Sport of Thrones: Was the Battle of Winterfell an all-time nice episode?


The primary Sport of Thrones scene the world noticed, all the best way again in 2011, depicted the grotesque slaughter of a Night time’s Watch mission by White Walkers. From its first second, Sport of Thrones has been constructing as much as The Lengthy Night time, Sunday’s episode, also referred to as The Battle of Winterfell.

Touchdown on a runway paved with over 70 hours of TV, sedulously unfold over the course of eight years, The Battle of Winterfell ought to have been the most effective Sport of Thrones episode ever. Was it?

No reply to that query may ever be definitive, particularly in respect to a present that is managed to be persistently absorbing for almost a decade. However may it go within the prime 10? I vote sure.


Helen Sloan/HBO

Not that it must be mentioned, however Sport of Thrones season 8 spoilers under. 

Relying on what transpires within the subsequent three weeks, The Lengthy Night time is more likely to go down as probably the most memorable episode in Sport of Thrones historical past. (Once more, not the most effective, however probably the most memorable.)

The episode, all 82 minutes of it, was devoted to battle. It is not fully distinctive on this regard. The Battle of Blackwater Bay (season 2) and The Watchers on the Wall (season 4) have been additionally episodes that targeted solely on one battle. However right here the size provides a brand new stage of spectacle.

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And it was a novel spectacle. In contrast to different Sport of Thrones battles, there was virtually no back-and-forth. From the very starting, when the Dothraki’s flaming blades have been extinguished, the military of the useless positive aspects momentum whereas not often shedding any. Expertly and creatively shot, the episode had a menacing rhythm and slowly however steadily escalated its imagery of misery.

Its grip was not possible to beat.

The perfect got here in direction of the tip, starting with Sansa and Tyrion holding onto each other within the crypts of Winterfell as they hid from invading wights. A piano observe begins, with orchestral devices quickly becoming a member of, making a soundtrack for the following scenes of sorrow. (It is paying homage to the opening of season 6’s last episode through which Cersei, set to a equally ominous observe, blows up the Sept of Baelor. That was terrific, this was higher.)

We see Jaime, Ser Brienne and Podrick with their backs to the wall in opposition to an unstoppable crowd of wights. We see Jon scurry across the White Walker dragon solely to grasp he is out of instructions to run, his solely choice to confront dying head-on. We see Ser Jorah defending Daenerys till his dying breath. And we see Bran give Theon the acceptance he is pined for all this time.

It ends with Arya leaping into body. Even in two or three many years, I think you may keep in mind the place you have been when Arya lunged on the Night time King.


Helen Sloan/HBO

This whole sequence was mesmerizing. In the identical manner that our fight-or-flight response makes seconds really feel like minutes, I believed it ran round 20 minutes lengthy. Its depth was exhilarating. It was really a lot shorter, clocking it in at 9 minutes — among the many greatest 9 minutes within the present’s historical past.  

With virtually no dialogue, the Battle of Winterfell gave a gratifying finish to a few of Sport of Thrones’ longest-running tales. Theon Greyjoy is redeemed. The Lord of Mild was main Beric Dondarrion and Woman Melisandre (and presumably The Hound) to Arya this entire time.

And now, after a short day trip, the Sport of Thrones recommences.

Fade to black

Not everybody liked The Battle of Winterfell, mentioning flaws and plotholes. Let’s handle these.

The salient criticism is a technical one. The episode, the entire episode, was manner too darkish. Even the mightiest OLED TV set would have struggled with it, and at instances this made the motion disorienting. This positively holds it again, and is a disgrace contemplating the person hours that should’ve went into such a historic manufacturing.

Now onto the artistic facet. The Battle of Winterfell climaxed as Arya impaled the Night time King, who was himself on the cusp of impaling Bran. All main characters have been moments away from dying, notably Jon and Daenerys, however have been saved on the final second by Arya’s heroism. Some have deemed this an Arya-ex-Machina, an surprising and insufficiently logical decision to Winterfell’s impending doom.

How did she sneak previous the White Walkers with out being stopped? And the way was the Night time King in a position to maintain a barrage of dragon fireplace however not a single shank?


Helen Sloan/HBO

Arya’s propensity for stealth was foreshadowed within the first episode of the season. She was in a position to sneak up on Jon at the exact same similar Weirwood Tree the place she’d later blade the Night time King. And that Weirwood Tree is unlikely to be a coincidence. Again in season 6, we noticed The Youngsters of the Forest create the Night time King by plunging a dragonglass dagger by means of his coronary heart — whereas he was strapped to a Weirwood Tree.

The Night time King leaves as he enters. It may very well be symbolism, but it surely additionally may very well be the important thing to his vulnerability. That may clarify why he wasn’t affected when Daenerys tried to raze him with fireplace. Hopefully, these inconsistencies can be defined within the subsequent episode, if solely briefly, and never left for followers to theorize over.

A associated criticism is that the episode was an anticlimax. The Night time King was constructed up for years as a god of struggle. He would carry the longest winter ever. However the Lengthy Night time ended up lasting solely an episode. Now, critics ask, the place does the present go from right here?

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The truth that the infinite struggle was gained in a single episode is mildly chafing. However on the similar, what extra may HBO have carried out? It devoted 82 continuous minutes to a single battle. I can solely recall six situations of dialogue. It was the longest episode in Sport of Thrones historical past.

Given the present’s historical past of blithely offing main gamers, it was stunning, even deflating, that extra characters did not die. Lyanna Mormont, Theon Greyjoy, Edd Tolett, Ser Jorah Mormont and Beric Dandarrion are all memorable characters (effectively, perhaps not Edd), however for no major characters to die feels extra like purple herring than Pink Wedding ceremony. 

That will find yourself being a stroke of genius. If sequence co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are killing off a number of key characters, it makes extra sense to do it within the coming weeks and never once we anticipate it. That manner we’re entranced by The Battle of Winterfell, the place we anticipate to lose lives, and devastated later when our favourite characters really die. Which brings us to what’s subsequent.

We nonetheless have many showdowns to anticipate. The Hound versus The Mountain, as an example, plus Jaime, Cersei, Tyrion and no matter occurs with Bronn. There are nonetheless two Greyjoys on the board and one last struggle to win. You could possibly say that, after the Night time King and the White Walkers have been defeated, it looks as if a downgrade in drama for Daenerys and Jon to squabble over who the rightful ruler is. However that is the false sense of safety that often precedes Sport of Thrones’ most surprising deaths.

A few of The Lengthy Night time’s legacy will depend on what occurs in succeeding episodes, notably subsequent week’s present. Is it decisively the most effective Sport of Thrones episode ever? No. However it’s within the pantheon of all-time greats, proper subsequent to Blackwater, Baelor and the Battle of the Bastards. 


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