If you are a huge Game of Thrones fan, just like me then you will have a lot of mixed feelings about the latest GoT episode. Why am I writing about it on a Friday just a couple of days prior to the 4th episode? That is because I have watched the episode 3 times to digest the whole thing and also understand the whole thought behind writing and directing the episode.
I must admit, I am impressed by the way Miguel Sapochnik has gone about his work, he is the same man who has directed episodes like HardHome (S05E08) and The Battle of Bastards (S06E09). This episode has certainly left a lot of fans divided and the way they are reacting without the season coming to an end actually saddens me a bit. The episode has received more criticism than appreciation to a level that it has been ranked the worst episode yet on Rotten Tomatoes. Btw, spoilers ahead.
Let us look at what made the episode full of ups and downs from my perspective, your thoughts may differ completely.
- Battle plans going down the drain- We gotta give this one to critics, I was frankly disappointed to see when the entire Dothraki army was eaten alive within minutes of opening, they are impulsive, courageous and not afraid to march towards their enemy but this was simply suicide on their part and the show-runners wanted to get rid of filming the war with horse riders. This starts a chaos and Dany who is another impulsive character immediately mounts Drogon and starts breathing fire on the wights, rightly so. The plan seems to be working well with Unsullied holding the ground and the two Targaryens along with their dragons breathing fire on the dead. 45 mins into the episode we see Jon getting trapped into a windy storm once he sees the White Walker Generals and that's when we know the Night King is here. Small details like Grey Worm pulling off the bridge leaving his men to fight off the dead beyond the trench and basically sacrificing them made this look realistic and powerful.
2.The main characters- It is safe to say that Jaime, Podrick, Brienne, Tormund and Sam have been kept alive to fulfill a bigger purpose in the upcoming episodes because there is no way in hell they survived the multiple dog piles and ambush by thousands of wights during the entire Long Night.
3.The Fallen heroes- Frankly, I was disappointed in the number of main character deaths but hey, episode 5 is still not aired and directed by the same man. They love killing Starks in the penultimate episodes, isn't it? Just kidding, please don't die. So, it began with Dolorus Ed trying to save Sam from a dog pile and getting stabbed in the back only to later return as a wight in the dead army. The Lord Commander of the Night's Watch was not given the death he deserved but then, what is the Night's Watch worth anyway now? Berric Dondarrion did die a warrior death but seemed a little down-played, it was never about the way he dies, it was always about what was he living for? We certainly got the answer, saving Arya and play his part in her fulfilling her destiny. The Mormonts died most heroic deaths and they can say we're a small house but a proud one! Lyanna being the badass that she is gave a run to Tormund by killing a dead Giant at the age of 12. Jorah died the most fitting way while serving his Khaleesi and living by his words as he swore them time and time again. There was not a better way for him to go when even Drogon had abandoned Dany (animal instincts) Jorah saved her from a certain death and even though Dany picked up a weapon and killed a couple of them, it wasn't simply enough. The scene seemed realistic and the emotions were raw, only when the wights were completely lifeless, did Jorah touch the ground such was his commitment and love towards his Khaleesi. I absolutely loved how Drogon just wrapped them around, indicating that he was sad too after seeing his mother in tears. Now, talking about character arcs, there can be no winner apart from Theon. We have been neutral about him, hated him, felt sad for him, pitied him and ultimately fell in love with the character. He practically accomplished everything he had wronged from releasing his sister, getting Jon and Sansa to forgive and accept him, restoring his Iron-Born pride and getting a warrior death, he truly is a good man, Thank you Theon.
5.The star cast- It was surprising to see the main heroes being on the sidelines but also refreshing to see new heroes emerge during the Long Night. Tyrion and Sansa having their just-before-the-death moment, Lord Varys protecting the children, Hound shying away from the fight only to pick his weapon again once he sees Arya fighting alone were some amazing screenplays and necessary breaks from the main battle. Dany did not have much role to play on ground but the visuals in the sky, riding Drogon and tearing off Viserion partially to trying to burn the Night King with dragon fire, she had her moments in the episode.
6.Aegon Targaryen aka Jon Snow- Getting a break from the front-man gig, Jon didn't have anything concrete in this episode apart from the vicious dragon battle mid air. We would have loved a face off with the Night King but he had seen Jon with swords and could not risk a face off before he kills Bran so he decided to raise the dead. I frankly loved the part that they gave him a break, I mean I can imagine millions of viewers complaining about this feeling too Hollywood/Bollywood if Jon was the one to deliver the final blow to the Night King, we got a surprise at least! I would have personally loved to watch a combat though, since there is only one other outcome in face off against the night king, they did not go ahead with it. Jon has to play an important role in the last 3 episodes. The part where he screams on the face of Viserion was according to me, all his frustration, anger and raw emotions of not being able to get to Night King before he reached Bran, so no, it was not suicide, it was his emotional outburst where he was ready to either die or kill Viserion.
7.Arya Stark- Boy, this was the moment when I was on the edge of my seat ready to toss my laptop. The physics of her jump aside, this was played since a long time (Arya sneaking up on Jon in Godswood and him asking, how did you sneak up on me? Melissandre's dialogue with her in third season and her training to be light and quick on her feet plus the battle tact which she had previously used with Brienne) if this is not awesome, then I don't know what is? They managed to tie up her entire character arc to this final blow. Also, nobody expected Arya to deliver the final blow, you got us there. What do we say to the God of Death? "Not Today."
8.Night King- We have some burning questions about the symbols, the identity and true objective of the Night King but sadly I do not see this being revealed in the series. I still feel that the show will be keeping this open ended for viewers to assume in the final episode of the series but we will get all answers only in the books to all detailed questions related to the Night's King. GRRM please release the next book fast! The Long Night has occurred a lot of times in the past and there is no reason why it shouldn't occur again. Only the Three Eyed Raven knows.
Parting thoughts, I feel this episode was a directorial masterpiece and I would personally pay for seeing it on a larger screen. The story glitches will have to be forgiven knowing that there are 3 more episodes to be aired and they will tie the loose ends and answer most of our questions. But the fact that there will always be a set of fans disappointed, stays. They cannot please everyone and we have to accept it. The fans have made the series huge, larger than life and it is impossible to cater to all theories, storylines. Lastly, I shall wait for the next 3 episodes but I still feel the mystery around Night King, The Long Night and way ahead will still be shown on Game of Thrones. Let us find out soon.
And oh! Please nominate Ramin Djawadi for that original Background Score for Grammy's. What an absolute gem of a score. "The Night King" this episode would not have been so powerful at the end without that music!
All photo credits- HBO, Rotten Tomatoes.