Summary: Melisandre arrives and lights the Dothraki arakhs on fire. The Dothraki charge the wights but all of them die. The White Walkers attack and the battle starts. A blizzard arrives. Dany and Jon go out to fight on dragons. Edd is killed. Eventually the main forces retreat into Winterfell and light the trench on fire. The wights still pass through by piling their bodies over the fire and the battle starts in Winterfell. Many people die, including all of the Unsullied and Lyanna. The Night King arrives and battles Jon in a dragon fight. Jon falls off Rhaegal and Dany knocks the Night King off Viserion. Dany breathes fire on the Night King but it doesn't work. The Night King revives all of the dead. The dead Starks in the crypts come to life and start massacring everyone. Arya escapes from wights in Winterfell and is saved by Beric and The Hound. Beric dies. Dany saves Jon outside Winterfell and Jon goes into the castle. Dany is separated from Drogon and is saved by Jorah. During the fight, Jorah takes serious injuries and eventually dies. Wights start attacking Bran but Theon and his men kill them. The Night King arrives and Theon dies fighting him. The Night King advances to kill Bran but Arya comes out of nowhere and kills him. The wights are defeated. Melisandre goes outside and takes off her necklace. She dies.
The Good: This was probably the single most dazzling piece of television I have ever seen. The camera work was lovely, featuring some creative cinematography, the effects looked absolutely fantastic, and the lighting and direction were perfectly done. And I can't forget about the outstanding music. Everything came together to make a stylistically perfect episode of television which was somehow way better than some of the other beautiful episodes of this show. There was almost always something visually impressive to enjoy in every scene. I've heard a lot of complaints about the episode being too dark, but I never had an issue with it. I was able to see everything just fine, so I'm not sure what caused this issue.
The episode built up tension remarkably well. I was on edge for practically the entire time throughout the episode. The threat of the White Walkers feels so real, and the episode smartly used this threat in a genuinely frightening way, making me fear for the lives of the characters. The build-up to the battle itself was so atmospheric. The brief opening sequence of the characters silently prepping for battle was really well done and had me sick with tension.
The battle itself was damn impressive. It started off perfectly with the execution of the Dothraki. While there were some logistic problems with this (see: The Bad), it started the battle on a perfect note. Seeing all of the fires going out was pretty scary and opened up the battle in a foreboding way. Then the action came forth and it was fittingly messy and chaotic, pitting all of the character in a shockingly intense and fast-paced battle. It was consistent with the way the wights fought back in Hardhome which I certainly appreciated.
It would be a monumental task to pace a battle across 80 minutes but somehow this episode successfully did it. In such a fast-paced battle, it would be easy for everything to become monotonous and dull. The episode prevented that by providing some much-appreciated breaks in between the action and some really nice character moments. Tyrion and Sansa had a couple of nice scenes down in the crypts to break away from the action. I really liked the survival horror sequence of Arya trying to stay hidden from the wights since it was completely different from anything else in the episode and it was directed really nicely. It managed to derive fear without the use of jumpscares which makes it immediately better than most horror movies being created nowadays.
The scenes with Melisandre were really strong too. I thought that her character was used well and there were a number of lovely scenes of her finally reaching her full potential and regaining confidence in her abilities. I especially liked her lighting the wood on fire in the blizzard. The scene was wonderfully tense as well because I thought she may die performing this feat. Her actual death was fitting for her character even if it was slightly confusing (see: The Unknown).
The deaths were all pretty impactful and I enjoyed all of them. Edd suddenly dying was a perfect first death for the episode as it gave us the full realization that people are going to die a lot in the next hour. This first death had no emotion or grandeur to it; it just happened, and that fits in perfectly with what a battle death would be like. Lyanna's death was a little more impactful as she went out killing the giant wight. It was a brutal and heroic death. Beric's death was great too as he got to die as an honourable hero, giving his life to ensure that Arya escapes alive, also fulfilling the purpose that he had been kept alive for.
The other two deaths were much more emotional and were probably the best moments of the episode. Theon's death was perfect for his character. I really liked Bran forgiving him and acknowledging that he is a good man even after everything he did. It was a cathartic moment for Theon and a perfect swan song for him as he charges forwards to his death, having finally atoned for his many sins. It was a beautiful moment. Jorah's death was even more emotional since his relationship with Dany has developed since the very first episode of the show. After 7 seasons, I care a lot about them and their relationship. Jorah dying for Dany was always going to happen but that didn't make it any less sad. Dany's tears over his dying body was really sad and delivered a fittingly emotional conclusion to their story.
The ending montage was one of the coolest moments of the episode. After so many battles, this show has mastered the ability to show desperation and fear in the battlefield. This expertise was showcased in the montage which elegantly built up the feeling of total despair. Plus we got another epic musical piece to accompany it which I really loved.
The Bad: Even though I loved so much of this episode, I'm left conflicted because there was a lot I didn't like as well, especially in the final parts of the episode. But I'll address my other problems first because there is a lot to cover.
Melisandre's sudden return didn't feel earned to me. Where has she been? What did she accomplish? Not learning any of this was pretty disappointing. It also left me confused as to how she was able to master her powers offscreen. I would have liked to learn more about how she practices her powers and exactly how they work. Instead, it has all been glossed over, likely due to the rushed nature of the last two seasons.
I thought that the logistics of the battle didn't make very much sense. We weren't told much about the strategy in the last few episodes which is a bit disappointing, but it wouldn't have mattered much if the strategy made sense. Unfortunately, it didn't. The Dothraki and Unsullied were sacrificed for some reasons, which was really nonsensical. Surely they are well aware that every dead body means another extra foe to deal with, so surely lives should be valued much more than this. Both massacres were cool moments, but they make no sense logically.
The battle tactics disappointed me as well. The Dothraki charge was a ridiculous strategy in every way. Who thought that it would be smart to send all of your cavalry at the enemy head-on when the enemy has 100 times more men? That's a terrible strategy. The flaming trenches ended up being pointless because for whatever reason there were no men stationed behind the fire. Had there been people out there, the body piling trick wouldn't have been so effective. Why were there no men at the crypts to protect the helpless in case wights find their way down there? It's not like the place was guarded at all. Lastly, why on earth would they go through the trouble of using valuable resources to build trebuchets only to station them in front of the infantry line?! That's such a painful waste of a valuable asset.
I was also very confused by Dany and Jon riding their dragons to hunt down the Night King. Would they not be more useful killing large numbers of wights outside of Winterfell? Dragons are their biggest asset, yet they were hardly used against the wights. Furthermore, the idea of them to hunt down the Night King contradicted their plan for Bran. I had thought Bran was being used to lure out the Night King. So why didn't Dany and Jon just wait for the Night King to arrive? It makes no sense, even from a writing standpoint. We could have still gotten to the cool dragon fight had the two of them simply waited for the Night King.
Speaking of which, I did have a bit of an issue with the dragon fight too. It was really cool to see and used some astounding effects, but I had trouble following exactly what was happening. The many cuts and the similar colours of the dragons made it a little difficult to understand who was who. It's a small nitpick though since I did understand the scene enough to enjoy it.
The crypt massacre was a questionable inclusion. There weren't enough scenes there to make the sequence noteworthy. Nobody of note died and outside of one great scene between Sansa and Tyrion, there didn't seem to be anything of significance from that storyline.
My biggest issues with the episode are still to come though. First and foremost, I was disturbed by the severe lack of consequences in this episode. Characters would make mistakes yet they were still able to survive because the plot demands it. It was tough enough to buy that so many characters like Sam, Gendry, Brienne and Jaime survived for so long battling the wights. Yet the show took it a step further and made both Jon and Dany somehow survive certain death. Both of them went all in to kill the Night King and failed. The fact that they failed should have meant extreme consequences for both of them yet they somehow got lucky. Drogon should have died after the dragonfire didn't work since he was a completely stationary target right in front of the Night King. Jon should have died when he charged the Night Kign and got surrounded by the wights. There is no conceivable way that both of them could have gotten out of the situation, but plot armour was activated to save them. And don't get me started on how dumb it is that Dany was able to burn all the wights and somehow not kill Jon.
The biggest problem I have with the episode is the conclusion. The White Walkers were actually defeated here. That was the biggest surprise for me, since I had expected the White Walkers to win this battle and be a part of whatever happens at King's Landing with Cersei. But instead they died. In one episode. It's taken me a while to gather my thoughts about how I feel about this, and the more time I spend thinking, the worse it gets. We were first introduced to White Walkers in the very first scene of the show. These villains were the endgame since the beginning and they were always the part of the story that mattered, not the eternal squabble over who gets the Iron Throne. To be told here that the White Walkers were just a diversion and Cersei is the main villain is nothing short of disappointing. After 7 seasons of build, this great threat is defeated and the main conflict is human vs human after all. It's a step down and I'm unsure about how invested I will be in this final conflict now. Our protagonists survived the Great War, so why should we fear for their lives against Cersei? I think the writers have chosen the wrong final villain.
Furthermore, the decision to kill off the White Walkers so easily is completely against the theme of the show. Even though the show is called "Game of Thrones", the books are called "A Song of Ice and Fire". The point of this show is that the politicking for the Iron Throne is unimportant and that if everyone doesn't band together, they will be demolished by the real threat which nobody is paying attention to. The Iron Throne stuff is all superficial and doesn't really matter. The show has completely failed to acknowledge this theme by centering the final conflict around Cersei and the Iron Throne. Additionally, I have another point which ties in to the lack of consequences I was mentioning earlier. The show seems to be suggesting that Cersei's decision to ignore the dead was actually correct since everything went exactly as she was hoping for. She comes off as smart for what she has done, and faces no consequences for refusing to join up with Dany and Jon. That's just bad storytelling and it fails to stick with the spirit of "Game of Thrones".
The Night King himself fell into every villain cliche ever. He becomes suddenly incapable when the plot demands it when fighting Jon and Dany and he is nothing special. Furthermore, he makes the classic blunder of going to kill Bran personally and taking so long to actually kill him, giving the heroes a chance to kill him (also how the hell did Arya sneak up on the Night King, didn't he have like 3 other White Walkers with him that Arya would need to get past as well). Also, the Night King failed as an actual character. In the end there was no extra motive for the White Walkers, they were literally just a bunch of killing machines with none of the hidden depth that had been suggested. With this being the case, the Night King just feels like a convenient way for the writers to kill of the White Walkers easily. If that is the case, then the Night King is literally the sole weakness of the White Walkers, and that makes him stupid for exposing himself so needlessly.
The Unknown: What did Bran do when he warged into the ravens?
Why did Melisandre die? How did she just kill herself like that? We have seen her take off her necklace before and live.
Did Ghost die as well? I don't think we saw him again after he charged with the Dothraki. I hope not because he deserves a much better death than this.
Also, did Rhaegal die? I don't think so since there was no reaction and I think he got back up, but I'm not sure.
Best Moment: There were so many spectacular scenes but I'll go with Dany crying over Jorah's dead body.
Character of the Episode: Arya. It was a pleasant surprise to have her kill the Night King.
Conclusion: I have no idea what to make of this episode. On one hand, I loved it. This was the most beautiful episode ever made and it served as a fantastic climax for the White Walkers in terms of providing an exciting and memorable finish. Yet on the other hand, it was flawed and there could have (and should have) been so much more to the White Walkers than what we got. It's so hard to gauge this episode because of my conflicting emotions. After a few rewatches, I eventually settled on a 68. There were too many flaws to give this a well-earned 70. I can see this being possibly the most polarizing episode of the show.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.