This review contains spoilers for season eight, episode three of “Game of Thrones.”
The first scenes of the Battle of Winterfell are dominated by silence and darkness. Thousands of soldiers, our favorite characters among them, are gearing up for war against the most formidable opponent: death. With every minute, the tension builds and senses are heightened.
In an instant, the silence and darkness breaks. Melisandre (Carice van Houten) sets the Dothraki arakhs aflame, lighting up the battlefield and the faces of the brave soldiers. Then with ferocious screams, the soldiers plunge into the darkness, seeking out the White Walker army in order to destroy it once and for all.
The rest of the episode, which lasts 82 minutes, is an epic saga between the living and the dead. From the very beginning of the episode, there is a very real and justified feeling that the dead will be triumphant. It seems that the living have no actual plan to attack the dead, and during multiple points in the episode, it seems that this might be the end for Winterfell and for Westeros as a whole.
One of the scariest moments of the episode includes dragons Drogon and Rhaegal narrowly escaping death, while the Wights are simultaneously breaking through the gates of Winterfell and lurking behind every corner of the castle. If all that wasn’t enough, the bodies in the crypt rise from the dead and threaten Winterfell’s women and children.
In the final moments of the episode, almost all hope seems lost as the Night King (Vladimír Furdík) comes face to face with Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) in the godswood. Just before the audience finds out what the Night King wants with Bran, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) leaps out of nowhere and manages to stab and destroy the leader with her Valyrian steel dagger.
Just like that, the war between the living and the dead is over. The entire army is reduced to nothing, including Viserion the dragon who once posed such a great threat to Westeros.
For some fans, the battle will be a disappointment. No huge characters died (Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) was perhaps the biggest name who perished) and the ending was rather abrupt. For all the buildup of the “Great War,” it was surprising to have the actual combat begin and end in just one episode.
The disappointed fans of the show have missed the overwhelming merits of the episode. Not only were there fantastic character moments, a haunting score and some of the best fighting that the show has seen, there was also a beautiful continuation of the lessons that “Thrones” has pushed for eight seasons.
Perhaps the best example of these lessons is the idea that no one in the show is invincible. This is something that was largely forgotten in the case of the Night King. After Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) fails in her attempt to kill him with dragon fire, there is a tangible fear that maybe this horrifying enemy is unbeatable.
Unfortunately for the Night King, everyone in “Thrones” is mortal. It doesn’t matter if you are the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms or the leader of the army of the undead. Everything you worked for (and your whole character arc) can disappear in a flash.
This is the lesson that should ultimately sit with fans as the narrative of the show shifts. With the Night King and his army gone, the soldiers of Winterfell will now have to double down on their efforts and focus on the next greatest threat: Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and her Golden Company army.
While at this point it is expected that the Starks and Targaryens will come out on top, this episode is the perfect reminder that no one is safe and any perceived advantages are really just illusions of security. If history repeats itself, then these illusions will doom many more of our favorite characters before the show comes to an end.
Edited by Joe Cross | firstname.lastname@example.org