Tuesday 15 October 2019

Pat Stacey: 'If I were a Game of Thrones fan I'd be feeling cheated'

The much-hyped battle episode failed to live up to its promise

Game of Thrones season 8 episode 3
Game of Thrones season 8 episode 3
Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington in Game of Thrones (HBO)

Pat Stacey

Fifty-five nights of filming, often in bitterly cold Northern Irish weather. Fifteen million dollars, at the very least, splurged on the budget. Untold hundreds of extras. Multiple camera set-ups that must have been a logistical nightmare to organise.

**WARNING: SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 3 of GAME OF THRONES SEASON 8**

It took all this and much more, including who knows how many special effects shots and a lot of green screen work (those dragons won’t fly by themselves, you know) to make episode three of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones.

But it would be worth it, we were told in advance. This would be the longest (82 minutes) episode in GoT’s history, as well as the most spectacular and one of the most significant.

It would feature the biggest, most spectacular battle ever depicted on screen. Compared to what we were about to see, the siege of Helm’s Deep, which filled 40 minutes of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, would look like a playground skirmish.

Given all this build-up, even a GoT agnostic like me couldn’t help but be a little bit excited. And maybe being agnostic is the best place to be right now.

Watching the episode objectively as a spectacle, rather than something you’ve invested in for seven years, means you don’t have any expectations. You don’t feel it owes you anything by way of an emotional or narrative payoff.

Judging by the reaction of many hardcore GoT fans on social media and in below-the-line comments of various reviews, quite a few of them didn’t get the payoff they desired. Roughly speaking, about half the comments I read expressed dissatisfaction with the episode, while some of them were downright damning.

I can sympathise with some of their gripes. There’s little doubt this was television on a grand scale — when, that was, you could actually make out what was happening on the battlefield.

It was sometimes difficult to see through all the murk who was killing who. I know the episode was called ‘The Long Night’ and not ‘The Long Day’, but did it have to be quite as dark it was for lengthy stretches?

The gloom couldn’t hide a glaring plot hole, though, which many disgruntled fans picked up on. If the key to keeping the rampaging wights at bay was lighting the trench, why not do it earlier and let Daenerys and her dragons simply fry the hell out of them? It would surely have saved a considerable number of lives.

And speaking of lives lost, there was a sense of disappointment about the ones that weren’t. GoT is famous for killing off major characters brutally and unexpectedly, yet the episode conspired to have all the key players still standing when the dust had settled and the sun had come up.

Given the overwhelming odds they faced, this was illogical and not a little ludicrous. In a series noted for being wildly unpredictable, it was a surprisingly conventional outcome, and even a little corny.

But if I were a hardcore GoT obsessive, what I’d probably be most irked about was the manner in which the Night King was blithely dispatched.

This had been bigged up as the ultimate showdown, the final conflict between good and evil, light and dark, fire and ice.

The frosty fella, bent on the destruction of all humanity, was the big, bad, all-powerful enemy, the existential threat that had been hanging over the whole series from day one.

And how was he finally defeated?

With a dagger in the gut from Arya Stark. Pfft! He was gone, exploding like a dropped glass while the wights he’d commanded slumped to the ground dead.

Is that it? After seven years? Really? Even a relatively disinterested observer like me can tell this was a feeble anticlimax. Still, it wasn’t the climax proper. There are three more episodes to come before the end. Will the GoT finale ultimately join The Sopranos and Mad Men as one of the great ones, or will it end up on the naughty step beside The Prisoner and Lost?

Read more: ‘You all think it’s hard avoiding Game of Thrones spoilers? Try living with Arya' - Maisie Williams' flatmate is struggling

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