For a full rundown of who died last night, check out our pool recap here. Also, spoilers ahead.
Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was great. It was a thrilling, terrifying, and spectacular 82 minutes and most definitely set a new bar in terms of what television is capable of.
Never before in Game of Thrones were the stakes so high, a foe so dangerous, nor so many of our favorite characters in seemingly immediate danger and surely about to die.
So then why are they all still alive?
A problematic kill count
It’s almost a little bit of a letdown that more characters didn’t die defending Winterfell last night given the fact that the undead simply seemed unstoppable. I can’t count on my fingers how many times I told myself “how the hell are they gonna’ beat them?” and lost all hope for our heroes.
We saw the culmination of years of storytelling, hype, danger, and dread in last night’s Battle of Winterfell, and had never seen a foe as great as the Night King and his army, yet the body count simply doesn’t reflect that.
Grey Worm is still alive. How? Why? He was on the front lines almost the entire time and nearly sacrificed himself to light the trenches before Melisandre stepped in to do it herself. Grey Worm is a warrior first, and lover to Missandei second. A sacrifice would have been fitting for his character.
After the Night King raised the dead, and all hope seemed lost, surely Brienne or Pod or Tormund would have been felled, no? Backs against the wall, standing atop heaps of bodies, tiredly hacking away at the onslaught of wights as best they can. You could clearly see on the faces of all our heroes that they knew their time was coming to an end. Even Sam, lying amongst a heap of the dead, crying and scared…walked away unscathed.
Or what about in the crypts? After the undead stormed what was considered the safest place in Winterfell, it seemed that everyone down there would perish. Tyrion and Sansa survived, understandably, but surely Varys or even Gilly should have been a casualty, no?
Point being, if any of these characters were to die in battle, it would have made the most sense for them to have died in last night’s battle. Instead, we’re left with what seems like a lot of false climaxes. Even these characters themselves thought they’d die! Last week’s episode spent almost its entirety focusing on these characters essentially accepting their doomed fate. That was the whole episode!
How this affects the story going forward
Are the showrunners simply saving these lives for the war against Cersei and Euron? Or maybe the writers have walked back on their ruthlessness and everyone will live their lives out in peace, a departure from what we’re used to with Game of Thrones.
I felt satisfaction at the immediate conclusion of the episode. But once the preview for the next episode appeared and we saw glimpses of Cersei and Euron, I started to scratch my head.
How could it get any more challenging for our heroes going forward? How could showrunners possibly raise stakes any higher? The Night King and his army, despite now defeated, make Cersei, Euron, their respective armies, and the Golden Company look like light-work. After all, they’re human! With emotions and feelings! And can’t raise the dead, walk through fire, ride a dragon, or convert babies into White Walkers.
And if most of the characters and heroes survived last night’s battle, are we to expect them to die in a forthcoming battle seemingly less threatening and dangerous?
In some ways, Game of Thrones showrunners have doomed the remainder of the season by potentially showing their hand too soon, raising the stakes too high and too early, and then cheapening those stakes by letting a foe who we thought would kill so many characters actually only kill so few.
Episode 3, for all of its thrills and excitement and what it means for the rest of the season, is the equivalent of someone spending years blowing up a balloon just to deflate it in seconds.