The following are a few notes from Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3. Warning: mild spoilers may be included, though I’ve tried to stay away from anything too glaring. Either way, consider yourself warned.
In Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3, we finally witnessed the much-touted Battle of Winterfell. Honestly, it’s difficult to overstate the importance that has been attached to this moment, going all the way back to the beginning of the series. Unlike many of the other battles depicted on the show, this one was also the culmination of the War for the Dawn – a seminal and prophesied moment for mankind in the world of the series. It was also directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who previously directed many of the best battle episodes for the show. And did I mention, during all my talk about it last week, that it was going to be the length of a feature film? Well, let’s just say something so hyped seemed rife with potential to let us down.
That, however, it did not.
Instead, we were treated to nearly 90 minutes of breakneck action. More than that, though, Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 represented a monument to tension-building and release. There was a dazzling CGI dogfight between dueling dragons in a wintry night sky. There were elements that crossed genres, feeling almost like something out of a horror movie. There was heartbreak and heroism. It was truly superb.
Less bloody than expected, yet the stakes never felt anything but huge
If you read my piece on last week’s episode, you know I made a lot of predictions about characters dying. Some I thought were destined to go and was correct (Theon); some not so much (Grey Worm). Others I wasn’t sure about, and they fittingly were split with some leaving us and others not. To the creator’s credit, however, there was no point in Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 when anyone necessarily felt safe. Needless to say, this made for great television, so I just wanted to point that out again before moving on to talk about some of those we lost:
Lady Lyanna Mormont:
A character the show got right, based only on an off-book mention in the source material. Her attitude and strength made us immediately fall in love with her, so losing her was rough. That being said, it wasn’t completely unexpected, and I had her listed as a possibility not to survive. Still, I’m glad they gave her a good death. One of the smallest individuals in the battle went down taking out one of the strongest, fitting for her attitude. What did surprise me, though, was that they killed off her as well as…
Ser Jorah Mormont:
I also had Ser Jorah listed as a possibility, but I’m surprised they killed them both. House Mormont now joins House Umber as extinct, and Bear Island needs new rulers when everything is all said and done. As for the character, he was always one of my favorites, and I hate to see him go. That being said, I called it last week that it would at least be fitting for him to go out defending Daenerys, and that’s exactly what he did.
Dolorous Edd Tollett:
The first character we lost tonight, and no real surprise, despite the sadness. I had Edd listed as a possibility I wasn’t sure about, but he really should’ve been a sure thing. As I stated last week, watching he, Jon, and Sam together pretty much guaranteed one of them wasn’t going to make it. Still, I’m going to miss that dry wit.
Lord Beric Dondarrion:
I called this one, which really was no great feat. It was pretty much a given that him being raised from the dead over and over was because he was supposed to serve some purpose. We know now that purpose was to help protect Arya. That’s assuming you subscribe to belief in destiny. Thankfully, the show remains as silent as the books on the subject, leaving it for the individual to decide. Never forget this show and the source material that birthed it are as realistic as fantasy can be. As a result, each of us must decide if we believe in the Lord of Light, or simply agree that magic returned to the world with the dragons. Just like in the real world, some will believe and others won’t, which is as it should be.
As I stated last week, he was the most obvious sacrifice who was never making it through this battle. I honestly think even he knew that, volunteering to protect Bran. Frankly, he had a lot for which he needed to atone, and this was how he chose to do so. In the end, it was actually a nice death for a character who’d been through the wringer. He received his absolution from Bran, which I’m not embarrassed to say brought a tear to my eye. He died with honor, facing down an enemy he knew he would never be able to defeat, and yet he did it bravely. He died a Stark.
An unexpected, yet supremely fitting hero
Who saw that one coming? I must say, the idea Arya would be the one to kill the Night King had never even crossed my mind. And you know what? That’s why it was great. Add to that the fact where everything comes together to prove it had been foreshadowed for years, and it just makes it even better. That is what good writing looks like. Events are foreshadowed, but so subtly that you don’t realize it until afterward. I honestly thought this twist was amazing. Everything – from the callbacks to Arya’s training with Syrio as a child to the strangeness of Melisandre having told her she would close many eyes to the fact that she used the dagger meant to kill Brandon back in season one to protect him now – all came together so perfectly.
Of course, you can’t please everyone. Already I’m hearing scuttlebutt online that chafes my patience.
Do not refer to Arya as some kind of Mary Sue. Not in my presence. Just don’t. I’m serious. We will have a major disagreement. Frankly, not only is it sexist, but it’s also completely inaccurate.
Look, I get that it wasn’t what most of us expected. Never mind that this show has basically made its bones on subverting expectations. There’s no way anyone could consider her unworthy, however. Not if they’ve been paying attention. Not only is she one of the main protagonists of the series, but she’s also pretty much been training to be an assassin for almost the entire run. We’ve already seen her hold her own in battle, even including against Brienne in a lively sparring match last season. Arya is a badass, and frankly having her end things tonight actually avoided a much more predictable finish. I thought it was great.