This is a very tense weekend for fans of people named Stark.
And the Avengers aren’t even the only ones playing out an endgame this weekend: What a weekend for ginormous battle sequences.
We know people are eager to talk about this week’s big “Battle of Winterfell” episode—HBO isn’t even releasing the names of the episodes in advance this season—so we’re doing things a bit differently this time, like we did for the infamous Red Wedding episode: Feel free to jump into the discussion below with thoughts and reactions
, and we’ll update the post with the usual review as soon as possible [Note: the post has now been updated.]
As always, all spoilers for the show and books are fair game in the comments, and we ask that you keep our commenting guidelines in mind and keep the conversation constructive and civil—otherwise, go nuts!
Following in the tradition of massive clashes like the Blackwater to the Battle of the Bastards, seeing the White Walkers come to Winterfell to fight Jon and Dany’s forces is the culmination of twenty years’ worth of fan anticipation. We’ve heard a lot about how tonight’s episode is the longest continual battle sequence on film, rivaling Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ Battle of Helm’s Deep, but big and expensive doesn’t necessarily mean good…
It’s the characters we care about. And we’re not heading onwards to King’s Landing with everyone.
So, let the group hugs commence.
Phew! I need more than a cigarette to calm down after that episode. That was a lot of anxiety. And I’m not just talking about the episode.
I’m traveling this week and was terrified that the WiFi in this cabin in the mountains wouldn’t let me stream the TV event of the year (so far.) But, all was well. Only, I have to say, I missed my fancypants TV at home because it’s big, is paired with a great sound bar, and it showcases black really well and this episode was frustratingly dark. Like fuligin. Like Spinal Tap: “None more black.” Like Doom 3.
It was legit hard to follow in some parts, especially with the Unsullied and their masks. But, Grey Worm lives another day! So do Brienne and Jaime and Arya and, well, most named characters really, which was very un-Thrones like and I’m not sure how I feel about that…
I loved the look of the last charge of the Dothraki, with their flaming swords. I sincerely want to see it as a painting. Iconic. And, yes, as horrifying as it was to watch those flames be extinguished, it bothers me that a bigger deal wasn’t made of this. Dany wouldn’t have gotten beyond Pentos without the Dothraki and now they’re gone and we’ll never see them try to find a place in Westeros’ new world order, or if they’d finally return to the Great Grass Sea, instead. The show just erased an entire people that would be a serious consideration—and perhaps a potential liability for Dany—down the line. Weaksauce.
Game of Thrones, at the end of the day, is very different from the more nuanced musings and deliberations of the books.
But at least we get to see ludicrously large battle sequences.
Melisandre! She’s back and gifting out fire left and right. Thank god, because I might not have been able to see most of the episode without her magic flames. Melisandre’s is kind of a big death. She’s a long-time castmember that casts a long shadow… Out of her vagina. That ranks her as one of Thrones‘ bigger baddies-turned…. well, not outright good; mostly still pretty dangerous. I loved the lighting in her final scene, as she took of her necklace, aged into her true form, and died in the dawn. Haunting and yet abrupt.
We also lost my favorite depressive, Dolorous Edd, that one bloodrider of Dany’s, Beric Dondarrion, and little Lady Lyanna Mormont, who was crushed like a bug yet still found time to take down a man ten times her size. The smallest warrior felling the biggest. It was an emotional death scene that recognized the loss of an unforgettable character. My heart broke more for her than for anyone else tonight.
Jorah Boromir-ed his way to a noble death protecting his queen. Like Lyanna, he died as he lived. I enjoyed the lead-up to Theon’s death at his home at Winterfell more than his final moment, which fell flat for me. Like, all this tired Greyjoy redemption arc leads up to Theon making a futile solo charge against the Night King to buy Arya some more time to stealth attack? Eh, sure, I guess. I’m still not convinced Theon is “a good man” and not just a self-pitying man. I was weirdly expecting another Boromir-lite moment with some reference to “what’s dead can never die.” Instead, he just got walked over and, in its more intimate way, it was even sadder.
Personally, I would rather have watched Jon fight the Night King there in front of Bran and then have Arya steal his thunder with her leap attack and sick knife drop. Because Jon? He yelled at a dragon. That was kinda it.
God, how many times have we heard that “no one” can take down the Night King. Well, a girl is no one, after all. I loved watching Arya’s moves tonight. She’s not a hack n’ slash knight, she is an assassin. I thoroughly enjoyed her scene stealthing through the crypts—finally, the Walking Dead/Game of Thrones crossover I’ve wanted!
I mean, I’m certainly not unhappy that Brienne still might get to wildlin’ with Tormund or that maybe, maybe Grey Worm will one day sip mojitos on a sandy beach and that CleganeBowl is still on track. I’m trying to be optimistic and hope there’s still some big surprises to come in King’s Landing.
Because once you defeat the White Walkers, getting killed by Euron Greyjoy would be the most pathetic, enraging thing ever.
- So Bran is the Dr. Stephen Strange of this franchise and he saw the one scenario that would work to defeat the White Walkers. Bran being saved by the dagger that once tried to kill him was poetic.
- The dragon sequences alternated between thrilling and confusing as hell. If I didn’t see the preview for next week, I wouldn’t be sure that Rhaegal survived. Good thing, too, because I couldn’t take another dragon gone from the world.
- I could barely follow what Tormund, Jaime, and Brienne were doing, too. I suspect they’ll meet their epic fates in King’s Landing, where I think Jaime is destined to become a Queenslayer. Tyrion killing Cersei just wouldn’t have the same weight.
- You’d think we’d get to see someone reacting to the reanimated corpse of a good friend, like say Sam and Edd, but nope. Why even have zombies then?!
- The Hound protecting his murder-daughter was sweet.
- I loved every moment with Sansa and Tyrion in the crypts. Tyrion kissing Sansa’s hand before they jumped into the fight was moving.
- I loved the score tonight, especially as it built towards the confrontation in the Godswood.
- An exit interview with Bella Ramsey (Lyanna.)
- What did military tacticians predict about the Battle of Winterfell?
- Director Miguel Sapochnik talks about the structure of episodes 3-5 and why he kinda loathed coming back to Thrones.
- Next week: Cersei really thinks she’s got this.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Send her a raven via Twitter.