Hot off one of the best episodes in the show’s history, “Game of Thrones” returns with one of its bloodiest installments. It is time for the Battle of Winterfell, and the stakes have never been higher.
- We check in with our characters as they make their way to the battlefront. They peer into the darkness, ready to do battle with the Army of the Dead. Surprisingly, Melisandre appears from the shadows. She enchants the swords of the Dothraki so they catch flame, making them an ideal weapon to fight the dead.
- The Dothraki ride into battle with Jorah and Ghost leading the way. The flames are extinguished one at a time, and the screams in the distance fade away. The darkness returns as horses, Dothraki, and Jorah return in limited numbers and screams of wights fill the air.
- Many are slain as the horde descends upon them. Brienne falls in battle, but Jaime saves her from the creatures.
- Jon and Daenerys clear the wights with dragon flames, but the Night King brings in a blizzard, nearly eliminating visibility.
- Arya sends Sansa to the crypts with a dagger and the same advice she once received from Jon, “Stick them with the pointy end.”
- Edd, Lord Commander of the Knight’s Watch, dies on the battlefield after saving Sam.
- Daenerys and Jon struggle in the storm while the army of the living retreats behind the walls of Winterfell. Grey Worm and the Unsullied protect the retreat but many die holding their ground.
- Grey Worm collapses the bridge, but the fires set to hold the line will not ignite due to the cold. Melisandre sets the wood ablaze using fire from the Lord of Light. The fire encircles Winterfell and creates a temporary shield for the soldiers to retreat behind.
- Tyrion, Sansa, and Varys discuss the ongoing battle, their relationships, and Daenerys.
- Bran, under protection of Theon and a group of soldiers at the Weirwood tree, wargs into a murder of Ravens. He observes the Night King sacrifice his soldiers to lay down on top of the fires. They cross over the bodies of their fallen and begin to storm the castle.
- Jon catches a glimpse of the Night King and his dragon, taking off after him.
- Fighters hold the walls and some get standout moments. Arya, in particular, continues to prove herself a fearsome warrior, and back to back sequences between Brienne and Jaime show their determination.
- The Hound takes cover but runs after Arya to try to protect her.
- Lyanna Mormont dies while killing a giant wight.
- In the sky above, Daenerys and Jon do battle against the Night King.
- Arya escapes into the library but is surrounded by walkers and wights. The sound of her blood trickling on the floor alerts some to her presence. However, the wights have overrun the citadel, and she runs down from the creatures. She is saved by Beric and the Hound, but Beric is slain in the effort. He dies for the last time, having accomplished his task. Arya runs out into the night.
- The Night King and Jon do battle in the sky, leading to the deaths of both Viserion and, it seems, Rhaegal. The Night King falls from his dragon and Daenerys, with Drogon uses Dragon fire against him. The fire does not work.
- Jon charges the Night King who raises the fallen soldiers and conscripts them to his service. In the process, the dead also rise from the crypts and begin to slaughter women and children.
- Daenerys lands to save Jon, but Drogon is overrun. Daenerys falls off her dragon but is rescued by Jorah. They fight back to back in the scrum.
- Theon fights off the wights as they surround him and Bran and wait for their commander.
- Jaime, Brienne, Sam, Tormund, Davos, and Grey Worm get overrun in the court of Winterfell.
- Jon tries to battle his way to Bran while Theon charges the Night King. The Night King slays Theon.
- Jorah continues to take knives and swords to the gut while they each fight.
- Tyrion and Sansa hold hands and prepare to go down fighting the dead.
- ARYA SLAYS THE NIGHT KING. The Army of the Dead falls. The soldiers and warriors remain standing, stunned at what just happened
- Jorah passes as Daenerys holds him. Drogon lands and wraps his body around the two.
- Melisandre walks out of Winterfell, removing her necklace, and collapses into ash as Davos watches.
- Jorah Mormont
- Theon Greyjoy
- Eddison Tollett
- Lyanna Mormont
- Ser Beric
- Thousands of Dothraki
- Thousands of Northerners and Unsullied
- The Night King
- The Army of the Dead
- Melisandre, the Fire Priestess
Miguel Sapochnik directed the hell out of this episode. It might be undeniable that it’s the very best battle in terms of spectacle. There are times when fans lose track of the action due to the high levels of wind and snow, but the mood properly delivers the stakes. The scope of the battle was massive. There was tension bearing down on audiences throughout the episode, and it was some of the best we’ve ever seen on television.
On the flip side, the darkness was distracting. It was good at some moments, but many others it was easy to get lost. I don’t dislike the overall visual language of the show until the end. It’s tough to criticize the literal use of light, especially when the episode utilizes a roving camera to give us an understanding of where the characters literally stood in each moment of the battle. While Sapochnik delivered a finished product that could become known as one of the seminal moments in television history, it’s not without its flaws at times.
The score was quite powerful. Composer Ramin Djawadi turned in some of his best work during this installment. The music composition easily stands out among the best craft work. However, we can’t ignore the impeccable sound design, the beautiful cinematography (Fabian Wagner) and excellent makeup effects. The team really brought their A-game, and this may be one of the big winners on Emmy night.
The performances from the whole cast were excellent. Maisie Williams may win an Emmy based on this episode and with good reason. The physicality she displays in her role, as well as the emotion and horror, makes it one of the most well-rounded performances chronicled in television. She has the death blow that lit the world on fire, but even before that moment, she owned this.
It’s also important to give our due to some of the great performers who will be gone from the series. Iain Glenn, who plays Jorah Mormont, gave a great performance. Of the characters to fall, he is the only one that has been with us since the series premiere. His character went out the way we knew he would, but the look in Glenn’s eyes really sold his devotion to Dany, even in his final moments.
Sadly that’s not all House Mormont lost. We lost our true Queen, Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey), who went out killing a giant in the process. It was an excellent death, likely the best. Still, it was tough to watch her go. It will remain, however, one of the great moments in the final season.
Predictions for the Show Moving Forward
Can we get back to politics, please? The fight for the Throne of Westeros will be decided in the final four and a half hours. The North and Daenerys are crippled. Few soldiers will want to head South and try to sack King’s Landing after what they just endured. The great minds of Westeros survived, but what will they think is the next step?
Perhaps most important of all was the foreshadowing of a split within the ranks of those who would oppose Cersei. Sure, Daenerys has a single dragon, possibly two, but she does not have the numbers anymore. Grey Worm is somehow still alive, but can he lead an army of remaining Dothraki and Unsullied South without Jon’s help? Daenerys and Jon may spend most of the next episode fighting among themselves.
Cersei clearly gets ready to do battle with the forces in the North, with Lena Headey making her return. After being gone for a few weeks, it will be exciting to see her again. Can Daenerys raise an Army to defeat her? Or has Cersei outmaneuvered them? Get ready for what could be a very emotional throat clear before we head into the final battles.
This should be the Emmy submission for most of the craft team (definitely Sapochnik as a director, the editing team, the sound teams, visual effects, and makeup are almost all walking into the night with wins on their hands). Williams likely uses this as her Emmy nomination reel, and if this is not her Emmy episode, that means she’s likely going to win. There were other great performances, but none that will break into the Emmys tonight. Expect more emotion in the final few episodes.