This week on Game of Thrones, the combined armies of the Starks and Daenerys Targaryen faced the White Walkers. It was a giant, chaotic battle with a high body count and a surprising hero. Myndi and EJ have had a moment to catch their breath and now they’re ready to talk about it.
Quick summary, since this episode was almost entirely a battle. Melisandre showed up and used her powers to give the Dothraki flaming swords and they were still wiped out almost immediately. The White Walkers easily overwhelmed the castle while Jon and Dany tried to dragon fight the Night King in the air. And just when the good guys had a foothold, the Night King reanimated the dead, including the Starks in the crypt. Theon gave his life to protect Bran and at the last possible second, Arya sprang out of nowhere to kill the Night King. It was rad.
Along the way we lost Edd Tollett, Lyanna Mormont, Theon Greyjoy, Baric Dondarrian, Ser Jorah Mormont, and Melisandre. Plus all the White Walkers, but they had it coming.
EJ: Man, this has been a weekend for battles. On the one hand, Avengers: Endgame had a clear edge because it has Ant-Man in it. But the Battle for Winterfell was no slouch. I feel like we should cut to the end right away just because I am looking forward to your reaction to the hero of the episode. I expect you cheered as loud as I did.
MYNDI: Oh man, I was hootin’ and hollerin’! The “Behind the Episode” tag (I always find those super insightful) pointed out that they structured the episode so that the viewers kind of forgot about Arya. She had that whole Walking Dead-like episode inside the castle, and when she escaped (with the help of The Hound and Dondarriian), we were all too busy breathing a sigh of relief to think she’d do anything else. Then when Melisandre pointed out that she was going to kill people with BLUE EYES, that should have made the entire audience shout “Night King!”, but instead they used Jon as a bit of a red herring. Since it’s a natural assumption that Jon will save the day as usual, you were super focused on him either getting to the Godswood and the Night King, or sacrificing himself for the greater good somehow. Plus, good old Theon actually DID sacrifice himself to clear a path that allowed Arya just a brief moment to pounce. Her skill and bravery took it from there.
EJ: The showrunners’ plan worked, because I had totally forgotten about Arya by that point. It felt to me like Bran had a plan and we were going to see something wild from him, but it turned out his plan was knowing that his sister is a badass. I loved that she killed him with the sort of move she used on Brienne when they were sparring last season. And I’m glad you mentioned the eye line, because a lot of people seem to think the “green eyes” bit means she’ll kill Cersei. Which I would like, but also, everybody she’s killed has had eyes. Unless there’s been some kind of long game where she’s only killed the brown-eyed until today. That would be impressive planning. I have to say, I was kind of surprised that Jon Snow and Daenerys were such non-factors in the battle. The dragonfire wasn’t there when they needed it, they spent most of their time in an aerial battle (Did one of her dragons die? I feel like the one Jon was riding crashed and we didn’t see it again.), and Jon got a big moment that was cut short by the dead rising. Which was an incredible moment, by the way. There were so many bits that were just perfectly done and I think the kind of tension changed often enough that I was really off-balance. But I interrupted myself – I was surprised at how little Jon and Dany really affected the battle. And maybe that’s a clue that neither of them are going to end up ruling Westeros. (I’m on Team Arya now, but she’d never want it.)
MYNDI: Oh dear, do we think Cersei will win out after all? I would really hate that. Sansa is looking better and better…maybe her and Tyrion as the ultimate power couple? It’s just strange enough to work. Jaime can’t do it, can he? Jon ended up looking a little lame, I guess…a little bit human. But Dany acquitted herself nicely in the end, by actually picking up a sword and fighting, not just playing damsel in distress. I think one of the dragons died, but it was hard to tell. At worst, they still have one perfectly serviceable dragon…and Cersei still has zero elephants!
EJ: I think the next episode could reveal there were some who didn’t survive the battle that the show lost track of – the one dragon for sure. Pod and Gendry dropped out of the episode pretty quickly, and Sam sort of disappeared under a pile of White Walkers. It seemed to me that by the end of the episode, Winterfell’s army was all but gone. At this point, if they told us there were a hundred survivors, yeah, that sounds about right. And Cersei’s got an army AND a navy. I think it comes down to what the message of the show ultimately is – is it about breaking the wheel or is it about propping up a system that’s led to a virtual apocalypse. That’s another conversation that will probably wait until the end, but there are shows that end by telling you what happened mattered and ones that tell you nothing matters (The Sopranos is a good example of that last one). So, just sticking to the confirmed deaths, who really shocked you? Eddison Tollett was the least lauded and least surprising (he was the last survivor of the Night’s Watch alongside Jon and Sam, and I have to look up his name whenever he appears). I think Jorah is the character I’ll miss most, though I didn’t really expect him to make it. Lyanna Mormont was a genuine shock, and she got the coolest death of all. And once Melisandre appeared, I knew she was done for but at least she got to help out. No, I take it back. I’ll miss that Red Woman most of all.
MYNDI: She was super fun at baby showers, too.
I think I assumed she would die in some dramatic way by having all of her power drain out of her while she was lighting everyone’s sword or some other heroic act, so I was surprised that her death was as simple as taking off that necklace, becoming ancient and falling dead on the ground. Beautiful in its simplicity. Lyanna Mormont was fantastic, and that actress is intense! The producers said she was supposed to be in one episode, but the actress was so impressive, they expanded the part. She killed an undead giant, for Pete’s sake! That RULED! I thought Ser Jorah’s death was poetic. I felt like I saw Sam, Pod, Tormund, Brienne, Jaime and all the “name” characters in the crypt still alive at episode’s end, but I could be wrong.
EJ: I’m pretty sure I saw the Hound, too, but it was dark and deliberately hectic. After all these close calls where Jorah looked like he would die in a way he didn’t deserve – greyscale, fighting in the arena, I love that he went down exactly the way he would have wanted. One thing that occurred to me with Beric and Melisandre both dying, the religious aspect of this show is pretty well gone. They were the standard bearers of the Lord of Light (and I’m not sure if any of the religions are intended to be “right”, but the Lord of Light gets stuff done), and Cersei wiped out the clergy in King’s Landing years ago. It seems to me now that the only character with a religious connection is the Hound who received a vision from the Lord of Light. I was going to abbreviate that, but it would have been “LOL”. And a little nagging thing that probably doesn’t matter unless it’s what the prequel series is about, but the Night King surviving dragon fire would indicate that maybe he was a Targaryen in life, right? Or am I just going backstory crazy here?
MYNDI: I don’t think it’s an overreach to say that, and it’s exactly what I thought when fire didn’t kill him. Dany is that only one that knows that, right? Or was Jon still with her at point? Because it would seem that if there were a bunch of witnesses to the whole “unburnable” thing, people might be wary of making someone like that Queen. Seems a little too scary. But I might be applying my modern sensibilities to a situation that doesn’t really consider them valid. I’m also of the mind that this is a not a place where any sort of organized religion will be taking root again for some time. The religion of Westeros seems to be honor and loyalty. Thank you for reminding me about The Hound surviving. Yeah, that dude has to go to King’s Landing and off his big brother. We all want it, now make it happen, show!
EJ: Oh, absolutely. And team up with Arya! The Mountain doesn’t stand a chance! (Did you know the actor who plays him was named the Strongest Man in the World a couple of years ago? That fascinates me.) I think Jon saw the Night King emerge from the fire, but I don’t think he necessarily knows that the Targaryens are the Unburnt. He was trying really hard to avoid dragon fire in this episode, so I don’t think he knows that’s in his bag of tricks. He doesn’t strike me as somebody who’s super well-versed in the history of other families. Anyway, I can’t believe we didn’t talk about the Crypt Crew. Tyrion trying to get upstairs to see if he could find something that everybody else missed is such a complete turnaround for who he used to be. And Tyrion and Sansa together near the end, well, I thought it was a suicide pact at first, but it felt like, yeah, those two make a great team.
MYNDI: I also loved the mini drama between Sansa and Missandei. Those two have the most diametrically opposed viewpoints of Dany, and it could set up something fun for the last stretch of episodes. Or we could never hear a thing about it again, who knows. Tyrion has been knocked down so many pegs at this point, it’s a little sad. Peter Dinklage is portraying that lack of confidence with perfect subtlety. As far as the other folks in the crypt, I was just relieved about Gilly and Little Sam being ok after that free for all with the crypt’s resident re-animating. Shouldn’t Jon or Tormund, who’ve already battled the Army of the Dead, have known that The Night King can bring any dead in the immediate area back to “life”? Did they think there was an expiration date on that?
EJ: I was wondering about that. I thought that at one point they said he could bring back the dead north of the Wall, like maybe that was magic that only worked there, but nobody agrees with me so it’s possible I made that up. I mean, I’m the guy who thought Littlefinger had been castrated until Season Four because at one point I thought he was using a metaphor when he was, in fact, being very literal. In their defense, though, when they saw it happen, it seemed to be a line of sight thing. In fact, I think they assumed that if the Night King was distracted by Bran, he wouldn’t be reanimating the dead a mile away. But that’s just me defending Tormund. But all in all, I thought this was a really satisfying episode. It’s weird it came out the same weekend as Endgame which also hinged on a giant chaotic battle between characters we’ve been following for years (don’t worry, no spoilees here), and I feel like that might have taken the wind out of its sails a little bit, but I was a wreck for the entire episode. Especially when their plan fell apart immediately even with Melisandre’s help. I don’t know if you saw Paul F. Tompkins livetweeting, but he was appalled by how poorly planned their defense was. But all in all, man, that was a hell of an episode.
MYNDI: Right…since we started at the end, we didn’t hit on just how crazy tense those first ten minutes or so was, with everyone kind of waiting with anticipation for things to start already, then seeing the entire Dothraki horde decimated in about 30 seconds. Did we ever see Ghost again, by the way? I will not be okay if that Direwolf is dead! And then everyone was essentially in retreat mode. I was shocked that Grey Worm survived, mostly because I assumed all that talk about moving to the beach with Missandei was his swan song. But we also thought Brienne dying was pretty much a lock, and she looked to still be hanging tough by episode’s end.
EJ: Oh, I went on a journey from “Hey, Ghost is there!” to “Why are you there, Ghost? Run away!” I’m betting we see him again, but they’re also cruel on this show. Well, by my count, there are like fifteen people plus some children left in King’s Landing, so clearly they’re going to be in great shape to take on Cersei. Except, you know, I wouldn’t put it past Arya to take care of that herself. Also, I just checked out next week’s trailer, and you can see Ghost!
MYNDI: Agreed. If Arya can end the freaking Night King, she can handle Cersei with one hand tied behind her back!
So what happens now that they’ve destroyed an ancient evil? We’ll find out next week!