Beware! The night is dark and full of terrors, and this review will have spoilers. Which could be a scarier prospect.
This week: FIIIIIGHT!
Last week, we had the long intake of breath, the first two episodes of this season largely taking the place of the reflective moments often found before the action kicks off in Game Of Thrones battles. And with the table set for some massive carnage, The Long Night delivered some of the biggest battle set pieces the show has pulled off in its admittedly impressive history. And while a sustained serving of slashing, stabbing, charging and killing could have rendered the viewer numb, the GOT team fended that off by zigging and zagging all over the place and changing up the tone for several different sections.
And while we were promised some big deaths, the losses were largely second-tier with the more notable likes of Jon Snow, Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen threatened but never ended. Poor old Jorah Mormont, though. At least he died doing what he loved: protecting Dany. The Long Night offered up a lot of what we expected to see, though had wondered if we’d seen them all in one episode (despite it being the longest the show has produced to date) – a massive undead siege at Winterfell, dragon aerial combat, the much-discussed rising of the dead from within the Stark crypt (no sign of Rickon and zero appearances from a headless skele-Ned Stark).
Ultimately, writers (and showrunners) David Benioff and DB Weiss looked to undercut expectations whenever they could, such as show focus Jon Snow being waylaid by an explosive Viserion and someone else taking out the Night King instead. You could argue that the conclusion of the War Against The Dead came a little more easily than might have been expected (Deus Ex Arya?), but the revelation that Westeros’ pint-sized killer would do for Jeremy the Night King still worked on various levels. Sure, Melisandre (a returning Carice van Houten, back for just this episode) predicted this, but it didn’t make it any less satisfying.
Other highlights? The incredible visual poetry of the Dothrakis’ newly flaming Arakhs being snuffed out by the sheer numbers of the dead. Director and hardened battle imagineer Miguel Sapochnik excelled himself, aided by the creative team the show has built. Zombie dragon Viserion soaring upwards to take on Dany and Jon riding Drogon and Rhaegal, the embracing of a near Walking Dead tone for the scenes of Arya playing wight-and-seek in the hallways of Winterfell and the finely tuned use of geography so that you could follow where each chunk of the battle was taking place and the various players were located.
That didn’t always hold true: the sheer overload of the battle meant that one or two scenes were shot in such a way as it was nearly impossible to see whether some of our favourite characters had died – Brienne appeared to perish more than once – and when you’ve got everyone wearing dark furs and armour and swapping blows at night, it’s hard not to have some moments reduce down to cloudy blurs of action. Still, it’s credit to the team that those were few and far between. The script kept us guessing as to what terrible thing would happen next, because of course the Night King was going to try his resurrection mambo.
Were one or two of the last-second saves a tad convenient? Sure, but the drama was more than enough to make up for that. And Lyanna Mormont got exactly the kind of death we hoped for. If she was going to have to go, better she goes out taking a zombie giant with her. Elsewhere, it was time to say goodbye to Dolorous Edd (did we all have him as first to go in the death pool?), Beric Dondarrion (AKA Beric done-darrion), Theon (not hard to predict) and, finally, Melisandre, who does her magic thang, guides Arya and then slips out of Winterfell’s gate to collapse in the snow, her final task complete.
The Long Night certainly lived up to being the show’s biggest rumble yet, and it was extremely effective. We felt the emotional impact of those who died, cheered at various near-misses and watched as the conflict evolved between skirmishes, grand conflicts and some true horror stalking the halls. The ending was unexpected – did you think we’d be saying goodbye to the forces of the dead so quickly, even in this shortened season? – but it helped set things up for the final three episodes, which will bring the focus back to the political machinations and human conflict. Final kudos to composer Ramin Djawadi, who channelled his old mentor Hans Zimmer and added piano to the score in the most memorable fashion since season six’s The Winds Of Winter.
Highlight: Nighty night, Night King.
Lowlight: Most of the crypt scenes aside from Tyrion and Sansa’s chat.
Kill of the week: Lyanna Mormont, who went out swinging. Well, stabbing. We’ll miss her.
Quote of the week: “What do we say to the god of death?” – Melisandre
“Not today” – Arya. Callback klaxon!
MVP: It has to be Arya once again, the Night Kingslayer.
Random thought: Samwell Tarly is a lucky, lucky man.
What happens next?
The fighting is over, but there’s still the small matter of Cersei on the
Instead of hiding in the dead-heavy crypt, why didn’t the non-combatants just leave Winterfell and head south once the Night King’s army arrived?
You have to assume that there wouldn’t have been the supplies to see them to their final destination. Add to that the fact that the Night King has a dragon and could easily obliterate them.
Given his kill-him-end-them-all achilles heel, why didn’t he hold back?
Call it a need to get his Bran. Word of advice here, Jeremy… Maybe do some research into your own mythology before you threaten anyone. Next time… too late.
Season 8 Reviews
Season 7 Episode Review Guide
[Episode 6 – Beyond The Wall
Game Of Thrones airs Sunday evenings on HBO in the States, with a simulcast on Sky Atlantic and Now TV in the early hours of Monday and a repeat Monday evenings at 9pm.