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‘Game of Thrones’ review: The Battle of Winterfell

Thoughts on what we could manage to see of the fight against the army of the dead.

Conleth Hill (left) as Lord Varys and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in a scene from the April 28 episode of HBO's "Game of Thrones."
Conleth Hill (left) as Lord Varys and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in a scene from the April 28 episode of HBO's "Game of Thrones."Read moreHelen Sloan/HBO

You know the drill: This post discusses plot points from Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Stop reading now if you don’t want me to be the one who tells you what Arya said to the God of Death.

The fog machine of war was running at full power Sunday night as the eagerly anticipated, wisely feared Battle of Winterfell raged on under conditions so murky that at times I was counting on closed-captioning to tell me who was still alive.

MVP for the episode was, of course, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), who, after some prompting from Melisandre (Carice van Houten), remembered to tell the God of Death, “Not today.” At nearly the last possible moment of the longest Game of Thrones episode ever, she saved Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and all humanity from the Night King (Vladimir “Furdo” Furdik) in one of those moves that would certainly land her a slot in The Avengers if they were making any more Avengers movies.

Until that moment, the episode, as long and wildly disorienting as it was, had been proceeding along reasonably predictable lines. Which is to say, it was very much a horror movie, with zombie soldiers and people we liked being turned into zombie soldiers.

That moment when the eyes of Lady Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) eyes snapped open, icy blue? Chilling.

If you’re still in the camp that insists the Night King is a Targaryen, I suppose his ability to withstand a stream of Drogon’s fire backs you up, but now that his and his followers’ molecules appear to have been redistributed, I’m not sure it matters any more.

In fact, with three episodes to go, I’m not entirely sure what does matter to Game of Thrones, which appears to have dispatched with the existential threat and is ready to head back to the competition to see who’ll be in charge of Westeros.

Which is fine — it’s called Game of Thrones, after all — but I guess I thought preventing the world from being overrun by the icy dead might require more than one battle. Certainly more than one young woman.

Not that the one battle and one young woman weren’t plenty. I’m exhausted just thinking about what went into this episode that I could barely see so much of.

A few other thoughts:

  1. The episode, written by series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and directed by Miguel Sapochnik, had one particularly spectacular visual, as the Dothraki moved across their field with their lighted swords, and were seen from above, their lights gradually extinguishing as they met the army of the dead.

  2. There was some wonderful music (or as the closed-captioning told me, “dramatic music").

  3. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) sitting in a crypt, not exactly K-I-S-S-I-N-G but getting along was way more satisfying to me than whatever she was doing with poor doomed Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) last week. Now that Sansa’s grown, I think they’d make a better couple than she thinks they would.

  4. Speaking of Theon, he paid whatever debt he owed Bran, so it was time for him to die, in the logic of this show, and television in general. Which makes you wonder why so many people value apologies and the idea of making amends. Keep a running tab with the universe and you might live forever!

  5. As for the rest of the dead characters whose names we know, I’m surprised there were so few, and wonder if it wasn’t our love for little Lady Mormont that ultimately got her killed. One thing you can say about Game of Thrones: It doesn’t spare the children.

  6. How are we feeling about dragons as instruments of war right now? Still useful or more trouble than they’re worth? Have to say, all that swooping threatened to leave me a little airsick.

  7. The crypt, as predicted by most of the internet, proved to be a poor hiding place from the dead. Not that this kind of information should really need to be crowdsourced.