TRCH Mindgames

Game of Thrones Review: Season 8, Episode 3 - The Long Night

29 April 19 words: Adam Ridgley

Winter came for our heroes at Winterfell in an intense, claustrophobic battle that will leave you watching from the edge of the wall...

 

Since the series premier back in 2011, Game of Thrones has been building to this confrontation between the living and the dead. Throughout all the petty politicking over the Iron Throne, the overarching endgame of the series has been those pesky popsicle menaces from beyond the wall. Now the Night King has finally arrived bringing with him the largest battle put to TV, which is equal parts tense, heart-breaking and satisfying, being masterfully crafted by director Miguel Sapochnik.

Immediately the near silence as the forces of the living face the darkness will send a shiver, as the sense of calm is given a lot of time to settle in to build both anticipation and fear. A small glimmer of hope is ignited as Melisandre returns to light the Dothraki swords as they charge into battle, to be eerily extinguished as we see them fade away into the darkness. This beautifully nerve-racking scene immediately establishes the Wights as an unstoppable force and throws the heroes plans into turmoil as Daenerys immediately goes AWOL to reign fire and fury on the dead, before her and her other dragon, mounted by Jon Snow, are quickly taken out of commission by a blinding snow storm.

What follows essentially World War Z with swords, as hordes of the dead quickly pile on and overwhelm the living, who are forced to retreat within the relative safety of the castle walls. Our third favourite crow-bro Edd dies along the way, being the only main cast casualty of this first third.

The sense of claustrophobia begins to settle in as the dead scale the castle and close in on the main cast of characters. Lyanna Mormont gets a big fan service send off, slaying an ice giant, despite the disturbing sight and sound of her being crushed in its hands. Unfortunately, this is the only variety we see in the army of the dead as previous promises of more creatures and illusions to ice spiders as big as hounds are unfounded. Given the scale of the episode, much of this can be forgiven.

Action is broken up well in the episode, by solace scenes with Sansa and Tyrion in the crypts, to Theon and Bran waiting, to Arya’s near silent stealth scenes within the castle walls. Arya has the most interesting character arc of the episode, as we see her resort to her early season vulnerability as she is saved by the Hound and Beric, who falls in the process, before she earns MVP moment of the series in the episodes climax.

The dragon battle between the Night King and Jon and Daenerys is a real intense dog fight to behold. Things take a turn for the worse when the Night King adds the fallen Stark-Targeryan forces to his army. As predicted the Night King makes his way to Bran, whilst Jon Snow peruses. Series veteran Theon Greyjoy falls protecting Bran in an emotional, but appropriate send off to his character, whilst fellow series original, Jorah Mormont, falls protecting Daenerys, fittingly dying in her arms.

Things slow down as the Night King enters the Godswood, with Jon cornered by the resurrected Viserion and Bran surrounded, the slow-motion scene slowly drains the hope out of you as the dreaded sense of failure settles in.

Arya ambushes the Night King at the final hurdle, causing the army of the dead to pull a phantom menace collapse. The scene certainly got a pop out of me, although many fans may understandably feel disgruntled as it does seem more fitting for Jon to have at least faced off with the Night King, seeing as the whole battle with the dead has been Jon’s story, for him to not finish it is somewhat unsatisfying.

Overall the episode can be hailed as a wonderfully constructed spectacle. The darkness makes for hard viewing, but adds to the dreaded atmosphere which is so well executed. However, the episode is weakened by what can feel like an anti-climax. The army of the dead, for all their build met a rather hasty, and surprisingly low-cost end. At times this episode's characters were placed in a situation that they shouldn’t have made it out of. Since the show overtook the books, the power of plot armour has largely normalised Game of Thrones and made characters feel safe. The episode could have done with a few more of the series heavy hitters falling to truly make this battle impactful. Even the Direwolf survived.

The white walkers were built as the series endgame, now that the endgame is complete we have three episodes to spare. The whole purpose behind A Song of Ice and Fire is that there is no absolute happy ending, the wheel keeps on turning. Now that the big evil of the series is gone, there is a welcome sense of unpredictability going forward. Back to petty politicking.