We’ve all seen it. Good v evil. Righteous v damned. Fight Night. It’s one of the most interesting and overused tropes in cinema today. The good guy defeats the bad guy. So what happens when a show subverts what the fanbase expects and then utilizes what the fans have witnessed during the entire series? You get ‘The Long Night‘. Episode 3 of the last and final Eighth Season of Game Of Thrones.
To articulate how I felt about this episode, would consist of thousands of thoughts all compiled in a linear description. Or quite simply, a review. But, I cannot fathom being able to conjure up the emotions to give a detailed analysis of what we witnessed. It was the culmination of a 10-year saga fully realized. And the ‘HOW’ and ‘WHY’ of it all is being missed by some and can easily be explained in one word: Endgame.
Now, before you chastise me for what I’m saying, hear me out. Endgame isn’t a bad film by any means. But from what I saw, Endgame didn’t know how to capitalize on a story that it was moving towards since 2008. And that’s a shame. Not only because the film felt forced, but (SPOILER) because of the choices of character motivations and Thanos not being the original Thanos.
That’s not to say that Game Of Thrones and Endgame are one and the same. But, they were very similar in a story where Endgame could have benefitted from the choices the creators made for The Long Night. I know Game Of Thrones was filmed before but narratively, they couldn’t have been more opposite in finalizing the real villain.
Pandering To Fans
One of the biggest claims I have seen since both have been out is that Endgame was a love letter to the fans. And that’s perfectly fine. That means a lot of fans that were expecting to see what happened, were given what they wanted. Game Of Thrones is NOT that. And that’s all I’ve seen from Game Of Thrones Fans: “I wanted Jon Snow to fight the Night King” and they’re upset it didn’t happen.
Both claims are valid, but one yields to how the fans wanted the creators to give them what they wanted. And the other yields to how the creators chose their own path. Are we really at a point as fans that if we’re not given what we have in our own minds, that it means the writers don’t know what they’re doing? If ending Game Of Thrones was easy, George R.R. Martin would have accomplished that goal to finish the series shortly after 2011.
If you think the showrunners, Dave & D.B. Weiss, fell backward into creating this show, you haven’t been paying attention. Regardless of having source material to work with or not, they were tasked to complete a story they wanted to tell. And no one could have foreseen GRRM being unable to finalize Winds Of Winter. But that’s where we’ve arrived at this moment. So are the showrunners unable to use their own shows as source material to finish their own story?
Often, we get so caught up in what the conversations were back in Season 1 or Season 4 that we forget one thing: Prophecies are dangerous things. We have to view the show as a different entity compared to the books. Yes, the show can have callbacks to the books, but that doesn’t mean we should use the books as to how theories might happen in the show. Things become thick-milky once you begin to dissect every hidden meaning in the books to fit the show.
A Song Of Ice & Fire
From the very beginning of the show, we’ve known Ice and Fire would come together. Whether that meant Jon Snow becoming a Targaryen or him and Daenerys joining forces; it was all there. But even looking at things separately, Jon was always thinking of the Night King. And Daenerys was always thinking about the Throne. They’ve both come together to accomplish one goal and the other will be the culmination of the entire series.
We never fully understood the Night King’s motivations and looking back, we never needed to. Sure, Bran explained that he wanted the memories of the world to be gone forever, but that’s too simple. And simple, again, is NOT Game Of Thrones. It’s political intrigue. It’s Cersei outing her enemies one by one. The deception and backstabbing and planning and killing. It’s never been about good v evil as in living v dead. It’s been about who can play the Game Of Thrones and live.
So, with The Long Night, what more could we, as fans, have asked for? What I’ve loved about the entire series is the realism its stayed faithful to in a show with walking dead men and dragons. This episode showed what a battle at night would look like and just how daunting a task it would be to fight the dead. The show has shown us that the Night King isn’t too focused on Jon, either. If he wanted him dead, he would have easily taken care of him in season 7.
But this battle was always about the Night King and Bran. We should have known that Jon wouldn’t be the one to take him out. And really, how could he? The entire episode showed that the Night King specifically waits until Bran is alone in the Godswood before he or his generals enter the castle. If that wasn’t evidenced enough, the Night King patiently approaches Bran with ease while holding his army back from attacking him.
The Night King
The embodiment of Death itself. Or in other words, the god of Death. How we haven’t looked just how close Arya and the Night King connect is astounding. To know that she was taught from an early age to be as quiet as a cat and move like a shadow is already telling. But when she becomes a faceless man and gains the ability to be as deadly as men who worship the god of Death, it becomes clear.
She was given the dagger that was meant to kill Bran and uses it to save his life. When you consider that this dagger is made of Valyrian Steel and has Dragonglass in its handle, it makes it quite unique. Add that Arya is a true born daughter of Ned Stark and you realize she earned her ancestral homes name, Winterfell. Winter truly fell by her hands.
Real Female Empowerment
One of the most astonishing concepts to come out of this entire ordeal is that Arya was a ‘Mary Sue’. For those unfamiliar with that term: It’s a type of female character who is depicted as unrealistically lacking in flaws or weaknesses. Did I mention the years of training that Arya has? It would be one thing if we never saw her physical training to be stealthy, it’s another to think she wasn’t perfect to land the final blow. She earned that moment since her dancing lessons with Syrio.
But almost every female character in this show has grown to the position of power they’re in. Think of Daenerys back in Season 1 or even Sansa. They both went through extreme life-altering arcs but have overcome it by proving they belong to rule over men and women. Then there’s Cersei. First of her name and protector of the Realm.
The Real Villain
Game of Thrones was never about the living defeating the dead and living happily ever after. Think about that. Would we have been happy if the show ended with the Night King being defeated and they all were happy? No. So why would anyone think this show, a show that decapitated Ned Stark in the first season, end that way?
The true Villain this whole time has been Cersei. She’s played the game and lived to talk about it. She was so concerned over the game that she bet AGAINST the dead to actually win. She knew that if the dead won, they would march south and kill them all. And she still was ok with that over the living marching south. This isn’t a new version of Cersei brought back to the present. This is the Cersei that methodically orchestrated everything in order to remain the true power of Westeros. 10 years of one of the greatest saga’s ever told commencing in a final showdown of two Queens willing to risk it all. Who will win?