‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8, Episode 3 Recap: Battle of Winterfell Exceeded Expectations – Smart Media Magazine

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8, Episode 3 Recap: Battle of Winterfell Exceeded Expectations

“Game of Thrones” has several outstanding battles under its belt, and the director Miguel Sapochnik delivered some of the best, with “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards.” But even with that impressive track record, I was a little afraid that Sunday night’s enormous (and enormously hyped) Battle of Winterfell might finally be the clash that was too epic for its own good, in terms of stakes (life vs. death), personnel (everyone we like) and length (the episode clocked in at 1:22).

Would we finally, in the grandest episode the show has ever attempted, get a fight that was just too large to render in a way that would both do justice to the conflict and also land with sufficient emotional impact?

Not today.

Sunday’s final clash was a masterpiece of tension and release, goose bumps and heartbreak, grandiosity and intimacy. It deftly mixed genres (horror, action, melodrama), shots and planes of action as it shifted from the chaos of the fighting in and around Winterfell, to the claustrophobic terror of the crypts, to the dragon dogfighting in the winter sky.

[Read our ultimate guide to “Game of Thrones.”]

Since C.G.I. became Hollywood’s default mode for depicting combat, onscreen battles have become progressively bigger, longer, more elaborate and, consequently, ever more fatiguing. Think of the hectic, numbing, city-destroying sequences that end every superhero movie. (I haven’t seen the new “Avengers,” so apologies to the Russo brothers if it managed to eschew that particular cliché.)

“Game of Thrones” has mostly avoided this convention by making its battles collections of memorable, revealing moments rather than epic clashes that overwhelm with chaotic slashing, crashing and spurting. There is plenty of that, of course, but what you remember is Ygritte dying in Jon’s arms in the Battle of Castle Black, the Night King raising the dead at Hardhome, Bronn’s incredible sprint for the Scorpion during the Loot Train Attack (still a super dumb name).

It began with a lengthy tracking shot through the castle’s courtyard, following Sam and then Lyanna and finally Tyrion as people like Bran and Theon passed through, reinforcing the human connections before it all went off. It was a sign that the episode was going to 1.) embrace creative shotmaking, and 2.) be about people, not opposing sides.

Throughout, Sapochnik and the show’s creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who wrote the episode, skipped from character to character to shrink the churning battle down to human scale. The chaotic fog of war was well represented but so was fear and desperation — the Hound’s terror, Grey Worm’s heavy breathing — as the dead poured through and over every obstacle.

But I’ll take the occasional loose end in exchange for a big, audacious episode that sticks the landing. From the beginning, “Game of Thrones” has promised a clash of ice and fire, and on Sunday that’s what we got — a story of life overcoming the forces of annihilation told at a scale and level of execution rarely seen on television or anywhere else.

There have been plenty of times over the years that the show has left me cold. But not today.

• Daenerys and Jon continue to suggest that neither is ready to rule anything, from a brainpower standpoint. She just sat there on a grounded Drogon until the wights swarmed him like undead fleas. Later Jon stood up and squared off against an actual zombie dragon, only to be saved by Arya. Nice job, Targaryens.

• “Maybe we should have stayed married,” Tyrion told Sansa. “You were the best of them,” she said. Their reunion has been one of my favorite things about this season.

• I know Sansa has been jerked around by plenty of royals in her day, but it seems petty when she can’t resist a Dragon Queen dig even in the bunker of death. She would have split up our marriage anyway, she quipped. Without the Dragon Queen we’d all be dead, Missandei clapped back.

• Melisandre’s like a Zippo with a balky flint, but eventually she does the job.

• R.I.P. Viserion, for real this time.

• What happened to Ghost? He also shows up in next week’s trailer but where did he go on Sunday?

• What did you think? Did enough people die? Will you miss the Night King? Where all did Bran’s ravens go anyway? (He was gone forever.) Please share your theories in the comments.

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