This Review is Dark and full of Spoilers.
Honestly, after watching this episode, I genuinely had no idea how I was going to write this up. So much happened, that I couldn’t see the usual format of scene-by-scene working, because the review would have taken longer to read than watching the actual episode itself! I have broken it down to locations and will go through each area picking the best and most significant moments. I’ll start by talking about the episode in general and then go on to the breakdown.
To put it bluntly, that was probably one of the most outstanding episodes of television EVER! The scale of the episode was like nothing ever witnessed on the small screen. It was action-packed, full of drama and overflowing with emotion. It was perfectly executed in terms of technical ability too!. From epic wide-shot battle sequences, to up-close and in your face horror. From start to finish it was a viewing experience like nothing we’ve ever seen! Here we have characters that we have been watching for nearly a decade, in such a perilous situation. No one, other than Daenerys and Jon, felt safe, though despite a few tense scenes, the deaths to the main cast were not only expected, they were minimal. I did feel the show pulled it’s punches in this regard, opting for more fan service than reality. With that said, there were still some shocking moments.
Going back to the technical elements of the episode, the main fight felt very big, despite it being localised in one, relatively confined, location. The music and editing were the episode’s secret weapon, with both used to great effect. Each of these factors helped to create something incredibly special. The editing helped to elevate the exhilarating script, while the use of the music managed to make great scenes even greater. And with that, it is on to the breakdown…
There was no hanging around, especially after last week’s cliffhanger. The dead are here! We follow Samwell to begin with, to ease us in to the episode. The dialogue is minimal, allowing the music and visuals to create the tension and build up the anticipation. With all the armies in formation, we get our hero shots, helping to hammer home the notion of how exposed these ‘big characters’ are. For the first time this season we see Melisandre, who uses her magic to set alight all of the Dothraki swords. It was a great moment! They charge in to battle, a see of light heading towards a dark shore of the dead. The lights begin to fade and the war cries fall silent. To see the lights extinguished one by one in this manner was so powerful. It was a visual metaphor of hope fading, of darkness (the bad) consuming the light (the good).
The dead finally charge at the remaining ranks. To see them appear out of the darkness in this way was terrifying! Immediately you saw their numbers in comparison to the living, and there was just no way this was going to have a happy ending. Even with big saves from the dragons, they just kept on coming and was soon hit by the full force of the winter storm. I loved that this made the dragons redundant, so their WMD’s were now out of action. Soon after, all our heroes are on the verge of being killed in battle. Jaime manages to save Brienne, and Edd saves Samwell, but at the cost of his life. This was our first character death and they played it right. The sound of the echo, the brothers in arm looking at each other, one final time. It was a noble death. The army of the living retreat, with Greyworm ordering the Unsullied to protect them. Melisandre lights the moat with flames, at the very last second. This was a really tense moment, but I loved seeing the dead just stood there staring through the flames.
Meanwhile, up in the sky above the Night King makes his presence known in an epic three-way dragon duel with Daenerys and Jon. The clawing and biting of the dragons was so visceral. It was intense to watch. Amazingly, Jon knocks the Night King off and on to the ground. Daenerys swoops in and, with a victorious grin, shouts “Dracarys”. But the smile is soon wiped off her face. He is immune to fire, he simply gives her a smile back in reply. I loved this moment! While some will be screaming at the TV that he’s a Targaryen, I took it more that his magic was too strong, even against dragon fire. This would lead Jon to charge at him, only for the Night King to raise all the fallen Unsullied and Dothraki to add to his ranks. While Jon made his escape, Ser Jorah was taking blow after blow for Daenerys. You knew at this point he was done for, but at least he went our like a true hero. As for Daenerys mourning him? I’m sorry Emilia Clarke but what was that? This was supposed to be a big moment and that is the level of performance you give? Forced, fake crying that was worthy of a Golden Raspberry Award! For me, I’m out in terms of any investment with her now. She’ll end up sitting on the Iron Throne and live happily ever after, so good for her. But I won’t be investing any more time with her. Sorry folks.
Tyrion is frustrated that he’s down here, drinking as a way to calm his annoyance. But Sansa quite rightly puts him in his place and brings him to sense. We see Varys, who once again doesn’t seem to be doing much this season, other than being a familiar face in the background! On the whole, these scenes were used to break up the intense action of the battle. It grounded us, as an audience, and reminded us, seeing all these vulnerable characters, of the fragility of life and how serious the encroaching threat was.
I didn’t even consider the bodies coming to life in the crypts, not until Rob mentioned it in our spoiler-talk review. And boy was he right! As the Night King raised the fallen, the skeletal remains, in their graves, came alive and started killing the women and children inside the crypt. This led to a stunning moment between Tyrion and Sansa, where they managed to convey so many emotions and ‘words’ with just their facial expressions. Take note Emilia! This scene was one of many ‘horror’ moments in the episode and was a performed to great effect.
In a pure World War Z moment, the army of the dead begins to form a mound of bodies, allowing the ones at the top to breach the battlements. This time, Brienne saves Jaime, and once again all our heroes are in great danger. The Hound is noticeably the one most affected, freezing in battle, be it from the fire or the situation itself. He only snaps out of it when Arya enters the battle. What an entrance! Like Thor landing in Wakanda, Arya arrives with her newly crafted spear and begins to slaughter all that stands in her path. I loved this scene, it was such a big moment, not only in the episode but for her as a character as well. Ned would have been proud! #BringMeCersei
On the ground, the gate is breached by a giant. No this wasn’t Wun Wun, his body was burned after the ‘Battle of the Bastards’. But I can see why some might think this given his eye was missing. The giant charges at Lady Mormont, who like a boss, stands her ground and gets knocked to the side. She charges at him this time, but is grabbed in the process, the giant begins to crush her, and as you hear her bones breaking, she heroically kills the giant by stabbing him through his remaining eye. Her body hits the ground, along with the giant, who funnily enough dies in roughly the same place as Wun Wun did. Sleep well Little Bear. You were one of the best things to come out of the show! This was a truly shocking moment, unlike Rob, I did’t see this happening. But I’m glad that she went out like a QUEEN! #TheNorthRemembers
While this episode was packed full of massive action set pieces, my favourite scene was probably the most minimalist. As Arya is trying to escape through the castle, this epic fantasy adventure soon turns in to a horror movie. I loved her hiding from all the wights. The lack of sound, focusing on the breathing was perfect. We even got an Arya fake-out death, when she goes around the corner and encounters a wight. You head a stabbing sound, thinking that it was Arya getting it, but you then see her holding the blade. This would lead her to bumping into Berec and The Hound, who would get her to safety. But at a price! As expected, Berec falls, defending Arya. And when Melisandre appears, she lets us know, as the audience, that he won’t be coming back, that his “purpose has been served”. We then get a great throwback to the reference of “blue eyes” and the ‘god of death’ speech. I loved these throwbacks! Arya was sensational in the episode. I’ve sometimes not been on board with her, but I’ve definitely come around now!
Bran, Theon and the Ironborn are held up in the Godswood, awaiting the arrival of the Night King. This featured some of the best dialogue moments of the entire episode. I think these scenes will get overlooked, given the amount of action and shocks elsewhere, but they were just as important. As the dead arrive, Theon really steps up! “Make every shot count” he shouts, as the Ironborn begin to take out the undead with their flaming arrows. Their numbers soon dwindle, leaving only Theon left to protect Bran. As the Night King enters the Godswood, you know this is it for Theon. But you just hoped that he would get the send off his character deserves, after such an astonishing personal story arc.
“Theon, You’re a good man” – Oh Bran. You can do more than creepy! This was a BIG moment for him. It gave him that closure that he needed. He charges at the Night King like a BOSS, but as we all expected, is killed. Theon dies a hero, protecting his home, protecting his family. Theon Greyjoy, son of Winterfell. #WhatIsDeadMayNeverDie
This leaves the Night King staring down at Bran. At this point I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I was thinking that maybe Bran would go ‘Super Saiyan’ or something, showing some kind of hidden magical ability. It wasn’t until Arya jumped in and was grabbed by the Night King that the ‘penny dropped’. Remember what Melisandre said about blue eyes? I then knew she was going to be the one to kill him. When she dropped her dagger, just like against Brienne, I knew this was it! She stabs him, killing him instantly. It’s a good job too as Jon is about to get blue flamed by Viserion! All the White Walkers explode and the wights fall to the ground. The battle of Winterfell is won!
Wow. What an outstanding end to a frantic episode!
Our list of key/secondary character deaths are: Edd, Lady Mormont, Beric, Theon, the Night King, Ser Jorah, Melisandre and Qhono. Not as many as I expected! I really did feel that we’d have some BIG names on this list, but it wasn’t to be. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the likes of Jaime (my boy) are still alive. But, as I stated earlier, it does raise a question about the show ‘pulling its punches’. Are some of these characters too overprotected now? Or have their deaths merely been postponed for an episode or two? Probably the latter, and hopefully that is the case! I just feel that the show might be shielding some of it’s characters to keep the fans happy, rather thank keeping to the show’s usual ‘anyone can die’ ethos.
This episode of Game of Thrones will go down in TV history for all the right reasons, of that I am certain. It was an outstanding adventure from start to finish, balancing a range of different genres and having them work together in perfect unity. The music, the editing, the story telling, everything… this was perfection.
Game of Thrones delivers one of it’s greatest episodes to date! It was a roller coaster of emotions, delivering breathtaking action and terrifying horror in equal measure. The episode was full of shocking moments and perfect character endings. It’s going to be a hard job to top this! But for the fans? Enjoy it! But go into next week a new with an open mind, don’t compare, just enjoy the final season for what it is. It might not reach these heights again, but the episodes this season have continued to deliver week after week no matter what!