• Aled L Griffiths

Review - Game of Thrones Episode 3

".. Hearing the Dothraki's echoed screams morph from fearless battle cries to cries of horror almost brought me back to watching Stanley Kubrick's The Shining for the first time, " ** SPOILERS AHEAD ! **

So.. caught your breath? Heart rate resumed back to a (some-what) average rate? WHAT an episode, It was a tense, heart breaking, emotional, fist-pumping into the air screaming "OH MY GOD!!" waking your downstairs neighbours up at 4am kind of episode. I'm still reeling from the it but none the less, lets begin to break down this episode. An episode boasting the biggest fight sequence in film and television history, an episode that took 55 nights to shoot and an episode that'll probably take me 55 nights to get over. ______ Director Miguel Sapochnik, who already boasts previous episodes under his belt such as "Hardhome" and "The Battle Of The Bastards" was again in the directors chair and boy does he and his team deliver.. again. I've seen a lot of people talking online about which battle sequences over the span of the series have been their favourite and I've got to say, most seem pretty split, with a third choosing "Hardhome", the next third favouring "BOTB" and the rest edging the newest instalment as king and I think know why. ______ When discussing the approach to "The Long Night" Sapochnik talks about breaking down the episode in three parts, he says the first act is suspense, the second act is a straight up horror and the final act focuses on action. I believe this is the reason audiences seem divided with this weeks episode though I would rank it at the top of the pecking order and the following details why that is. "Hardhome" is Thrones' real introduction to what we would come to know as the Night king and it's also the most terrifying episode as we're also introduced to the Night King's ability to raise the dead, introducing Sapochnik's tone for the lengthiest act of his latest episode, horror.. see what I'm getting at? Moving onto "TheBattle Of The Bastards", Sapochnik's action packed "The Battle Of The Bastards" is a gripping, action packed episode that puts us the audience right in the middle of the muddy affair. It's probably the episode that best utilises elements such tight camera angles and long sequences so effectively. It's certainly recognised as a fan favourite, for many reasons and one of those reason's is the insane action sequences. Action scenes are arguably "BOTB"'s best assets, I believe this helped Sapochnik shape his final act during "The Long Night" which brings us to the conclusion of my point. Miguel Sapochnik used his previous episodes and the overall tone for those episodes to shape what could be the series' biggest battle sequence. He culminated his entire Game Of Thrones slate to shape the perfect episode using the action sequences from "The Battle Of The Bastards", taking what best worked in "Hardhome" in terms of how it showcased the episode's "horror"-like tone which now ultimately brings us to the first act of this week's episode, suspense. Suspense is certainly something often used during the runtime of a typical episode of Game of Thrones but it's never been used in the way that it did during the opening 10-20 minutes of this weeks episode. Seeing the burning Dothraki's swords slowly burn out in the distance as Ramin Djawadi's haunting score fades from loud heroism to silent doom was utterly spine-tingling. Hearing the Dothraki's echoed screams morph from fearless battle cries to cries of horror almost brought me back to watching Stanley Kubrick's The Shining for the first time, sonically mirroring the horror classic in a terrifyingly dred-inducing way. The army of the dead's presence is felt throughout the entire episode though we fly through most of the suspense riddled first act without seeing them which is indeed the best way to overdose your audience with suspense and boy oh boy did we feel it. ______ Where do we even begin to break this episode down? How about we just go for it? Let's just talk about *that* moment shall we? Arya fucking Stark. Our girl did it! Not Dany, not Jon. Arya! It had to be, right? Before season 8 premiered, i'd seen online that the series is littered with clues as to how the show will wrap up and to say Game Of Thrones is a show that masterfully executes it's narrative, feeding it's audience excellent plot points using foreshadowing, would indeed do the series a disservice. Arya has spent the entire 8 season's training, training to be accepted amongst her peers, her family and those she looks up to. Training to survive the extermination of almost her entire family, training to become a better fighter, training to stay alive, training to avenge her families murder and training to save the world. It's argued that she has become the best fighter, the best killer, the stealthiest assassin but she has most certainly claimed the title of Westeros' baddest bitch. I think it's fair to say she's achieved "Batman status" what do I mean by "Batman status"? .. well, what that means is that in an argument concerning Batman, it's known that the phrase "Because he's Batman" is generally one that wins anything. I believe you can now officially add Arya Stark's name to that VIP list. Having seen a lot of disgruntled fans question why it wasn't Jon Snow who defeated the Night King and in fairness, I see your point but I ask you, Why not Arya? Other than the accolades mentioned above, if you watch even the first episode of the entire series, the evidence is there for you. Sure, Jon has the most run-in's with the Night King and has done nothing but bang-on about his imminent arrival and destruction but did you not feel such a wave of euphoria when seeing Arya Stark's face emerge from the shadows behind the night king moments before she plunged her Valerian Steel blade into his abdomen?! It had to be Arya, it just had to be. ______ Jon Snow is the series' hero, he's the handsome, smouldering protagonist we love who will get his moment in the next three episodes I'm sure of it, but so far, not really done much has he? I've seen a fan-theory emerge online, talking about the moment Jon stands up to the now evil dead boi, Viserion (grrrrr!) as (we thought) he'd accepted his fate. Jon begins to scream at the dragon in frustration after failing to get beyond the beast and entering the godswoods to save Bran. Now, now.. NOW. Fans think they've spotted a potential Jon + Arya team up. Having watched the clip back a few dozen times I'm going to call BS on this theory but seeing as your titular narrator here (Me) is such a good friend i'll let you know anyway. So fan's think moments before Jon stands up to the dragon, he notices something in the distance before the scene cuts back to the night king. Fans believe he may have spotted Arya running through the Winterfell courtyard running b-line for the Night King, Valerian blade in hand. The theory goes on to say that Jon isn't so much screaming at the dragon, having given up on the fight for the living, but more so screaming at the dead dragon in an attempt to distract it from seeing Arya enter the Godswoods, cool theory but I'm not too sure. I feel it distracts from Arya's heroism. I don't think she needed Jon Snow's help, she did it on her own because she is ALSO the series' hero. ______ This is already a long ass review and I feel I've covered maybe 2 or 3 points. So, in an effort to keep your interest I'll fly through the rest. So.. the deaths. No major deaths for me, the biggest being lil Lady Lyanna Mormont, what a girl. Her death totally symbolises her as a character and definitely has a shade of foreshadowing for what was yet to come at the end of the episode. Her character throughout her time on our screens was dominated by her telling big scary men what to do. She's the first to pledge allegiance to Jon Snow during his coronation as King of the North so it was only fitting for her time in Westeros to come to an end in killing a fucking giant after being crushed by its bare (pun intended) hands. The red lady's screen time during the episode was also a highlight of mine, key moments in all three acts starting with her setting the Dothraki's blades a blaze (a favourite moment of mine for sure), the second acts best moment was her motivational speech to Arya "what do we say to the god of death?" NOT TODAY BITCH!! and finally, her death. A truly fitting moment witnessed by Davos as we see her fade away to deaths arms in the winds before the sun rises over a ruined Winterfell. Theon's completed arc, Theon Greyjoy is a character whose arc is truly one of the shows best. We grew to like him, to hate him, to feel for him, to root for him, to then love him. "Theon, you're a good man, thank you" it's all he's wanted to hear for SEASONS. He's just wanted to be accepted and to be atoned for his mistakes, a flawed character who every time he's on screen you just want to weep in seeing his broken spirit and wish for him to just be ok. He did his duties in protecting Bran and will be remembered as one who did indeed redeem himself. Jorah, ugh, his death was written in the stars wasn't it. He was always going to die protecting his beloved Khaleesi and to her credit, she picked up that damn sword and was absolutely no damsel in distress, she did her part but my god, how heartbreaking. I loved that Jorah waited until the whites were defeated before he fell, after all house Mormont's words are "Here we stand" and indeed those words were never truer than with Jorah Mormont's death. Daenerys' cries really was the final nail in the coffin for this truly gut wrenching moment where we said goodbye to a series legend. May all the fallen heroes rest in piece. ______ Finally, Ramin Djawadi's score. I cannot end this review without mentioning the brilliance of how the music genuinely elevates this entire series to levels of brilliance rarely seen on television. The score genuinely turns this drama into moments that send shivers down your spine, breaks your heart and makes your scream in ways you didn't know was possible. This episode in particular was gorgeous. The first act when the Dothraki's charge was probably a personal highlight but we cannot mention the track titled "The Night King". I mean, wow. I've listened to it numerous times since the episode aired and it's honestly one of the best pieces of music ever aired on television. The sequence itself was a first for the series in that they'd never really tried anything like that before, the slow motion, the tension, the build, nothing like this since Cersei blow up the Sept of Baelor but this was that, times six. ______ To conclude, was this the best episode of Game Of Thrones? One could argue yes, was this week's episode too dark? absolutely not. The director of photography is right in pursuing his overall vision in achieving a realistic gritty look for an episode titled "the long NIGHT!" and after watching a lot of behind the scenes content on this episode in particular, it's clear a lot of work went into lighting this episode, so just adjust your settings and all is well in the world again, no dramas. There's very little to dislike here, especially when you exclude the idea of being upset that a plot line didn't go the way you thought or wanted it to go in, take your The Last Jedi ass outta here. Bravo to all involved, three episodes done out of six, we've reached half time and who knows what will have happened once we've reached full time. ______ Verdict - ★★★★★ (it's not really a 4* but not really a 5* either but more of a 5 than a 4 so it's a 5)