The Battle for Winterfell was a Polished Turd

Hi everyone. Allow me to share with you my favorite scene in this third episode of the final season:


This is going to be a very hasty, reactionary post. It was an incredibly dark episode that I watched at a bar viewing party, and I spent most of it having zero idea what was going on. Maybe some of my opinions will change on a second, more illuminated viewing, but for now. Here we go.


What I Liked

  • Cinematically? 10/10. No argument there. An incredible production, and one of the most impressive battles ever filmed for television
  • That first scene with the Dothraki going glorious into battle with their torches and just being utterly extinguished lol. Chilling. (GG on killing all your brown people right away, tho. Did you throw your gays on those horses too?)
  • Pacing and tension A+. I have never been so emotionally invested in an episode of television in my life.
  • Dragon fights. Those are always cool.
  • That Arya saved her brother with the dagger that was meant to kill him in season one was pretty poetic.

What I Hated

I enjoyed most of the episode, but I have some major problems with the ending that are near total enthusiasm killers, right up there at The Last Jedi level damage. In exactly the same way, the ending seemed like a bit of sUbVeRtInG expectations for the sake of it, but offering nothing satisfying as an alternative.

Fans have been complaining for years that the show has relied too hard on fan-service since they ran out of book material. I’ve been okay with it up until this point, but I can’t play apologetics any more. If there was ever an example of Disney/Marvel-esque, totally safe and shallow storytelling in Game of Thrones, this was it.

Let’s start with petty nitpicks

  • Wights suddenly stopped being crazy flammable? The lightest spark set them bursting into flames in every episode before this, as recently as S08E01. Now they’re flame retardant, I guess.
  • They need to decide what dragonglass does to wights already. Are they gonna shatter? Crumble to dust? Just fall over? All of the above occurred here with no rhyme or reason.
  • Look, I like Lyanna Mormont too, but this was fan service both 100% predictable and far beyond what any character deserves. Compare her final scenes to any death in the first four seasons of the show. It’s embarrassing how far we’ve fallen from an unpredictable political drama to blatant crowd pleasing.
  • Remember when a single wight nearly killed main characters early in the show? Remember when a knife wound to the leg lead to Ned Stark walking around with a cane, or falling from high places crippled Bran? I suppose the real mystery I’d like answered is what magical power conjured up plot armor and turned everybody into unkillable superheroes.

Okay, but really, the important stuff

From the school of Disney: When lacking a substantial story to tell, pander to the masses with the flashy. This episode was great big beautiful pandering.

Forgotten Promises

That’s it?? An entire house who won’t stop saying “Winter is Coming”, the Wall, eight seasons of plot from the Night’s Watch warning about a winter lasting a generation, and it ends in a single episode with Arya teleporting out of nowhere and making with the stabby? I mean, I totally cheered, but then my senses returned to me and I realized we’d been robbed.

  • What happened to spiders as big as hounds, snow burying cities, children who are born and die in the dark? I guess it got… kind of windy for a night?
  • A one liner by Bran that the Night King “wants to erase the memory of humanity” is the entire explanation we get for what the white walkers want, where they came from, if they have a society or culture? That’s, uh… a little flimsy.
  • A whole series setting up all the houses to have Valyrian steel swords to kill white walkers, working those houses together to fight the them and… nobody fights an actual White Walker, even once.
  • Multiple spooky crypt visions that lead up to… a heartfelt chat between Sansa and Tyrion.
  • Azor Ahai? All of Melisandre’s meaningful stares across the yard at Jon, and he did what exactly?
  • Multiple people died for Bran, so that he could reach the Three Eyed Raven, and go under training so that he’s ready… to do what? Hop into some birds and hand his sister a dagger? RIP Hodor and Jojen
pour it out tyrion lannister GIF by Game of Thrones
The foreshadowing we all missed
More foreshadowing we missed

/ptsd flashbacks of Luke Skywalker telling me everything is stupid.

This is exactly what I hated about The Last Jedi – one of the first rules in storytelling is that if you set up a promise you must fulfill that promise. It seems to be the hip new thing to skip hard to fulfill storytelling promises in favor of sassy young girls stabbing things and call it subversion. Literally anyone can write, “And then Arya jumped up and stabbed the mf’er!” It’s lazy writing.

To be clear, Arya being the one to kill the Night King isn’t the problem. It’s that a plot that should have been devoted a full season was ended in a single episode, promises and set-up be damned, with manufactured payoffs that none of the characters earned. Did Arya even see the Night King before she kamikaze’d over his head?

game of thrones wine GIF

Now we’re going to deal with Cersei for three episodes? Haven’t we dealt with her enough? She’s batty, but mostly just reckless and self-sabotaging. Not really a mastermind worthy of the End Game Big Bad.

I suddenly understand why everyone hated the LOST ending, because it just happened again.

For me, the entire point of the story has always been:

Petty rich nobles waste their time squabbling over a chair, ignoring the real threat to the north ALLEGORY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE until it’s too late.

The fact that the squabbling nobles, namely Cersei, never once felt even the slightest danger from this threat is a huge letdown. This was a story about how the people in power were happy to be oblivious to real life and death situations that effect everyone the same, and we’re now on a path to an ending to encourage them to continue on as usual.

It’s clearly written for the masses now, and I’m sure people who think Marvel movies are steak-and-potatoes entertainment will eat it right up. I think it’s just plain bad writing. For such an expensive episode, it felt cheap.

There’s still three episodes to go. Maybe this isn’t the end of the walker threat, and they’ll still provide some satisfying answers. Maybe I’ll change my mind when I watch it again and I can actually fucking see anything.

Or, maybe, we really will deal with Cersei for two episodes and have a grand finale going over Daenerys’s tax policy. We’ll see.

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