The Long Night has finally come – and death and destruction has come with it. The culmination of a building terror collides with long-time heroes in the biggest battle of TV history – and it’s only Episode 3. Find my thoughts on what I love, like, dislike, and hate about the action-packed episode of the century below. Serious spoiler warning for those who wandered upon this review.
What I Love About Game of Thrones
Full of Terrors
Last week, we spent a whole episode building to this battle – and the terror paid off. Every single character had moments of fear where the threat of death established last week come alive. As the Night King closed in on Winterfell, a devastating realization struck: the good guys were going to lose. Of course, that isn’t how it ended up, but the stakes felt more real than ever in the moment. Characters are all given moments where they are believably threatened and many of them meet their tragic ends. One of the best moments where this occur is as Arya wandered the halls of Winterfell. Maisie Williams gives a great physical performance as she hops and slides silently through the overrun castle that was once her home. The fear hits a profound height as she is discovered and chased by a crowd of wights through the tight halls of Winterfell. This is the best direction of the episode as they track Arya’s desperate sprint for survival with tight shots on her face from a shaky, quick camera. We are as lost as she is, unsure what monster may lurk around any corner.
Jon is also given his own tight-knit moments of terror. His best moment is his chase towards the Night King outside Winterfell. As the wights are raised around him, Jon charges, ready to die for a shot at the Night King. This is yet another extremely effective smaller moment for a leading character, as the threat of death feels real – even for Jon Snow. Sansa and Tyrion are also given a powerful unifying moment together as the dead rise from the crypts. When the episode focuses in on our core characters and faces every single one of them with a real threat of death, I was stuck on the edge of my seat, barely able to take a single breath, all because an entire series of build up combines with superb direction to deliver singular moments that will live on in TV history.
What I Like
The Night King Cometh
From the start as Dolorous Ed falls, characters begin falling one by one, all in morbidly satisfying fashion. Jorah’s death stands out as a heartbreaking moment, falling heroically for the woman he loved and protected. Lyanna Mormont, the head of Jorah’s house, also dies heroically. The deaths of these two characters likely ends the entire Mormont House, ending the reign of a small yet significant Northern family. Beric’s death also hit me hard. Arya repeatedly swore to kill Beric for revenge. The Hound once killed Beric himself. Now, the trio face death together, and Beric falls by their side.
Of course, the biggest deaths come at the end of the episode. First up, Theon. Theon has had the most profound and developed arcs of any character in the series. From a douche in the background, to a full-blown villain, to a tragic and tortured victim, to finally return as the Hero of Winterfell. Theon may not be remembered in the maester’s history books, but he died a hero, knowing he was a good man despite it all. Theon’s death is a major strike to our cast of characters, and is one of the biggest empty holes left in the series after tonight.
As for the Night King, taken down a moment away from victory, I am very mixed. For years, debate raged on who will get the chance to take him down. Most big theories pointed to Jon or even Jaime, however the Azor Ahai prophecy pointed to plenty of other characters as well. Arya taking him down is subversive, and it is poetic to have Bran’s life saved by the same Valyrian Steel dagger that was used to try to assassinate him way back in the second episode of the series. However, I can’t help feel slightly dissatisfied that the prophecies that have been debated for nearly 20 years by readers seem to be entirely abandoned in order to satisfy viewers. Perhaps more will come to fulfill the prophecy, but Melisandre getting snapped by Thanos at the end makes it seem unlikely the prophecy will be revisited. It is also disappointing that we were not given more to the Night King or White Walkers. Author George R. R. Martin has repeatedly criticized other fantasy series for not developing their villains and simply making them embodiments of evil. He promised that A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones would not be that. I am not sure the book, if it ever even comes, will develop the White Walkers more, especially because the books have not even introduced the Night King yet. However, either way, I am very disappointed on his lack of any development here. Game of Thrones is a series made famous for building and developing their villains as characters even more complex than the heroes. Seeing the villain of all villains given absolutely nothing is a pill that is hard to swallow.
What I Dislike About Game of Thrones
The Night is Dark and Full of…Darkness?
The opening 30 minutes of this episode are set to be the spectacle moment of the century with a massive sense of scale unparalleled on television. However, it was not executed nearly as well as it could have been. As with many CGI-heavy scenes in action movies, it is shrouded in almost blinding darkness, leaving some of the biggest moments of the battle looking more like mud and muck than an epic fantasy showdown. There is also a strong lack of maintained perspective, focusing on large-scale and wide shots rather than moving from character to character or section to section. On top of it all, the editing is jumpy and disorienting, cutting roughly from falling soldiers and swinging swords with little to establish where we are. This all adds together to make the opening clash of armies extremely hard to follow. Soldiers fall, but it is that person who was just cut down just a Redshirt extra? Or was it someone we know? Where is everyone in relation to each other? The overwhelming visual darkness and muddied color along with a sacrifice of perspective in favor of scale significantly hinder the opening half of this episode.
What I Hate about Game of Thrones
I Have a Plan…Attack
The worst part of the episode is that we have absolutely no understanding of any plan on the side of our heroes. They have the simple goal of survival, but massive action finales like this need to establish goals so we can track the swings of victory and failure for our heroes. The lack of planning make the heroes seem rather stupid in this episode. The idea of sending the Dothraki charging into darkness at an army that outnumbers them 1,000 to 1 is laughably dumb. As is the fact that nobody mentioned the fact that they are leaving all their unarmed and important characters surrounded by corpses as they fight a monster who can raise the dead. We simply have a huge crowd of hero armies, standing around waiting to fight the bigger crowd with evil armies. The battle quickly turns into characters fighting all their own, but a lack of planning on the part of the heroes makes a lot of the moments early on confusing and disappointing as it is very hard to track the battle and their goals.
What Happens Next on Game of Thrones?
So, now what? The Night King is dead, but the Northern rebellion is decimated. Where do we go from here? Surely we will have to slow down from this episode, but there are only 3 episodes left. With director Miguel Sapochnik returning for episode 5, it is likely that episode will deliver yet another battle, this time between Jon, Dany and Co. against Cersei and Euron Greyjoy. Our next episode will have to catch us up with what Cersei has been up to, as we have not seen her since the season premier. She will be gathering her army and likely hearing about the battle for the North. This could inspire her to begin a march north, ready to sweep up the dust that remains. Meanwhile, Jon and Dany will have to tackle that whole “we’re related” thing. We will also spend time taking in the loss experienced, both from the audience perspective and the character perspective. Every major character lost someone they have had a connection to, and this episode will give the characters a time to mourn. Dany and Jon will also need to work to maintain the hope of a people who have lost so much and inspire them to pick up swords once again and head south to King’s Landing. Next week will slow things down, but not for long, as the fight against Cersei is not far away.
Thanks for reading my review! It is almost as long as the episode itself, but I hope I was able to keep you interested. If you want to read more of my writing, with much shorter reviews, check out www.TristanMayerMedia.com. You can also search around here at www.thecinescape.com for other reviews, including Avengers Endgame, if this was not enough action and emotion for you. See you all next week!
Movie-obsessed TV fanatic. Game of Thrones aficionado. Cinescape Guest Writer.