Season eight, Episode 3, ‘The Long Night’
“Game of Thrones” has a number of excellent battles underneath its belt, and the director Miguel Sapochnik delivered some of the most effective, with “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards.” But even with that spectacular monitor file, I used to be a little bit afraid that Sunday night time’s huge (and enormously hyped) Battle of Winterfell may lastly be the conflict that was too epic for its personal good in phrases of stakes (life vs. loss of life), personnel (everybody we like) and size (the episode clocked in at 1:22).
Would we lastly, within the grandest episode the present has ever tried, get a battle that was simply too giant to each do justice to the battle and likewise land with the emotional affect the story and viewers deserve?
Not at present.
Sunday’s ultimate conflict was a masterpiece of stress and launch, goose bumps and heartbreak, grandiosity and intimacy. It deftly combined genres (horror, motion, melodrama), photographs and planes of motion because it shifted from the chaos of the preventing in and round Winterfell to the claustrophobic terror of the crypts to the dragon dogfighting within the winter sky.
Since C.G.I. grew to become Hollywood’s default mode for depicting fight, onscreen battles have change into progressively greater, longer, extra elaborate and, consequently, ever extra fatiguing. Think of the hectic, numbing, city-destroying sequences that finish each superhero film. (I haven’t seen the brand new “Avengers,” so apologies to the Russo brothers if it managed to eschew that particular cliché.)
“Game of Thrones” has mostly avoided this convention by making its battles collections of memorable, revealing moments rather than epic clashes that overwhelm with chaotic slashing, crashing and spurting. There is plenty of that, of course, but what you remember is Ygritte dying in Jon’s arms in the Battle of Castle Black, the Night King raising the dead at Hardhome, Bronn’s incredible sprint for the Scorpion during the Loot Train Attack (still a super dumb name).
Similarly, when I look back on the Battle of Winterfell, I’ll think of the stirring scene when the Dothraki swords ignited in a wave of fire, only to extinguish one by one in the distance. I’ll remember Theon getting absolution and Lyanna sacrificing herself to kill a zombie giant in a deeply symbolic if very sad moment, the smallest warrior felling the largest foe. (Wun-Wun, was that you?) Arya’s climactic dispatching of the Night King was genuinely surprising and thrillingly rendered.
It wasn’t flawless — the dragon action, in particular, was often hard to track (more on this below). But in the end, despite the scale of the clash and the endless hype we’ve been hearing about the 55 nights of shoots that went into filming it, et cetera, the Battle of Winterfell actually exceeded expectations.
We’ll have more later, but for now a few more thoughts:
• The death toll included demises predictable (Theon, Jorah) and less so (Melisandre!), but each was deeply felt and in service of individual purposes, one of the episode’s big themes. Jorah died the way he would have wanted, protecting his beloved Khaleesi. Theon and Lyanna met heroic ends. Beric saved Arya so she could save everyone else. And Edd bought it by becoming the first of several people to save Sam, who spent most of the episode on his back, screaming.
• And I guess Rhaegal died, too? [Update: He appears in the Episode 4 trailer so apparently he didn’t.] My main complaint about the episode concerns the dragons, especially the air war. Thanks to the fact that the action was very dark, per usual, and the dragons hard to tell apart — some color coded saddles would have been nice — I frequently couldn’t tell who was who and what exactly was going on.
• What happened to Ghost?
Please check back later for a more in-depth version of this recap.