I think that without a doubt this episode was the single most anticipated episode thus far in the entire series, and that covers a lot of ground. There have also been some epic battle episodes like Hardhome, the Battle of the Blackwater, and the Battle of the Bastards. Those two things created such a high bar that it would be incredibly difficult to live up to such high expectations. This episode had some great aspects to it, but it also had some flaws. In the end, I think this will be a memorable episode, but not a classic Game of Thrones episode that some of the above mentioned ones are.
The Battle of Winterfell
My biggest issue with this episode was that much of the early part of it was hard to see. Because it was so dark and chaotic I had a hard time following the action, especially when the ice dragon was blowing its mist. This made it frustrating to watch at times. There were also some things done exceptionally well. The first ten minutes before the fighting started was loaded with tension. I was waiting for the explosion of violence, and they did a great job of creating the atmosphere for the fight to come. The other thing that was done exceptionally well was that they showed the fight from so many different levels. If it was just a continuous loop of the human army against the dead army, it wouldn’t have been so interesting. Although, there was some of that, most of the time they were focusing on individual characters and telling their story in the larger context of the battle.
Daenerys Targaryan and Jon Snow
The opening battle sequence was crazy, seeing the Dothraki horde, a formidable army to begin with, now armed with flaming swords basically getting wiped out by the Whitewalker army. That was the point where I knew that this was not going to be an easy fight. The plan was for Jon and Daenerys to wait until the Night King showed himself and then fight him two dragons against his one. That plan didn’t come to fruition when Dany rushed into the fray after seeing the Dothraki get wiped out in one fell swoop. The dragon battle, which looked awesome on paper, suffered from what I mentioned above about not being able to tell what was happening. All along, I was certain what was going to happen—and I’ve been thinking this ever since Hardhome was that it would come down to Jon Snow defeating the Night King in single combat, and I still feel cheated that it didn’t happen, but if you look at it from a broader perspective, it makes sense that Arya’s journey would lead her to this point.
Looking at this from a wider view, this made sense in Arya’s story arc. Everything that ever happened to Arya led to this moment. From training on sword fighting with Sirio Ferrell, to meeting Jaqen H’gar, to becoming a Faceless Man, all led to her to this moment, being the one to kill the Night King. Without those things, she would never have been able to attain the skills she needed in this fight. And in the end, it was Arya who was the hero of the living in defeating the dead.
There were a handful of deaths in this episode, the bigger ones being Jorah Mormant and Theon Grayjoy. After this, everything seems anticlimactic, even the war for the Iron Throne. I believe the show ends with Daenerys being Queen and somehow turning on Jon Snow.