What is most surprising about this week’s episode of Game of Thrones is that after giving us such classic outstanding episodes of the series such as The Winds of Winter, Hardhome & The Battle of the Bastards for which he won an Emmy Award, director Miguel Sapochink gives us something so adequate it’s arguably less compelling and satisfying than the blackbox theater drama of last week’s episode.
The episode begins strongly enough with a greatly choreographed one shot that follows Sam, then Tyrion as their army marches in the background. The buildup gives the audience a tight grip that does not let go until Arya drops her dagger. A few nice images are placed throughout; the fiery Dothraki slamming across the battlefield against the army of the dead, Tyrion [and Tyrion and Sansa] outlined in the crypt, a Night King closeup and The Dragons with a moonlit backdrop. Those shots of Jon Snow against the Ice breathing dragon are killer. When you can see what is going on it is pretty bringing to mind Sapochink’s background as a storyboard artist, but it shockingly is the worst directed major episode. For a fuller picture we will have to await the fallout of developments next week. But “The Long Night” left me wanting more.
What was Bran doing? Jamie, Tormund, Gendry, Brienne and Greyworm were stuck in the courtyard after the first act. How did Sam plausibly survive? Why did Melisandre off herself for no reason? Considering the amount of resources, time and buildup HBO and by extension their multi-billion dollar parent AT&T had to plan this, it is a bit of a shortfall that the big battle of the Final Season is less impressive than Season Two’s Blackwater & Season Four’s The Watchers on the Wall. Neil Marshall’s direction is missed (perhaps he was busy with Hellboy.) There was one major surprise in this episode and it works like gangbusters! If only you could hear my dad’s cheers and fears as I watched him react Arya killing the møth3rf’ck’ng Night King! The episode may not have a thick plot, but its a moment at least enough to carry the night.
It is a cheap move to cover the entire show in fog when Game of Thrones is usually more clever than that. It makes you wonder what they spent the money on this season. As Twitter Duly noted you could not see who was who and where basic geography lacking despite the importance of Winterfell as a location to the series.
It’s a complaint I had to the similar Dunkirk which clearly inspired this week’s episode but at least there when you couldn’t see, you knew what was going on. Furthermore that movie’s director Christopher Nolan and his famous parallel cross-cutting technique would have helped here. (He is on Warner Bros. payroll and not very busy at the moment.)
I have to remind myself that we did lose a few this week, Eddison Tollett current leader of the Night’s Watch, and now his watch has ended. He was never much of a character, but he did fight at the battle/ slaughter of Hardhome. His last act saving his buddy and George R.R. Martin proxy Samwell Tarly. Social Media favourite Lyanna Mormont lived as she died bravely standing up to giants. Beric Dondarrion sacrificed his last life to save current MVP Arya, as Melisandre informed was his destiny, while hinting at Arya’s greater path. As well Melisandre fufilled her own prophecy to die in Winterfell but it would be more remarkable if she just didn’t decide to take off her necklace after the battle was over. Jorah Mormont has been marked for death for half the series. He deserved a greater defeat than a bunch of white walkers, but its significance is more to him completing his job of defending Dany’s life as her last absolute ally. Greyworm’s surprising survival attaches him to a doubting Missandei. Of course, the biggest death of the night goes to Theon Greyjoy, Ned Stark’s ward who gets to fall as the last casualty to the Night King and die in his true home of Winterfell. Ramin Djiwadi’s musical accompaniment like a slowed down ‘Light of the Seven’ was a nice touch. I do wish the show were more ruthless. If the Night King was defeated was there a reason for Jon Snow to be spared? [Yes b/c he’s the heir to the Seven Kingdoms but earlier GoT would not have cared about that]. I enjoyed this episode a lot more the second time around knowing what’s coming, but would still grade it the same.
Here’s to the second half of the season being better.
- Cersei sitting on the Iron Throne in King’s Landing. At this point its fair to assume Arya crosses her off her kill list after The Hound fights The Mountain.
- Yara will Kill her Uncle Euron.
- A battle against the King’s guard and the Iron Fleet?
- The writing’s on the wall for Dany to surrender as she only has a dragon left and two shifty allies.
- With the main threat extinguished it almost seems like we have one episode too many: 1 for Dany, 1 for Cersei
- I’m counting on Game of Thrones to have at least one more surprise in store.
Likely episode titles-
Next: Some High Valyrian Phrase or King’s Landing or Queen’s Landing
Penultimate: The Mountain and The Hound
Finale: A Dream of Spring