to your crush or a satchel full of flesh-covered masks.

Understandably, Sansa is a little disturbed when she finds exactly the latter under Arya's bed.

But it's hard to blame the tiny Stark assassin. As she explains — in typical "will I or won't I eviscerate you" fashion — in 14th century Westeros, options are pretty limited for 11-year-old girls, unless you slice off a couple of old men's faces and wear them as your own from time to time.

This, weirdly, makes a ton of sense, although perhaps slightly less than Sansa's drive to become like Cersei or Littlefinger or Ramsay to get what she wants, albeit in more subtle ways than simply slipping their actual, literal faces over her face. Predictably, Westerosi misogyny dictates that the elder Stark sister also gets more grief about her version — sure, devisaging your enemies is a bit gauche in polite society, but taking on their personas is just so girly.

Until the wheel gets break'd, them's the breaks, it seems.

3. Jon Snow, for falling into an obvious White Walker trap to make things more exciting beyond The Wall

When you stumble upon a small parade of zombies, and they're suspiciously easy to beat, that's a sign that holy crap you guys there are like 7 bazillion more zombies like 20 feet away hiding behind a rock is this the first time you've been here come on!

GIF from "Return of the Jedi."

The only explanation for such strategic idiocy is that Jon wanted to make it a fair fight — a really nice thing to do for viewers at home who've been looking forward to this showdown for a while.

Sadly, as a result, we also have to credit...

4. Thoros of Myr, who raised the stakes by freezing to death

Do we care about Thoros of Myr, the man-bunned priest who resurrects Lord Eyepatch every time he dies? Nah. Does it help illustrate the gravity of the threat facing our heroes to have a named good guy die after a season of close calls? Probably. Is it good that he's the one who could, in theory, bring all of our heroes back to life if he wanted to, thereby negating the danger they're facing entirely? Definitely!

Thanks, Thoros of Myr for taking one for the team and (correctly!) making us far less secure in our knowledge that everybody we care about is going to make it out of this in one piece. That's good drama!

5. Daenerys, for arriving in the nick of time in weather-appropriate camouflage

Image via HBO.

When you're trapped in the middle of a frozen lake, penned in on all sides by a powerful army of the undead and one of your buddies accidentally clues them in to the fact that they can safely lurch on over and chomp away at your viscera, it helps to have powerful friends. And boy do our crew of wight hunters have a powerful friend. Namely, Daenerys Targaryen, who comes swooping down on dragonback, having grabbed her Queen Elsa costume from Halloween 2014 off the rack to blend in with the scenery.

In true Thrones fashion, however, her brilliant military maneuver doesn't stay brilliant for long, as props are due to...

6. The Night King, for saving HBO's dragon CGI budget

Do you know how much money it costs to animate three dragons in flight for seven seasons of television? How many artists and programmers you have to hire? How much you have to dish out for late night craft services? The folks in accounting probably sent the biggest fruit basket of all time over to ol' blue eyes for finally slimming that number down to two by impaling Viserion on an ice spear.

Ultimately, however, it was a short-lived act of budget consciousness, thanks to...

7. The Night King, again, for bringing Viserion back to life

Thanks, bud. Image via HBO.

What's better than an army of insatiable killer zombies? An army of insatiable killer zombies plus one undead fire-breathing (ice-breathing?) dragon. Kudos to the Night King for plucking a third string dragon from the chorus line and turning him into a star.

8. Those random red shirts, who made everything possible

From dying unceremoniously under a pile of wights to spare our heroes the same fate to hauling a 7,000-ton dragon out of a frozen lake — red shirts on both sides of the battle really pulled their weight this week.

We will never know their names. But respect is better than fame.  

9. Cersei Lannister, for staying the hell out of it

Image by Helen Sloan/HBO.

Aside from ones involving methodically conjured mental and physical torture, few operations are made smoother by the presence of Cersei Lannister. Thankfully, she decides to sit this one out, hopefully getting in one last wine and rejoicing in the misfortune of her sworn foes session before next week's queen-on-queen parlay.

It's going to be awful, isn't it?

Random Acts of Niceness

  • Jorah gives Jon back the sword that Jon gives to Jorah. Awful lot of poignant regifting this season.
  • Speaking of which, Arya gave Sansa Westeros' most infamous dagger instead of stabbing her with it. That's about as close to a hug-and-make-up we're probably going to get from Arya, tbh.
  • Tormund finally admits his crush on Brienne and then doesn't immediately die! It was so obvious he was going to die after that and then he just ... doesn't.
  • Also Jon and Dany are clearly falling in love and neither of them die! Young love can still blossom in this world without immediately devolving into tragic zombie devouring.
  • I think Tyrion is maybe inventing democracy? Maybe he can give the U.S. a few pointers?

That's all! See you next week for the finale of a Song of Nice and Fire 2017, when presumably, Jaime and Cersei's baby is born healthy and strong, Sansa and Arya launch a public speaking tour about the power of forgiveness, and the living and dead use The Wall for an epic game of volleyball.  

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

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"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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