Game of Thrones 8×3 Review: The Long Night
Having Avengers Endgame and ‘The Long Night’ back to back this weekend was a pretty big blow to my fandom heart. But I’d been preparing for it for months. And maybe – just maybe – I was a little too prepared.
There was death and destruction, massive and beautiful battle sequences, and quite a few surprises. Still, ‘The Long Night’ was somehow less than I was bracing for. I was expecting to lose at least one of the big six characters (based on screen time: Daenerys, Jon, Tyrion, Sansa, Arya, Jaime), and at least a half dozen other major named characters during the battle. As I stated in my Battle of Winterfell Predictions article, I thought for sure Brienne was a goner, and I thought either Grey Worm or Missandei would go down because of their heavy handed swan song. So imagine my surprise when we got out the other side with ‘only’ six deaths of major named characters.
I shouldn’t downplay the impact of those deaths, however. Even though it was fewer than expected, it was still powerful. The deaths we did get had meaning. Beric was brought back by the Lord of Light to protect Arya, who would take down the Night King. Theon went down in an act of redemption, possibly even to cause a distraction while Arya moved in to make her assault. Melisandre served her purpose and died peacefully after the battle had been won. And Edd… well, his death wasn’t as prophetic as the others, I’ll give you that, but he went down being a good friend to Sam and that, too, was true to who he was as a person.
I was particularly struck by the death of House Mormont. Both Lyanna and Jorah went down in the fight in two very emotional ways. Their house motto is “Here We Stand” and they most certainly took their stand, fighting fiercely until their last breath. While the impact of ‘The Long Night’ is far reaching, it almost felt like House Mormont was the center as they truly proved that each of them could fight with the strength of ten mainlanders. Having them both go down had a bigger impact than anything else in the entire episode.
Lyanna has been a fan favorite since she stepped on the scene in season six and she’s only endeared herself to us more with each scene stealing moment. Unlike many of the other women and children, Lyanna remained involved in the battle, refusing to abandon her people. True to the brutal reputation of her house, she took down a Wight Giant with a spear to his eye before she went down herself. It was hard watching a child die, but damn she sure made it a badass way to go out. Her arc was a short one, but it was incredible.
Three cheers to Bella Ramsey. I hope her career takes off going forward and I see her in lots of other stuff. This was a great start to a long and successful career for her.
Jorah’s death was also an intensely emotional one. I did predict that’d he’d go out most likely protecting Daenerys (though I suspected he could go out protecting Lyanna instead), and that’s precisely what happened. I’d prepared myself for this emotional loss. It was intense, but I saw it coming. There is no more fitting death for his character, honestly, and it just felt right. He came to her as a spy for her opponents, but fell in love with her and truly believed in her mission, deciding to give up his chance at being forgiven in Westeros for his crimes so that he could devote himself entirely to Daenerys instead. This is the way it had to be. It was his time.
That entire sequence was incredible, and not just for Jorah’s heroism. Daenerys attempted combat, too, even though ground battles are clearly not her strong suit. They managed to convey that she’s not adept at sword fighting, but was trying her hardest in the horrible conditions she’d found herself in. It was a side of Daenerys we’ve never seen before and it played out realistically (as realistic as a fantasy story with dragons and ice zombies can, at least).
When Jorah finally succumbed to his injuries and went down on the battlefield, her anguish nearly broke me, Their relationship was a complex one, but there’s no doubt they meant a great deal to each other. He was her most trusted adviser and, even if her feelings for him weren’t romantic, there was a deep emotional bond there. I cried a bit, not gonna lie.
At least he died knowing that Daenerys was safe (for the moment). He stayed true to what he believed in and, like Lyanna, had a hero’s death. Long live House Mormont. May their house name live on in legend.
While I enjoyed the House Mormont parts of ‘The Long Night,’ other parts of this episode were quite confusing to me. And no, it’s not because the episode was super dark and seemingly lit by one single tea light (though that did cause some problems). Perhaps I’m just not well versed on battle tactics, but what was the purpose did sending the Dothraki at the Army of the Dead like that? It just gave the Night King more bodies. Surely they didn’t cut down enough Wights in that moment to make much of a difference? But battle savvy fans, feel free to chime in with what purpose that served. I don’t get it.
This particular batch of Dotrhaki weren’t even the ones that have been with her since the beginning. I’m sure a couple of them have names, but I can’t recall them like I could the ones that devoted themselves to her in season one. I had my issues with her Vaes Dothrak story line to begin with, and now I’m even more bothered that it seemed like just a ploy for her to have more bodies to feed to the Army of the Dead. I feel bad for them. They may have voluntarily devoted themselves to Daenerys, but they didn’t have enough screen time as individuals to show their inner thought process regarding the whole ordeal. It sucks,
I’m also quite conflicted with how the Azor Ahai/Price That Was Promised prophecy was completely disregarded. On one hand, I’m incredibly satisfied with Arya being the one to take out the Night King. The scene was a surprise, but she deserved to have that honor. Her training led to this moment and I adore so incredibly much. I am 100% NOT upset with Arya taking this role.
However, was the prophecy all completely bunk? Did it have no purpose at all?
I saw one fan theorize that this is part of the long standing tradition of the ASOIAF series deconstructing fantasy tropes. We’ve been told about the prophecy of a specific Chosen One saving the day from the beginning. We theorize which character fits the prophecy the most and place our bets on who it’ll be. Then it ends up being none of those characters. Perhaps that’s the point. This is a common fantasy trope and it got crushed. So maybe this slight let down with how the prophecy was disregarded is exactly what was intended.
I’m also conflicted about the Night King losing at Winterfell. With three episodes left, I’m not sure what surprises they have in store for us when it comes to the actual battle for the throne. I’ve always felt that the battle against the Night King was the ultimate war, but I guess it really was about that damn iron chair. I really hope it gets melted. That’d be the ultimate genre deconstruction. But at this point I’m prepared for all my theories to get debunked, so who knows? Maybe someone will sit on the stupid throne after all.
Ultimately I did enjoy this episode even if some of my predictions were incorrect and the death count seemed low. I blame myself being overly prepared for that bit of a let down and I don’t blame the show at all for that. ‘The Long Night’ was emotional, generally satisfying, if not a bit confusing at times due to the unexpected genre deconstruction at the highest moment of the eight season long plot. I hope that now that the plot starts to move south we get more than just a single tea light to light the set, though. Seriously. I can’t see anything, you guys. What’s happening?
Author: Angel Wilson
Stephanie “Angel” Wilson is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3.
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