Initial Reaction To Episode Three:

The Battle of Winterfell

Remember when all of the Game of Thrones cast members read the script and gave nebulous interviews about how tragic season eight would be?

 

Well, apparently all of them lied, because at the end of season eight, episode three: The Battle of Winterfell, us suckers in the audience got treated to shot after shot of all our favorite heroes standing up among a pile of crumbling corpses. One after another, we see our fan-service-favorites recoil from their near deaths, again and again bewildered at the sudden end to the horrible, senseless massacre that unfolded before them.

 

Nevermind that over the course of the battle we saw most of them, especially Jaime, Brienne, and Sam, overwhelmed by wights several times each. I suppose that was just to make us believe that they died, and yet the only important characters to bite the dust were Dolorous Edd, Theon Greyjoy, and Lyanna Mormont.

 

Jorah doesn't count.

 

Thankfully, a lot of the things that have me feeling bitter about this episode fall within the wheelhouse of what I can write about on this site. Let's get to it.

 

In terms of strategy, I can see the logic behind the original plan to defend Winterfell. But then the Dothraki got fire swords! Cool! An advantage against the dead! Oh, I guess they're charging into battle all alone — at least they took Jorah with them. Wow, they died, I guess that's one less army left, oh and now there's nothing in between the army of the dead and the Unsullied's catapults, which they inexplicably put waaayyyyyy up front where they'd be nice and useless. Taking it back an extra step, why did they set up siege equipment against an enemy comprised of thousands and thousands of utterly disposable grunts?

 

Then battle happens, and people swing their swords all the way behind their heads for every single attack against the wights, which thankfully run into our heroes one at a time — until they tease the death of a major character by having a couple wights swarm them at once. The amount of times we saw Jaime in particular get overwhelmed makes this episode even worse than when Bronn jetpacked off of a horse to knock Jaime out of the way in the supply train battle. Daenerys makes the exact same mistake as Jon when he charged Ramsey during the Battle of the Bastards — though in her defense Winterfell would have been screwed without her help. Readers, you can probably tell I'm feeling pretty bitter.

 

After that, fights happen for a while, dragons bite each other a bunch, Arya re-enacts the library stealth mission from the 2001 Sorcerer's Stone video game, and all is well and good. More on Arya later, because she was the diamond in the rough this episode.

 

Lots of sudden rescues tonight — The Hound and Beric find Arya right when she needs saving, Jorah teleports over to Daenerys after she inexplicably decides to land her dragon right in a field of angry baddies, and Arya teleports (sneaks?) behind the Night King.

 

I'm rambling! Let's talk about how various ranked characters fared. Brienne, Jaime, Tormund, and most of them fought in full Hollywood style — grunting and screaming after swinging their swords around in the air just to kill one nameless extra. Beric heroically sacrificed himself by throwing his sword and then, uh, dying. Grey Worm twirls his spear and it looks cool, but it's nothing that we didn't already see in season three at Yunkai. Jon fought as though he was back in tier four — huge windups for big, slow attacks. When the Night King resurrected all the corpses in that field, there were a whole bunch of them surrounding Jon. When it cut back to Jon fighting, there were way fewer for no real reason, making his slow fighting style appear to make more sense. I maintain that all of them and both dragons should have died.

 

But let's talk about Arya. Early in the episode, she moves well and gets to show off her agility. I was tempted to start thinking about her ranking right then and there, but had to remind myself of my own rules where I generally discredit battles against nameless hordes.

 

So instead, let's talk about how she takes out the Night King. Sneaking up all of the white walkers at once aside, her plan is solid tier two material. It reminded me, more than anything else, of how Jaime killed Jory back in season one — Arya jumps at the Night King and tries to kill him. Whether or not she knew that he would turn and catch her, she had the contingency plan ready, immediately dropping her dagger down to her other hand and stabbing the Night King in the heart.

 

I say that the maneuver was tier two instead of tier one material because Arya was readily able to adjust to and exploit her enemy's weaknesses, but she didn't necessarily set up and draw out that weakness in the first place. We did see a solid tier one battle out of her when she was training with Brienne, so I'm holding out hope that we see that Arya again before the show ends — I suspect that she belongs at the top and I really want to see the necessary proof.

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