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Off TopicApr 28, 2019 9:28 pm CT

Off Topic: The Battle of Winterfell was (mostly) everything I wanted it to be

Please use this space to discuss spoilers for Game of Thrones’ “The Long Night” — AKA “Battle of Winterfell” — episode.

Let me preface this post by saying I’m writing as someone who hasn’t read the books. This is purely from the standpoint of someone who’s only ever watched the show. That said, in a lot of ways, tonight’s Game of Thrones episode felt like the biggest episode of the series. Yes, we have three episodes left, and the Iron Throne is still up for grabs, but in a series literally called A Song of Ice and Fire, this was about as much ice and fire coming head to head as we’re ever going to get.

And hoo boy, did it deliver.

At nearly an hour and a half, the episode did a fantastic job of making every moment count. Even the slower moments didn’t feel like padding — they felt calculated. I’ve seen some people complain about the episode’s “fog of war” — or, in this case, blizzard of war — but I think that it worked effectively to show how hard it would have been for the soldiers to see. And when we needed to see, as in Winterfell Keep, we could.

The rest of the episode was fantastic. The way the army charged in with flaming weapons, only to have those flames diminish from a distance was chilling. The dragons delivered fighting and a lot of flames — much of them blue! We got our “Come at me, bro” moment from the Night King which in turn delivered the, “Wait, why did we think a crypt full of dead people was the perfect place to hide from the dead?” moment. We even got a horror-movie-like sequence of Arya sneaking around the dead that may have been my favorite sequence in the whole episode. The episode delivered one thing after another, while managing to make the delivery of those things feel special and surprising.

And then… the music. Ramin Djawadi has never not delivered, but that piano piece that accompanied those final few scenes was breathtaking. I honestly had no idea what to expect when it started, but I was planning for the worst. I thought everyone was going to die. I legitimately thought the living would lose right then and there.

Then Arya charged in from nowhere — as a Faceless one does — and it seemed like she’d save the day.

Then the Night King grabbed her, and I thought she was dead.

Then she did it.

She grabbed her dagger in midair, stabbed the Night King in whatever the equivalent of his heart was, and shattered the dead’s army. It was beautiful. I didn’t expect it — of all the characters, Arya was not the one I expected to kill the Night King. But I absolutely love that it was her. And now, we have three episodes to see what events follow this victory.

If I have one complaint, it’s that there wasn’t enough death. Okay, let me rephrase. There was a lot of death — but almost none of it happened to major characters. For a long time now, it’s felt like the show lost the shock factor in its willingness to kill anybody. “Plot armor,” as many call it.

Going into tonight, it felt like that plot armor was going to go away. By the end of the episode, though? The biggest names we lost (on the side of the living) were those of Lyanna Mormont, Dolorous Edd, Ser Jorah, Beric, Theon, and Melisandre. Oh, and maybe Ghost, which… yeah, okay, I’ll count that as a name as big as Dany or Jon.

But everyone else — Jaime, Brienne, The Hound, Sam, Grey Worm, all of the Starks, Dany, Tyrion, Tormund, and probably more names I can’t even remember — they all survived. It’s not that I have anything against these characters, but there were several moments when they easily could have died, and it’s a little disappointing to see the show shy away from that sort of thing yet again.

Of course, with an episode as entertaining and large scale as this one was, it’s hard to really hold much against it. It checked off virtually every box I had going into the episode, and it did so with so much bombast that I may as well put 10 check marks in each box because it blew me away that much.

How about all of you? What did you think of this episode, arguably the series’ biggest?

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