Here’s some irony for you: the most important character remaining in Game of Thrones may be the one who doesn’t show up. For those awaiting the battle, the smoke and fire, the ice versus flame in a way Robert Frost would be proud of, of the loud bombastic finale … it came halfway through the six episodes in the finale season. I’m going to dive into some of the details – so if you plan to watch, do yourself a favor: STOP READING.
The third episode of Game of Thrones goes out of its way to tell us that the characters are where they are because of what they’ve done before. It’s a great causality, but even after our ten-plus years of investment, the show unfortunately feels the need to tell us, actually literally vocalizing it, through Bran’s voice to Theon: “Everything you did brought you where you are now. Home.” Ultimately, I found myself mourning greasy, quirky, cowardly Theon’s death most of all this episode as the thought crossed my mind, “he survived all of that (everything else) to die like that?” What a waste.
But this show has never been subtle, never done what we expected it, too. (I wouldn’t have been surprised to have the credits fade with a big sign that read: “JUST KIDDING. THERE ARE NO MORE EPISODES LEFT.” Just to mess with us.)
I’m chasing rabbits now but the episode’s causality is less implied and more told – after Arya is rescued by Beric and Sandor, rather tragically and with a Christ-like shout-out, when Melisandre tells Arya, “The Lord (of light, R’hilo) brought him back for a purpose. Now that purpose had been served.” While Beric has been resurrected six times… not fully, but with scars to show… this reminder of a divine purpose is dropped down over and over again, even if we’re not clear just yet which players, divine or human, will yet come out on top.
But in addition to “home” as a victory in the midst of a dark episode, both visually and tonally, this faith Melisandre has makes for some interesting conversational fodder. As the White Walkers are bearing down on her, she does what no others could – light the flames of Winterfell to protect its remaining inhabitants – her prayer is actually answered, clearly and carefully by an ethereal power that is more magic devoid of science. There are clearly gods afoot in this world of Game of Thrones.
While the Night King performs a terrific Trojan Horse move (which brings up, why didn’t he do that before?), raising all of the fallen soldiers who were moments ago allies to his side in their mortality, the final moments of the episode seem …flat. We never get a Jon versus the Night King battle- and only tertiary characters fall in battle (that we know of so far). We don’t even get some stunning revelation that the Night King can actually speak! But that’s more telling about what the creators are straining for: the final push to be the one who sits on the Iron Throne.
The conclusion of the White Walkers versus humans battle isn’t the point. Instead, the third episode reminds us that what the zombie/undead/white walkers do to humans is nothing compared to what the humans do to each other. But like some sick political twist, where two decent candidates run and split the votes while the least, basest, and most crucially problematic of candidates sits to the side while the other two bludgeon each other…