After years and years of build-up, Game Of Thrones finally gave us the final battle between our heroes and the army of the dead led by the villainous Night King. So was it any good? Let’s talk about it.
SPOILERS FOR SEASON 8, EPISODE 3 OF GAME OF THRONES BELOW THIS PICTURE!
Much has been made in the lead up to the final season of Game Of Thrones about the impending battle between The Night King and the armies of Jon and Dany. It took a mammoth 55 nights to shoot and featured the most series regular characters of any battle we’ve seen thus far. It also brought back perennial battle episode director Miquel Sapochnik and DP Fabian Wagner. A massive production definitely produced a massive episode with a ton to unpack so let’s break down the hits and misses one at a time.
Hit: Music To My Ears
Composer Ramin Djawadi has long been an MVP of the series and his work in ‘The Long Night’ was no exception. Setting the final 10 or so minutes of the episode to a haunting piano track was an inspired and beautiful choice. But I can only say so much, listen to the track called “The Night King” for your self.
Miss: For The Love of R’hllor, Turn Up The Brightness!
Can you tell what’s going on in this picture? Because I sure can’t. That’s a problem that persisted throughout the entire episode. Disappointingly enough, most of the action in the episode was so poorly lit that I couldn’t tell what was going on. Maybe it was a combination of poor streaming compression and my TV not being able to display deep black levels but man, it was hard to keep track of all the fighting. Let’s hope the final battle for King’s Landing takes place in the daylight…
Shout out to Melisandre for providing 80% of the ambient lighting in this episode. Things got *slightly* easier once the trench surrounding Winterfell was lit up. Not only did it provide some much-needed light it was also an incredible visual.
Miss: Valyrian Steel Plot Armor
Look, I’m not someone who craves a high body count in my TV shows and movies but I do expect things to have stakes. This battle certainly felt like it had stakes, at least at first. But tell me why, after (what seemed like) a ton of foreshadowing last week, none of our major players died? Sure Theon (Alfie Allen) and Jorah’s (Ian Glen) deaths were impactful but they’d long been relegated to B-tier status. How was it that Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) made it out alive or better yet, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) who was surrounded by zombies no less than 3 times? I can only assume that the showrunners either have plans for her or didn’t want to kill her off. I was pretty confident in the Lannister brothers living to fight another day (they’ve got to face Cersei) but is it odd to say our heroes got off pretty easy?
Hit: All Hail The New Kingslayer
Freaking Arya (Maisie Williams) SLAYED this episode. It’s like every moment from her fighting on the ramparts with her new weapon to sneaking through the library was pay off for all the training we’d seen her go through. It was all so badass and better yet, who better to bring an end to the Night King than our girl? People said “no one can kill The Night King,” well “No One” did and it was awesome. That being said…
Miss: “An Expensive Distraction”
What was it all for? Yeah, Arya got to take out The Night King in real crowd pleaser of a moment (I’m not really sure how she snuck past all those white walkers but oh well) but is that it? Is this the final battle with the all-powerful army of the dead that we’ve spent seasons and seasons building up to? Yeah, I guess it was. It’s hard to feel like this “Great War” was anything but a way to thin Dany’s army before facing Cersei.
As many other writers have pointed out, the show has struggled in recent years deciding what it wanted to be about. After “Hardhome” in season 5, it became hard to see all the politicing as anything but a distraction compared to the threat of the undead but if that wasn’t the true endgame of the series, then maybe the dead were the distraction all along (an expensive distraction, to borrow the words of Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall).
When you build up a villain as powerful as The Night King the manner in which he is defeated is bound to be disappointing or contrived. It’s almost par for the course with these narratively overpowered antagonists. So what was I expecting? About what we got honestly but something about it just feels off.
“The Long Night” provided me with an equal number of thrills and frustrations. Despite any qualms I had with the episode, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. A group of friends and I watched it together and it was a great time.
Maybe there’s a part of me that’s more accepting of the type of show that Game Of Thrones has become, a part that’s more willing to look past narrative contrivances or “stupid” character decisions. I’m not saying that’s an excuse for bad writing or nonsensical plots but I am saying that I enjoyed it despite (and perhaps IN spite of) my complaints about the episode.
They really did it big with this one and I continually find myself in awe of what this team is able to accomplish for TV (would’ve been great if I could’ve seen a little more of it though).
Onward to the final 3 episodes!