SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details about Season 8, Episode 3 of “Game of Thrones.”
“Game of Thrones” on Sunday night was dark and full of terrors. But mostly just dark.
It was literally hard to see the action in this much-anticipated episode, fittingly titled “The Long Night.”
As Jon Snow, Daenerys and the gang finally faced off against the Army of the Dead at the Battle of Winterfell, viewers at home were left squinting to see just what the heck was going on because the screen was so dark. The gloomy cinematography made it hard to figure out who was fighting for the living or for the dead as the battle’s combatants often appeared only as murky, fast-moving silhouettes.
The dragons’ aerial dogfight occurred in either near-total darkness or was obscured by clouds. And Arya’s run for her life from the dead took place in what must have been Winterfell’s most shadowy and claustrophobic corners.
Melisandre did her part, briefly lighting the Dothrakis’ swords on fire and ringing Winterfell with protective flames. But the only place that seemed to have any consistent light was the crypt, where women, children, Varys and Tyrion Lannister waited the battle out, bathed in the warm glow of torches.
Social media, known for its measured responses, handled all of the darkness in “The Long Night” about as well as you’d expect.
One viewer complained that HBO spent “a gazillion dollars” on the show, only to make it so dark “literally no one can tell what’s happening.”
HBO: Let's make a show about dragons and zombies and spend a gazillion dollars on it
— Jamie 🍑 (@JamieFiorito) April 29, 2019
And lots of viewers compared their plight to that of a woman in a popular meme. She’s wearing glasses, leaning over and squinting, desperately trying to see something: “Me trying to spot my faves whilst everybody is getting slaughtered in the darkness,” one caption said.
— 𝙲𝚑𝚕𝚘𝚎🍂 (@chloehowell_) April 29, 2019
Did they mean to show it that way?
Although there’s no official word yet from HBO or the show’s producers, it would seem this low-resolution presentation of the battle was an intentional choice. Robert McLachlan, a cinematographer on “Game of Thrones,” seemed to back up that theory, telling the website Insider that in the later seasons the show’s producers wanted to try “to be as naturalistic as possible” when it came to lighting the sets.
And while the darkness of the Battle of Winterfell did produce some grumbling, it also had its dramatic benefits.
It was thrilling to see the lights from the flaming swords of the Dothraki race into the pitch-black distance in the first assault against the dead. And then it was absolutely terrifying to see the light from those swords swiftly extinguished as the zombie army wiped the horse-mounted warriors out.
When Daenerys and Jon finally attack the dead with the dragons, the pillars of fire raining down on the battlefield offered much-needed rays of light, both for the living warriors waging the fight and the viewers adjusting their TV screens at home.
Now that the Army of the Dead has apparently been vanquished and the alliance in Winterfell turns its attention south to Queen Cersei and her assembled forces, we hope fans can enjoy the final three episodes of the series without ruining their eyesight.
After all, winter still hasn’t reached King’s Landing — yet.
Nielsen reports the third installment in the series’ final season drew 17.8 million viewers — either watching live, streamed, on-demand or a same-day rerun.
That makes it the week’s most-watched show cable or broadcast. It’s also a record for HBO.
Sunday’s GOT was the most-watched one-day event in HBO’s four decades of existence.
The May 19 series finale is expected to break both records.