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Game of Thrones co-showrunner Dan Weiss was "really pissed" about that dark episode too, according to a series star. To recap, that episode was one of the most highly anticipated of the final season. After a lot of build-up to it, humanity faced off with the Night King in the Battle of Winterfell. The thing is that viewers had a super tough time making out what exactly was happening.
Game of Thrones Season 8's "The Long Night" cinematography turned out so dark that it made it tough to see who was living and dying. During a solo interview at Con of Thrones 2019, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) answered what he felt were the fair and unfair criticisms of the final season. It turns out, disgruntled Game of Thrones fans and the series’ co-showrunner Dan Weiss share one complaint in common. Coster-Waldau said:
The critique of Episode 3 being too dark. It was really dark…I actually spoke to [co-showrunner] Dan Weiss about this, because it really pissed him off as well. 'Cause you’ve gotta believe me, they did everything they could to make this the most exciting action sequence ever made, put on film, TV, anything. So to wake up and see the Twitter or whatever talking about, ‘I can’t see it!' Seriously, it was a surprise to everyone. Because it was dark, but it was made in a way that you should be able to see it. ... It shouldn't be like that. It is a fair critique. I agree with that.
To not be able to see the battle after all of the teases about it was a heartbreaker -- not only for Game of Thrones’ fans but also the creatives behind the show. I can only imagine. As Nikolaj Coster-Waldau points out, a lot of work went into filming it.
Ahead of the episode airing, talk about how “miserable” it was for the cast to film it took center stage. To have endured all of that and not have viewers be able to see it has to be a terrible feeling. Acknowledging that it was not supposed to be that way does personally help take the sting out of it.
Originally slated to include a giant direwolf battle, the episode ended up not being the only battle of the season. If you can call what happened in King’s Landing a battle. It was easier to see as it played out in daylight. The Battle of Winterfell happened at night. Following the episode airing, a cinematographer who worked on it defended the show against the lighting criticism.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s remarks do clarify that the Battle of Winterfell was not supposed to be that dark. As in, Game of Thrones did not intend for it to be impossible to see for stylistic purposes. That is a relief. Still, it does bring up questions.
What can be done to prevent something like this from happening in the future for other shows? Ozark, I am looking at you. Is there any way to “restore” the Battle of Winterfell? Or is it impossible to re-work? It is sad to think of it never getting properly seen. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau did joke during the interview that fans should just watch the battle on Blu-ray, suggesting there was a quality-of-image issue when it came specifically to airing the episode on HBO.