Warning: If you haven’t watched this episode by now, we’re past caring about upsetting your viewing pleasure.
It’s fair to say from its beginning to where we are now Game of Thrones has grown into its battle scenes, indeed it was something of a late developer not really hitting its stride until the massacre at Hardhome (season 5).
However, once the creators had worked out how to bring the chaos of battle to the screen, they’ve consistently delivered in spades.
This was the battle that Thrones fans, the world over, have longed for the best part of a decade and it delivered a terrifyingly visceral assault on the senses but also stirred up a hornet’s nest of what-the-fuckery about the tactics used, the characters killed off and a significant ‘come down’ about ‘what we can look forward to in the remaining two episodes?
This was supposed to be the ‘Great War’ – an extinction level event flooding over humanity. A threat so great it needed the combined armies of the seven kingdoms to stand any chance of salvation and it was killed off – in one night!
Night King fanboys and girls have been wailing at old blue eyes’ demise but they should be satisfied that they got the set piece battle they craved, some dragon on dragon action and an excellent twist as he exited stage left.
There should be no disappointment at his passing, because this was a blinding episode; an 82-minute nerve shredder that saw the armies of men draw battle from the those of the dead. So what if they’ve battered every army that has stood in front of them and they have a leader who has taken smugness to a whole new level, it had to be done and here’s why.
When scriptwriters bring a Dothraki horde, an army of unsullied and all the noble houses of the North together in one spot, you’re going to need to feed, house and water them, which in a winter landscape is no mean feat. The army of the dead suffer none of the logistical burdens afflicting the soon to be dead residents of Winterfell – they don’t eat, sleep or freeze to death in the cold. So, it was clear Jon the Bastard and his pals had to do something pretty extreme to draw out their foe – and ensure at least someone gets to stick a dagger in Cersei to conclude the series.
In series past, the Dothraki horde has swept all before it; a fearsome, crazy, screeching mass of arakh-wielding horsemen who love nothing more than to cleave and club anything in their path. So, a good ally to have for the fight to come, no? A great asset to have to attack at speed when the enemy, is disorganised? Indeed.
So why, after a bit of sorcery from the Red Woman to embolden them, did they make a frontal assault, which though visually stunning was utterly stupid.
The Dothraki are a fan favourite and their brutally speedy demise was both tragic and meaningless as well as being morale-sapping for those in front of Winterfell awaiting their fate and a boon for the Night King, who swelled his ranks with several thousand freshly dead warriors.
As opening gambits go, it was a disaster. But after a touch of cajoling from Bran, it succeeded in bringing out the Night King and set him on a path for his intimate little embrace with young Arya.
It was a characteristic GoT plot reverse; getting viewers to climb the stairs and then collapsing them beneath them. Brilliant, brutal and shockingly unexpected – but absolutely necessary to the wider machinations of a series, which with only two more episodes to construct its endgame, needed to bring back into focus that the true tyrants – as always in Game of Thrones – are not the dead but the living.
In short, this was a blinding episode; an 82-minute nerve shredder that saw siblings Sansa, Arya and crazy Bran, joined by Jon the Bastard and emasculated-hostage-sibling-betrayer-sibling again Theon, fortifying themselves for the impending onslaught of the army of the dead. Yes, we lost some popular characters along the way but the underlying distrust between Sansa Stark and Daenerys was maintained, Jon Snow’s revelation that he is the last male heir to the Targaryan throne has put a black mark against his name and after the dawn breaks on a body strewn Winterfell, there is a small matter in the south of a psychobitch Queen with a fully intact army intent on wiping out the remainder of those who oppose her right to sit atop the Iron Throne.
Roll on Monday, when we can do it all again.