Game of Thrones has often warned that the night is dark and full of terrors, but in season 8 the show has become so dark that it's often hard for fans to see what's going on. This is especially worrying given that the White Walkers have arrived at Winterfell, as predicted, before the sun rises - meaning the Great Battle of Winterfell will take place at night.
The show first started noticeably hitting the dimmer switch in season 5, with viewers often squinting to see what was happening in the House of Black and White, and it has only gotten darker since then. Shortly after the release of the full-length Game of Thrones season 8 trailer, a brightened version (later dubbed the "Lord of Light" version) was posted to Reddit, where it was upvoted by more than 33,400 users. Comments from grateful fans included, "Damn, I can actually see the trailer now," "THANK YOU!!!! I've seen the original five times already today and this is my first time actually getting to see half of it," and "I like your brightened up version much more than the original."
The darkness is deliberate, and is actually born out of a desire to make the show as realistic as possible (zombies, dragons, and zombie dragons notwithstanding). Speaking to ThisIsInsider in 2017, Game of Thrones cinematographer Robert McLachlan explained that the show has gotten so much darker because there are fewer ways to "justify" the lighting:
"For the day interior in Winterfell or Castle Black or Eastwatch, in the past we had the shutters open out of necessity so that some daylight could make its way in.That was your primary lighting source. There was this rule there that nobody in this world would burn candles in the daytime because they're a luxury item. They're far too expensive. What's happened is now, with winter really here, there was a consensus that it would seem daft for them to have the shutters open when it's so bitterly cold out. Why would they do that? But on the other hand it really makes it a lot harder for a cinematographer to justify some naturalistic light in there without so overdoing the candles or the fire or what have you."
Trying to make the show feel as gritty and realistic as possible may be an admirable endeavour, but in practice the reaction from viewers is less admiration for how justified the lighting is, and more a struggle to figure out who is speaking, where they are, and what's happening. Conversely, during the Battle of Castle Black in season 4 - which was notably well-lit by both fire and faux-moonlight - there were no complaints from fans that they could see what was happening too well and that it simply wasn't realistic. Perhaps they were distracted by the giant riding on the back of a woolly mammoth.
Game of Thrones' love of darkness does have its defenders among fans, who argue that you simply need to be watching the show on the right TV, with the right contrast settings, and make sure you watch at night, with the lights off, ideally with the curtains drawn to cut out any street light pollution... and if this is starting to sound like quite a bit of work simply to make the show watchable, then perhaps it is. Of course in an ideal world everyone would be watching Game of Thrones on a brand new OLED TV, but in reality Game of Thrones has millions of viewers watching on all different kinds of televisions, as well as other devices like computers, laptops, and tablets. Filming the show in such a way that you can only see what's happening in an ideal viewing situation leaves an awful lot of people in the dark.
Some will still disagree of course, and argue that if you're struggling to see what's happening then the fault lies with you, not with the show. But given the widespread complaints about how hard it is to see what's happening in Game of Thrones season 8, at what point does a creative choice cross the line and simply become a technical error?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.