but in a Guernica way, you know that Picasso painting?
Shit. It appears as though the sexiest way to review a work is to scrutinize every fault under a microscope while dismissing whatever was executed well. That’s the cool kids’ way to do it.
I don’t really want to waste your time or anymore of my time with a sexy review. Nor do I have the patience to answer the teaming nitpicks one at a time. I like it. It was great. Yeah the cavalry didn’t flank, Sam sat there and didn’t die blah blah blah. Others thought it was shit. Actually a lot of viewers thought it was shit. We all know who is on which side of the fence by now. It’s been a whopping 5 days. That’s my review. But what is the episode?
It’s 80 minutes of opaque imagery and disdain towards the viewer’s safe haven. Contorted, writhing, and phantasmal. Beneath a mound of corpses, disorienting cuts, and a tar-dark aesthetic, resonates a poignant dosage of what this story is, and why we are obsessed with visual storytelling.
Ah crap, do I gotta draw the lines between this and Guernica still? I mean it should be obvious. They’re both received similarly. “It’s hard to look at” “That’s not how it’s supposed to go” “I don’t like it”. But what was the purpose of that work? It wasn’t mean to be an inspirational poster, rather a horrendous impression of a horrendous reality.
The scarce dialogue and muddied visuals (just turn out the damn lights or crank the brightness), weren’t to entertain or spoon-feed understanding, but intrude upon the viewer’s otherwise panoptic perspective. Simply put, it doesn’t show a battle, it drags you through it consent or not. Miguel Sapochnik, expressed verisimilitude with The Battle of Bastards, and illustrated a nightmare in The Long Night.
And yet, a pristine simplicity harmonizes the episode to the rest of the saga. Efficient conclusions are often confused with lazy writing because, I don’t know, reasons. Maybe I’m mistaken. But the allure of Game of Thrones as a visual medium is the card-house of subplots and characters and scenes and locations and bullshit toppled by a single gust. The great twists in this series, and in visual stories in general, are surmised into seconds. Ned’s demise, the red wedding, the purple wedding, Oberyn, you name it. All condense down to a single oversight or that dooms a major character(s) and all their buildup or what have you.
The fact that such a premier series arc and the longest battle sequence ever filmed ends with a single assassination is indicative of the narrative’s perceptions of parity and death. Brought into being by a knife to the chest, and removed by a knife to the chest. The dreary piano montage serves as both an auditory catharsis and a plot hand-wave, no matter the battle strategy, character death, or dialogues, this montage would have happened… inescapably. The remaining method to silence the piano is to convince the night king he won, then execute him. A magical entity designed to one thing, and fails because of its inherent fixation on that purpose.
It’s impressionistic, foreboding, and fatally concentrated, like its focal opposing characters. Would it have felt more formal to have a poster character like Jon or Danny defeat the Night King, or strike down every single wight one by one? Sure. But they had their chance, and failed. No one is subtle, enshrouded, and effective.
This was not the grandiose painting that would woo crowds and garner applause. This episode was more cubist, twisting the conventions of comfort, expectations, and presentation to achieve an artistic goal. A masterwork that need not be universal.