Monday, April 29, 2019

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Final Season Episode 3

The director for this episode mentioned that he was in part inspired by the Battle of Helm's Deep from the Lord of the Rings: Two Towers and Assault on Precinct 13. I don't think this episode quite measured up to the scenes from that first movie but it did put you in mind of the second. So I guess it worked better as a  horror/siege film than it did as a battle. A big problem with any battle/action films is that the director and/or writer must find a proper balance between making everything go by very quickly so that the viewer hardly sees it and slowing things down in a surrealistic way so that the viewer can understand everything that's happening and identify with the heroes/victims. 

There are of course some directors who can do both at once-Spielberg's opening scenes in Saving Private Ryan. Other directors jump back and forth between both styles : almost anything by John Woo and obviously 300 by Zack Snyder. This episode's director's choices included a lot of speed but also a lot of darkness. So it was often difficult to tell who was who and what was occurring. Within the narrative the battle took place at night so on one level that made sense but go rewatch Lord of the Rings: Two Towers and tell me that HBO might not have overdone the blue and black saturation. 

Nonetheless this was an emotionally satisfying episode with the trademark bait and switch that this show has become known for. If we ever do get to experience these scenes in print it will be interesting to learn if GRRM keeps them or if he had something different in mind. His prophecies from the book appear to have not come true, or perhaps have come true in a way that few of the readers saw. 


We open up with everyone realizing that this is it. The Army of the Dead (AOTD) and the White Walkers are here. The non-combatants are fleeing to the crypts. Bran and the Ironborn are heading to the Godswood. Davos sets up archers and artillery on the battlements. Arya and Sansa oversee preparations as Lyanna Mormont yells out orders. The Unsullied take up the center of the field, flanked by Wildlings, Vale and Northmen. The Dothraki are out front with Jorah. The Hound, Gendry, Edd and Sam are also at the front line, though typically Sam is late arriving.

As Jon and Daenerys watch from a hilltop, one rider approaches. Yes, it's everyone's favorite child burning, leech using, Jon Snow resurrecting, cleavage baring witch Melisandre. She tells Davos he needn't worry about killing her as she will be dead before dawn. Melisandre casts a spell on the Dothraki swords so that they all burst aflame. Burning with confidence the Dothraki, along with Ghost and Jorah, charge off into the night to battle the AOTD. Well that proved to be a bad idea. Their voices go quiet. The flames go out. And then there's silence. A few Dothraki return, along with Jorah (and Ghost???) but it's mostly riderless horses.

It's important to note here that in real life horses are not, contrary to appearance, supremely stupid or suicidal animals. They generally will not run headlong into unmoving dense masses of men, particularly men armed with long sharp implements.  Trying to force them to do so throws away the key advantage horses offer on the battlefield, mobility. Horses aren't tanks. 

Usually, with few exceptions, smart people used cavalry to probe weaknesses, flank enemies, exploit an enemy's mistake, transport troops, scout, or charge home once a line had broken. Sacrificing the Dothraki against an enemy in such a way was foolish. Jorah and Jon should have known that.


Presumably everyone uses the next 30 seconds to reflect on Cavalry Tactics 101 because shortly after that there's a zerg rush by the AOTD. Arya tells Sansa to go to the crypts where Tyrion and the others look at her but there's nothing to say. 

Tyrion is ashamed of being in the crypts and thinks he ought to be up there where he could offer assistance. Sansa says don't flatter yourself, short-round. She also tells Tyrion that sad as it is he was the best of her husbands. The AOTD break over the front lines. Edd saves Sam's life and dies. Jon and Daenerys burn the dead but the armies are getting too close for dragonfire to be effective. Also because of the storm, it's hard for Daenerys and Jon to see what's going on at ground level.

The AOTD is too fast and too numerous. The humans are slowly pushed back. Everyone retreats to Winterfell, covered by the Unsullied. Danerys can't see Davos' signal to light the trench so Melisandre does it with magic though it's a very close call. This gives the humans a brief respite. Jon lands in the Godswood. Sansa says that the marriage between her and Tyrion wouldn't work now because of his loyalty to Daenerys, something to which Missandei immediately objects.  

Theon apologizes for everything to Bran. Brans shrugs, saying it was all necessary to bring Theon home. Bran then wargs into some ravens. At first it appears the AOTD will just wait for the fires to die out, but the White Walkers realize that when you outnumber someone 20-1 you can afford to be indifferent to losses. The AOTD start to walk into the trench, "dying" again to allow their brethren to walk over them and get a path across the flames. Davos notices this and calls for archers but there just aren't enough. 
Note for future reference: Dig fire trenches deeper and wider.


The AOTD adroitly scale the Winterfell walls. Jaime and Brienne fight back to back. The Hound is hiding, frightened of the fires. Arya is handling her business with her staff-spear. A reanimated Giant kills Lyanna Mormont but she kills it with her dying stroke.

Winterfell is overrun. It's every man/woman for himself/herself. Arya fell off the battlements but is apparently none the worse for wear. There's a long horror movie sequence with her hiding from the AOTD in the Winterfell library. Arya's rescued by Beric and the Hound, who has been shamed into action by Beric pointing out Arya's peril. They escape to temporary safety but Beric sacrifices himself to save Arya. Melisandre says that was Beric's purpose and quotes Syrio Forel's words to Arya.

Riding his dead dragon, the Night King attacks Winterfell. Jon attacks him. Both Jon and the Night King are dismounted. Seeing her chance, Daenerys burns the Night King. For a long time. A very long time. However, there's no impact. Smirking, the Night King picks up an ice javelin. Daenerys departs. Brienne, Jaime, Grey Worm, Tormund, and others fight on but they are cut off and surrounded. Jon makes a run for the Night King but we've seen this before. The Night King raises his arms and all the recently dead and the LONG dead are renanimated.  


Theon and his Ironborn make a last stand around Bran. The dead Starks in the crypts come to "life" and start attacking the people there. Sansa and Tyrion hide behind a tomb. It's shot so that it looks like they're on a marriage bed. It appears they are wordlessly considering suicide or perhaps it's just a silent goodbye?

Jon fights alone. Daenerys comes to save him but the dead jump on her dragon and starting biting and stabbing him. Daenerys falls off. Jorah comes to save her.  But Jorah is horribly outnumbered. Still he swore an oath. And he means to keep it, though he's taking more and more wounds. The White Walkers enter the Godswood. All of the Ironborn save Theon are dead. Theon's out of arrows; he's using a glaive.

Bran comes back from warging and tells Theon he's a good man. Theon charges the Night King but is killed. Jon is trying to sneak up on the undead dragon but that's kind of difficult to do. Jorah continues fighting on though by this time he's likely incapable of conscious thought or speech.

The Night King reaches Bran. He starts to take out his sword to kill Bran. And then out of nowhere, just like a WWE event, Arya taps in and leaps for the Night King's back. But you don't get to be the Night King by letting people sneak up on you. Just as Arya is about to kill him he turns with inhuman speed and catches her in mid-air. He smirks as he begins to choke her out. But Arya drops her knife from her left hand to her right and stabs the Night King. Who's laughing now Big Boy?

And that is that! The Night King explodes and dies. So do all the other White Walkers and Wights and reanimated dragons. The dead die and stay dead. Jorah dies in Daenerys' arms. Melisandre walks off. She takes off her magic choker, reverting to her aged form. She falls down dead in the snow.

Impressions

  • So does this mean that Arya Stark is the Princess (Prince) who was promised?
  • I liked how Arya's knife drop move was the same one she did against Brienne.
  • Arya beat Death which reminded me of Jacob wrestling with God and winning. As with Jon's resurrection, this should be HUGE. 
  • It's unclear to me if Ghost is alive or not.
  • Again, too much literal darkness isn't good for the story. We have to be able to see what's going on, at least for important characters.
  • The humans probably should rethink their tactics next time they're facing a supernatural AOTD.
  • I thought that the crypts would be problematic. That was so strongly hinted at last week.
  • Did I mention that the lighting could have been better. Because I'm not sure I did.
  • Cersei's strategy is looking smarter but you know that won't last.
  • Interesting that Jon and Daenerys were largely irrelevant to the outcome.
  • Bran was also pretty useless. I thought he might warg a White Walker or dragon or something.
  • I appreciated Theon's and Jorah's redemption arcs.
  • I liked how Melisandre left questions that will never be answered.
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