Bonding is now available to stream on Netflix, a series (15-minute episodes) about a New York City grad student moonlighting as a dominatrix who then enlists her gay best friend from high school to be her assistant.
I think The Act continues to deliver. Save for moving past the actual murder way too quickly, the show has been great.
With all of the OG’s bowing out early on this season of The Challenge, this current season ranks as the worst of the storied show’s history if you ask me.
The series finale of Gotham airs tonight on Fox.
NFL Draft coverage begins tonight on ABC.
The CW has renewed Roswell, New Mexico, In The Dark,The 100 and All American.
“Veteran Discovery executive Jane Latman has been named President of HGTV, effective immediately. She replaces Allison Page, who was recently named president of Discovery’s joint venture with Chip and Joanna Gaines.”
“Lori Loughlin and her husband had no idea college bribery mastermind Rick Singer was going to grease the palm of a USC coach to get their daughter into USC ... sources familiar with the case tell TMZ. Our sources say ... lawyers for Lori and Mossimo Giannulli didn't take a plea early on because they believe they have a solid defense on several fronts. First, ringleader Rick Singer did not tell them how he would use the $500k to get their daughters into the school. Fact ... they were aware Rick Singer wanted pics of the girls on a rowing machine, but they say that doesn't mean they knew the end game. It's true ... knowledge and intent are key elements to proving bribery, and we're told Lori and Mossimo's lawyers are making that a centerpiece of their defense ... their only intent is to generally get their daughters into USC by using a ‘facilitator’ who got hundreds of other students into colleges. One big problem ... according to the complaint, Giannulli -- not Loughlin -- sent at least $100k directly to the assistant athletic director. And, we're told, they have a more basic defense ... colleges have horse-traded with relatives of prospective students for decades ... e.g., fund the wing of a school building and your child will miraculously get accepted. It's not only been tolerated by many schools ... it's aggressively encouraged by some of the schools, and parents know it.”
Gabriel Iglesias will star as a high school history teacher in the Netflix comedy Mr. Iglesias, launching on June 21.
“The Jinx was well on its way to becoming one of HBO’s most noteworthy programs even before its shocking finale. The six-episode documentary series, profiling eccentric real estate magnate Robert Durst, ended with an apparent off-camera admission of guilt, leading many viewers to assume that he’d admitted to the murders that he’s been accused of over the course of several decades. Now, as Durst prepares to face a criminal trial on first-degree murder charges in a California court, his lawyers are attempting to cast doubt on the way the show presented its interviews. A transcript submitted by the defense team shows that Durst’s infamous quote — ‘What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.’ — was actually pieced together, separated by six sentences of additional context. The New York Times has an excerpt from that portion of the fateful interview, with the first part of the ‘confession’ coming after Durst had said, ‘He was right. I was wrong. The burping. I’m having difficulty with the question.’ The ‘he’ that Durst refers to is presumably The Jinx director Andrew Jarecki….Three years elapsed from the time that Durst last sat for an in-person, on-camera interview with Jarecki to the March 2015 airing of the series finale. Durst was taken into custody the night before the last episode aired. On the basis of the editing decisions surrounding the now-notorious bathroom audio, Durst’s defense team is reportedly seeking to ensure that none of the evidence compiled by the team behind The Jinx can be deemed admissible in the upcoming proceedings.”
“One month after the release of Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt, the band is experiencing a Netflix bump on multiple platforms, including downloads, streams and book sales. In addition, the group gained new subscribers on YouTube and saw its socials pick up droves of followers on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s how the numbers break down: In the streaming arena over the last 27 days, Motley Crue songs were consumed 73.8 million times on Spotify and nearly 30 million plays were registered at Apple Music. That’s a spike of 599% on Spotify and 1,081% on Apple Music, according to the band’s management, which notes similar streaming gains at Deezer and Amazon. Song sales also surged, with iTunes reporting 176,008 purchases, or a 1,330% rise when compared to the average 27-day period in the previous 12 months.”
From The Hollywood Reporter: “‘That's some catch, that Catch-22.’
“Christopher Abbott's Yossarian quickly becomes aware of his current predicament in the official trailer for Hulu's anticipated limited series Catch-22.
“At the start of the first look, which was released Wednesday, Yossarian, a U.S. Air Force bombardier in World War II, is requesting to be grounded from his missions.
"‘Doc, you can ground me if I'm crazy, right? Then ground me, I'm crazy,’ he says. In response, the medic explains to him that he is, in fact, not crazy. Citing the Catch-22 military rule, Yossarian is told, ‘As soon as you ask to get out of combat duty, you're no longer crazy and so you have to fly more missions.’
“Catch-22, which marks George Clooney's return to scripted television, is based on Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel and tells the story of the incomparable and artful dodger, Yossarian (Abbott, taking on the role played by Alan Arkin in the 1970 film adaptation), who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy, but rather his own army, which keeps increasing the number of bombing missions the men must fly to complete their service.
“But — and here's the catch — if Yossarian makes any attempt to avoid his military assignments, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule that specifies that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers which are real and immediate is the process of a rational mind; a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but a request to be removed from duty is evidence of sanity and therefore makes him ineligible to be relieved from duty.
“Clooney — in his first series regular role since NBC's ER — portrays Scheisskopf, the training officer and parade enthusiast at the Air Force cadet base where Yossarian is trained; he also directs and executive produces. Kyle Chandler stars in the lead role as Col. Cathcart, the part originally played by Martin Balsam in the 1970 feature.
“The trailer gives viewers a sense of the wild and dark humor that can be expected in Clooney's take on the story as it tackles the absurd horrors of war.
"‘I've flown more missions than anybody on this base and any time I get close, they raise it on me. I can't do this anymore,’ Yossarian complains amid war scenes that range from bloody to an impromptu dance during lineup.
“The starry ensemble led by Clooney, Abbott and Chandler also includes Hugh Laurie, Giancarlo Giannini, Daniel David Stewart, Rafi Gavron, Austin Stowell, Graham Patrick Martin, Gerran Howell, Jon Rudnitsky, Kevin J. O'Connor, Pico Alexander, Tessa Ferrer, Lewis Pullman, Josh Bolt, Jay Paulson, Julie Ann Emery and Grant Heslov.
“Catch-22 was executive produced by Clooney and Heslov on behalf of Smokehouse Pictures; along with Richard Brown and Steve Golin, who died on Monday, on behalf of Anonymous Content. Luke Davies and David Michôd are co-writers and executive producers.
“The six-part limited series from Paramount Television and Anonymous Content was directed by Clooney, Heslov and Ellen Kuras, who also served as producer. The trio directed two episodes each and Clooney appears in three, all of which are set to bow May 17 on Hulu.”
Per BGR, “[a]ccording to Nielsen data covering the 12 months that ended this past July, Netflix users during that span watched The Office for 45.8 billion minutes.
“That’s according to a new report today from The Wall Street Journal, which is topped by the on-again, off-again news that Netflix may finally be poised to lose what looks to be its number 1 show — the NBC mockumentary about the daily goings on inside a regional office of a middling paper supply company. NBC, according to the report, has apparently begun talks to pull The Office from Netflix once the licensing contract with the streamer expires in 2021, something that, as the statistic in the first paragraph should make clear, would be a huge loss for Netflix.
“The series, which ran for nine seasons on NBC, would become a staple of the streaming service that NBCUniversal is preparing to launch, which comes at a time when legacy media conglomerates like NBC are racing to grab as many consumer subscription dollars as they can. Meanwhile, Netflix is likewise racing to build out a library of its own exclusive original content as fast as it can to help compensate for the loss of third-party content as companies move their licensed properties, like The Office, back to their own services.
“To be sure, Netflix has done an admirable job so far of building out a library of its own original content. Shows like Stranger Things and The Crown have solid fanbases built around them — though they don’t hold a candle to how passionately fans of The Office feel about the beloved workplace comedy.
“Indeed, there is real danger for Netflix here. According to the Journal’s report, eight of the 10 shows people spent the most time watching on Netflix last year in the US were reruns of old favorites like Parks and Recreation, Friends andThe Office.
“Per the WSJ: ‘Although Netflix has burnished its brand with a flood of original programs such as Stranger Thingsand The Crown — and spends most of its time on quarterly earnings calls discussing that content — nonoriginal ‘library programming’ made up 72% of the minutes people spent watching Netflix as of October, according to the Nielsen data. That means reruns, and most of them are made by Netflix’s rivals.’
“Internal data at Netflix shows that original programming (and the buzz around it) drives new subscriptions. However, as the above paragraph shows, the originals don’t drive viewership. The streaming giant needs as much of the retro stuff as possible to keep customers sticking around, which is why Netflix is about to enter what may be one of the most precarious periods yet in its history.
“The fact that the company is close to losing what may be its most popular nonoriginal title in the form of The Office, now that NBC is finally preparing to take it back, certainly won’t make Netflix’s job any easier.”
Per Variety, “[i]n 2016, the first season of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story, about the arrest and trial of O.J. Simpson, swept the Emmys’ limited-series categories, sparking a revival in mainstream interest in both the Simpson case and the true-crime genre. Ever since then, crime stories — American and otherwise — have been multiplying. It’s a boom that’s turning this year’s Emmy race into a digest of recent history.
“Connie Britton was a Golden Globe nominee for Bravo’s Dirty John, adapted from a Los Angeles Times story and podcast about one woman’s encounter with a devious criminal. Patricia Arquette earned Globe and SAG honors for her role as a real-life prison employee who assisted in a breakout in Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora. Making her a possible double Emmy nominee for roles taken luridly from life, Arquette currently plays a mother eventually killed by the daughter she torments in Hulu’s The Act.
“By the time Chernobyl — an HBO miniseries depicting the flailing response to the 1986 Ukrainian nuclear meltdown — hits screens May 6, viewers will have gotten a varied diet of shows that all do a similar thing. Despite changes in location and tone (Dirty John is unapologetically soapy, while Chernobyl wears its prestige proudly) these programs share the task of excavating a notable story and examining details so seemingly outlandish that they could not have been invented. ‘I’ve never read a story with more frustrating behavior, countered with the most sacrificial behavior imaginable,’ says Craig Mazin, who wrote Chernobyl. ‘It’s the best and worst of people.’ Alexandra Cunningham, showrunner of Dirty John, echoes the thought: ‘The sources of greatest conflict are always what is going to give you the best drama, and crime is showing people at extremes.’
“This genre — closed-ended stories that feature humanity’s lows and highs — will likely continue to grow. Familiar cases satisfy audience appetite for real-world stories in an era in which the hunger for reality has grown sharper. (The boom in fictionalizations mirrors a similar one in true-crime documentary, with entries including Lorena and the two seasons of Making a Murderer.) Michael Tolkin, co-showrunner of Escape at Dannemora, says that the programs slake the desire for the truth. ‘We live in a time of such lying. You know that when you’re dealing with true crime you’re illustrating some aspect of social reality. People are drawn to something that explodes the world that they live in.’
“Tolkin’s partner, Brett Johnson, says Escape at Dannemora isn’t, at heart, about the escape at all. ‘Here was a prison-break story that was really about a woman. Anybody could watch and go, well, f–k, I’m in a town I don’t like or a marriage I don’t like or a job I don’t like.’ The truest thing true crime may do is provide audiences access to the worst of human behavior, and help them understand their own dark impulses.
“Michelle Dean, the co-showrunner of The Act — based on a viral story she wrote for BuzzFeed in 2016 about the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard by her daughter, Gypsy Rose — doesn’t think interest in true crime is anything new. ‘Look back over 200 years of print history, and you’re going to see a lot of newspapers focusing on crime. We all know the “If it bleeds, it leads” imperative.’ What’s new is what Dean calls ‘respectability.’ Before Serial, the 2014 podcast sensation that looks into the case of convicted murderer Adnan Syed, true crime was associated with down-market newsmagazine brands like Dateline or made-for-TV movies like Drew Barrymore’s The Amy Fisher Story. Serial, all philosophical musings and psychological portraiture, built an audience that might have otherwise avoided the genre.
“And the true-crime shows battling for Emmys hew far more rigorously to the facts than had entertainments in the genre. The Act had a journalist leading the production. ‘Because we weren’t able to speak to Gypsy or the family, having Michelle there as a writer was extremely valuable,’ says Nick Antosca, Dean’s co-showrunner. ‘Any time any of the writers had a question, we had somebody with direct experience writing the show.’
“Other shows followed equally stringent guidelines. ‘Anything in there that deviates in some microscopic way from reality was all inspired by true stuff,’ Johnson says of Escape at Dannemora. Cunningham also was in contact with her subjects. ‘At no point was I secretly thinking, “I could really milk this for salaciousness,”’ she says. ‘I really wanted to be responsible for all of them and to not try to branch out into things they hadn’t already talked about.’
“Where license must be taken, it’s done with care. Mazin is releasing a podcast summarizing the changes he made to the true story of Chernobyl, ‘to be accountable for it,’ he says. ‘We don’t have to pretend everything we do in narrative representation of the truth is the truth. It’s not possible.’ For all the research that creators put in, there will always be disputes: Tilly Mitchell, the woman played by Arquette in Escape at Dannemora, has contested the series, and Gypsy Rose Blanchard, the young woman (played by Joey King) at the heart of The Act, has threatened to sue Hulu over its depiction of her experiences. While Dean says all stories use some creative license, ‘the question is, are you doing it with a responsibility to the emotional truth of the story? Do you feel responsible to illustrate something about human nature or the crime? We did feel that responsibility, and that guided us.’
“The race to mainstream acceptability isn’t the only trend at play in making the crime story TV’s current dominant form. There is also the rise of the limited series, as content providers seek more — and more varied — inventory. Showtime had been focused solely on open-ended series before 2017’s Twin Peaks: The Return and 2018’s Patrick Melrose. ‘We definitely prefer to have an audience fall in love with characters and have them come back year after year,’ says Gary Levine, Showtime’s co-president of entertainment. ‘But we are building a varied portfolio of programming. We celebrate the range of shows we offer people.’ And Dirty John was an unusually ambitious scripted undertaking for Bravo, giving a story of a woman first victimized and then empowered access to that channel’s rich vein of female viewers. Cunningham, who is at work on Season 2 of Dirty John (examining a new case of ‘true crime meets love gone wrong,’ in her telling), says, ‘I think people were a little surprised by that at first, and I was surprised by their surprise!’
“The rise of limited series has made true crime appealing to executives, providing compelling IP for networks looking for material that will connect with a fragmented audience. It also provides a perfect form for a genre that doesn’t work for features or episodic television. Mazin says he was ‘just a strongly obsessed hobbyist’ reading about the Chernobyl disaster before Fargo and True Detective (both of which aired first seasons in early 2014, some months before the launch of Serial). ‘It never occurred to me to dare pitching this as a movie. It would ruin it,’ he says. With limited series, ‘you have total format freedom.’
“That freedom includes being able to spread out details over multiple episodes and to build suspense over time. The Act wrings almost unbearable tension from the fact that its protagonist, Gypsy, has been told obvious lies about her health and could actually escape her mother. Dean notes that many producers she spoke to before partnering with Universal Content Prods. had wanted to create a story with a big narrative turn, not creeping unease. ‘I wasn’t interested in the third-act twist,’ she says. ‘I was interested in how did these people get to where they were. And a whydunit is much better suited to a miniseries than a feature.’
“Similarly, Dannemora presents its prisoners (Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano) as sympathetic — until their escape. ‘We don’t do true-crime stories as a rule,’ says Levine. ‘What attracted us to Dannemora was its subversiveness. Yes, it’s a true-crime story, but you don’t see any violence for the first few episodes. You just meet this really weird triangle of three characters in this prison. And it’s a long way into the series before you actually get a taste of how brutally violent two of those three are.’ While the show itself was sourced in fact, the late reveal of the pair’s cruelty was meant to amp up emotion. Says Johnson, ‘To put the moment they are the most sympathetic in the entire series right next to the worst moment of their entire life — you could never do that in a movie. You wouldn’t have time to do that in a movie.’
“It isn’t just time that sets these projects apart — it’s also daring. TV is the only medium, perhaps, capacious enough to carry these visions in all their truthful oddity. It’s perfect for an era in which the truth seems unbelievable, and unbelievably complex. ‘Stories about the good guy and the bad guy sometimes don’t resonate with me,’ says Johnson. ‘I don’t know that the good guy and the bad guy really does it right now.’”
Per The Ringer, “Game of Thrones viewers have been waiting for a full-fledged battle between the humans and the Night King’s army for weeks, if not years (and for readers of the books, decades). The show’s entire run, starting with the first reveal of White Walkers in the first scene of the pilot, has been building toward this moment, and it will arrive in the Battle of Winterfell on Sunday over the course of an 82-minute episode, the longest of the series.
“We know the stakes. We know which characters’ lives are at risk. We know Winterfell’s defensive strengths and weaknesses, and the possible secrets that await in the castle’s crypts—which are likely not, as the show might want you to believe, the SAFEST PLACE IN WINTERFELL.
“Episode 3 will reportedly feature the longest battle sequence in TV or film history. But will the fight be any good? The two previous installments in the war between humans and the army of the dead offer diverging precedent. The first, in Season 5’s Hardhome, was perhaps the best battle in the entire series, as Jon fended against a surprise attack north of the Wall while he tried to recruit wildlings to travel south. The second, in Season 7’s Beyond the Wall, was perhaps the worst battle in the entire series, as a small group of warriors led by Jon ran into the Night King’s army as they tried to capture a wight. Given all the buildup to Sunday’s episode, expectations hold that the Battle of Winterfell should fall more toward the former than the latter, but the Season 7 example leaves nagging doubts.
“We can examine Hardhome and Beyond the Wall to determine what factors make for a thrilling and memorable battle between the living and the dead—and what notes to avoid, lest we remember it for the wrong reasons. So in the spirit of anticipation, here is a seven-item checklist for this long-awaited episode, with hints as to how each factor might come into play this Sunday at Winterfell:
1. Ensure the battle has a sound premise and sensible strategy.
The battle at the frozen lake in Beyond the Wall was in part doomed before it even began, as it started with a much-mocked plan for the heroes to capture a wight and present it to Cersei in King’s Landing as proof of the threat. In the ensuing battle, Jon and friends weren’t just fighting for their survival—they were also fighting to protect an angry skeleton that they had stuffed inside a burlap sack, which cast the entire endeavor in a ludicrous light.
Hardhome benefitted from a more compelling foundation; in that episode, Jon sought to save the lives of the refugees at the encampment, mend the long-antagonistic relationship between Night’s Watch and wildlings, and avoid further bolstering the Night King’s forces. Hardhome succeeded for many reasons, but it began with that sturdy base.
One possible clue for Sunday’s episode is that Hardhome was the result of an ambush on the part of the army of the dead, which helped catalyze the battle’s emotional effect. “Beyond the Wall” is similar to the Battle of Winterfell in that both battles are the result of coordinated human preparation. However, as outlined in Episode 2 this season, the humans have a battle strategy this time. They have a defined goal, and a plan to achieve it. That plan might not work—it probably won’t work—but it sure beats wander in the snow until you find a wight; capture it; then figure out how to escape later.
2. Establish the battle’s time and location.
Another bit of narrative confusion surrounding Beyond the Wall was its diminished sense of time and place. It was unclear where the battle occurred (at least, more specifically than somewhere beyond Eastwatch) and how long it took various parts to transpire (cue Gendry sprint jokes). The duration of the battle itself was vague, and the terrain seemed to add new elements as the plot demanded it: Where, for instance, was that high ground to which Jon retreated when he shouted for his comrades to “fall back”? The whole enterprise felt somewhat disconnected from the show’s typically disciplined storytelling.
The location and chronology in Hardhome were comparatively digestible. The establishing shots of the village offered this much before the fight even began: It was clear where the fence stood compared with the sea, and how the cliffs overlooked the roof of the building, so viewers could track the characters’ relative positions and lines of sight when battle reared.
This lesson reveals encouraging signs for the Battle of Winterfell. Although the show hasn’t done as much as the books to outline Winterfell’s layout, the human allies looked over—and thus showed viewers—a map of the castle’s defenses last episode, and Jon and Daenerys’s flight in Episode 1 this season allowed for a dragon’s-eye view of the castle grounds. The new opening credits, moreover, have enforced a sense of the castle’s architecture, particularly regarding the crypts. Keeping those logistics polished next episode will require sharp camera work (à la the tracking shot of Castle Black in Season 4’s defense of the Wall, for instance), story framing, and more, but it would greatly enhance the viewer’s understanding of all the battle’s tricks and turns.
3. Use the dead as horror, not mere cannon fodder.
The wights have the same story problem as countless other mass-produced soldiers; like Star Wars’ Stormtroopers or the MCU’s Chitauri, robot clones, and Outrider creatures, the Night King’s footmen might threaten the protagonists but rarely, if ever, complete the deal. Only two named characters died at the lake battle in Beyond the Wall: Viserion by way of the Night King’s spear and Thoros of Myr to the elements. Nobody fell to the wights. (Undead Benjen died [again?] at their hands after he rescued Jon and couldn’t find time to hop on a horse, but that was a post-battle sacrifice.) “Hardhome” has this issue, too, to an extent—Karsi the wildling is killed by a pack of wight children, but she is the only named character to die in such a fashion.
Yet where Hardhome excels is in its use of the dead as instruments to elicit horror; they aren’t just obstacles for the heroes to vanquish one sword thrust at a time, but rather markers of the mood and atmosphere that the episode aimed to convey. The wights at this battle altered the full future of the story—via both Jon’s motivation and the audience’s understanding of the true stakes in this war—while the wights in Beyond the Wall mainly allowed the mission’s warriors to rack up kill points on their Thrones fantasy scorecards.
When not properly handled, this dynamic also reduces the dramatic tension of the fight. When, for instance, Tormund is tackled by a handful of wights and dragged toward a hole in the ice but recovers just fine, the impact of their presence is muted. If they can’t really threaten the heroes, and they can’t really scare the audience, why should viewers care when they appear?
If the show’s persistent crypt-based hints pay off, the Battle of Winterfell could return to form in this regard. When a worried Daenerys tells Jon, “The dead are already here” in the Episode 3 trailer, might she be referring to the literal dead already inside the castle? If the Night King reanimates the dead Starks whose bodies reside in the crypts, and if those soldiers attack the ostensibly safe and mostly defenseless humans hiding there, the Battle of Winterfell could set the new bar for horror on the show.
4. Directly involve the White Walkers.
Tip no. 4 is related to no. 3: If the wights can’t kill the heroes, then bring the White Walkers into battle to amplify the suspense. Hardhome was at its best when Jon killed the Walker with Longclaw, or when the Night King raised the dead; “Beyond the Wall” was at its best when the Night King toppled Viserion. The wights can work as filler enemies, but the most intense drama comes from the staunchest threat.
In this vein, the concluding shot of Season 8, Episode 2, as the long line of Walkers approaches Winterfell, contains promise. Let’s hope that all those fearsome opponents actually enter the fray, instead of letting the castle’s defenders face the mindless hordes and nothing greater.
5. Focus on individuals in the midst of the chaos.
In battle scenes, periodically zooming in on specific points in the large-scale pandemonium humanizes the fight and allows different characters’ abilities and emotions to shine. In “Hardhome,” Jon is featured in the biggest moments, for obvious reasons. But he’s not alone. Wun Wun the giant receives individual attention too. So does Karsi. Even the Thenn leader Loboda takes advantage of the spotlight at times. In Beyond the Wall, conversely, even the characters more popular than the likes of Karsi and Loboda received barely more than a second or two of screen time to themselves. A group effort isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it can’t be the only thing on film, either.
Related to this individuation is that Hardhome formed a multifront battle, with separate fights at the fence, shelter, and shoreline. This spread afforded the camera the ability to shift from place to place and play with mood as the perspective changed. The more intimate battle inside the shelter is almost a different one entirely than the chaotic one raging outdoors. At the frozen lake, conversely, all the action occurred in one small parcel of land.
Here, too, the Battle of Winterfell appears better suited to fulfill its promise than the one depicted in “Beyond the Wall.” Episode 2’s preparations show the humans are prepared to wage a defense of the castle in several places, and with so many well-known characters seemingly poised to die, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a Rogue One–style person-by-person sendoff, with each named hero who falls earning one last triumphant look from the camera.
6. Manipulate sound to create the mood, atmosphere, and memorable moments.
The most memorable scenes from Hardhome come with accompanying sound. The battle first arrives not with an onslaught of wights, but with foreboding noises: suddenly howling dogs, the rustle of movement through the mountains. Its first action beat further relies on sound to signify the start of something special: Cries to open the gate and the escalating ticking-clock noise are hushed in an instant, replaced by only the most muffled sounds of anguish and then a long, eerie, drawn-out silence.
As the battle continues, the drama rises with each new sound: a sharp ringingduring Jon’s fight with the White Walker when the latter’s staff hits but doesn’t shatter Longclaw; the cracking of the Walker’s body when Jon strikes the killing blow; the piercing, reverberating drones when Karsi turns to face the recently-turned child wights.
In general, composer Ramin Djawadi uses silence to great effect as he soundtracks the scene. Strategically cutting the music allows smaller sonic details to emerge. The music stops when the White Walker hits Jon with his staff, leaving just the sound of the wind and the Walker’s unhurried, crunching footsteps, and elevating the sense of Jon’s panic to the viewer; this effect also appears when the Night King taunts Jon and raises the dead, as the sound of the gently lapping waves concludes the episode on a desolate and hopeless note.
Shrewd manipulation of sound also helps facilitate some of the other factors on this checklist. For instance, the ticking-clock effect at the beginning of the battle creates an understanding of the situation’s time pressure, like in Dunkirk, and as Jon battles the White Walker, the rest of the battle’s noises disappear, but after the Walker’s explosive death, those elements bleed back into the scene to show that the larger battle still rages. The stark divide between the sounds inside and outside the sheltered structure, moreover, aid the scene’s sense of location and focus on individuals amid the group.
In contrast, the soundscape for the battle in Beyond the Wall is mostly generic fighting fare: standard Thrones action music, the snarls of the dead, copious grunts from the story’s heroes. Only when the Night King aims his spear at Viserion does this pattern shift: The music stops when the icicle connects with its target, the silence is filled with the dragon’s yelps of pain and the scraping sound as his felled body slides across the ice into the lake. It’s no surprise that moment is the lake battle’s best, but even then, the sounds pick up right where they left off. The lack of storytelling novelty in that episode seems to manifest in the soundtrack as well.
There aren’t yet many hints about the sonic component of the Battle of Winterfell. May the divergent lesson of these two episodes yield a reward here, specifically.
7. Add a surprise or three.
Compared with the lake battle, Hardhome”has an inherent narrative advantage because it represented the first time, really, that viewers saw the wights in full battle. Their horror was novel. But the specific manifestations of that horror helped, too—most memorably with their mass, lemming-style leap off the cliff overlooking the village.
Jon’s defeat of the White Walker was new too. (Sam had previously killed a Walker, but not in this kind of pitched confrontation, nor with Valyrian steel.) So was the Night King’s raising of the dead. From start to finish, then, the battle in Hardhome packed new and exciting elements into a succession of escalating thrills.
Beyond Viserion’s death, the lake battle didn’t contain any surprises on that scale. Part of this problem stemmed from a lack of attention to other factors on this list; the endless wave of wights, for instance, wasn’t surprising, nor did it require any invention on the protagonists’ part because their constant swinging of weapons killed wights with every stroke. But even the dragons’ destruction of wight forces by fire fell somewhat flat; when a dragon had mowed through an army of living humans just two episodes prior in the Loot Train Attack, the same result with dead opponents wasn’t any additional reason for excitement. To try to increase the dramatic tension, the lake battle even went slow motion at points; Hardhome didn’t need to, because its tension already grew to a maximal amount organically.
A twist this week like the rise of undead Starks from the crypts would likely qualify here, or a dragon-versus-dragon battle, or any number of possibilities that could emerge in such a climactic encounter involving so many characters and taking place over such a large swath of time. Until Sunday night, the Battle of Winterfell remains theoretical, and the imagination constructs so many possible scenarios that could unfold. If the show fulfills those dreams or even exceeds them with unimagined surprises, it would pay off years of planning and development. And the Thrones universe, potentially, would never be the same again.”