Let’s just say that, true to its title, Game Of Thrones S8E3 was…long
Hype is an understatement for this week’s episode. Did it live up to it? Was it everything you thought it would be? After seeing Avengers: Endgame, would we be ready for another heart-stomping round of deaths?
WARNING: The article below is long and full of spoilers.
The biggest battle since The Battle of Helm’s Deep, the largest onscreen battle, better than the battle of the bastards—these are descriptions that had been tossed around leading up to this week’s Game Of Thrones episode. Fans have been dreaming of this battle like an urban legend, like a second coming, as the final showdown between good and evil, of ice and fire. Bring out all stops because this one is going to be as big as it gets—you can tell my excitement, right? And yet after all that, why did it feel so…anti-climactic?
The (Long) Night is DARK and yes, full of terrors
Let’s get this out of the way, that was a really dark episode. Take a shot if you had to squint at least once or raise your hand if you asked a friend which dragon was winning. The only time I was able to really gauge the scale of the battlefield was when it started with the Dothraki charging towards the darkness (thank you Melisandre for lighting that scene up. By the way, I guess we’re never going to know what you did in Volantis). Other than that, fight scenes were too dimly lit and shots were too fast to be appreciated.
This happened repeatedly throughout the episode and it got to a point where I felt like the fighting was mindless, like I was watching a hack-and-slash marathon. This can be good in small doses, but there was just too much of it here and too little light for me to say “wow.” I was missing dialogue and character build up (more on these later) because of the unending action happening—and that made things dragging.
Dragons are cool, right? And are entertaining focal points of power that command your attention? The good guys have two of them and they were in action, lots of it. But sadly, the dragons have lost their mojo. Remember when your face would melt at the sight of Drogon burning the enemy? It just wasn’t like that in this episode. Dragon vs. dragon, that ought to tip the cool-meter right? I would have but I couldn’t tell the dragons apart. Viserion’s flame cues were a bit too late. The scene had lost its moment and I was back to “meh, that was good, not great, but it was good.”
There’s more that I can cite, but at the end of it all, I wanted my jaw to drop, I wanted to be shocked and wowed. The showrunners can say that they lit the scene like this on purpose, but as a fan, I just wish it was easier for me to enjoy their masterpiece.
Theon, I don’t hate you as much
Theon’s character has come a long way, in case you need some reminding, here’s some of what we know:
- Lived as a prince in Winterfell;
- Betrayed Robb Stark, playing a key role in events leading up to The Red Wedding;
- Held Winterfell hostage in the name of the Greyjoys;
- Held captive and turned into Reek by Ramsay Bolton;
- Resisted rescue by Yara Greyjoy;
- Helped Sansa escape from Ramsay;
- Let Yara get kidnapped by Euron;
- Rescued Yara;
- Returned to Winterfell to fight for Sansa and protect Bran
Being the Stark fan that I am, there was a long spell where I absolutely hated Theon. The Red Wedding was the most painful thing I had to watch and I’ve always tied it back to Theon. To add insult to injury, the bastard took Winterfell hostage (I’m using “bastard” in the non-GOT sense). After this, his character was crushed by the bastard that was Ramsay Bolton (GOT usage of “bastard”). Sweet revenge, you asshole.
I was never really sympathetic towards the Greyjoys but I have felt sympathy for Yara. Being the strong-willed person she is, I wanted her to succeed in rescuing her wimp brother but he was so stepped-on, so beaten and so lost, that he turned her away. At this point, Theon was a shell of himself. I didn’t care for him. Yara, save your time; let him rot.
But then a couple of things happened, Theon rescued Sansa from a sadistic Ramsay Bolton and then he rescued his sister from her usurper uncle, Euron. All right, so he bounced back a couple of times, no big deal. He owed them that much. But lo and behold, he went back to Winterfell to fight for Sansa and declared his intent to protect her baby brother from the Night King. By the end of episode three, he goes head on with the Night King himself, as the last line of defense for Bran. Predictably, he dies but by time he does, I feel angry at myself because I pause and think, “Damn it Theon, I don’t hate you as much anymore.”
Talk is cheap—why isn’t there enough?
One thing I look forward to in Game of Thrones is dialogue and I really missed it in this episode. I was waiting for it: shallow, deep, intelligent, humorous, whatever the type—it wasn’t there. No desperate one liner from Brienne to Jaime in the middle of battle? Tyrion doing nothing in the crypt but drinking? I was even looking for a field general to command the armies of Winterfell (I want to say Lyanna did this, but she stayed inside the walls the entire time, the larger military strategy wasn’t hers)! What is normally so well-woven into the show was so scarce that I found myself looking at my watch during battle, getting impatient. One shining moment that I would like to highlight is the dialogue around The Hound and Beric. The nods they received this episode were spot on, Arya was their purpose and I’m glad that even for a sliver of a moment, we got to see this.
While on the subject of speeches, to be clear, I wasn’t expecting full discourse from anyone, but I was expecting something. And in this episode I expected it most from Bran (or the Night King even), especially on the subject of The Night King’s lore. For someone so sure that he was hunted, we never really knew why or what their connection was. If the showrunners decide to explain this in the future, I will be grateful but for now I really wish Bran did more than turn his eyes back into his head!
Night King, legendary-bad-guy-whose-story-I-shall-never-know, meet Arya
The stage was set, that final curtain long was in sight. Our heroes fought as hard as they could; some had died. Drogon and Rhaegal were hurt and The Night King, who survived Drogon’s fire (my jaw dropped in that scene) had raised his arms and revived his army. The fight continued but it looked meaningless now and there was only one thing left for us to see. The confrontation between Bran and the Night King.
I was at the edge of my seat. After seven seasons we would finally get closure to such an open part of the story—the long winter! Step aside Theon, I’d sacrifice your character any day to hear this story. The Night King approached Bran, closer, closer and wait…Arya?! “Wait, she just killed The Night King?!” Did I just see that? Apparently, I did.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that it was Arya, not at all. What I did mind was the open story gap in my mind. Was there really then, no connection to the Night King? Was he just a one-dimensional bad guy that wanted to go south and kill everyone? I am in denial that I spent more than seven seasons trying to figure out a character that was seemingly as simple as a doodle on the wall! Who was he really? Was he a Stark? Was he a Targaryen? Was he Bran? Right now, it looks like I will never know and in the context of Game of Thrones, that disappoints me.
I wanted so much to love this episode but I felt like it gave me reason after reason to say no. The dim lighting, lack of dialogue, lack of Night King closure—all of these put together put this episode in my lower tiered Game Of Thrones episodes. I think a huge driving factor here is how high my expectations were set. By Game Of Thrones standards, this one let me down. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season because of two main things:
- The Battle of Winterfell may have ended but the Battle for the Iron Throne has only just started;
- My geek heart is still hoping for better geek-heart closure.
Words Yosu de Erquiaga
Art Alexandra Lara