I’m going to be honest here. I don’t think I’m emotionally equipped to sit down and write objectively or rationally about this. I’ve watched a lot of TV in my life. I’ve seen pretty much every show that you’re supposed to watch and I’ve seen some mind-blowingly brilliant, emotional, exciting, compelling and visceral things. But I don’t think I’ve ever considered pausing something to check my pulse before. There was a point in tonight’s Game Of Thrones where I wondered if I might be on the verge of a heart attack.
The problem facing director Miguel Sapochnik and creators/writers David Benioff and D.B Weiss is that they’ve done almost everything they can do in terms of warfare. We’ve had nautical battles at Blackwater and Euron’s assault on Yara’s fleet. We’ve had the snowbound massacre at Hardhome. We’ve had the brutal physicality of the Battle of the Bastards. How do you top all that?
There’s no one tactic at play here, but much like the battle itself, many elements working in tandem, each playing its part and then giving way to the others. The tension of the opening scenes is so perfectly judged, it places the viewer on the frontline, peering into the darkness waiting to see what horror it holds. The first wave is daring in its rejection of expectations. The Dothraki ride full pelt towards the unseen enemy and… silence. The cut to Daenerys and Jon on the hilltop is utterly brilliant, the wave of flames suddenly crashing against an immovable wall. The flames gradually extinguish and suddenly we’re faced with the unthinkable: Jorah and the Dothraki in retreat. What the hell is out there?
The Battle of the Bastards began with a charge and a sickening thud as bodies collided. This time, there’s no thud, just wave after wave of Wights pouring onto and over the living, destroying them with terrifying ease. Sapochnik ensures the camera never stays still for long, conveying the utter chaos as each carefully laid plan fails catastrophically. The sense of insurmountable odds just adds to the terror.
When the adrenaline pauses, the tension ramps up again. Arya’s balletic evasion of the Wights in the library is pulled straight from the zombie movie playbook and executed to utter perfection, Maisie Williams displaying just how comfortable she’s become with the physicality of her role. She’s the star of the show here, and not just for the obvious reasons. Her quip to Sansa (“Just stick them with the pointy end”) is perfectly placed and delivered and her Darth Maul moves through scrums of Wights are almost poetic.
But tension and adrenaline aside, there’s the fallout to consider. The House of Mormont is no more. Just when it looked like the show was going to lose its nerve and only kill off Beric, we got the deaths of two fan favourites: Jorah and Lyana. But Game Of Thrones knows its fans and if you’re going to go out, do so stabbing a giant Wight in the eye or defending the unrequited love of your life to the death. Still, it’s going to take me a long time to get over Jorah.
So what now? The Night’s King is defeated – in a way that made me whoop with delirious excitement, too. Now Cersei awaits in Kings Landing with her pirate lover and golden mercenaries. Is there one more big battle to come? After this one, I’m not sure my heart can take any more but I’m willing to take my chances.
- Kudos to everyone who pointed out that hiding from the dead in a crypt wasn’t the greatest plan. No headless zombie Ned Stark though, for shame.
- The oft-repeated theory that Daenerys was going to turn bad and become the Night’s Queen turned out to be wide of the mark. This was probably Emilia Clarke’s best performance on the show, but what does it all mean now for Dany, Jon and Sansa?
- On that note, there were two lovely moments between Sansa and Tyrion. One theory that I’m especially fond of is that Tyrion is actually a Targaryan. If that’s true then I wouldn’t object to him and Sansa ruling together while Jon and Dany head off to live in peace by that waterfall.
- I was sure that Tormund, Greyworm and Brienne were done for this week. Sam looked on the way out too, but it seems they’ve all pulled through to fight another day.
- RIP: The Night’s King, Theon, Edd, Beric, Lyana, Jorah and Melisandre. Plus about a million extras.
- Cleganebowl is still on! Roll on episode four.