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Game of Thrones cinematographer pens fierce response to claims the show is too dark

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The cinematographer for Game of Thrones’ Battle of Winterfell episode Fabian Wagner has said that the episode wasn’t too dark. But we might have to agree to disagree on that front.

The night is dark and full of spoilers, everybody. If you haven’t watched the third episode of Game of Thrones season eight yet, now is your chance to save yourself from learning more than you wish to know. Otherwise: read on.

Night gathers, and now our watch begins.

This is the oath spoken by the Night’s Watch on Game of Thrones, but in recent episodes they have taken on a more foreboding, literal tone when it comes to the show that everyone loves so much. Watching this beloved series feels like night is gathering as our watch begins. Because it’s so goddamn dark.

If you were left squinting at your television or iPad on Monday, screen brightness turned up to maximum, every light source in the room covered with blackout material, you weren’t alone. Everyone in the entire world spent the Battle of Winterfell in a heightened state of anxiety, half caused by watching all your favourites in peril, half caused by not being able to see that all your favourites were in peril. 

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It’s why the most important person in the episode wasn’t Arya or even the Night King, but Melisandre, for muttering that High Valyrian spell and lighting up those Dothraki swords and that trench, helping us to see. 

Is Game of Thrones too dark? This is an image of Melisandre and Arya. You be the judge.

That shit was dark. Without Melisandre, we wouldn’t have been able to see anything – not Brienne and Jaime fighting back to back, not Lyanna Mormont’s valiant final stand, not Samwell Tarly’s collapse into a heap. Nothing. Nada.

The cinematographer for Game of Thrones has insisted that the episode wasn’t too dark at all, though. In a new interview with Wired, Fabian Wagner said that the problem wasn’t the lighting in the episode, but everyone’s televisions. “People don’t know how to tune their TVs properly,” Wagner said. “A lot of people also unfortunately watch it on small iPads, which in no way can do justice to a show like that anyway.”

Wagner added: “The showrunners decided that this had to be a dark episode… Another look [other than night-time] would have been wrong. Everything we wanted people to see is there.” 

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Wait a second, back the truck up, is Game of Thrones gaslighting us? (At least then they would be lighting something.) Are they saying that the episode isn’t too dark at all, it’s just the way we’re watching it that’s the problem?

Let’s agree to disagree, here. The fact of the matter is that Game of Thrones has been a too-dark show for too long now – people have been complaining about the lighting in every northern location for several seasons now.

Whether or not we’re watching on a widescreen television or on a massive projector system or huddled over an iPhone, we should be able to see what we’re watching. Nobody wants to miss a single second of Arya’s triumphant hero moment.

The night is dark and full of terrors. If only we could see them.

 Game of Thrones airs on Sunday nights on HBO in the US and Monday mornings (and again in the evening) in the UK on Sky Atlantic and Now TV

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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