The Battle of Winterfell...and we're almost home (SPOILERS abound)
For 8 years, we’ve known the White Walkers wouldn’t stay contained North of the Wall. We knew they would become everyone’s problem. We knew it would be some epic, next level, horror show, sanity destroying shit when it happened. And we knew that Winterfell would be the place for it to go down. So, we waited. And waited. Finally…
I love having my expectations exceeded.
Where do you even start to “review” the most anticipated and critical episode in the history of the biggest show (arguably) in the history of dramatic television? Can you even review it in a critical way? I pondered this same thing in reviewing Avengers: Endgame recently. When you spend long years with a host of characters who are not only a part of your life and essential geekiness but also a part of the pop culture collective, it’s damned hard to be objective.
I’m not going to pretend to be objective. I’d have about as much chance of that as Ser Jorah did of fucking Daenerys. NOT TODAY!!
Pacing is critical in an endeavor of this magnitude, especially when dealing with a massive battle. It’s so easy to get disinterested in a writhing mass of death and dismemberment, no matter how beautifully rendered it may be. The GoT folks deserve a ludicrous amount of props on the writing side for patience and timing. Those first 10-15 minutes take tension that’s already high and squeeze a little more out. Tyrion looked ready to shit his pants. Sam probably did shit his pants. The ladies, as usual, did a great job of looking like they weren’t shitting theirs…but aren’t they always better than the men at that? As the camera moves in long, continuous shots, we are treated to all the teeth gnashing we can possible handle. Subtle. Gorgeous.
Then, the appearance of the Red Woman, Melisandre! She’s one of the most intriguing and story rich characters in the entire saga, and her appearance is never dull. She engineers a Dothraki Screamer charge for the ages that ultimately results in the wiping out of the Dothraki. Don’t you hate it when good deeds end in genocide? That shit looked glorious, though, until all those flaming weapons went dark and you realized that it REALLY IS THAT BAD.
I think that was the moment when I knew that we were in for something truly special, not lip service special but live forever special. I could feel the expression on my face, a grin that was equal parts dumbfounded and enthralled.
Once the battle starts, the balance between up and down, light and dark, fire and ice is near perfection. You don’t have to spend too long at one time on the big fight. There’s Arya’s intimate hide and seek with a host of White Walkers that put The Walking Dead to shame. The Hound fights his cowardice. Theon prepares for the most important moment of his life. Bran stares at shit. The folks on the crypt seem unaware of the fact that the undisputed king of resurrection is above them, and they are in an underground chamber literally full of corpses! Tyrion drinks and tries to ignore his “bad feeling about this”. John and Dany don’t talk about incest but instead go dragon hunting.
I really can’t say enough good things about how well structured this all was. It’s not like I didn’t have high hopes for this last season, but The Battle of Winterfell has affirmed my excitement. It’s a legitimate thing of beauty. I firmly believe that they’ll pay this off the right way without any ambiguity or major controversy.
We have to talk about Arya’s slaying of The Night King. I don’t think, if you’d asked me at any time before this episode, that it would have been The Assassin of Winterfell to do the deed. I thought maybe Bran in a mindfight, John Snow with a classic hand-to-hand kill, or even some killer dragon on dragon action. Once Melisandre asked Arya "What do we say to the God of Death?” I couldn’t stop grinning. It almost distracted me from the rest of the episode because I knew what was coming and couldn’t fucking wait. It was the geek hard-on of the decade. And then you think she’s been caught….but it’s a Rogue’s feint!!!
The room broke into applause. No shit.
And then there’s The Redemption of Theon Greyjoy. I’ve seen some touching shit in my day, but that was just lovely. Please give Alfie Allen some kind of award for his portrayal of Theon in the last couple of seasons. I don’t know whose redemptive arc has been better- Theon or Jaime. It’s a tossup. Still, in what was maybe the most noble of deaths, Theon got his dick back times ten and died like the biggest man in the whole place. I wept. I say that without shame. That’s what a great story can do when it works to perfection.
I’m honestly kind of surprised at everything that they squeezed into an episode that focused so squarely on the biggest battle in the history of Westeros.
Jaime and Brienne’s battlefield chemistry
The final acts and death of the Red Woman
Sam being the most human of them, warts and all
Ser Jorah getting the exact death he wanted
Dragon battles like never before seen
A dragon covered in zombies (I busted a nut just saying that!)
“Light the trenches!”
Lyanna Mormont getting what was possibly the coolest death of the series against the White Giant. Holy shit. Breathtaking doesn’t touch that shit.
The classic horror heritage of that library scene with sneaky Arya
Sansa and Tyrion facing death (and feelings for each other) in the Stark Crypt
The brave death of Beric Dondarion and realizing why the Lord of Light brought him back so many times. Remember that conversation a few seasons ago?
Arya leaping in like a goddamn Stark ninja onto the Night King right after one of the Night Lieutenants looked back like “Did you hear something?”
The dragon consoling Daenerys over the fallen body of Ser Jorah. That really was beautiful.
Further props go to the musical team on this episode. The score often gets overlooked, and they absolutely knocked that shit out of the park. It’s easy to overlook how important the music is. A treat for the ears that totally enhanced what your eyes and heart were taking in.
So, it’s now time to start really thinking about the Iron Throne. Cersei has the Golden Army at her disposal, and you know she’s got one hell of a plan. There’s so much to look forward to. Who kills Cersei? Does anyone have the ability to remove the evil bitch? Who takes the Iron Throne- John or Daenerys? What about the North? What will the inevitable twist be (there’s always a twist)?
You know what I keep thinking of the most? THE HOUND VS. THE MOUNTAIN!!! I REPEAT: THE HOUND VS. THE MOUNTAIN!!! Don’t tell me that shit doesn’t get your dick hard, ya’ fucking liar. Superfight of the Century.
No matter how this all turns out, it will be damn interesting to see if they can top this particular episode in closing out the entire series. Something tells me they can and they will. FOR THE THRONE!