The Battle of Winterfell has come and gone, and taken some characters and plot elements down with it. I’m trying to keep this intro as bland and spoiler-free as possible, so, this should go without saying: stop reading if you have not watched the episode yet. I personally was in a different time zone when it aired and couldn’t go on Twitter at all and it was torture so I UNDERSTAND.
This was a Battle Episode, so first, let’s mourn our Confirmed Dead: Dolorous Edd, Lyanna Mormont, Beric Dondarrion, Theon Greyjoy, Jorah Mormont, and Melisandre. We can include Viserion, but the Night King can suck a butt, because his built-in crown was very tacky and very clearly purchased at Claire’s during one of their closure sales.
Pluses, or, Whoa
-The opening of this episode is so tense that my b-hole just closed up and was like, “I’m gonna get out of here for the next 90 minutes. Make good choices, kid.” 1,000 points for drama.
-Melisandre is as slow moving as a stubborn glacier as well as cryptic and often annoying, but her little Dothraki sword-blaze flex was pretty cool, so, plus 300 points.
-Ugh wow god no ugh that sequence where the Dothraki charge into battle only to have their flaming weapons extinguished from afar is terrifying, gorgeous, and ugh no ugh NO THANK YOU. Plus 200 points for good television, objectively.
-To that point, this episode has some incredible sequences and shots overall, from the Dothraki purge to Arya’s Winterfell wanderings to Melisandre’s nearly-botched trench light. These are all so good. This episode is shot so gorgeously. I love cinematography. Plus 1,000 points.
-Arya giving Sansa a dragonglass dagger with full faith that she’ll use it is just… wow, ugh, my whole heart. These two have been through all the shit, and knowing that they believe in the other until the end is perfection. I love their dynamic, I love them, and I want to get drunk with Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams like, yesterday. Plus 2,000 points.
-Every interaction in the crypt between Sansa and Tyrion is pure gold, performed by two actors at the top of their craft who, despite a huge gap in both age and experience, match perfectly together onscreen. From their quippy pre-battle conversation to their gorgeously tender moment in the crypt when they know they could die any moment, Sophie Turner and Peter Dinklage have incredible chemistry and take full advantage, which is just a goddamned gift for us. Plus 3,000 points.
-Arya’s fight scenes, as well as her scene sneaking through Winterfell in an Ocarina of Time style quest to avoid wights, are both gorgeous, earned, and perfect, but wash, because we’ll get back to Arya in just one second.
-Brienne and Jaime fighting wights at Winterfell side by side using swords made from Ned Stark’s sword is the only porn I care about or will ever need for the rest of my life. Plus 6,000 points.
-Sam does literally nothing except fall over and cry for the entire battle and apparently does nothing of value. I was going to take points away for that, but once I realized that’s exactly what I would do, I decided it was a wash.
-Meanwhile, in the Amtrak Quiet Car of Winterfell, Theon and Bran are finding redemption in the Godswood, which is honestly fine with me. Theon has been through A Lot and he needs to feel like he can safely die with honor, and his whole thing with Bran is very redemptive and earned and good. Plus 1,000 points.
-From now on, when I’m bored or annoyed at a party, I’m going to just say “I’m going to go now” and roll my eyes back in my head and think about birds, and then no one will bother me. Feel free to steal this plan, because it’s basically foolproof. Plus 500 points.
-I………. kind of thought Beric Dondarrion was dead already?! Wash because this one’s on me, you guys.
-I’m honestly SO GLAD Dany’s Dracarys trick didn’t work this time around. That would have been so boring and I would have been livid. Plus 1,000 points.
-Every time the higher-ranking White Walkers go anywhere, including the Night King, they look like they’re cool dudes in a very cool music video on account of how they walk real slowly and dramatically. It’s extremely stupid for their bottom line, but I think it’s hilarious, so plus 700 points.
-Ramin Djawadi’s score for the final moments of this battle, when all hope honestly is lost, is so haunting and beautiful and will make you Feel Things if you’re not entirely dead inside. Plus 2,000 points.
-Here lies Jorah Mormont, a clingy virgin. At least he went down fighting, since it should be noted that Khaleesi is pretty useless once you remove her from a dragon (highly disappointing). Wash, because, it’s still sad.
-In the show’s extended 40 minute behind the scenes featurette, the showrunners admitted that they made sure the audience would be so focused on other characters and forget about the one person still roaming around Winterfell. Well, smart move guys, because that shit TOTALLY WORKED. When Arya comes leaping into that Godswood like she’s in a super high-budget high school production of Peter Pan, I literally shrieked with glee, progressed to horrified when it looked like the Night King would squish her like a bug, and then absolutely lost my shit when she went back to her trusted hand-switch to STAB THE NIGHT KING WITH VALYRIAN STEEL AND FUCK UP THE ENTIRE ARMY OF THE DEAD. WOW. YES. ARYA. IS. THAT. BITCH. This moment is perfect. This moment is earned (no matter what dudes on the Internet might have to say about it). This moment justifies two full seasons of Arya getting the shit kicked out of her in Braavos. This moment brings Arya as full circle as possible. This moment has foreshadowing out the ass, from the past eight seasons to even within this one episode, where Arya’s blood dripping on the floor is what nearly gets her caught by a room full of Walkers, not her breathing or footsteps. This moment even brings in Littlefinger’s dagger, giving it a hundred times more meaning because Arya saves her brother by using the weapon meant to kill him, as well as ending one war with the dagger that started another. I love this moment. There’s so much happening in this moment. I want to have babies with this moment. I could write a full PhD thesis on this fucking moment. Every detail, from Arya’s pure fearlessness and stealth to the one Walker’s hair blowing as she rushed by, is impeccable. It’s perfect, it’s exactly right, and anyone who doesn’t think that sucks and is stupid. Also, it wasn’t Jon or Dany, which FLAT OUT RULES. Give my girl the Iron Throne now, please. Plus 500,000 points – perhaps the highest point count I’ve ever awarded.
-I liked Melisandre’s death scene. It felt right and Carice van Houten did a great job with it. That’s kind of all I’ve got. I’m a little spent from that huge paragraph above. Plus 2,000 points.
-Also, what was Cersei even doing for this whole episode? Painting her nails? Trimming her bowl cut? Trying and failing to copy Euron’s smoky-eye look? Ordering more custom Lannister breastplates from Etsy? Throwing darts at pictures of Jaime and Tyrion? Watching a marathon of The Real Housewives of Essos? (I obviously understand why we didn’t see her. It’s just fun to fantasize.) Plus 5,000 points for the possibilities.
Total: 525,700 / 1 girl to rule them all
Minuses, or, Wut
-I hate to be this person – I really, really, REALLY hate to be this person – but THE LIGHTING WAS TOO DARK. I couldn’t tell if anyone important was dying or what was happening or who was who or which dragon was which and it made me feel very old and cranky, and at the ancient age of 28 years on this earth, I should not be squinting at my television going, “who just died? I can’t see!” Minus 5,000 points.
-WOW OK HOW DARE YOU GIVETH LYANNA MORMONT AND THEN TAKETH AWAY Minus 3,000 points + am adding Benioff & Weiss to my Arya-list
-Jon and Dany are OBJECTIVELY BAD AT STRATEGIZING. Dany’s plan is always to just stay on a dragon and yell “dracarys!” but this time it doesn’t work so she gets on the ground, which is infuriating on about a thousand levels. Jon’s plan also involves yelling, but this hot dummy takes a different approach and just screams at a blinded, injured dragon breathing deadly ice, so, you know. He already died once because he basically fell for a really dark version of a knock-knock joke. He might not be a candidate for Biggest Brain in Westeros. Anyway, put Sansa and Tyrion in charge of the planning, please! Minus 2,000 points.
-I also could have done with 100000% less of the “Dany and Jon experience unexpected Dragon Turbulence” sequences. They were confusing and dizzying and probably infringed on Dreamworks’ copyright and made me think ALL the dragons were dead which was uncool. Minus 500 points.
-SPEAKING of UNCOOL, thank you, show, for sending Ghost into the front lines of battle and never showing him again!!!!! He’s in the trailer for the next episode, but STILL, that is honestly just so rude. I have anxiety, you know. I feel targeted. Minus 700 points.
-I feel like Grey Worm takes and puts off his helmet too many times. Dude, just keep it on. This is the real deal. Minus 500 points.
-I’m taking away more points for Jon’s hot dumb ass yelling at a dragon because JON’S HOT DUMB ASS REALLY DID YELL AT A DRAGON. Minus 1,000 points for being a hot, hot dummy.
-Hey hi just popping in to say I told you so about the crypts so minus 2,000 points for Thrones and plus 1,000 points to me, Nina, personally.
-Okay, so ultimately, every character (at some point) survived completely life threatening situations constantly with no consequences, which is fine, but just is not Thrones‘ style, overall. Jorah should not be able to casually waltz out of a wight attack that literally ends the Dothraki race, Brienne and Jaime should be too injured to fight, Sam should not be able to just plop down and poop in the middle of a zombie battlefield without being eaten, and Grey Worm literally shouldn’t be alive for a thousand reasons. Minus 5,000 points.
-Does it make me a sociopath to say that……. not enough people died? Yes, the Mormont house is dead and killing Lyanna made me FURIOUS AND DEAD INSIDE but like, none of the main characters are dead. Grey Worm, for some inexplicable reason, is prancing around, all dickless, just not dead even though he logistically should have died about six thousand times. I love Brienne, but a thoughtful sendoff during this episode would have been perfect. I don’t know. This is a show that once killed its supposed main character at the end of its first season and then continued killing its darlings for years. Get your balls back, Thrones. You’re not Theon, for god’s sake. Minus 7,000 points.
Total: 26,700 points / Where did the stakes go?
This episode might have been kind of a wash had Arya not been the baddest bitch around, but still, props to Thrones for pulling off one of the most ambitious television episodes in history. The Night King is gone with three episodes still yet to go, which I’m sure is a huge disappointment to some people, but this show has never been about an army of the dead; it’s about the throne and what people will do to take it. We’ve still got Cersei to deal with, and she’s smarter and hotter than the Night King, so that won’t exactly be easy. Thrones‘ final season is halfway through, and even though I’m worried the stakes slipped in this episode, killing one of two Big Bads halfway through is still a smart subversion of expectations, and I’m here for it. See you next week at the ruins of Winterfell, friends.