Television review: “Game of Thrones – Season Eight – “The Long Night” (2009-2019)

“Game of Thrones – Season Eight – “The Long Night” (2009-2019)


Six Episodes

Created for HBO by: David Benioff and D. B. Weiss based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Featuring: Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gwendoline Christie and Alfie Allen

Melisandre: “What do we say to the God of Death?”

Arya Stark: “Not today.”

There can be fewer television shows going today that are more closely watched than “Game of Thrones” (2009-2019), especially as the production has been cloaked in secrecy that has only increased from year to year, this has been magnified by the fact that there has not been a new episode in almost two years. Another reason that there has been so much secrecy is that this eighth season is also the shows last which has only heightened expectation as well as fans and news outlets offering their own theories about how it will all end, who will live, who will die and what will be the fate of the seven kingdoms of the fictional Westeros. 

“Game of Thrones” (after a reportedly terrible pilot) has introduced new actors as well as directors and writers while at the same time blending them with more experienced and veteran talent which ten years felt refreshing but now in this final season it could be said that the entire cast (those that are left) are all now strong veterans who are on a victory lap of sorts no matter how the plot unfolds and resolves itself. 

The Battle for Winterfell saw the Night King and his army of the undead take on the living in a massive battle that took place at night and often in a blizzard which, combined with high traffic fan demand and low quality streaming services, turned what should’ve been some of the most epic visuals put to screen into something of a blurry, muddled mess at times.

This weeks episode titled “The Long Night” follows on from the previous one as we witnessed the arrival of the army of the dead as well as the readying of the stronghold of the North, Winterfell by not only the Northmen but also the army of the Unsullied as well as the wild Dothraki, not forgetting the two dragons as well as their dragon riders, Jon Snow and Daenerys. In terms of the plot their were many questions to be answered, uppermost was, would the army of the living defeat the army of the dead, if so who and what would be the casualties, how would these effect the narrative of the show and who, if any of the cast would meet their own deaths. How “The Long Night” plays into the history of the show, well this one was a huge undertaking as well as some of the best battles yet seen in the seventy episodes of the show, not only that it has been the most expensive undertaking yet, with the longest shoot yet for the “Game of Thrones.”

In terms of the narrative of the “The Long Night” it is relatively linear taking place over one dark and stormy night, with both external as well as internal scenes that basically show one battle that for the most part illustrates what happens when an immovable object (Winterfell) is set upon by a seemingly unstoppable force, the result is definitely one of the biggest action set pieces seen on televisions ever. The good news is that this a very enjoyable episode where we see the full force of the army of the dead, how large it has come as well as how terrifying it would be to come face to face with it on a battlefield. This is keenly illustrated in the opening scenes where we see the Dothraki charge the unseen army in the distance as well as quick retreat and fear on their faces as they do, it is some of the best and terrifying scenes ever, much like the opening of “Game of Thorns” when we met a terrified soldier who had come face to face with one Wight, he knew then what we know now, the horror of animated death.

I am not going to give away too many spoilers as this episode needs to be seen to feel the full impact, but needless to say that there are a few character deaths that will hit home but in the scheme of the entire show are fitting as well as required to push the story forward in a meaningful way. Of course many meet their ends in heroic deeds but what is interesting is that there are still many whose fate has not yet been made clear. For me this is an interesting choice as it puts a great deal of weight on next weeks episode that will reveal who still stands to take on the armies at Kings Landing.

As with the previous episode there are a few callbacks to previous episodes, especially in terms of the battle as well as how complicated it can be. As I have noted there are some pivotal scenes in this episode, such as the opening, a great dragon dog fight that at times was confusing but added to the feeling that Jon and Daenerys, we also see Jon take on the Knight King with some devastating consequences, we also see Arya come into her own on one hand but frightened on the other, Bran of course is as weird as usual with some unexplained actions that should come to light at a later date and of course we see people hiding in the Winterfell crypts which was a part I enjoyed immensely.

When we see Tyrion, Sansa as well as the rest of the non-fighters there is an immediate call back to the episode “Blackwater” from season two where there was a similar feeling and look, in that episode there was a fear that Kings Landing would be lost to Stannis and his invading force, however because of Tyrion the city was saved. Here we have Tyrion in the mode of thinking he can make a difference but Sansa (in the Cersei) is the one preparing for defeat in some very cold ways, of course unlike that episode the place of safety is not very safe at all.

Interestingly in terms of this episode as well as the technical aspects this has more CGI, stunts and special effects than any other previous installment. To make the episode more atmospheric, give it a sense of doom as well as making the effects easier to hide the entire battle is at night, from sundown to sunrise. In fact this led to some issues, as soon as the episode kicked off, tweets flooded social media with complaints that the episode was so dark that viewers had difficulty discerning what was happening. Gizmodo has looked into this and found that even with a good quality screen on a high-quality OLED (the best consumer TVs for shadow detail) people were still having issues.

Of course this episode ends with the battle ended, one side remains standing, although much of their armies have been killed so the resources they have now are much smaller in size so planning for the next stage of their journey may need to be altered. We also do not know who has survived, although we do know who has actually died. The fate of both dragons remains, at this stage unknown.

Looking forward we know there is going to be one more major episode that will be devoted to a massive battles clocking in at around an hour and a half so outside of that we will possibly have more narrative based episodes which will be good counter programming as well as hopefully sorting out storylines from previous seasons. My feeling is that Arya will play another large part moving forward, as well as I believe Daario will make a comeback to bolster Jon and Daenerys forces. We have not yet seen how the revelation that Jon made to Daenerys will play out but I am picking this will be a bone of contention in the final episode with a showdown of sorts that will not end well for those people who like seeing them together. We may also see the demise of all the dragons as Westeros moves into a new age.

Episode Three: “The Long Night”

Written by: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik

The Night King and his army have arrived at Winterfell and the great battle begins.

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