The last episode of Game of Thrones was an episode with mixed feelings for me; There were a lot of moments that I loved, perhaps even more so that I didn’t like, and one that stands out that really harm the whole episode, and on that later on.
The battle. I must admit I enjoyed it. It was the longest battle ever filmed, in terms of shooting days (11 weeks of night shots) and in terms of the final cut – between 67 minutes net and close to 82 gross devoted entirely to the Battle of Winterfell. Before that, the longest battle belonged to the lord of the rings, the battle of Helm’s Deep, Which lasted 40 minutes.
From a purely artistic point of view, it was a good epic battle, one of the memorable moments, for example, are the Dothraki fire swords fading away in the distance.
The ominous feeling that accompanied it for the viewers and the warriors waiting for their turn to fight was of pure terror, of death reaping the best cavalry in Westeros, sheer horror that caused Khaleesi to abandon the glorious battle plan ambush with dragons to the Night King to reach Bran, but to join the battle prematurely.
Other memorable and wonderful Hollywood style moments, are the lying on the fence of the living dead for the greater bad,
The great despair among us the viewers and the warriors in the fortifications as the Night King resurrected all the dead
The dragons’ dive into the clouds
David and Goliath Tale of sticking the dagger in the eye of the biggest giant in the battle by Lyanna Mormont the youngest woman in the field
And finally, the enormous tension built at the end of the battle when the Night King walks slowly toward Bran.
His walk in slow motion while a wonderful original melody plays, perhaps one of the best in the series, accompanies him, a melody that squeezes your throat as you know that all bets are off, there is a slim chance if any that anyone is getting out of this alive, and only two choices remain -Kill the Night King, or everyone dies.
And this is the moment to move to the second part
The Battle. Yes, again the battle because what else do we have in this episode?
Artistically it was already said to be overwhelming, but otherwise it was simply bad.
Let’s think about what forces we had and how each one of them “scriptly” harms the battle.
We’ll start with the dead – can you please decide what you are? Are you the dumb zombies of The Walking Dead hanging around in the library, slowly walking down the corridors, frightening little girls to death? Or you are the undead from World War Z (The movie, not the book) that sprint madly, and climb like ants on the walls of Jerusalem, sorry Winterfell?
This ambivalence which first describes them as such and later as something completely different, in the very same chapter, just to combine different genres of cinema in a single battle, harms IMO the experience.
And if there are already The Waking Dead zombies, and if you have already awaken dead in the catacombs, then frighten the whole shebang, awake familiar dead! Maybe Rickon, or Liana, or even Ned Stark (a little Sleepy Hollow there but what the heck :)), and create horror in the viewers eyes and those who have to kill their brother or father, something that the Walking Dead do every episode and a half.
Let’s continue with the living – why don’t you die already?!? Why was it that only the red shirts , except for Theon and a half Jorah who are not really interest anyone, died?
Where, excuse me for the phrase, the screenwriters’ balls? Why not kill Brienne? She got her knighthood; she’d can put the keys on the table and leave. Why not Grey Worm? What more can he contribute? Why not kill Davos the poor soup dispenser? And who the hell is Ed? I had to scratch my head and resort to google to remember who was the man killed guarding Sam. The same Sam that in all respects was supposed to be with the children and the dwarf in the burial caves and not wildly and miraculously survive while numerous zombies trying their best at him.
In short, it seems that ever since the spirit of Martin’s command has left us at the end of the fifth season, the screenwriters of the series have chosen typical Hollywood cowardice and preserve the main characters of the series which is ending soon, so for what? It’s not The Games of Thrones we are used too unfortunately.
Another central figure who remained alive, and maybe it’s a pity, is Bran. Bran, maybe you’ll want to explain to all of us what on earth you did in battle? How exactly did you help? How is “Warging” into the ravens contribute in any way to the success of the battle? Perhaps you heated, not just your chair but also the Night King on your ass? Or it was just fun for you to fly and laugh at all us from above?
It is simply unbelievable how they took one of the most mysterious and powerful characters in the series and all they gave him to do in the final battle between light and dark is to act as bait in the shape of a scarecrow for the Night King. I am sure that each and every one of the viewers expected that Bran would do something, use his powers, serve as some kind of a twist to the defeat of evil, but no, we received dumb, blind and meaningless looks from him. It was simply a scriptical failure. Perhaps the only good thing that came out of this is that he would continue with us for the next few episodes which he contributes in them from his power and wisdom, but I doubt it, because the time for mystical wars had ended and given way to the political warfare .
We can also talk about the interruptions in the battle that were mainly the futile talks in the burial caves, tops them is the kitsch conversation between Sansa and Tyrion.
We can also talk about the bad tactics in the battle, about the squalid waste of the cavalry – why did Khaleesi suffer so much all the seasons and brought them over the sea? To be used cannons fodder? really?
We can talk about the misuse of excess air support on the side of Jon and Daenerys (as opposed to the excellent use of the Night King), about no use of maneuvers, no flanking, no brilliance in the fortifications, a real battle plan of ten-year-olds in a sandbox. With the insane budget they got to shoot his, how difficult was it to bring a military adviser who would have made it clear to them the proper use of the forces they had?
But they apparently preferred “coolness” over combat readiness and it’s a pity.
And finally let’s talk about the ending of the episode and actually ending the arc of the War of Ice and Fire.
It was a surprise, I admit, that Arya was the one who finally killed the Night King, despite the Deus Ex Machina of the thing, but it also felt an anti-climactic and another scriptical miss and I’ll explain why.
As mentioned above, the course of the battle eventually led us to realize that there were only two options left – to kill the Night King or they all die.
When we know that the courage of the Screenwriters long ago left the series, there was actually a single reasonable possibility in our head which eventually came true – the Night King must die.
The surprise was not the “If” he would die but “how” he will die, and this is a much more minor surprise.
This is in contrast to Ned Stark, who is facing the guillotine at the end of the first season, when we are certain (well, those who did not read the books) that there is no possibility of killing the main character in the series, and bam he dies.
This is also unlike the Red Wedding, where no one was prepared for the main characters dying in Crazy betrayal, and when it did happen our shock was complete and whole.
But perhaps even the “how” was a miss, as for two episodes Arya reminds Gendry, like a stressed Amazon customer, to prepare her already the weapon she designed herself. And aside for some glimmers, again “cool,” of that sword in battle, it did not help forward the plot in any way.
Would not it be wiser that that mysterious weapon would have been used to kill the Night King as some premonition of Arya?
For example, if the Night King instead of grabbing her by the hand would had grab the weapon itself, but since Gendry had built it with a blade from each side at her request, one blade would have mechanically fall off from the other end, and with it Arya would stabbed the Night King instead of pulling a Michael Jordan hand replacement on us?
I do not know, it’s a pity again.
Perhaps we can take comfort in that she did use her faceless ability to hide as a White Walker…
And now it is time to move on to the third part, on which the entire internet was churning and frothing
The Darkness. How many people talked about how dark the episode was, how bad it was to watch it, so bad that in whole parts of the battle one could not figure out who was against whom, who was dead, who was alive, what was going on in the clouds and mist (Which can be seen clearly in all the posts attached to this post)
The MVPs of the episode were clearly Melisandre and the Dragons for lighting the scene a bit.
I think the problem was twofold – on the one hand the directors, it may not be their fault, but it is their responsibility to examine how this episode is seen by the viewers on television, a basic thing to do after investing so much time and money to create such a dim atmosphere .
And if you do not know how to make a dark episode that looks good too (see Battle of Helms Deep Which took place at night but was still seen as excellent even in ancient DVD,
Or the mind mind blowing episode 8 of Twin Peaks 2017 , where the darkness in it intensifies the terror and malice and not overshadowed it)
just don’t do it, or at least increase the brightness for God’s sake!
On the other hand, the problem was with the television providers, who were not prepared for the quality that would be required of them, compressed the picture to the point of pixelation and blackening of large parts of the battle to keep the load on their streaming servers.
And maybe the blame is on the viewers that we did not buy OLED screens beforehand, extinguished every possible source of light in the house, and stood with narrowed eyes in front of the screen? 🙂
So, in conclusion, what’s left? One Night King Arc is over, and we were left with a final Arc of Games of Thrones.
I wonder if they could end these two arcs in the last chapter and not leave us with only those who claim the crown.
After all, even the plot line of the Night King has not really finished – what about the Azor Ahai? The promised Prince? What is the background of the Night King? How did all the prophecies concerning him come true if at all? How did Bran and the three-eyed raven play a role in that?
Perhaps they left all these questions open to answer in the series prequel coming hopefully soon starring Naomi Watts .
And maybe it’s good that we stayed with three episodes dedicated only to the political games of the throne, that’s the series name after all, but as one who read the books long before the series aired, I will always think of it as “A Song of Ice and Fire“…